Thursday, June 13, 2013

Charlie Gillett - The Jolly Boys

Another "City Beats" radio show from the 80's featuring a live set from The Jolly Boys, a Jamaican calypso/mento band.   Sorry for the poor quality but this tape is over 30 years old and seems to have deteriorated worse than others.

Wikipedia says  - " The Jolly Boys grew out of a group called the Navy Island Swamp Boys that formed on 11 April 1945, and often played at Errol Flynn’s parties. This group included Moses Deans on banjo and guitar, Noel Lynch on Guitar and “Papa” Brown on rumba box. After this group split in 1955, Deans and Brown formed The Jolly Boys (a name Errol Flynn is said to have coined) with Derrick “Johnny” Henry on maracas and drum, Martell Brown on guitar, and David “Sonny” Martin on guitar. One of the group’s regular substitutes in this period was percussionist Allan Swymmer, who joined the group as a full member in the 1960s. This group was very popular throughout Port Antonio and earned the reputation of being the finest mento band in the parish.

In the early 1960s, the Jolly Boys' reputation grew substantially. It performed at hotels and for private parties, often alongside a floorshow/dance troupe. (One of the troupes they typically performed with was led by Albert Minott, at that time an occasional Jolly Boys member and now its current lead singer.) In 1962, the group competed and was a finalist in a national mento band competition held at the Ward Theater in Kingston. The national renown that followed probably also led to international attention. For example, the group auditioned for Jean Farduli, the proprietor of the Blue Angel Supper Club in Chicago (a venue famous for showcasing West Indian music) in 1964. Although it is unclear whether the Jolly Boys passed Farduli's audition, they did travel to New Hampshire in 1966 for what was the first of several six-month engagements.

In the 1970s, the Jolly Boys continued to perform in Port Antonio, but also took work elsewhere in Jamaica, most notably at the Round Hill Hotel in Montego Bay. However, in 1969 Allan Swymmer moved to St. Ann’s Bay and formed a second, concurrent "Jolly Boys" group composed of musicians local to that area. This group mainly performed in the parish, but they recorded two albums (Roots of Reggae: Music From Jamaica [1977] and Jolly Boys at Club Caribbean [1979]) and several 45s. Although the St. Ann's-based Jolly Boys existed only during the 1970s, its seeming lack of relationship to the group led by Moses Deans created considerable confusion about whether the two groups were related. The two did co-exist, neither, it seems, to the detriment of the other.

Because several of the Jolly Boys' original members had died by the end of the 1970s, the group floundered for a short period. However, around 1980 Swymmer moved back to Port Antonio and, together with Deans, reformed the Jolly Boys with Joseph “Powda” Bennett on the rumba box. The group found quick work at all the major hotels and was in great demand locally. When singer-songwriter and producer Jules Shear saw the band during a visit to the Trident Hotel in 1989, he decided to produce an album of the group’s music. This was the first of four albums the group released between 1989 and 1997. (Many of these albums have been subsequently reissued.) These recordings led to several world tours, an appearance in the film The Mighty Quinn with Denzel Washington, and a level of international recognition few mento groups ever experience."

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