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: 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: Remembering Nora Dean and JJ Label Spotlight 10-4-16

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Rest In Peace Nora Dean

The October 4th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began on a sad note, as  the wonderful singer, Nora Dean,  passed away on Thursday in Connecticut at age 72.  Nora had been living in Connecticut since moving here from New York in 2010.  Nora Dean began her career during the rocksteady era with Coxsone Dodd, recording her first song, Mojo Girl, at Studio One in 1968.   She would achieve larger fame when she recorded the racy reggae cut, Barbwire, for Byron Smith at the Baron’s label in 1969. Dean cut so many tracks that we love, as not only a solo artist, but as a prominent member of The Soulettes and The Ebony Sisters.  Due to Mixcloud policies that prohibit us from playing more than four songs from one artist, our tribute to Nora was contained in eight songs that began our show this week.  We included many wonderful cuts in this memorial and we hope that you appreciate her sweet and expressive voice on these songs.  Rest in peace Nora.

We thought that for our record label spotlight, given that last week, we presented a ska, rhythm & blues, and rocksteady spotlight, we thought that this week, we must have a reggae one! In thinking of reggae, there are many producers whom we love here on the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, and in thinking about which one to feature this week, we arrived at Carl Sir JJ Johnson, a label owner and producer who was exceptionally prolific in the early reggae era. We know a little bit about Sir JJ’s early years. Carl Johnson was the son of Bromley Johnson, the man who created the Magnet Bus Company, which was one of the first bus providers that ran to and from rural Jamaica. Carl Johnson, who would be known as Sir JJ was as business oriented his his father, but he directed his efforts on the music business. Sir JJ first started as a jukebox distributor. Eventually, like other folks involved in the jukebox industry, he decided to open up a record shop, picking 133 Orange Street for his center of business, a prime location because Beverly’s was right next door For his signature label that bore his nickname, Sir JJ recruited outstanding talent. 

The house backing band for the Sir JJ label was Bobby Aitken and his Carib-beats. For the label, the group was called the JJ All Stars, and the members were:  Bobby Aitken, the leader of the group,  on guitar,  Winston Richards AKA Grennan on drums, “Iron Sprat” on bongos, Vincent White on bass, Alphonso Henry on alto sax, Val Bennett on tenor sax, Dave Parks on trombone, Mark Lewis on trumpet, and Bobby Kalphat on keyboards .  Of course, given that we are talking the JJ Label, we had to play “The Selah,” which is one of the most successful Sir JJ tracks, with many versions of the track made in the same year that the original was released.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Prince Buster Memorial Part One-Buster’s Ska Productions 9-13-16

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Buster’s Group fierce R&B on Wild Bells

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Just a few weeks ago, we memorialized saxophonist Deadly Headley Bennett, who would eventually play a role in Prince Buster’s history, and we’ll get to that in the middle of this program, but sadly, we have done many memorial shows these last few years, but this one has really impacted us in a very personal way.  Generoso has written a comprehensive and personal obituary on Buster which was published on Ink19 this week.

One of our favorite Jamaican artists of all time, Prince Buster, passed away on the morning of September 8th in Miami after complications from heart issues. Prince Buster had a stroke in 2009, but we had not heard anything about his health since then, so the announcement was extremely unexpected, and we’ve spent a lot of time mourning the loss of a music pioneer and a giant persona whose bravado brought even more to the iconic tracks that shaped Jamaican music history

Born as Cecil Bustamante Campbell, Prince Buster grew up with his grandmother in rural Jamaica. Here, he gained an interest in music after singing in churches.  When he was a teenager, he moved to Kingston and lived on Orange Street, and he naturally found an affinity for the sound system culture. Specifically, he spent a lot of time with Tom Wong, who is best known as Tom the Great Sebastian, who ran a sound system out of his shop and in the dancehalls of Kingston.

As the sound system culture further developed, each operator and their set of selectors would compete against each other. The big two were Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat and Duke Reid’s the Trojan, and Prince Buster and his crew aligned himself with Coxsone, who was more of an underdog than Duke Reid. Buster provided Coxone’s dances with security, and eventually, he would become a selector for the Downbeat sound. With this experience, Buster was armed with plenty of knowledge on how to run a sound system, so he went to Tom Wong and asked him for a loan in order to create his own sound, which would become the renowned and popular Voice of the People.

With his sound system up and running, Buster was ready to begin recording his own singles. Before he would ever appear in front of the microphone, Buster produced tracks to be played at his sound system; you will hear a selection of these tracks in this first set in the spotlight. To start this show, we heard from Buster himself. Though he had already established himself as a producer, in 1961, for his own Wildbells label, Buster recorded his very first track as a vocalist, “Little Honey,” which will start off the first of a two week tribute to the mighty Prince Buster, the Voice of the People.

Due to Mixcloud’s policy (you can only play four songs per artist every show), we have primarily structured this show on Prince Buster’s magnificent productions during the Jamaican rhythm and blues and ska eras.  You will hear some of the greatest hits of that time from Derrick Morgan, Eric Monty Morris, Basil Gabbidon and more! Included in this show are segments of Generoso’s 2002 interview with Prince Buster that was conducted a week before Buster was to play a show that Generoso helped produce in Boston that featured Buster, Derrick Morgan, Eric Morris, and Millicent Patsy Todd with the excellent reggae group, The Pressure Cooker backing up the artists.

The interview segments describe in detail, the controversial recording of the Folkes Brothers, “Oh Carolina,” the Black Head Chinaman record war between Buster and Derrick Morgan, and Buster’s duet with the late great singer, Slim Smith.

Here is Part One of our two part Prince Buster Memorial from September 13, 2016:

 

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Byron Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label 9-6-16

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Keith Lyn on Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label

Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Firstly, thank you to everyone how was kind enough to let us know how much they appreciated our Deadly Headly Bennett Memorial show.  Generoso was fortunate enough to have met Deadly back in 1999, when Headley and trombonist, Vin Gordon were performing with Justin Hinds.  Generoso and Headley got a chance to speak that night as Generoso was introducing the show at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island.  All three men were very kind and exceptional musicians.  Thank you and respect to Vin, who is still with us and much respect to Justin and Headley for their kindness and great contribution to Jamaican music.

The September 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with the to sets of rare rocksteady, starting with Stranger and Patsy with a lovely cut they did for Tip Top in 1967, Don’t Want To Be Hurt.  The second set began with The Wrigglers and their song, You Cannot Know, which they recorded for Giant in 1968 and that set ended with the King Of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis and My Time Is The Right Time.  Our weekly mento set featured another cut from our favorite mento, Count Lasher on Stanley Motta’s MRS label, Perfect Love.  We ended the first hour with a set of ska to get you ready for the sounds of the Dragon’s Breath label,    A standout during that ska set was from Joe White, a solo ska from him produced by Prince Buster for the Voice Of The People label in 1964, Nite Club!  That set ended with another Buster production, this time it’s the Maytals and their hit, Domino!  We then went right into our spotlight of the Dragon’s Breath label…

By 1956, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires had established themselves as a professional working band that toured the hotel and nightclub circuit. Before these touring years, the Dragonaires performed mento, but in order to play professionally, like so many other bands, they performed versions of American soul and R&B hits. Within three years, the group decided to take a shot at recording, and in 1959, they visited Edward Seaga at WIRL’s studios to record their first single, “Dumplins.” This single was released on the band’s label, Dragon’s Breath, appropriately named in the tradition of the group’s name and, this is the label of our spotlight tonight, which will exclusively contains Jamaican Rhythm and Blues and Ska. We kicked our label spotlight off with three tracks from the Dragonaires that were produced by Byron Lee himself, starting with “Dumplins,” the group’s recording debut.

Dragon’s Breath was pretty short lived, with releases stopping in 1964. Interestingly, there was a bit of a gap in the label; no recordings were released in 1962. We do not know of the reason, but one could be that the label changed hands because by 1963, Prince Buster was the producer for the label and  from that moment on out, we heard those Buster productions as he took the helm of the music released by Dragon’s Breath, including two from Eric Monty Morris which began the second set of the spotlight.

XO Generoso and Lily

This is the September 6, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady and our spotlight on the Dragon’s Breath label: