Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: The Jamaican Gospel of the Henry’s Label 12-20-16

A wonderful Gospel from 1969 done by Gloria Bailey and The Joy Bells

Hopefully you all are enjoying this holiday season. Last week, Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Radio Show did our 20th Annual Christmas Fantastical, and this week, Lily and I have done a show for the holidays that is a bit different… All of the ska, rocksteady and reggae cuts from 1955-75 are sung for the Lord like The Heptones classic, “Hands of the Lord,” and Alton Ellis’ “Lord Deliver Us.” Keeping with that theme, our spotlight will be on the Jamaican gospel label run by Lenworth Henry, HENRY’S (1969-1975).

On the fourth week of advent, we thought it was only appropriate that we spotlight a gospel label for this week .The Henry’s of The Church of Jesus Christ label was run by Lucien Henry.  The label was quite prolific, and it did have a range of artists, but there were four big stars on the label: Gloria Bailey, Myrna Tingling, Evangelist Higgins, and Lucy Myers. Unfortunately, there is very little documented about Lucien Henry or the major artists of his label.

We do know that Myrna Tingling would become Lucien Henry’s wife, and we do know that the label had at its headquarters at 35 West Avenue in Kingston, the primary location of The Church of Jesus Christ. It is possible that Henry’s is a subsidiary of Studio One that focused, like Coxsone’s own Tabernacle label, exclusively on gospel. There was one collection of Henry’s productions released on Tabernacle, but for the most part, all of Henry’s productions were released on the Henry’s label. We’re going to kick off this spotlight with the recordings of Mrs. Henry, that is Myrna Tingling.

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Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Our 20th Jamaican Christmas Fantastical 12-11-2016

A 1965 Christmas miracle from The Maytals on Rolando and Powie

Merry Christmas Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

For the twentieth year in a row, we played some of the greatest and occasionally rarest Christmas ska, mento, rocksteady, and reggae for you to put you in the holiday mood. We also kept our long-standing tradition of sharing with you all some of the holiday traditions of Jamaica.

There are many Christmas traditions that celebrate the holiday in Jamaica. We’ve talked about the treats at the Christmas market in the past. We’ve also extensively discussed the outrageously delicious treats served at Christmas time, including the Christmas fruit cake and sorrel. And this year, we’re going to focus on a Christmas time tradition that has seen a little less prominence recently but has a rich history that deserves some attention: Jonkonnu!

With its origins from Africa, the Jonkonnu has transformed over the centuries that it has been performed. It is mentioned in Jamaican history accounts as early as the 18th century, and it also has variations on the performance and characters in its different versions in the Caribbean and in various diasporas from the Caribbean. The modern day format seen in the major cities in Jamaica blends the original African tradition with English theater and music, but the original tradition still has remnants in Nassau and St. Elizabeth. At a high level, the Jonkonnu performances involve a group of ornately masked and costumed dancers who dance and play music.

Originally, the key instrument of the Jonkonnu was a box drum known as the gumbay, and the ceremony has a ritual and spiritual purpose. However, the modern day incarnation of the dance is usually performed with a fife and drums and additional percussion instruments such as rattles, bottles, and graters, and it is more of a secular tradition to be performed during the Christmas season. There are many characters in Jonkonnu, and we’ll learn more about them throughout the show

  • King & Queen – The King and Queen symbolize two forces that had in power in Jamaica: the English royalty and the English aristocracy.
  • Devil – The Devil is an original character who dances and pokes at the crowd with a pitchfork.
  • Pitchy-Patchy – Specific to Jamaican Jonkonnu, Pitchy Patchy is the crowd control character whose costume is made of many colorful strips of fabric. He is masked, and he often uses a whip to make sure that the crowd does not get too rowdy.
  • Belly Woman – The Belly Woman is a pregnant woman who dances and shows off her curves to the crowds.
  • Cow Head – The embodiment of the rolling calf duppy that is said to haunt Jamaica.
  • Policeman – The Policeman originates from the days when the Jonkonnu performances were prohibited. Originally, it is believed that a policeman would arrive to a performance, but he would get lured into the music and join the dance. Consequently, the policeman over time became a fixed character in the Jonkonnu.
  • Horse Head – The Horse Head teases the audience with a lance. The origins of when he appeared is uncertain, but given the allusions to jousting, we could guess that Horse Head is a newer character to the Jonkonnu cast who was added as the performance took on some European influence.
  • The Wild Indian can be male or female, and the character is responsible for providing a specific rhythm and dance. They stomp in an arched posture, have a cane and bow & arrow, and are often clad with pieces of mirror and a silver heart on a necklace.
  • House Head – House Head is one of the original characters of Jonkonnu and is consistent in most versions of the performance. House Head tends to be the leader of the group of dancers.https://www.mixcloud.com/bovineska/generoso-and-lilys-bovine-ska-and-rocksteady-our-20th-jamaican-christmas-fantastical-12-11-2016/

 

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Sir Cavalier’s Hi Tone Label 12-6-16

A very early Jamaican R&B tune from Jimmy Cliff on Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label

On a challenge from our old friend Chris McBride, we started off the December 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of Jamaican Beatles covers that we feel are not cheesy in the way that so many Beatles covers can be.   Our favorite from the two sets was Jackie Mittoo’s super cool rendition of Eleanor Rigby for Studio One.   After our Beatles reggae homage, we did a frantic mento set, and a long set of Jamaican rhythm and blues to put you in the mood for Sir Cavelier’s Hi Tone Label.

There are so many early sound system operators that we hope to shed some light on here on the Bovine Ska. Early sound system operators such as Count Boysie The Monarch did not open the labels while others did. Others such as Prince Buster, King Edwards, and Lloyd Daley made the full transition into recording business. And some, had short lived labels that had gems on them. Earlier this year, we spotlighted Mike Shadeed of the Sir Mike the Musical Dragon Sound System. And on this night, we highlight the Hi-Tone label, the short lived label of Sir Cavalier, the head of the sound system that bore the name of its operator.

Very little is documented about Sir Cavalier, but we do know quite a bit about one person who recorded for the label. Jimmy Cliff recorded his debut single for Cavalier, and when Generoso spoke to Jimmy Cliff, he spoke further about that single entitled, “I’m Sorry.”   We then played the clip from Generoso’s interview with Cliff, and then the track immediately afterwards to kick off the spotlight on the Hi-Tone label.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Tommy Cowan’s Top Cat Label 11-29-16

A 1971 gem from The Jamaicans on Tommy Cowan’s wonderful Top Cat Label

The November 29th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with a two set ska tribute to the events connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis that took place during October of 1962.  Songs like The Skatalites 1964 cut on C&N, Fidel Castro, Prince Buster’s song, Kennedy, also released in 1964, and the Baba Brooks Band’s Nuclear Weapon.   We then started our mento set with the “king of the bamboo saxophone,”  Sugar Belly and his 1966 tune for Coxsone’s Port-O-Jam, Archie. To get you ready for the reggae of the Top Cat Label, we ended the first hour with a long set of rare reggae especially selected by Lily.

We primarily know Tommy Cowan as a member of The Jamaicans, but he was much more than just a singer. In the mid-sixties, Cowan was a member of The Merricoles. This group would become The Jamaicans, which included Norris Weir, Owen Hylton, Martin Williams, and Tommy Cowan as members. Shortly after their formation, Tha Jamaicans launched to success. “Things You Say You Love” was a popular hit. And then “Ba Ba Boom” was the Festival Song winner of 1967.  As the 70s arrived, Cowan began to set his sights on the business side of music, and as a result, he became a marketing manager for Dynamic Sounds. At the same time, Cowan also focused in on becoming a producer, and he opened up the Top Cat label, which was a subsidiary of Dynamic.  We started this spotlight on the Top Cat label with two tracks from The Jamaicans, Cowan’s own band

The backing band for many Top Cat productions consisted of members of some major groups.  Ian and ‘Monty’ Roger Lewis provided bass and rhythm guitar and would become members of Inner Circle.  Cornell Marshall played drums–he would also contribute to the bands Zap Pow and Tomorrow’s Children.  Ibo Michael Cooper played keyboards and was a member of Third World. Robert Lyn, Noel Skully Simms, and Uziah Sticky Thompson provided additional percussion sounds.  Skully and Sticky contributed to sounds from Soul Syndicate and Tommy McCook & the Supersonics. Robert Lyn contributed to Sound Dimension and The Now Generation.

Ricky Storm is really Errol Kong, nephew of Leslie Kong. As a musician, Ricky Storm was more often known as I Kong, and he was actually a member of The Jamaicans in the pre-recording days; he was not on the group’s hits because he went to tour on the Yarmouth, a tourist liner.   After Top Cat, Cowan went on to open up his own full production company, which he called the Talent Corporation.  Zap Pow, Inner Circle, and Israel Vibration were a few of the artists who would record for the company. Cowan also was the longtime main MC of Reggae Sunsplash and the One Love Peace Concert.  In 1996, Cowan converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity, and, by the late 90s, he and his wife, the singer Carlene Davis, opened up Vessel Ministries, which includes the Glory Music label, which focuses on gospel.

For his contribution to Jamaican music, Cowan received the Order of Distinction in 2007.  Thank you Tommy!

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Hector “Bunny” Williams Memorial 11-22-16

Fattie Fattie by The Heptones is just one of the many huge foundation tracks that Bunny would play on in his long career.

The November 22nd, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady is dedicated to Hector “Bunny” Williams.

During this miserable year of 2016, we have lost some of truly great foundation artists in Jamaican music: Vocalist, Nora Dean and producer/artists, Jimmy Riley, Winston Blake and Prince Buster as well as label owner Lloyd A Campbell.  Over the last few months this sad year has intensified with the deaths of legendary instrumentalists; Deadly Headly Bennett, Bobby Ellis, and now the vastly underrated drummer, Hector “Bunny” Williams, who died last Thursday, Nov 17th, 2016 at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay after being admitted two weeks ago for kidney treatment.  Though Bunny was born in West Kingston, it was Montego Bay where he learned how to play the drums from Skatalites drummer, Lloyd Knibbs.

From a 1998 interview Lloyd tells the story..

“Well, Bunny Williams, I taught him. And when Skatalites band mash-up, and they had Soul Brothers, I was on the ship those time. And I came back and was [at the] Orange Bowl listening to the band. And Bunny saw me come in, and say, ‘bwai breddah Lloyd, me cyaan manage the ska thing. Me can’t manage it.’ So he gave me back the sticks, and I never go back on the ship. I just stay with Soul Brothers.”

The Soul Brothers were the de facto house band of Studio One after the Skatalites dissolved in 1965, and Bunny Williams would be The Soul Brothers first drummer. Bunny would play on many Studio One classics along with former Skatalites: Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevett, Rolando Alphonso, and Johnny Moore.  We heard four songs that Bunny would play behind as a member of the Soul Brothers, beginning with “I Stand Predominant” by Bob Marley and The Wailers.   As Lloyd Knibbs states, Bunny was indeed the drummer of The Soul Brothers until Knibbs took over after being on tour.  When rocksteady became the ruling rhythm on the island, Bunny, along with Roland Alphonso, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevett would become an integral members of The Soul Vendors.  We started the next set with two instrumental cuts from The Soul Brothers and then three tunes with The Soul Vendors.

To put together this memorial of Bunny Williams, we relied on the testimonies of the artists including Alton Ellis, Dobby Dobson who worked directly the late drummer to help differentiate the exact tracks that Bunny played on during the Studio One years. We also must thank the great Sly Dunbar of Sly and Robbie who in August of this year ranked his top ten All Time Drum Patterns in the Jamaica Observer, and we have included two of them in this long final set of this memorial program.

In July of this year, Bunny was recognised for his contribution to Jamaican music by the Tribute To The Greats organisation. He welcomed the award, telling the Jamaica Observer that, “We need to highlight more of us who people don’t know.”

Hector ‘Bunny’ Williams is survived by seven children and grandchildren. Rest in peace Bunny.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Harry Mudie’s Afro Label 11-15-16

This Dennis Walks cut was the inspiration for this label spotlight. Wonderful cut in every way!

We started off the November 15th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of reggae, beginning with a gem from Earl Brown from 1973 on Aquarius entitled Suzanne. After a mento set that began with Lower Power’s Mambo La La, we went into a long set of rare rocksteady before delving deeply into Harry Mudie’s Afro Label!

Harry Mudie is a producer here that we have yet to spotlight here on the Bovine Ska, and he is a producer that demands so much attention. Born in Spanish Town, Mudie got his start in the sound system business. He left St. Jago High School early, and as a young man, he opened up the Mudies Hi-Fi system. Upon the success of “Oh Carolina,” Mudie tried to record with Count Ossie, but those tracks did not become as popular as “Oh Carolina.”

Soon after these initial recordings with Count Ossie, Mudie moved to the UK to study photography, and soon, he returned to Jamaica to open up the Scaramouch Garden Amusement Center. Consequently, there are few Mudie productions from approximately 1962 to 1970 because his focus was aimed toward the amusement center. In 1970, Mudie returned to production with a splash, releasing tracks from a session with Jo-Jo Bennett and Mudie’s All Stars that were some of the first reggae tracks to include full string arrangements, which gave rise to the Moodisc label and Mudie’s name as a producer.

As with many producers, Mudie opened up additional imprints, and Afro is one of them.  We found this label during last week’s discovery of Dennis Walks’s “Snowbird,” and we wanted to showcase the label on this week’s Bovine Ska.  Afro has not only Mudie productions but also Bunny Lee productions as well, and throughout all of the releases, you can clearly hear Mudie’s style and taste. In an interview, Dennis Walks said that Mudie was great to work with because he demanded the best of everything, and you can hear that in all of the Afro tracks.

Afro is only one label of Harry Mudie’s labels. The trademark was of course Moodisc but there were other imprints including: Jukebox,  Jungle, HAM Records, Moods International Records.

 

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Roy Robinson’s E&R Label 11-8-16

Top early Jamaican R&B from Kent and Jeanie!

The November 8, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady featured a spotlight midway through the show of Roy Robinson’s E&R Label.

The owner and primary producer of the E&R label was Roy Robinson. Roy Robinson and Winston Delano Stewart, who would later become a member of The Gaylads, recorded a few singles for Coxsone Dodd as Winston & Robbie in 1961.  The duo recorded: “Little Honey” & “Miss Mabel” for Dodd, and shortly thereafter, Robinson founded the E&R label. There is an open question as to the identity of Roy Robinson. On a few resources, Roy Robinson has been listed as one half of Simms & Robinson, the duo that saw success during the rhythm and blues period.  Simms & Robinson, the duo that also featured Noel “Zoot” or “Scully” Simms would later be known as Bunny and Skully. This Robinson has, as a result, also been listed regularly been as Arthur “Bunny” Robinson. Thus, it is unclear if Roy Robinson and Arthur “Bunny” Robinson are the same person. There is no definitive answer, but we do know that Roy Robinson also produced two singles with Eric Monty Morris for a short lived label named CDC.  If any listeners out there have any clues as to who Roy Robinson is, we’d love to hear from you. We’re going to start off the E&R spotlight with three tracks for The Continentals, a group who recorded exclusively for the label, starting with “School Girls.”

The backing band for the E&R label was primarily Hersang & the City Slickers, who were one of the most popular R&B and ska session artists. Herman Sang was originally a member of the Frats Quintet and the Jiving Juniors before he ventured over to Coxsone Dodd.  With Dodd, Sang formed Hersang & the City Slickers in 1958.  The members were: Herman Sang – bandleader & pianist, Arkland Parks – drums, Cluett Johnson – double bass, Don Drummond – trombone, Ernest Ranglin – guitar, Lester Sterling – alto saxophone, Roland Alphonso – tenor saxophone.