Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Willie Francis’ Little Willie Label 1-12-16

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Earl George Cooks On Little Willie!

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

We did a splendid show for you this past week with a spotlight of the rare Jamaican label, Little Willie. About midway through the show, you can check out a the thirty minute Little Willie spotlight of top flight reggae from 1971-1974.

Our show started with two sets of rare ska beginning with Llans Thelwell and His Celestials and their 1964 cut for Federal, Mughead Ska!  We ended the second set with a classic from the trombone of Don Drummond on Beverleys, Dragon Weapon. After a mento set featuring a tune from the queen of mento, Louise Bennett Hol’ M Joe on Folkways.  We ended the first hour with a reggae set that contained a version to version of the Curtis Mayfield classic, Give Me Your Love from the Superfly soundtrack. 1973’s Super Soul from Junior Soul and Superfly from I-Roy from 1974.  We then went into our Little Willie label spotlight.

Born in South Manchester, Jamaica, Willie Francis began his career in the Jamaican music industry as a singer in ska. After recording for Prince Buster in the late 60s under the name of Francis, by the time early reggae arrived, Willie opened up the Little Willie Record Label, where he released his own recordings as an artist and as a producer for other musicians. Operating from Francis’s record store on Orange Street, the Little Willie Records label, sometimes called Little Willie Karate Dance Records for the dancer on the label art, released quite a few great reggae cuts that we’re excited to share with you tonight.

Of the artists who stopped by Little Willie, Max Romeo went to the label to record Maccabee Version, which indeed uses the melody of “Good King Wenceslas” and intended to criticize the King James translation of the bible. Searching in the Hills was the debut recording for Calvin Scott, who Willie discovered as a teenager. Willie traveled to Rocky Point, Clarendon to record a group named the Rockydonians. Calvin was the brother-in-law of one of the members, so he hung around them. When the group arrived to the studio, they did not record for Willie; instead Calvin did. Almost ten years later, Calvin would emerge as the artist Cocoa Tea, who has continued to record reggae and has also been quite an influence on dancehall.

You can listen to our full Bovine Ska and Rocksteady from January 12th, 2016 HERE. Subscribe to our show on Mixcloud; it’s FREE, and you’ll get an email every Tuesday when we post a new show.

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See you here next week!

Lily and Generoso

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 12/3/2014: The Emotions

On this past week’s episode of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, we started off the show with two full sets of ska, including some supremely danceable tracks from Prince Buster and his All Stars and The Pioneers.

In the first hour, we also played some unearthed rocksteady singles from The Merritone Singers and The Dynamites in preparation for the early rocksteady tracks from Max Romeo’s first musical endeavor with The Emotions, the vocal group for this week’s spotlight.

After his mother decided to immigrate to England, Max Romeo lived with his father near Wareika Hills. However, after continued disagreement between Max and his stepmother, he decided to run away at 14, living in the hills and trying to get by as best as he could.

In trying to get stable work, Max ended up working in a sugar cane field in Clarendon as a canal cleaner. In the field, he met Denham Edwards, and the two sang together at work. It was at work where Denham would write a song for Max to sing, which was his entry for a regional song competition. Max sang the track with Kes Chin and the Souvenirs at the contest and won, putting him on the track to a music career.

Eventually, Max moved to Kingston and met Lloyd Shakespeare through his friend Suckro. Then, through Lloyd Shakespeare, he met Lloyd’s singing partner, Kenneth Knight. Originally, the two were going to be the duo Ken and Lloyd, but given that they were not entirely ready as a duo, Max offered to join the group and lead.

Max would then become a salesman for Blondel Calnek, an importer of Chinese figurines. During this time, Blondel would open a record label and create a pseudonym for his persona as a record producer. This name was Ken Lack, his last name backwards. Lack’s label, Caltone would be the first label to record The Emotions, which was initiated by Lack when he heard Max singing one day at work. The first track to start the spotlight was, “I’ll Buy You a Rainbow,” the first track they recorded for Caltone

Lack decided to move to the U.S. in 1968, which caused the Caltone label to dissolve. After the dissolution of Caltone, the Emotions would travel over to Phil Pratt to record some pretty singles before Max decided to pursue a solo career in 1968. During this time he was replaced by Audrey Rollins. Audrey would eventually decide to work for Lloyd Daley at his Matador label and was then replaced with Lloyd Brown. However, when Max’s solo career did not flourish as much as he had hoped, Max re-joined the Emotions by the end of 1968.

Around the same time, Max Romeo worked as a salesman for Bunny Lee. Max wrote the now infamous “Wet Dream” and gave it to Bunny Lee to find a vocalist for the track. Bunny offered it to Derrick Morgan, John Holt, and Slim Smith, but all of them passed on it because of its salacious content. Bunny then told Max that he would have to be the one to record it, or else it would never be recorded. “Wet Dream” became Max’s track to put him on the map in music, with its notoriety pushing it up in the charts, especially in the U.K. where it was banned on BBC radio, but, regardless, it made it into the top ten of the charts. After the popularity gained by “Wet Dream,” Max toured England and recorded further innuendo-laden tracks and ended up staying there until 1970 when he returned to Jamaica to form his Roman record label and soundsystem.

Listen to the spotlight and the full show HERE.

Enjoy! The archived file will be available until 12/16/2014.