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Page last revised: 8/10/13

 

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Background Information

Although Jamaica's recording industry was born with the release of 78 RPM mento singles in the early 1950s, albums from Jamaica collecting these singles were not far behind. First, these albums that were collections of 78 RPM singles assembled in one package. Then 33 RPM 10" and then 12" LPs followed. (Other than CD reissue, perhaps the best way to hear golden age mento is on these albums. They typically had far less noise and better overall fidelity than 78s and their surviving packaging was more interesting than a plain brown sleeve.) Later, non-Jamaican record companies began to release albums of 1950s mento.

MRS albums, advertisements and history

Perhaps motivated by a desire to have recordings of local music to sell in his namesake department stores, Stanley Motta's MRS (Motta's Recording Studio) label released at least 70 tracks in the country and dance band styles by a variety of excellent artists on more than fifty 78 RPM singles , a few 45 . Mostly drawing from these, MRS released a five volume series of 10" LPs, called,  "MRS - Authentic Jamaican Calypsos", as well as at least three other LPs and at least one "album" of 78 RPM singles.

MRS is the first mento label and the start of Jamaican's recording industry. Descriptions of these albums start below, beginning with the MRS "Authentic Jamaican Calypsos" series. This is followed by some additional narrative on Motta and his label as well as several 1950s advertisements from The Daily Gleaner for the record department of Stanley Motta's stores.

   

 


MRS -
Authentic
Jamaican
Calypsos
volume
1

Also know as
MOTL 101

Released
early 1954
or prior


Side 1: Lord Messam and His Calypsonians:
1. Take Her To Jamaica
2. The Little Fly
3. Monkey
4. Linstead Market

Side 2: Baba Motta and His Orchestra:
(Vocals by Ben Bowers)
1. Brown Skin Gal
2. Kitch
3. Tongue Tied Mopsie
4. Rum and Coconut Water

 

A nice collection with Lord Messam's great rural mento on the first side and Baba Motta's smooth urban sounds on the other. (See the Lord Messam page for a discussion of the Messam tracks.) Thanks to Rob Chapman of the UK for these scans of MOTL 101. Also above is an unusual reissue of this LP on a Hart's  label 10" disc. Below, you can see that Motta licensed this LP to the Harts store of Montego Bay. It apparently did not some in a jacket and is the only Hart's release that I've ever seen.

 

 
MRS -
Authentic
Jamaican
Calypsos
volume 2

Also know as
MOTL 102

Released prior
to 1956


1. Don't Fence Her In - The Ticklers with vocals by Harold Richardson
2. Glamour Gal - The Ticklers with vocals by Harold Richardson
4. Healing In The Balmyard - The Ticklers with vocals by Harold Richardson
5. Tracer Gal - George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet. Vocals by Hebert Porter

1. She Pon Top - Baba Motta and his Orchestra. 
2. The Little Fly - Lord Fly and his Orchestra
3. Monkey Talk - George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet. Vocals by Hebert Porter
4. Donkey City - Lord Fly with Dan Williams and His Orchestra


A fast start, as this LP opens with three outstanding Harold Richardson tracks. These standouts are fully described on the Harold Richardson page.

   
MRS -
Authentic
Jamaican
Calypsos
volume 3

Also know as
MOTL 103

Released 1956


1. Hill and Gully Ride; Mandeville Road - Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
2. Gal-A-Gully; Matilda - Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
3. Maintenance  - Joseph Clemendore (Cobra Man)
4. Banana - Cecil Knott and His Joy Bell Orchestra

1. Noisy Spring - Reynolds Calypso Band. Vocals: Boysie Grant
2. Dry Weather House - George Moxey and His Calypso Quintet. Vocals: Hubert Porter
3. Blu-Lu-Lup - Lord Fly with Dan Williams and His Orchestra
4. The Ole Man's Drive - George Moxey and His Calypso Quintet. Vocals: Count Lasher


Starts off with Lord Composer's two classic tracks, as described and heard on the More Artists and Song Clips page. The B side once again starts with two great tracks, which are discussed and heard on the More Artists and Song Clips page, here and here.

    
MRS -
Authentic
Jamaican
Calypsos
volume
4

Also know as
MOTL 104

Released 1957


1. Sam Fi Man - Count Lasher and his Calypso Quintet
2. Jamaica Talk - Baba Motta and his Orchestra [Vocals by Baba Motta]
3. Water the  Garden - Count Lasher's Seven
4. Breadfruit Season - Count Lasher's Seven

1. Mango Time - Count Lasher's Seven
2. Reincarnation (Bed Bug) -  Baba Motta and his Orchestra. Vocals by Young Kitchner  
3. Jumbie Jamboree - The Brute Force Steel Band (Antigua)
4. Wheel and Turn Me - The Brute Force Steel Band (Antigua)


Each sides starts off with  an absolutely outstanding Count Lasher track, as described and heard on the Count Lasher page. "Water The Garden" was a big hit for Lasher and was released many times. The last two tracks are mento songs played by an Antiguan steel drum band.

As told in Brian Keyo's excellent liner notes for the Roland Alphonso CD, "Something Special: Ska Hot Shots", the ska and reggae sax giant worked with Stanley Motta, beginning in 1952, and can be heard playing a solo on the Young Kitchner track on this volume of "Calypsos From Jamaica".

   

This was an surprising find: a 10" mento LP on Britain's London label, released sometime in the 1950s. The title, Authentic Jamaican Calypsos, cover art, liner notes and song selection leaves no doubt that London licensed this material from Jamaica's MRS label. However, the tracks do not directly correspond to any MRS album. London also released a 78 RPM single featuring the LP's first track. This, the Lord Flea Swingin' Calypsos  LP and the Lord Foodos LP below are the only two examples of mento penetrating the major label market. Another surprise: the jacket credits the Clipper's excellent banjo player: Eddie Brown. In addition to his banjo skills, Eddie Brown was an proficient singer, as heard on MRS - Authentic Jamaican Calypsos volume 5, and was as skilled on he guitar as he was on the banjo, as later heard on The Silver Seas LP.

1. Take Her To Jamaica - Shaw Park Calypso Band. Vocals: Robin Plunkett
2. Sweet Charlie; Mattie Rag; Nobody's Business - Reynolds Calypso Band. Vocals: Boysie Grant 
3. Montego Calypso - George Moxey Quartet. Vocals: Clyde Hoyte
4. Donkey City - Dan Williams and His Orchestra. Vocals: Lord Fly

1. Linstead Market - Reynolds Calypso Clippers. Vocals: Boysie Grant. Tenor-banjo: Eddie Brown.
2. Solus Market - Reynolds Calypso Clippers. Vocals: Boysie Grant. Tenor-banjo: Eddie Brown.
3. Noisy Spring - Reynolds Calypso Clippers. Vocals: Boysie Grant. Tenor-banjo: Eddie Brown.
4. The Naughty Little Flea -  Reynolds Calypso Clippers. Vocals: Boysie Grant. Tenor-banjo: Eddie Brown.

The great rural sounds of Boysie Grant With Reynolds Calypso Clippers dominates this release, with a track on side one and all of side two. Two of these are described and can be heard on the More Artists and Song Clips page.

A single from this LP was released as seen here and here.



   
MRS -
All
Jamaican
Calypsos
Series 5

Also know as
MOTL 105

Released 1957
or later

1. Not Me
2. Long Time Gal I
     Never See You
3. Caroline
4. Wrong Man

1. Car Park
2. Go Slow
3. Pen Pal
4. Me Dog Can't Bark

In addition to a departure in cover art, Volume 5 features Monty Reynolds and His Silver Seas Orchestra exclusively. Side 1 states that vocals are by Eddie Brown, most probably the same Eddie Brown that plays banjo so well for Reynolds Calypso Clippers, as seen on the previous LP, as well as guitar for the Silver Seas Orchestra in the 1960s . Track 2 is discussed and can be heard on the More Artists and Song Clips page.

   

Thanks to Paul Coote of the UK for the first two scans.

MRS -
Calypso
Date

Also know as
LOML 503

Released 1957
or later

 

1. Linstead Market - Lord Messam and His Calypsonians
2. The Naughty Little Flea -  Reynolds Calypso Clippers. Vocals: Boysie Grant
3. Hill and Gully Ride; Mandeville Road - Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
4. Gal-A-Gully; Matilda - Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
5. This Long Time Gal A Never See You - Monty Reynolds and His Silver Seas Orchestra
6. The Little Fly - Lord Fly and His Orchestra

1. Take Me To Jamaica - Count Owen and His Calypsonians
2. Kitch - Baba Motta and His Orchestra. Vocals: Ben Bowers.
3. Dry Weather House - George Moxey and His Calypso Quintet. Vocals: Hubert Porter
4. Healing In The Balm Yard - Harold Richardson and The Ticklers
5. Limbo - Count Owen and His Calypsonians
6. Brown Skin Girl - Count Owen and His Calypsonians
 
Unlike the five MOTL releases above, Calypso Date! is a 12" rather than a 10" MRS album, and as such has 12 rather than 8 tracks. It was probably released at the end of the 1950s or the start of the 1960s. Most of the tracks have appeared on different MRS LPs, comprising an informal "best of" for consumers of the new LP format. Plus, the album closes with two outstanding Count Owen tracks that do not appear to have been released on any other MRS album or single. These are described and can be heard on the Count Owen page. The liner notes describe the meaning of each song's lyrics, but do not give any information about the artists.

(
In April of 2009 I heard from reggae writer Michael de Koningh, who was good enough to send a scan of the Stanley Motta Ltd. price tag from his copy of "Calypso Date".)


   

"Calypso Memories  of Jamaica" --  an album of two popular dance-band mento 78 RPM singles by Lord Fly and The Dan Williams Orchestra, and includes two medleys:

1A-  Medley of Jamaican Mento-Calypsos (Fan Me Solja Man Fan Me; One Solja Man; Yuh No Yeary Weh De Ole Man Sey; Slide Mongoose
1B-  Whai, Whai, Whai. 

2A-  Medley of Jamaican Mento-Calypsos (Linstead Market; Hol' Him Joe; Dog War A Mattuse Lane; Manuel Road)
2B-  Strike, Strike, Strike

When I first saw this album, I assumed that it was
the first album MRS had ever released.
The recordings are reputed to be
old by MRS
standards. But this came into doubt when I
purchased a used copy that was for sale out
of Australia. Though the jacket, right, was
identical, the contents were different. In side
the six-sleeve album was three 78 RPM singles:

Lord Composer And His Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra on the MRS label:
"Gal A Gully; Matilda"    b/w    "Hill And Gully Ride; Mandeville Road"

Reynolds Calypso Clippers on the MRS label:
"The Naughty Little Flea"    b/w    "Noisy Spring"

Clyde Hoyte with George Moxey Quartet on MRS:
"Montego Calypso"    b/w    "Daphne Walkin'"

Then I heard from Nan Gerard of Minnesota, who also had a copy with different contents. Her version, found used in a thrift store, contained the following six 78s:

Harold Richardson on the MRS label:
"Glamour Gal"    b/w    "Don't Fence Her In"

Lord Fly on the MRS label:
"The Little Fly"    b/w    "Mabel"

The Jamaican Calypsonians on the Times Record label:
"Rum and Coconut Water"    b/w     "Not Me"

Marie Bryant on the Lyragon label:
"Tomato"    b/w    "Rhumboogie Anna"

Lord Kitchener on the Melodisc label:
"Wife and Mother"    b/w     "Mango Tree"

Lord Kitchener on the Lyragon label:
"Carnival In Town"    b/w    "Too Late Kitch"

With no song listing on the jacket, its impossible to know which of two possibilities is true:

(a) The album contained a set collection of discs, but the copies turning up 50 years later do not necessarily have the original discs still in the jacket, or...

(b) The hotel or store that sold this album stuffed what ever discs were on hand into the jacket.

Either way, the results were some pretty good albums!

   

Here's a strange artifact from MRS: mento played by the Jamaica Military Band! This 12" LP, called, An Afternoon at Hope Gardens with The Jamaica Military Band, c.1957. The first side starts with some typical marches and concludes with a medley, called, "cavalcade of famous songs".  The second side consists of popular mentos, or "folk songs", as the LP states, usually played in medleys. The sound is odd, as The Jamaica Military Band tries to convert into the Jamaica jazz big band! Put this down as an unusual chapter in the history of mento-jazz. To answer the question you were about to ask, The Jamaica Military Band was conducted by Staff Sgt. Major E. L. Stewart.


Side 1

1. Regimental Marches of the First and Second West Indian Regiments
2. March: Stars and Stripes
3. Overture to William Tell
4. Piccolo solo: Cassiopia by Bandsman L. Maison
5. Cavalcade of Famous Songs arranged by W. J. Duthoit
    -  The Drum Major
    -  Song of Songs
    -  The Floral Dance
    -  My beautiful Lady
    -  Roadways
    -  The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise
    -  Moonstruck
    -  The Fishermen of England

Side 2
1. Mango Walk
2. Mongoose
3. Linstead Market
4. Brownskin Gal
5. Old Lady
6. Gal, You Dress A Drop
7. Draw Down More
8. Hol' 'Im Joe
9. Solas Market
10. Solja Man
11. Jamaica Cha Cha
      [Calypso Cha Cha Cha]
12. Banana

The 2006 mento compilation CD, "Take Me To Jamaica" includes some interesting history on Motta and his MRS label which includes recollections from his son, Brian Motta. With permission from the label, below is an excerpt.

Sephardic Jews, originally from Spain and Portugal, had lived in Jamaica since the time the Spanish had occupied the island and the Mottas were a very old, established and highly regarded family of Sephardic Jews. Stanley Beresford Brandon Motta (5 October 1915 to 22 March 1993) was a member of the Kingston Chamber Of Commerce, The Jamaican Tourist Board, The Board Of The Bank Of Jamaica and President & Director of The United Congregation of Israelites on Duke Street in Kingston.

Brian Motta was born in 1937 and he remembers his father having the recording machine at his Bar Mitzvah (the Jewish traditional coming of age ceremony) in 1950/51 and that all the children present were singing into it.

The recordings were made by cutting on to blank acetates. If you played them more than a couple of times they began to wear out.  -Brian Motta

The record department in Motta’s sold records imported from North America and England and, although he advertised ‘U.S.A. Rhythm & Blues’, Stanley Motta was always a serious supporter of local music. When he sold P.A. Systems to the hotels “a lot of the time he would go round to install the equipment himself.”  It was while working on the P.A. installations that he heard the hotel bands and this was where the idea came to him for “recording these fellows” and the bands he had met while working in the hotels were the ones he first recorded.

In 1951 Stanley Motta built a small recording studio at 93 Hanover Street around the corner from his shop on Harbour Street. The credit for the first Jamaican record ever goes to a medley of Mento songs by Lord Fly.

Our recording studio was not what you’d call a recording studio now. It was a back room in the woodwork factory, twelve or fourteen feet square, with insulated soft ceiling boards. The band and the recording equipment were all in the same room and there was one microphone. All there was on the cutting machine was one volume control knob.  -Brian Motta

The music was cut directly on to acetate lacquers and, as there were no manufacturing facilities on the island, the lacquers were then sent to England for mastering and pressing by Decca Records in London. The finished fragile shellac 78rpm records would be then shipped back to Jamaica.

The original musicians had come from the hotels but it soon became known throughout the musical fraternity that Stanley Motta was making recordings:

Eventually local musicians would come to us saying ‘I have a tune’ and my father would have to decide whether to cut it or not depending on whether it could sell or not. We’d have to be careful that they’d written the songs as they were paid outright for the tunes. There were no royalties or publishing agreements.  -Brian Motta

Once the studio was properly established Frank Geoffrey was trained to run it. He would then make the decision if it was good enough and would decide whether to go ahead and press or not but “there were lots of things that never got past this stage.” The cutter was later replaced with a mono reel to reel tape recorder and the M.R.S label would go on to release over fifty 78’s, a handful of 45’s, five ten inch LPs and three twelve inch albums between 1951 and 1957. Stanley Motta also licensed a selection of his material to Hart’s in Montego Bay aimed directly at the tourist market.

By 1957 the popularity of Mento began to fade and “sales were not there anymore in Jamaica. All of the Motta’s stores had record departments but I can’t remember selling any Mento at all.”  Mento still continued to sell in England where Stanley Motta had set up a licensing deal with Emil Shallit’s Melodisc label and, by the time the decade drew to a close, interest in Mento was almost non-existent in Jamaica. As the sixties opened Emil Shallit would go on to found the hugely influential Blue Beat label licensing Jamaican Rhythm &Blues and Ska recordings for U.K. release.

We pressed some on 33 & a 1/3 rpm albums and some 45’s but by then we’d finished with the 78’s. We made some long playing records but they were put together in England using our original masters. The last recording we did was a twelve inch LP of the Jamaican Military Band. There were far too many of them to fit in the Motta’s Recording Studio so we rented the R.J.R. Studio and they did the recording. This was the last release on M.R.S…. I’m pretty sure it’s the last one we did.  -Brian Motta

The last album released on the Motta’s label was ‘An Afternoon At Hope Gardens, Jamaica, British West Indies with the Jamaica Military Band’ (MRS LOMLP 501) and the selections played by the band included interpretations of Mento favourites such as ‘Linstead Market’, ‘Brown Skin Gal’ and ‘Hold ‘Im Joe’. Stanley Motta stopped recording in 1957 although his electrical business continued to flourish until he retired in 1986 and sold it to its present owners Mussori Limited.

Other entrepreneurs followed Stanley Motta and began recording and releasing Mento records.


Three advertisements from The Daily Gleaner for Motta's MRS mento for sale at his stores:
 
The add below is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it concentrates exclusively on the MRS mento singles that Motta's stores sold. Second, because it ran on November 28, 1952, it is possible to see what MRS records had been released in its first two years of existence. The ad even distinguished between "Famous Jamaican Classics" and "The Latest Sensations", giving even more information on what the earliest releases were.

 

In this add from September 14, 1957 there are more American records than mento records. But it does indicate what mento singles were "New Arrivals" at the end of 1957.

 

 

From April 5, 1957, this
ad pictures two of the
MRS
LPs and an American
LP release. It also lists a
bunch of tracks not all of
which are found on MRS LP
releases.

 

Times Records albums and advertisements   

MRS was not the only label to release mento albums in the 1950s. Similar to MRS, the Times Records label may have been brought into existence to provide product for the Kingston department store, Times Store. In addition to LPs, 78 RPM singles were released on the Times Records label.

Descriptions of the Times Store albums start below. This is followed with additional narrative on producer Ken Khouri and several  1950s advertisements from The Daily Gleaner for the record department of Times Store.

Below is the 10" LP, "Calypsos From Jamaica" (JAL.1001), on the Times Records label. Ken Khouri was the producer. Contrary to the cover graphics, all the tracks are polished dance band recordings by the smoothed voiced Hubert Porter and The Jamaican Calypsonians. A number of these tracks wound up on the Valmark CD releases. The back cover is blank.
 

  Track listing of JAL.1001:

1. Names of Funny Places
2. Millie   
3. Not Me
4. Rum and Coconut Water

1. Miss Daisy
2. Brown Skin Girl
3. Old Lady
4. Miss Goosie 

There are a number of significant and minor variants of this release. For example, to the right is minor variation of the original jacket and below is an an alternate jacket, both courtesy of Dan Neely. Dan also informed me that these jackets can sometimes contain JAL.1002 -- an entirely different collection of tracks, though again by Hubert Porter with the Jamaican Calypsonians.

 

 

There are a number of significant and minor variants of this release. For example, to the left is minor variation of the original jacket and to the right is an all together different jacket, both courtesy of Dan Neely.

Dan also informed me that these jackets can sometimes contain JAL.1002 -- an entirely different collection of tracks, though again by Hubert Porter with the Jamaican Calypsonians.

To the right is yet another jacket variation of JAL.1001.

  Track listing of JAL.1002:

1. Bargie
2. Mass Charley Bell
3. Mary's Lamb
   (Intro: The more we are together)

1. Mary Ann
2. Gal and Boy
3. Ten Penny Nail
4. Gimme More

Note: The Hubert Porter tracks, "Ten Penny Nail", "Names of Funny Places" and
"Mas Charley Bell" can be heard on the 2006 CD compilation, "Take Me To Jamaica".

Thanks to Jeremy Collingwood (www.Traxonwax.net) for this fantastic scan of another album of 78 RPM singles. Its on the Times Store label and is ubiquitously titled, "Calypsos From Jamaica". Though he's not credited on the cover, this is a Lord Flea collection. The tracks are:

1. Time so Hard; Old Lady b/w Solas Market; Water Comes From My Eye
2. Wheel and Turn Me b/w Mattie Rag; Brown Skin Gal
3. Run Mongoose; Linstead Market b/w Donkey City

Here's the full jacket of another copy. This one contained four Hubert Porter singles on Times Store:

1. Millie b/w Names OF Funny Places
2. Not Me b/w Rum and Coconut Water
3. Ugly Woman b/w Miss Goosy (Medley)
4. Miss Daisy and Brown Skin Girl b/w Old Lady

The illustration is available as a t-shirt on the"Mento Shirts" page.

This time, the familiar illustration is used on a simple sleeve containing one Hubert Porter single. A second sticker shows that this was sold out of Montego Bay's Hart's department store.

Sorry, a larger image is not available.




Here's one more album that contained several 78s.

The 2006 mento compilation CD, "Take Me To Jamaica" includes some interesting history on producer Ken Khouri and his Times Store productions. It also clears up the fact that Khouri's original Jamaican Kalypso was not related to the U.K.-based Kalypso label that was a Melodisc subsidiary. With permission, below is an excerpt.

Ken Khouri was born in 1917 in the rural parish of St. Mary and grew up in Kingston. His mother was born in Jamaica of Cuban parents and his father was born in Lebanon. Although he was always musically inclined Ken Khouri actually became involved in the business “by accident” when he purchased a ‘disc recorder’ in Miami in 1949. He had taken his father to Miami “for his illness.” On their return to Jamaica he began to use the system based in his home to record people’s voices for thirty shillings (£1.50) a time but the demand for musical recordings became overwhelming and so he moved into a club at Red Gal Ring in the parish of St. Andrew which had the space required to record a band.  

"That disc recorder that Ken Khouri bought in Miami was used to record our wedding ceremony. Ken took it to the church and set it up for the first time to do a wedding… even the Minister was confused."  -Ivan Chin

At first Ken Khouri also established a connection with Decca Records in London to manufacture 78rpm records from his acetates. Alec Durie of the Times Variety Store on King Street distributed and advertised the records and the pair started the Times Record label. The records sold “for between four and five shillings” (20 and 25 pence). But the success of his Mento recordings encouraged Ken Khouri to start actually manufacturing his own records and in late 1954, together with his wife Gloria, he opened Records Limited at 129 King Street with equipment brought down from California. In November of that year he began to manufacture “the first locally pressed records on the island.” Some of Ivan Chin’s later recordings were actually pressed at Records Limited. 

Ken Khouri’s first studio, built with the assistance of Australian recording engineer Graeme Goodall, was a “small wooden building with a zinc roof. Recordings were mainly done at night to avoid the daily noise of the traffic.” This was the first commercial studio in Jamaica and Graeme Goodall was employed as its first engineer. From these humble beginnings Ken Khouri moved to 220 Foreshore Road (later Marcus Garvey Drive) in the Hagley Park district of Kingston and Records Limited became a subsidiary of Federal Records. Over the next twenty years Federal continued to expand and would eventually be known as “the centre of Jamaica’s music business” until Ken Khouri sold the studio and the pressing plant to Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong organisation in 1981 and left the music business. 

In August 2003 Ken Khouri was belatedly honoured at Kingston’s annual Tributes To The Greats ceremony and in September the Institute Of Jamaica Historical Society awarded Ken Khouri its Musgrave medal. He died on the 20th of September 2003. The proud father of six children his musical legacy continues through KK Mastering in Kingston and Florida run by his son Paul.

The first tracks Khouri recorded was were "Naughty Little Flea", "Mary Ann" and "Rum and Water" by Lord Flea. "Naughty Little Flea" may be the calypso-y version included on "Rookumbine: Authentic Calypsos and Mentos", a Ken Khouri released by his son Paul.


 

The man who
put the 'K' in
'Kalypso',
Ken Khouri
c. 1957

  Ken Khouri's son Paul Khouri is a producer in his own right. I had an interesting conversation with him in April 2003 about his father. Paul believes that his father’s important role in starting Jamaica’s recording industry is largely unknown due to his modest nature. Ken Khouri began recording mento acts that were performing at the hotels not for fame or for money, but for a love of music.

He further told me that his father, at age 87, loves to play his records very loud and make his mother crazy. Ken is fond of saying that music is his first love, and his wife of 67 years is his second! 

Sadly, shortly thereafter, Ken Khouri's passed away at the age of 87. 

This Times Store ad above, from The Daily Gleaner from August 7, 1952 shows mostly non-Jamaican records, plus 4 Lord Flea releases on the Times Records label.

 

The ad to the right is from November 11, 1954. By this time, a greater proportion of Times Records mento records are being advertised.

 

Incidentally, Times Store, a real Kingston institution, closed its doors in 2002 after opening 103 years earlier. Here is a post card from The Times Store, c.1910.

Tower Islanders Albums


Before there were LPs, albums were ALBUMS, thick and full of stuff, much like a photo album. Here's a mento album by The Tower Islanders entitled, "Calypso... As Played At The Tower Isle, Jamaica, B. W. I.". It consists of a colorful cover, four 78 RPM singles and, very atypically, a lyric sheet. (The back cover is blank.) The cover identifies the fact that The Tower Islanders are the house band of the Tower Isle hotel.  Its on the Topaz label, manufactured in Long Island, New York. Most tracks have Hubert Porter on vocals; two instead have Lord Davey. Each label bears the legend, "Vocals with Orchestra", which reliability indicates that these recordings are piano-based dance-band mento.

 

1. Brown Skin Gal. Hubert Porter vocals.
2. Bargie. Hubert Porter vocals.
3. Ten Penny Nail. Hubert Porter vocals.
4. Millie. Hubert Porter vocals.
5. Rum and Coconut Water. Lord Davey vocals.
6. Funny Names of Places In Jamaica. Lord Davey vocals.
7. Not Me. Hubert Porter vocals.
8. Hold Him Joe. Hubert Porter vocals.

This album would spawn a 4 track 7" 45 RPM EP with a picture sleeve in 1954 on the US Fiesta label.

It would also be the basis of an LP on Fiesta in 1956, as seen below. "Sweet Charlie" and "Unity" are added to bring the number of tracks to the LP requisite ten. Unlike the EP and the original album, there is no lyric sheet, or for than matter, any indication of who sings lead on which tracks.

 

   



Here's the above LP, again called "Calypso", "featuring The Tower Islanders", released the Rico Records label out of NYC. 
 
   

At some point, Rico released "Calypso" again with alternate cover art.

        


In the middle period, other albums would arise from the Tower Isle hotel.

Miscellaneous Albums

Here is an obscure album of 78 RPM singles called "Get Jamaican Calypsos", from Depass Enterprises, 68 King Street. As listed below, of the six singles it contains, five are on the British Melodisc label, and The Jamaican Calypsonians record is on the British Times Records label.

In spite of the name, the album contains just a 2 Jamaican singles, listed first below.

"Mango Walk-Mento" and "Me Donkey Want Water-Mento" by Tony Johnson

"Miss Goosie Medley-Calypso" and "Ugly Woman-Calypso" by The Jamaican Calypsonians

"Two Timing Josephine-Calypso" and "The Tongue Mopsie (Darling Get Up, My Grandmother Coming Twelve O'Clock)-Calypso" by Lord Kitchener

"Food From the West Indies-Calypso" and Kitch-Calypso" by Lord Kitchener

"Single Man-Calypso" and "Monkey-Calypso" by Young Tiger

"O Tic Tac Do Meu Coracao-Samba" and "Luna Lunera-Rhumba" by Hermandos Deniz Cuban Rhythm Band

   

 

"For Adults Only" is the name of an LP on the Vitadisc label, though the most "adult" aspect of this release is the cheesy jacket graphic. The songs are mostly familiar from the mento repertoire with a few numbers that are more calypso in origin and a new tourist song. The unfamiliar Vitadisc label is explained by the fact that its a Trinidadian company that ventured into Jamaican territory for this release from the mid- or late 1950s.

Courtesy of Mike Spencer of England, I was able to hear this material. Most songs are in the piano-led urban jazz-based mento style of the day, sometimes featuring conga drum, other times horns. On "Mary Ann", the singer spills that the backing band is Dan Wiliams & His Orchestra.  A few songs ("Big Bamboo" and "Bed Bug") are more rural, but feature electric guitar rather than banjo. None of the recordings are less than good, but none are especially exciting. Mike and his friend Pelle researched the singers for each song as listed below. Some tracks had been released on 78 RPM singles, for the others they matched the voices. For those who don't know his unusual career path, Trinidadian calypso singer The Charmer is now known as the political activist Louis Farrakhan. 
The Charmer - All Day All Night-Marie-Ann
Hubert Porter - The Big Bamboo
The Charmer - Fire Down De [aka Fire Down Below]
unknown - Solas Market [aka Come Buy Banana]
The Charmer - Brown Skin Girl
The Charmer - Take Me Down To Los Iros [aka Don't Let Mama Know]
Eric Hayden - Give Her The No. One
Lloyd "Prince" Thomas - Bed Bug [aka Reincarnation]
Tony Johnson - The Mango Walk
Eric Hayden - Come To Montego Bay
The Charmer - Me Donkey Want Water [aka Hold Her Joe]
The Charmer - Ugly Woman <lyrics not provided>
Mike also provided scans of the lyrics sheet included with the LP. Click on a listing to see the words.

Golden Age Albums released on Non-Jamaican Labels

In the late 1950s or early 1960s, the NYC-based Monogram label jumped on the calypso bandwagon, including at least one LP of "Jamaican calypso". Meet Me In Jamaica did not include any artist information. Thanks to Paul Coote for supplying some of the artists names. Many of these songs were appear on other compilations.

   

1. Man Smart, Woman Smarter - Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing)
2. Jamaica Medley #2 (Mango Walk; Sweetie Charlie) - Harold Richardson
3. Wide Screen  (Cinemascope) - Count Lasher
4. Mary Ann; Brown Skin Girl - Jamaica Boy (Denzil Laing)
5. Doctor - Count Lasher
6. Jamaica Medley #5 (Jackass; Ya Ma Ma) - Harold Richardson

1. Limbo - Harold Richardson
2. Talking Parrot - Count Lasher
3. Island Gal Sally - Count Lasher
4. Night Food - Chins
5. Green Guava - Harold Richardson
6. Mama Look Tea - ?


 

Thanks to Dan Neely for these scans of the rare collection from Japan of golden age mento tracks, Jamaica Before Ska.

I do not know if this is a legitimate release or a pirated collection, but the line up is strong.

 

  1. Linstead Market - Louise Bennett and The Caribbean Serenaders
  2. Bongo Man (Jamaican Christmas Song) - Louise Bennett and The Caribbean Serenaders
  3. Hill and Gully Ride; Mandeville Road- Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
  4. Gal A Gully; Matilda - Lord Composer and The Silver Seas Hotel Orchestra
  5. Swine Lane Gal; Iron Bar – Lord Fly and Dan Williams and His Orchestra
  6. When Mi Look Upon Janie So; Ada; Time So Hard - Lord Fly and Dan Williams and His Orchestra
  7. Strike, Strike Strike - Lord Fly and Dan Williams and His Orchestra
  8. Healing In The Balmyard – Harold Richardson and The Ticklers
  9. Sam Fi Man – Count Lasher and His Calypso Quintet
  10. Mango Time – Count Lasher’s Seven
  11. Calypso Cha Cha Cha - Count Lasher and His Calypsonians
  12. Jamaica Talk - Baba Motta and His Orchestra
  13. Blu-Lu-Lup - Lord Fly and Dan Williams and His Orchestra
  14. Give Her Banana - Tony Johnson and His Carousel Band
  15. It All Began With Adam And Eve - Lord Flea and His Calypsonians
  16. Not Me (Man Smart, Woman Smarter) - Ben Bowers with Bertie King’s Royal Jamaicans
  17. Lets Do It - Lord Power and The Trenton Spence Quartet
  18. Penny Reel - Lord Power and The Calypso Quintet
  19. Chambolina - Lord Power and The Calypso Quintet
  20. Sweet Chariot - Lauren Aitken
  21. Nebuchnezer - Lauren Aitken
  22. Baba Kill Me Goat - Lauren Aitken
  23. Tribute To Collie Smith - Lauren Aitken and The Boogie Cats



In the late 1950s or early 1960s, the Ritmo
label released an LP called "Calypsos From Jamaica", a collection of golden age mento tracks.

From this LP Ritmo also also spawned a similarly packaged EP, though the label on this disc was different, as seen on the More Golden Age Singles scans page.

 

   

The same material then appeared on an LP by the same name on the Sounds of the Caribbean label, probably released in the 1960s (below). Though promising at a glance, the liner notes manage to disappoint in four languages. 

   

This same collection of material can be inexpensively purchased on a CD of the same name released on the Valmark label. See the Can I Buy Mento? page for a song listing.

Courtesy of Jurjen Borregaard of Amsterdam, also on the Sounds of the Caribbean label, a 1972 LP called "Souvinir of Jamaica". The same golden age tracks would appear on the other Valmark CD that can be easily and inexpensively purchased today. Like the LP above the liner notes go through the effort of conveying very little in four languages.

   

Courtesy of Matthias Münchow of Hamburg,  Germany is the Marie Bryant LP, "Don't Touch My Nylons" on the  Melodisc label. This album was also released in the UK on the Fab label. For more on Marie Bryant, visit the More Golden Age Single scans page.
 

   
A-side:
Mary Had A Little Lamb
Chi Chi Boom; Too Much
Noisy Springs
Water Melon
 
B-side:
Don't Touch My Nylons
Sixty Minute Man
Suede Shoes Calypso
Tomato; Little Boy

Lord Foodoos and Lord Food

   
 
Here's a very unusual record, "Calypso from The Tap" by Lord Food and His Firehouse Five. I have seen reference to Lord Food and His Firehouse Four competing in a 1953 competition, but I'm not sure that this LP is is from the 1950s. The band photo is glued onto the jacket in the manner of the 1960s Lord Antics LPs. And its hard to be sure with such a unique specimen.

This is a 10", four song yellow vinyl release with grooves on just one side . Of the four songs, only Mathilda is part of the mento repertoire.  It's a hotel album (recorded at Reynolds Beach), with a place for the souvenir buyer to write their name. The label was poorly glued on and came loose after time. With a song called "Karl Goetz Has Got The Ding Dong", it is possible that this was a recording of a live performance that was quickly pressed up to to sell to the vacationer before he departed the resort. Karl is mentioned as an audience member in the liner notes. So are Charles and Kathy Kuper -- the souvenir owner that signed the jacket. This is the only evidence I've seen of these near-instant personalized mento souvenirs. This speedy pressing points to a probable 1960s release.





The liner notes, typical of a hotel LP, give us nothing about the band other than mentioning that they were profiled in Look Magazine. An cleaned up version of the band photo is left.

 

Below is one of the few major label mento releases, "Calypso!", by Lord Foodoos and His Calypso Band, on the Electra label. (Lord Foodoos may be the same individual as Lord Food, described immediately above, though this is just supposition on my part.) This LP has several similarities to the other major label mento release, "Swingin' Calypsos", by Lord Flea. For one, both were released in 1957 during the transatlantic calypso craze that was spearheaded by Harry Belafonte . Both LPs contain songs that are associated with Belafonte. Both are rural mento, though you would never know it from the liner notes. (Though this is common, its especially ironic for the Foodoos release, as Foodoos like to yell, "mento!", before instrumental breaks.) One difference is the lack of any artists info or photos for the "Calypso!" LP. Though this LP lacks the vibrancy that the better songs on the Flea LP has, the Foodoos album is more even.

 

   

1. Matilda
2. Back to Back
3. Don't Touch Her Tomato
4. Marianne
5. One Little Lover
6. Stone Cold Dead in the Market
7. That's How Me Come Over

8. Day-O [includes part of "Hill and Gully Rider"]
9. Lady Trelalay
10. Drive Her Home
11. Hold Em Joe [includes part of "'Melda"]
12. Peas and Rice
13. Lousy Mother in Law
14. Jamaica Farewell

Below is a re-release with a new cover (still without an artist photo), and the same liner notes. The front cover renames the release as "Mister Calypso". All Foodoos photos are courtesy of Olivier Albot (with an assist from Laurent Pfeiffer). Here's another difference between "Calypso!" and is major label cousin by Lord Flea: The Lord Foodoos LP is readily available today on CD, as seen on the "Can I Buy Mento?" page, though you might not recognize it at first glance.

 

   

  Courtesy of Frédéric Pecqueur of Montivilliers, France, here is the "Mister Calypso" LP as released in France.

Re-released one again, with a new title, "Calypso Carnival", and cover art. On the Legacy/Electra label. 
   

  Here also is a French Lord Foodoos EP, called, "Folklore"
  on the Versailles label.  It consists of four from the above LP:

   Mathilda
   Marianne
   Lady Trelalay
   Jamaica Farewell

 


   And finally, to the right is a
   1958 Electra LP called
   "The Electra Folk Sampler 5",
   which includes "Day-O"
   by Lord Foodoos.

 

See Also:

For more more label and jacket scans and song clips, also see this site's:

 

email me at:
mike@mentomusic.com

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