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Chin's Calypso Sextet, Alerth Bedasse,  Everard Williams and Ivan Chin's label

 

Last revised: 7/8/14

 

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On  June 27, 2014, Ivan Chin passed of pneumonia at the age of 90. A remarkable figure in the history of Jamaican music, Ivan was also a great supporter of this web site. I will miss him and my thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family.

Background Info

"Played in homes and all Sound Systems and Juke Boxes throughout Jamaica."

Chin's Calypso Sextet is one of the most prolific and most fondly remembered mento acts of the golden age. Chin's was consistently a strictly rural mento band, with lead singer Alerth Bedasse's mento voice and an instrumental line up of bamboo instruments, banjo, acoustic guitar and rumba box. The band was named for producer Ivan Chin rather than for any of it's musicians.

Through a Ritmo LP and a Valmark CD, three fine Chin's tracks have been available throughout the decades, since their release in 1955 through 1957.
 

 

Courtesy of Colby Graham is this rare picture of
Chins Calypso Sextet
playing. Everard Williams is
in the middle. A much younger Alerth Bedasse
is to the left. A much older Cheston Williams
is to the right. Partially visible is
Wilbert Stephenson.
 

And there have been a good number of covers of popular Chin's tracks by major reggae artists. Yet, when I started this site in 2003, biographical information available on this seminal group was nil. One exception was the reference Roots Knotty Roots, which listed 32 tracks (under half of the actual output, as later documented by Dan Neely). These sources revealed that Chin's recorded mostly originals, along with some folk and quadrille tracks. The subject matter was far more varied than the humorous, risqué tales of the three tracks that remained in print.

In 2001 came the CD release, Boogu Yagga Gal, which included 10 Chins' tracks (including the one that gave the collection it's name) and excellent liner notes, where the Chin's story began to be told. Two 2003 compilations "Rookumbine", and "Jamaica Mento - Authentic Recording" included Chin's tracks, but they were already released on Boogu Yagga Gal, and no information was included.

After the heyday of Chin's, Bedasse would also record at least four tracks in the 1960s under his own name or as Count Alert. Two of these tracks, with Alert backed by Lyn Taitt & The Baba Brooks Band, sporting a more urban style, are available on a Jet Set  and on a Trojan compilation. Bedasse also recorded two tracks with The Trenton Spence Orchestra, but I have not heard these recordings.

As you will read in Ivan Chin's comments below, the other key band member in Chin's Calypso Sextet was Everard Franklyn (E. F.) Williams. He was the lyricist for all of Chin's original songs. He also was Harold Richardson and The Ticklers' lyricist, assuring his place, along with Count Lasher, as mento's finest song writer. As a matter of fact, Williams actually did pen lyrics for at least two Count Lasher tracks. Other popular mentos that Williams wrote include "Cutting Wood", "Dry Weather House" and "Monkey Talk" amongst others. Daniel Neely's excellent article, "Long Time Gal! Mento is Back!" in the December 2001 issue of The Beat magazine reveals that .
 



 


Ivan Chin, 1956


Alerth Bedasse, 1956


Everard Williams, 1956

Courtesy of Ivan Chin and Dan Neely, from his excellent liner notes for the CD series.
 

Williams also laid claim to writing the Lord Lebby 1955 hit "Etheopia" five years earlier and intended to sue. "Etheopia" is the first song to include Rastafarian back-to-Africa themes, a mainstay of the roots reggae explosion in the late 1970s. Many of Williams' songs tell a story so rich in color and detail that listening gives you a strong sense of time and place. If you like reggae songs that tell richly described stories, such as "Sweet and Dandy" by Toots and the Maytals, or "Jackpot" and "Long Shot Kick The Bucket" by The Pioneers, then Williams' well observed and colorful lyrics assure you enjoy many Chin's songs as well.

In a rare printed interview from the mid-1950s, Everard provides some info about the history of his writing. This was in response to government criticism of and threat to ban (!) risqué mento songs. (Bedasse's and Everard's hit "Night Food" spurred minister of trade and industry, Willis O. Isaacs, to attack calypso in Parliament.) Williams would write two tracks about this issue: "Why Blame Calypso" and "Calypso Opinion".

I am indeed sorry if my song is causing any trouble, but why blame me alone? When I started writing these songs, I used to write very high-class calypsos -- calypsos entitled "Mother You Break My Heart", "I'll Tell God", etc., and all together I did not sell 200 copies.

Then I started out with "Satan's Wife", "We May Hear After Six", and there I started to make headway. Obviously, that was what the public wanted. I later proceeded to make very, very clean calypsos for Stanley Motta, [see the Harold Richardson page for examples of the fine "clean" songs Williams wrote for The Ticklers  -Mike] which sold fairly well, but I didn't make a hit until I wrote "Night Food".

The response to this record was very great, as thousands upon thousands of the record were sold both here and abroad. I am a poor man and work for a living. That is my way of making a living and I thought that I was giving real entertainment to the public -- because they accepted it -- but it seams that I was mistaken.

But I am going to write different calypsos now and hope the public will think them very clean; but since it is my living I hope they will buy them as well as they do the ones some say are not so good.

I am very very sorry to have to be such a bad fellow, to drag the Minister's children in the mud with my songs, but I am going to do better. I now make songs for Chin's Radio Service, and on his advice, I am preparing to make records even for children's birthnight parties and other similar functions. [This may refer to such Chin's songs as "Riddle Me This", and the four Ring  Songs.]

I hope the public will but them and keep me from writing another "Night Food Recipe". But even now, I am wondering what is there in "Night Food Recipe" to spoil an innocent child? Anyway, I must be ignorant, and I bow to superior intelligence.

The names of the other four band members had been lost to time. It was known that the original paper sleeves that the singles came in had included the band members' names. But these must have been flimsy affairs, as not one specimen was known to have survived. Happily, in January 2007, a cache of four well preserved Chin's singles with the original paper sleeves was found in Canada. With that, we now know the names of the sextet. It's fitting that these great names in mento all turn out to have great names!

  Everard Williams
Alerth Bedasse
Wilbert Stephenson
Cheston Williams
Aaron Carr
Vivian Lord

 -
 -
 -
 -
 -
 -

composer and maracas
[lead] vocal and musical arrangement
[bamboo] sax
banjo
[acoustic] guitar
bass [rumba box]

A Chin's sleeve
can be
seen
below.

 

In July 2004, the vault was unexpectedly thrown open, or perhaps it was torn off at the hinges, as the first (called "CD 2") of a series of what was to be four, then grew to six CDs was released. The CDs collect 96 tracks of Chin's Calypso Sextet recordings. Such a collection is remarkable for several reasons:

First, although a handful of Chin's tracks have appeared on the compilations described above, most have never been compiled, and many of the original 78s are incredibly rare, even by mento standards. Most of these tracks have not been available since their initial release on 78 RPM singles in the 1950s. Ivan told me that many of these singles were limited to just one pressing of 400 copies, making them ultra scarce, even by mento standards. Some of these recordings were never pressed to vinyl at all, being released for the first time in any form almost 50 years after they were recorded.

Second, it's Ivan Chin himself that is behind this reissue, personally handling all aspects of this project. Ivan even provides his personal recollections, seen below, that shed more light on this seminal golden age mento and label act than has been available before.

Additionally, each volume contains a copy of liner notes written by Dan Neely which assures unequaled research and an informative package. Dan was instrumental in coaxing Ivan to release this material. These notes even contain the only known period photos of Bedasse, Williams and Ivan. (These appear above, with permission.) Comments from Dan about this set follow those from Ivan Chin, below. These comments are not to be confused with his notes. (Additionally, Dan has posted on his website a comprehensive Chin's s discography.)

These CDs, though made by Ivan Chin, are being marketed by CD Baby (a label that also released the two Golden Aires CDs described on the Can I Buy Mento? page). Buyers should be prepared for a homemade feel to these releases. After all, as you will read below, Ivan put them together by himself! They feature a slim-line jewel box with home printed labels, a CD-R, liner notes on folded 8" x 10" paper and sound quality that can be difficult for some tracks in particular. But these are small prices to pay for a collection of such rare and excellent recordings.

The CDs collect nearly all of the 84 released Chin's tracks, plus some that were never released. There is not a bad song in the bunch and the music, vocals and lyrical content are nicely varied. This is hard-core rural mento. The melodies are strong and catchy and the playing is excellent, as almost all the tracks have little jams between banjo, bamboo sax and/or flute. The rhythm in many songs, to my ears shows mento's quadrille heritage.

If you had a million dollars, a staff of a thousand and one hundred years to turn the world upside down in search of the original 78 RPM singles, you still could not acquire half of this this collection of historic Jamaican recordings that Ivan Chin has released on six inexpensive CDs.

To commemorate the release of this collection of CDs, Ivan Chin has provided the following recollections, giving us great insight into one of the most important acts in the history of Jamaican music.

Recollections from Ivan Chin, 2004  (revised 2/20/05):

All Chin's Calypso/Mento records were recorded by me, in my store, Chin's Radio Service at 48 Church Street Kingston Jamaica in the 50s. The floor was concrete and the ceiling Gypsum. There were no (sound) acoustic rooms.
We rehearsed and recorded in a section of the store at nights, after the store was closed.

I discovered Everard Williams and Alert Bedasse in 1955 after they recorded Night Food, I invited them along with their small Quintet to record exclusively for me. I then changed the name from Calypso Quintet to Chin's Calypso Sextet.

My recording machine used a cutting needle to cut groves into 78 RPM 10 inch vinyl resin discs. at that time 45s and LPs were not yet invented. The microphones I used were the large old ribbon types, RCA and Shure, they were very good, in those days there were no cassette, reel to reel, or eight track recorders, ceramic or crystal microphones, available in Jamaica. We were just leaving the gramophone behind, to play a 78 record in those early days on a Gramophone, you had to wind it up with a crank handle, then put a heavy metal head with a steel needle, which you put into it, on to the record.

 

Courtesy of
Ivan Chin,
here is Ivan
celebrating
his 80th
birthday,
April 2004.

The band consisted of a rumba box a bamboo saxophone, a Bamboo Flute a Banjo, a guitar, a floor bass guitar with four strings, a maracas and two heavy sticks called clave, which they knock together. All the instruments were made in Jamaica with local wood, bamboo and other things.

Bedasse was the song composer and singer, Williams was the lyrics composer, Williams also played the maracas and sticks as extra duty in the band, the saxophone player played the bamboo sax, and the bamboo flute, Bedasse played his guitar.

Most of my records were sent to Decca in England for mastering and pressing, some were done by the late Ken Khouri of the then Federal Records Ltd., some of my records went to Melodisc and marketed through Kalypso.

The first Chin's 45 Calypsos were produced by Melodisc Kalypso, I recently asked Decca if they still had my recordings, they said yes and offered to re-record them digitally on CDs for me, which they did, and sent them to me. That is why I can now offer them again, after all those years. Many people kept my records as collector's items for years, even now, some older people still have them.
 

When you own a Chin's CD, you own the original, you own a piece of HISTORY. Other CDs have a few Chin's records on them. I have all 64 original recordings on four CDs. These musicians were the real salt of the earth Jamaicans, of the old days. Chin's CDs are different, they tell a story.

When you own a Chin's CD, it is like owning a piece of art, you not only get the music, you also get a sense of life in Jamaica in those early days, as depicted by Williams and Bedasse. These CDs are put together by hand, not mass produced, that is why they are special and made to keep.

The first records I did were Honeymoon, Rough Rider, Samson and Delilah and Depression. The #1 song on CD 1 is Honeymoon on CD 2 is Rough Rider, CD 3 is Samson and Delilah, and CD 4 is Depression.

Williams and Bedasse wrote most of their songs from personal experiences and stories they heard on the streets of Jamaica. I will try to explain about a few of them.

Take Rough Rider, there was talk around Town about a Beautiful Woman and her special reputation, so every man wanted to try her out, they all did and failed, so a preacher heard about her special reputation and decided to save her soul, he then met her to save her soul, and after she was finished with him, he ended up singing the Rough Rider Hymn.

Take Big Boy and Teacher, in School in Jamaica, in those days, there was always a big boy in School, he was always the tallest but not the brightest, so one day he heard the other children talking about catty. He did not know what Catty was, so he went to his Teacher to find out, what catty was, after a lot of questioning, the Teacher got fed up with him, and said to him, catty is the same old pussy cat you see sleeping on the mat.

There is Big Sid, it was the name given to a very big bad cow in Jamaica, and there was a very big and fat woman, people called Pearl Harbour, people looked at her and started calling her Big Sid, she did not like that name at all. So one day she caught a woman who called her Big Sid and gave her two buck in her head, she fell to the ground, the police arrested her, when she went to court the judge asked her why she did it, after she explained to the judge why she did it, the judge admonished and discharged her.

Most of the records Williams and Bedasse did were based on things happening in Jamaica at that time, in the years 1955 to 1957.

Take this one for instance, Rent Worries, life was very hard in those days, and most people had a very hard time paying their rent, the rooms they rented were in very poor conditions and the Landlords were very ruthless.

Williams and Bedasse in True Friendship, tried to explain what TRUE FRIENDSHIP meant, who were good friends and who were bad friends, as they knew them in Jamaica. In song 12 reap what you sow, was one of the rare songs sung by Williams, in this song he is trying to give advise to young girls to be careful, because they will reap what they sow. Bedasse stood aside for this one, I think because Williams was the older grand father type to give this advise.


At the end song 16, I Love You So, was done at a time when the world loved waltzes of all types, there were many beautiful waltzes played in dance halls in Jamaica at that time, so I decided to produce one of my own, hence, I Love you so.

When we made Honeymoon, there was always a joke about a fellow called Rufus, he was so stupid that they made a lot of jokes about him all the time. He had a girl friend, she had to propose to him to get him to marry her, then on their Honeymoon he did not know what it was all about, when his wife wanted to make love, and made herself nude, Rufus wanted to know why she was nude, she called him to the bed to enjoy their Honeymoon, he brought her a spoon with some honey and told her to look out the window there is the moon.

Monkey's Opinion, Williams and Bedasse sat under a coconut tree and either dreaming or imagine a monkey was in the coconut tree, then wrote this song about monkeys, there were no monkeys in Jamaica at that time.

 

From The Daily Gleaner, 
July 3, 1956.
A strong roster
celebrates Norman
Manley's birthday.

Along with
Chin's Calypso Sextet,
Count Lasher,
Frats Quintet,
Louise Bennett,
Sonny Bradshaw,
amongst others,
are on the bill. 
Can someone get
me a time machine?


Let's look at some of the songs on CD 3. Take Bra Dog and Bra Puss, in Jamaica there was always a story about these two enemies a dog and a puss (cat).

Then look at Peaka Pow, in Jamaica in those days, there were two Chinese Bankers playing Peaka Pow, this song tells the story.

Black Market Beef was at a period when everything was scarce, there were shortages of everything, including beef, so people would drive out to the country parts to buy beef on the black market, they used every trick to get the beef into Kingston, this woman in the song pretended to be months pregnant, but it was with beef, not a baby.

Calypso Opinion was at a period when the Government wanted to ban our calypsos, saying it was too bad, so Williams and Bedasse tried to defend their position, choose for yourself if you think Chin's calypsos are too bad.

Here is a track with a very good beat, Woman Ghost Fool Man, it is about a man who was always complain about women, until one night he saw a tall woman in white, he thought she was beautiful, so he followed her in the dark of night, until they reached a burial ground, (a cemetery), then suddenly the woman disappeared, he was following a Duppy (ghost).

Adina -- here is another very nice track with the banjo and sax taking the leading roll with Bedasse crooning.

A victim of love, this is a song composed and sung by Williams himself, we felt that he was pining for his wife who left him and hoping she would return, he did not want Bedasse to sing this one, listen to the breaking up of his voice as he sung.

Come Back My Darling, Williams composed it, Bedasse sung it, it sounds very much like it had something to do with a victim of love, maybe a follow up, we could not tell what was in his mind.
 

Three photos from Ivan Chin
from the late 1960s

 


Ivan at work.
 



The Chin's store on Church Street where the recordings occured.




It's 'Old Faithful', the Chin's Store vehicle .
 

 

Track 16, I am in love, this was another waltz we produced when waltzes were played all over the world and in dance halls all over Jamaica, it was very nice to see people dancing the waltzes and to listen to the beautiful sound of a waltz.

Please listen to it, and enjoy the wonderful music that was heard, in those wonderful years long ago.

In those days there were no computer for me to use, now I use Easy CD Creator, Adobe Photo Deluxe, a Scanner, a CD Burner a printer and all the other modern attachments on a computer for my CD recordings. What you have here is very unusual, in 1955 I made these recordings with primitive equipment, now in 2004, I am again recording these same songs, with modern equipment, to CDs, almost 50 years apart, yesterday as today, 1955 to almost 2005, AMAZING.
 
To make it more of an ART, I am putting the CDs together with my own hands, now 2004 as in 1955.  I put the recordings on CD by hand, also printed the labels and put the CDs together, then put them into a ziploc bag to protect the CDs from dust, this CD is hand made and is worth preserving, no mass production here, no big commercial sales pitch, no fancy art work, just CHIN'S CALYPSO, the true recordings are what counts, even with their faults.

I will also enclose this history folder [Dan Neely's liner notes] along with the CD in the ziploc container.

I found that Williams was the very best calypso composer for that period, and Bedasse was the best calypso song writer, and also a very good singer.  They both work together on each song, line by line, until the words and songs came together in harmony, they were an excellent team. I was very proud of them, The other members of the band were also very good musicians, they got along very well together, there was always peace and laughter at every session during rehearsal and recording.
 

A different calypso Ivan Chin:

 

"Man! It's Calypso" by
Ivan Chin and His Calypso Band
is not the same Ivan Chin
and is calypso music, not mento.

I left Jamaica in 1974 to Canada, I am happy that I was able to save all these recordings, they are different from
most other recordings, because most of them tell a short story of life in Jamaica in those early years. Williams and Bedasse felt that their songs were good, because they tell a Jamaican story, 64 of these precious Jamaican music are saved for other generations to enjoy.

In 2005 you will have in your position recordings done 50 years ago, and as an added bonus, the person who did them in 1955 may still be around in 2005. I would like to add  a short bio of myself, which I hope will make these recordings have more meaning to you.

When I was in my early teens, I heard that people could talk hundreds or thousands of miles away and you could hear them in Jamaica, you could also hear music the same way.

I got fascinated with the idea and decided to learn more about it, at that time I did not know anything about Alexander BELL or MARCONI, I heard that the thing that could do all that was called a RADIO.

One day I saw an ad in a news paper which read, LEARN RADIO BY CORRESPONDENCE COURSE. The school was HOLLYWOOD RADIO AND TELEVISION INSTITUTE of California.

I sent for the course, I paid five shillings per week, or one Pound each month from my allowance, of five shillings weekly. The first radios I saw were an ATWATERKENT and a Philco, their shapes were like a Church of those days, with a very small opening in front and a round knob to turn some numbers in the window called a dial.
 

Adds for Chin's Radio Service,
including calypso records,
 from The Daily Gleaner.

 

From October 26, 1956.
 


From September 28, 1956.



From October 11, 1956.
 


From September 29, 1958.
 



From December 24, 1957.
 

  I learned from the course that a radio needed a long antenna before it could receive a signal to operate. It also needed two poles, with two glass insulators at either end, from which the long wire antenna is strung.

In those early days, the only band on the radio was the long wave band, and the only thing we could hear was Spanish language and Spanish music from CUBA.

I started my first radio repair business in Montego Bay in 1942, that was during the war years WW2, there were no radio or TV stations in Jamaica at that time, we listened to music on the short wave bands, we had stations like BBC, the Voice Of America and The Armed Forces Radio.

In those days there were very memorable songs produced by great composers, I will try to remember some of the songs I enjoyed during those years. Songs like "Via Con Dios", "South of the Border", "Down Argentina Way", "Tennessee Waltz", "Always", "Together", "To Each His Own" and many more very good songs too numerous to mention. I went to New York in October 1946, I never knew what cold was until I felt my first winter and saw my first snow, I went through the winter to March, I survived, I returned to Jamaica March 1947. One of my best experience in New York was going to the Radio City Music Hall, I had never seen a theater so beautiful and the sound was out of this World, the drapes and carpets were so thick, it made the acoustics very outstanding.

In Jamaica in the 50s and 60s we had a theater that was also very outstanding called the Carib Theater, for those who are old enough to remember and for those too young to know, let me remind you older ones how wonderful it was and to tell you younger ones that in the old days we had some very good things.

When you decide to go to the Carib, you have to dress very neat because everybody else will be in their best, there was behavior standard set for everyone to follow, no fooling around no noise, I even believe there was no smoking allowed. Inside the theater was very elegantly decorated with heavy drapes, very thick carpets and soft plush seats, one of the best part of going to the Carib Theater is to be in your seat before the lights go out. When they gradually dimmed the lights, they lighted the drapes in front of the screen with green and blue colours then they gradually and softly played the most beautiful music you ever heard. LA GOLONDRINA and MELODY OF LOVE. The sound system was the best in Jamaica, it was stereo at it's best, you were wrapped around with the most pleasing sound you ever heard, and they played the sound throughout the show at a very moderate volume, it was a joy to go to the Carib.

The sound system was the best Stereo system in Jamaica, you were wrapped around with this wonderful music, and the sound was always at a very moderate level. It was always a joy to go to the Carib in those days.

After I returned to Jamaica in March 1947, I moved to Kingston, got married in 1948, started Chin's Radio Service, which developed from One store to Eight.  In those days I used to operate a CB station with the Handle CHB, I made a lot of contacts by skipping across continents. I migrated to Toronto Canada in 1974.

I Started A radio and Television repair business called Chin's Radio Television, and Chin's stereo service which
I operated until I retired.

One of my greatest pleasure in life is fishing, I started fishing from about age nine, I started in a little district
called Green Island, I used thread for line and the common pin for hook. When I was growing up I fished in Lucea and Montego Bay, when I moved to Kingston I continued fishing and added bird shooting, which I am doing no more, however, I continued fishing in Kingston then later to Grand Cayman. I received my drivers license at 16 in Lucea, I drove a bread van for my father's bakery.

After I moved to Canada I continued going to Cayman twice every year and spent four weeks fishing and swimming. I am going to tell all you rod and reel fisher men that you have not yet experienced real fishing until you fish with a hand line. All my life I fished only with hand lines, I tried rod and reel once or twice but found that winding in fish with that mechanical device is no fun. When you feel a fish at the end of your hand line, that is fishing.

In Grand Cayman I do drop fishing at the edge of the deep, usually 16 fathoms, mostly at nights with a light, we use an open boat about 16 ft long and about 4 ft wide, we do not go far out, or in rough seas, we could hear music and cars, in the distance, from homes to the sea is very close.  I use 15lb and 30lb lines, for bait, I use squid or fries,
the fishes we caught were dog teeth snappers, mutton snappers, jacks, groupers, grunts and wench man, you Jamaicans know which ones I mean. To feel the pull and run of a good fish is the best sensation a fisher man could have, so you rod and reel fishermen try hand line fishing.

There are four CDs, CD 1, CD 2, CD 3, & CD 4. Without CD BABY it would not have been possible to offer these CDs to you. CD BABY allow a new and small producer of CDs, to put them out at very low cost outlay. I highly recommend you to support CD BABY, buy the CDs they sell for the small producers, give them a listening ear. Without CD BABY, those song producers would not have a chance to be heard, because the cost to put one out by the large CD Companies, is so high, that it is beyond the reach of most.

I wish to thank Daniel Neely of the New York University for his keen interest and research into the history of Chin's Calypso recordings, and the discovery of photos of Williams Bedasse and I in the archives in Jamaica. We have been in constant e-mail contact.

I also wish to thank Michael Garnice of MentoMusic for his very keen interest and generous contribution to the re-introduction of these Chin's Calypso recordings, Mike has one of the best sites I have discovered, I am also in regular e-mail contact with him.

I also wish to thank Derek Sivers of CD Baby and his entire staff, for their part in getting these recordings to you.


- Ivan S Chin, 2004, Toronto, Canada

Comments about Chin's from Dan Neely, 2004

From the moment I started researching mento music, I have been totally enamored with the songs put out by Chin's Radio Service. Recorded in Kingston between 1955 and 1957, these records were some of the very best of the period and because they were recorded for a strictly local market, they reflect a style of mento (or Jamaican calypso, as its often called) that bears little resemblance to the more sanitized and less risqué versions commonly associated with tourism.  Most of them have not been available since they were pressed in the mid 1950s and consequently most of them are now very, very rare.

These recordings, which range from songs of social commentary, to risqué ballads to traditional folk songs to love songs, is for anyone interested in Jamaican music, its history and its deep roots.  When he made them, Mr. Chin preserved an era of music making that quickly became overshadowed by the international popularity of ska, rock steady and reggae and was nearly forgotten - except by the numerous artists who covered these songs in the decades that passed.  It is indeed fortunate that Mr. Chin has chosen to make these recordings available once again.  They cannot be recommended highly enough.

2005-2008 News

In early 2005, Dan Neely made contact with Alerth Bedasse, who unbeknownst to almost everyone, was still alive and living in Kingston. Alerth was able to provide Dan with information for his research (including the correct spelling of his name: "Alerth", not "Alert" as commonly thought). Dan put him in touch with Ivan Chin, and the two had their first conversation in 47 years. Ivan reports both were overjoyed to speak to one another again. Ivan was able to provide the CDs he produced of Alerth's music to several of his children, who had never heard these recordings. (It was one of these children that linked Dan to Alerth.) In their conversation, Ivan learned that Alerth had, "eleven children, all University graduated".  

In August of 2005, Ivan found enough tracks for a fifth CD! For details see the CD 5 section of this page. Here are some comments from Ivan about this 5th CD, and the reaction to the first 4 CDs:

All the stereo recordings on this CD were experimental. Stereo had just arrived in Jamaica, and at that time we were still recording for 78 records. I bought a Grundig Reel To Reel Stereo Recorder which I used for these stereo recordings.

If you listen carefully to some of these stereo recordings, you may get the feeling that you are looking at these men
moving around on stage during the recording sessions, as you hear the instruments moving around. You may also get the feeling that you were sitting at 48 Church St. looking and listening to the band while the stereo recordings were taking place.

These were very unusual experimental recordings, they were the first stereo recordings of calypsos as we entered the LP period. The stereo recordings on this CD were the last recordings I did with the Chin's Calypso Sextet Band. You now have the beginning and the end of the Chin's Calypso period. We had a little break up session as I said good by to all members of the band and especially Williams and Bedasse. It was a sad time for everyone, because the band was breaking up, there was no work for the band as a complete unit, SKA had just come in and calypso was going out.

Please preserve these recordings for as long as you can, as it may be very difficult to find composers as good as Williams and Bedasse, they were in a class by themselves. Bedasse was the man who put the band together and directed the men, he also composed the melody for each songs with them.

Williams was a very intelligent man and manager of the band, he was also a great talented composer. It will be very difficult to replace them, Williams was a very stabilizing influence for the band. The end of the calypso recordings was June 1957. These CDs will represent all the work done by this group of very talented dedicated men. Sometimes when I listen to these CDs, it is hard to believe that those songs were originally recorded with a recorder that used a metal needle to cut groves into 10 inch disc.

OVER THE YEARS, Chin's Calypsos were enjoyed by many people in Jamaica and other countries, now many younger people are getting to like them. Here are a few comments I have just received:

I almost suffered cardiac arrest when I was informed by my friend, of the existence of four Chin's Calypso CDs, I sent off for them right away, and have played them countless times during the past three weeks.

I still can't believe that I own four such historically important and priceless cultural artifacts. Chin's Calypso Sextet are my favorite Mento Artists.

The musicianship is always first class, and as for those wonderful lyrics! I was told that Mr Bedasse, like yourself, is still in robust health.

I understand that Mr williams passed away a few years ago, I wonder if the incomparable Mr Bedasse would mind if I sought him out the next time I am in Kingston.

Mr Chin you should feel very proud of yourself for playing a prominent part in the creation of such wonderful music, and for making it available to all Jamaican music fanatics, such as myself.

I'm overjoyed to hear that you're still going strong, and thank you immensely for e-mailing me. It's a great honour to be contacted by such an historically important figure in the history of Jamaican music.

First let me say what a great pleasure it is for me to have contact with you, the 5 CD set is without a question one of my favourite collections of music ever.

Not until I discovered the MENTO MUSIC SITE had I ever heard any of Alerth Bedasse's vocals, man he is one slick vocalist. I can only imagine hanging out with those cool Jamaican cats, tearing it up after hours at your shop, that must have been really something.

Listening to the recordings gives me a great feeling of being right there 50+ years ago, I love my red shoes and rough rider but my absolute favourite up to this point is calypso pepperpot.

On that note let me once again express my sincerest gratitude to you for still having the passion to re-release the coolest music I've ever had the pleasure of listening to, CHIN'S CALYPSO SEXTET.

Williams died a few years ago in Montego Bay. Bedasse is 77 years old, alive and well, still living in Kingston. I am also very well at 81, living in Toronto Canada.

- Ivan S Chin, December 2005

In mid-2005, Red Bwoy interviewed both Ivan Chin and Alerth Bedasse for an article to be published in the November 2005 issue of Air Jamaica's in-flight magazine, "Sky Writings".  This article can be read below.

Red Bwoy then hooked up Alerth and Ivan with Mutabaruka. Mutabaruka is best known as the the originator of the dub-poetry style of reggae, recording nine albums. (He also recorded a mento track in 2002, as described elsewhere on this site.) Mutabaruka is also the host of "The Cutting Edge" radio show on Jamaica's Irie FM. In April 2005, by phone, he interviewed Ivan (81) and Alerth (77) separately and together for two hours. Muta interspersed the conversation with select Chin's Calypso Sextet songs. He seemed tickled to be introducing this crucial band to "Jamaicans under the age of 60". At various points throughout this site, I like to point out things that are thought to have originated with ska and reggae that actually started with mento. Here is another example: Alerth and Ivan weren't on the phone together for more than a minute before Alerth complained to Ivan about the flat fee he was paid and the lack of royalties!

This was followed by an article in the October 30, 2005 edition of the The Jamaica Observer, entitled, "Mento Pioneer Alerth Bedasse and the Night Food Controversy". In it, Alerth is interviewed about Willis O. Isaacs, then the minister of Trade and Industry, who criticized the song "Night Food" in Parliament on moral grounds. The article also gives some interesting detail about the earliest days of Alerth and Everard's partnership and a recent picture of Alerth.  The article can be seen on The Jamaica Observer's web site, here.

All the songs on CD1 thru CD5 have been made available for purchase from Apple Computer's iTunes website. That means that the original recordings were made to 78 RPM records by Ivan Chin, copies of which were saved on tape, the tapes then burned to CD, and now ripped from CD into electronic files by Apple for download and play on PC or iPod, or to be re-burned on CD by the purchaser.

Mega-retailer Walmart also is selling downloadable Chin's music at $.88 per track at  http://downloads.walmart.com/swap/. Chances are that other similar services are also doing the same.

In March of 2006, after a hiatus of more than a few decades, Alerth Bedasse returned to performing at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. The Lititz Mento Band was also on the bill, but it is unclear whether they backed Alerth.

In January 2007, almost 44 years since their last meeting, Ivan Chin traveled from his home in Canada to Kingston, Jamaica and spent time with Alerth Bedasse. Ivan informed Alerth that he had copyrighted the songs and is now in working with BMI to collect royalties for him. RedBwoy took them out to eat, and photographed these elder statesmen of Jamaican music. In the third picture, Ivan and Alerth are signing photographs for Mutabaruka!

   

Sadly, just a few months later, on March 5, 2007 Alerth Bedasse died of a stroke. He was 79.

Dan Neely provided an obituary in the March 18 issue of The Jamaica Observer, as seen here. This article was reprinted in the 2007 annual Bob Marley issue of The Beat magazine.

In June of 2007, Ivan released Chin's CD 6, bringing the track count up to nearly 100 tracks.

The start of 2008 was greeted  by the release of Chin's CD 7. This is a collection of instrumental jams from already existing tracks.

Like the other 6 volumes, it can be previewed and purchased at www.CDBaby.com.

 

On June 20, 2008, Ivan and Lily Chin celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

Red Bwoy's Article

Suffering a fate familiar to many professional writers, the text of Red Bwoy's excellent article written for the November 2005 issue of "Sky Writings", Air Jamaica's in-flight magazine, has been edited down by about half. With permission from the writer and the publisher, here is the entire text of Red Bwoy's article, along with two photographs he took of Alerth.

 

 

"THE LEGENDARY MENTO GROUP - CHIN’S CALYPSO SEXTET", by Red Bwoy

According to Alerth Bedasse, by the end of the 1940s, he and Everard Williams had taken over from the famed “Slim and Slam” as the island’s leading composers, singers and sellers (of the words to such songs) in the capital city. Mr. Williams had been an elementary school teacher who had spent 15 years in Cuba, before returning to Jamaica shortly before they met, while Mr. Bedasse played guitar, sang and lived essentially as a vagabond in downtown Kingston from his late teens.

And that was where they met, when “Radi” needed a guitarist to accompany him in the rendition of the songs that were literally flowing from his pen, to prospective audiences for the song sheets called “tracks” sold during and after such performances. Probably because of his background, and a reputed keen wit, he had a propensity to compose lyrics that, more than almost any other lyricist of the Jamaican mento genre, typically caught the mood and culture of the times. Alerth was the musician, and ultimately band leader, who composed the music (melodies) for these songs and provided lively lead vocals with a distinctly rural flavor. 

In the late 40s / early 50s, excluding Ken Khouri’s Federal Records, Jamaica’s fledgling “recording industry” essentially comprised the largest local representatives for the then leading world manufacturers of such equipment. For example the leading imprints (i.e. producers) of the day were Motta Recording Studio (Stanley Motta), Times (Times Store) and Chin’s Calypso / Mento (Chin’s Radio Service), with smaller electronic equipment (sub-) dealers responsible for additional, mostly inconsistent production. 

So when Williams wrote a song that he thought had commercial appeal based on their live performances of it, he asked Bedasse to put a quintet together for them to record it. Their quintet in place and song rehearsed, the pair approached various producers to record and release it; however, as they tracked through downtown Kingston, one by one, the top labels all refused because they said the song was too rude and suggestive. 

As they were about to give up, someone advised them of a small producer called “Sanford” who had a little electronic shop on Beeston Street that may take the song. He did, gave them eighteen (18) pounds to pay for band and production costs, which they took and arranged recording time at Motta’s on Hanover Street. 

By coincidence, while the quintet was setting up for the recording, Stanley Motta himself came into the studio to advise his staff that word had just been received England had banned Lord Beginner’s calypso “Victory Test Match”, apparently due to its (innocuous) reference to the King! Unfazed, the recording was completed, the acetate die collected and taken to Khouri for it to be sent abroad to cut the stamper, used to press the 78 rpm records. 

The stamper was apparently received on a Friday afternoon and by the following Monday the song, “Night Food”, was literally the talk of the town, and the rest (as they say) is history! In an interview with Ken Khouri shortly before his recent passing he reportedly said that it was the fastest selling record of his time, with sales allowing him to construct the Federal studio at 220 Marcus Garvey Drive!

I really thought that I was wise
‘til a woman mek me realize
That w’out the proper knowledge I was nude
For I did not know what them called night food …

I wonder what them call this night food
I wonder if it is so good
I want a lady tell me why
This night food is so very high

Sadly, a few months after the record was released, and obviously having made a tidy sum from its heavy sales, Sanford the producer quietly closed his shop and disappeared, never to be seen again by Messrs. Williams and Bedasse. It did however place them firmly in the spotlight, resulting in Ivan Chin quickly signing them to an exclusive contract to compose and record two (2) songs every month at an agreed sum.

The quintet was increased to six and the genre’s seminal studio band, Chin’s Calypso Sextet, was born. It should be noted that the mention of “calypso” in its name (rather than the “mento” it played) was directly influenced by the Trinidadian genre’s wider name recognition, particularly within the critical tourist and overseas markets whose less than discerning ears could not differentiate between them.

According to Bedasse, the sextet consisted of him as band leader on guitar, “Cheston” on banjo, either of the duo “Will” and “Ben” on bamboo saxophone, “Peck” (who played on Night Food) and “A N Other” (who played on most of the sextet’s recordings) rumba box, “A N Other” on bamboo flute and Radi Williams on maracas / percussion. It should however be noted that this was very much a studio band that existed solely for and to record under the contract with Chin’s. Indeed, Bedasse does not remember the sextet ever playing “live” in a concert type setting.

The record sales area within Chin’s shop doubled as the recording studio and, as Chin says in his recollections that accompany his recently issued four (4) compact disc set, “All (the) records were recorded by me, in my store, Chin’s Radio Service at 48 Church Street, Kingston … the floor was concrete and the ceiling gypsum. We rehearsed and recorded … at nights after the store was closed.

My recording machine was a cutting needle to cut grooves into 78 rpm 10” vinyl resin discs … LPs were not yet invented. The microphones I used were the large old ribbon types, RCA and Shure, … there were no ceramic or crystal microphones … we were just leaving the gramophone behind, to play 78 record in those early days … you had to wind it up with a crank handle, then put a heavy metal head with a steel needle … on to the record(!).”

The first songs recorded were “Honeymoon”, “Rough Rider”, “Samson and Delilah” and “Depression”, all of which were hits. And, significantly, in addition to the Chin recordings, various top mento artists successfully recorded hits using songs written by Williams, such as the legendary “Ethiopia” by Lord Lebby, almost all of the recordings by Harold Richardson, including “Healin’ in the Balm Yard”, “Country Gal” and “Glamour Gal”, and “Dry Weather House” and “Monkey Talk” by Hubert Porter.

It is said that between 1955-57 at least eighty-four (84) recordings were made for the label under this agreement, most of which were written by the pair, performed by the sextet and with lead vocals sung by Bedasse. The two (2) quadrilles (“1&2” and “3&4”) were based around a chance meeting with Bedasse’s long time friend, from Mocho in Clarendon, and master country fiddler, “Sam”, at the MRS studio. Long considered to represent the very essence of Jamaica’s earliest recorded music history (some suggesting comparisons of importance, if not quantum, with Studio One’s subsequent catalogue), unless you were an avid collector of 78 rpm records, until recently none of these were available to the general public; however, most have now been officially reissued on five (5) compact discs.

The first of these was 2001s “Boogu Yagga Gal” on the relatively obscure UK label Heritage (available from www.ebreggae.com). It is a collection of twenty-two (22) authentic 1950s Jamaican mento recordings that include Night Food and ten (10) Chin’s recordings, with generally good sound quality (particularly for the rudimentary recording environment and equipment used) and excellent liner notes by Richard Noblett.

This was followed by the afore-mentioned four (4) disc set, released in 2004 and simply titled “CD 1”, “CD 2”, “CD 3” and “CD 4” by Chin’s Calypso Sextet on the resurrected Chin’s imprint, these are currently only available from www.cdbaby.com and, as the accompanying “liner notes” with each disc attest, these are individually manufactured by Mr. Chin himself (read burnt on CD-R) from re-recorded masters by London’s Decca, through which they had originally been pressed. But, disregard the crude packaging (zip lock bag and internet printouts for liner notes) and slightly sub-standard audio quality, this is the REAL THING!

Representing the definitive collection of this top mento catalogue (as Ivan Chin confirmed there are no more recordings left to be reissued), it includes songs that have since become Jamaican standards such as “Monkey’s Opinion”, “Big Boy and Teacher”, “Big Sid”, “Boogu Yagga Gal”, “Peaka Pow”, “Night Food Recipe” (the follow-up to Night Food), “Red Tomato”, “Honey Bee” and “Farm Yard Cha Cha”.

If Chin’s production quality draws comparison with the late “Sir Coxsone Dodd”, then the sextet would equate to the former’s resident band, Sound Dimension, and its songwriting team of Williams and Bedasse perhaps mento’s Lennon and McCartney? Whatever, the combination was quite simply incomparable for their time.

With the demise of mento by the early 1960s, following the introduction of “orchestras” with professional instruments (rather than the homemade ones used by the sextet and other classic “rural” bands) and increasing influence of overseas music forms, the partnership of Williams and Bedasse eventually broke up.

The quintessential mento lyricist, Everard Williams, ended up writing jingles for local beverage distributors such as J. Wray and Nephew, and Guinness Stout, and apparently died several years ago in Montego Bay. His erstwhile partner, sextet band leader and a leading vocalist of this genre, Alerth Bedasse, is now 77 and a retired book keeper, having held that position with one of the island’s leading workers’ unions for 34 years.

Now in his 80s, Ivan Chin stopped recording in 1957, eventually migrating to Canada in 1974, where he successfully established and operated a radio and television repair business called Chin’s Radio Television, until his retirement there. After which he seems to have enjoyed himself fishing and bird shooting in the Caribbean.

Both he and Bedasse appear to be completely bemused by the sudden and increasing world attention being paid to their work from fifty years ago. Particularly as both seemed to have long accepted the passing of their musical popularity and had quietly progressed on with their lives.

Several pounds heavier than he looks in the picture from the Daily Gleaner of 1950s, grey and balding, Mas’ Alerth looks to be in good robust health. There always seems to be a twinkle in his eyes when he is discussing a matter close to his heart, particularly his family, being very proud of his wife and thirteen (13) children, eleven (11) of which have successfully completed university, and most of whom now live abroad.

Sitting in his office at the union (he’s had to be retained for various special assignments) watching Mas’ Alerth reading articles on “his” sextet from Michael Garnice’s fantastic genre specific website (www.mentomusic.com) for the first time, including those by Daniel Neely who is the individual probably most responsible for the current resurgence, was an absolute treat! He was ecstatic yet humbled by the apparent worldwide attention … seeing pictures of himself, “Radi” and Mr. Chin, the record labels, comments … it was obviously very moving and invigorating for him.

Bedasse immediately picked up his acoustic guitar and proceeded to play and sing verses from various songs we discussed, ending with a quick lesson for me on the four (4) standard quadrille stanzas plus the optional fifth (did you know this is a.k.a. the “Jingle Bells” rhythm?!?) and sixth!

He hasn’t stopped writing songs over the ensuing years, obviously responding to local and international events that stir his thoughts and creativity, based on the sample he showed me. They included one about 9/11 (America Won), Nelson Mandela’s visit to Jamaica (Sir, We Welcome You) and, of course, jilted love (You Walk Out On Me) as Bedasse is, if anything, an unapologetic romantic.

And, although he never mentioned or alluded to it, … in his animated state, I could see that Mas’ Alerth certainly seemed ready to “tu’n ‘im han’, sing a lickle tune and dance a jig”! Oh, but for a “Ry Cooder” to come, put together and record mento’s own Buena Vista Social Club now, before it’s too late!

Sources:       Interviews with Alerth Bedasse in Jamaica (May 2005);
                    www.mentomusic.com;

                    Recollections of Ivan Chin (2204)

Lyrics from “Night Food” used with kind permission of A. Bedasse / E. Williams (copyright control)

Colby Graham's Interview DVDs

Colby Graham's name may be familiar to you from his blog and his magazine, Vintage Boss. He is a tireless champion of early Jamaican music. To this end, he traveled to Ontario, Canada to interview Ivan Chin and back home to Kingston Jamaica to interview Alerth Bedasse for two views on the seminal mento band Chin's Calypso Sextet. This latter interview was most fortuitous, as the robust and energetic Bedasse would die suddenly just three months later.

With the help of his son, Colby videotaped these hour-long in depth interviews and has made them available for sale on DVD.

"The Mento Pioneer:
The Alerth Bedasse Story"

can be purchased from Colby at this link.

"The Mento Icon:
The Ivan Chin Story"


can be purchased from Colby at this link.

Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 1

In September of 2004, the second of six volumes, "CD 1", was released. The song listing for Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 1 is as follows:

1. Honeymoon  [a.k.a. "Rufus Said"]
2. Monkey's Opinion
3. Look Before You Leap

4. Riddle Me This
5. Guzoo Doctor

6. Why Jamaican Man Tan So
7. No Money No Music
8. Woman's Style
9. Jamaican Bananas [vocals by Count Lasher]
10. My New Year Rules
11. Mussu and John Tom
12. A Food Wedding
13. Woman Tenderness
14. Adam and Eve
15. Melda [vocals by Lord Composer]
16. Why Blame Calypso

My favorite tracks from CD 1 are described below. Some clips that were posted before Ivan released CD 1 are included.  [Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]  CD Baby has posted additional song clips from this CD, as seen here. Clips can also be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can be purchased.  
 

Adam and Eve  
On this track, featuring tales from the garden of Eden, flute replaces bamboo sax, allowing it take turns playing lead with the banjo. This track and Samson and Delilah on CD 3 shows us that biblical references in Jamaican popular song did not start in reggae, but decades earlier in mento.
 

Monkey's Opinion   Also available on
To elaborate  on Ivan's description above, this song is about a monkey doubting that people could be descended from monkeys due to poor behavior seen in humans. This theme was recycled as "Monkey Talk" by dance band mento artists Hubert Porter and George Moxey and his Calypso Quintet. Porter's version was a popular track, which was adapted by Mutabaruka and covered by Bunny Wailer. This song was directly influenced by the 1957 song, "The Monkey Speaks Its Mind", by New Orleans R&B singer Dave Dave Bartholomew.
 

Look Before You Leap
A cautionary tale for young girls that think they are too smart to listen to their mothers and wind up in a state where they "have nine months to weep, because you didn't look before you leaped".
 

Riddle Me This
From the above song's serious theme to a fun song where Bedasse poses three riddles as other band members take turns guessing the answer. At one point, Bedasse cracks up, but quickly regains composure. As seen in the interview with E. F. Williams above, this song may have been written on the advice of Ivan Chin to counter government criticism over risqué lyrics that the band became famous for.
 

Jamaica Banana
A Count Lasher track released on the Chin's label, also known as "Robusta Banana". The lyrics are Lasher-esque extended double entendre about a woman who needed a Jamaican banana. A proto-reggae fine track, though mastered from a particularly rough 78. For label scans, lyrics and a sound sample, visit the Count Lasher page here.


Melda
Lord Composer on vocals. A memorable melody, and although I'm not entirely sure what is being described in the lyrics, I'm reasonably sure it's naughty. The instrumentation has a bit of a Calypso inflection.
 

A Food Wedding
Another song about a wedding, with a concentration on the food served. Through the magic of Williams' lyrics, we can learn what was served at Jamaican weddings in in the late 1950s.
 

Mussu and John Tom  Also available on
More Jamaican folk songs, which seemed to really get Chin's into the moment, producing their most exotic sounds. "Mussu" opens this medley, and is reprised after "John Tom".


Honeymoon (a.k.a. Rufus Said)   Also available on
Another of the four tracks from the initial Chin's session, about the the very naive Rufus, as Ivan describes above. The lyrics are below:

"Honeymoon" by Everard Williams

Rufus courted a gal for two solid years
Sometimes he bore her with 'gators tears
Until, at last, he got her way
and she suggested a wedding day

Rufus, Rufus, was a foolish fool
Did not know what dem call a honeymoon
When it was time for romantic interlude
Rufus said, 'Dear, why are you nude?'

Happy Rufus was all agog
and to all his fans he began to brag
He tell that his girlfriend was a boon
and he was ripe for the honeymoon

She said, 'Darling I am ready for you
I believe that you are ready too
I can't wait no longer, I really can't'
But Rufus said, 'Dear what do you want?'

Rufus, Rufus, was a foolish fool
Did not know what dem call a honeymoon
When it was time for romantic interlude
Rufus said, 'Dear, why are you nude?'

She said, 'Darling, dear, don't be a child
Cant you see I am getting wild?
Come on lie down on the bed
Let me hold you and scratch you head'

Rufus, Rufus, was a foolish fool
Did not know what dem call a honeymoon
When it was time for romantic interlude
Rufus said, 'Dear, why are you nude?'

He said, 'Darling I am coming soon
I suppose you are ready for the honeymoon
Well lay some honey in the spoon
Look through the window, there is the moon'

Rufus, Rufus, was a foolish fool
Did not know what dem call a honeymoon
When it was time for romantic interlude
Rufus said, 'Dear, why are you nude?'

Well he jump up and leave he in that vein
and the news is flying like an aeroplane
A poor fool Rufus nearly swoon
When his young wife call for a honeymoon

Rufus, Rufus, was a foolish fool
Did not know what dem call a honeymoon
When it was time for romantic interlude
Rufus said, 'Dear, why are you nude?'


Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 2

In July of 2004, the first of six volumes, "CD 2" was released. The song listing for Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 2 is as follows:

1. Rough Rider
2. Uniform Madness
3. Big Boy & Teacher
4. Big Sid
5. Money Is King
6. Jamaica Gal
7. Rock And Roll Calypso
8. Rent Worries
9. True Friendship
10. Jamaica Folk Tune # 1
11. Hog Love
12. Reap What You Sow [vocals by Everard Williams ?]
13. I Visited A Wedding
14. Mambo Merengue [vocals by Alliandro Clarke]
15. Don't Fool Roun Me Gal [vocals by Count Lasher]
16. I Love You So [vocals by Lord Composer]

My favorite tracks from CD 2 are described below. Some clips that were posted before Ivan released CD 2 are included.  [Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]  CD Baby has posted additional song clips from this CD, as seen here. Clips can also be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can be purchased.  


Big Boy and Teacher
   Also available on   Also available on  Also available on
This much compiled, risqué track is described by Ivan in his notes above. It is well remembered, aided by the fact that it was covered by both 'Roys' -- reggae DJs I-Roy and U-Roy. The opening, leering notes played on bamboo sax set the tone. Instrumental workouts of this song are available on both CD3 and CD5.

"Big Boy abd Teacher" - E. F. Williams

Monday in school was the day of quiz
an' big boy wan' know what catty is
Before teacher could then explain
Questions begin to fall like rain:

"What is catty?" big boy ask, "what is catty, teacher?
I want to know, big boy wan know, what is catty?

Is catty high, is catty low?
Will catty stand up to any blow?
Is catty deep, is catty wide?
Is catty something that I can ride?"

Teacher said, "Big boy, shut your mouth.
Let me tell you what it's all about."
But big boy wouldn't stop at all
Questions again begin to fall:

"Will catty mek big boy feel good?
Can catty cut or saw hard wood?
Is catty clean or surround by bush?
To reach it do I have to push?

Teacher seh, "Big boy you chat too long,
You want this thing all the way wrong.
Catty is the the same as pussy cat
That is sleeping on the mat!"

Uniform Madness
Another great mento slice of life song, as William's lyrics observe how women are crazy for soldiers and other men in uniform. The music features a sprightly beat.

Rent Worries
Reggae had some memorable rent songs. But decades earlier, so did mento. This fine example, includes the chorus, "The rent worries mash up me life, whai whai whai!". Ivan mentions this song in his comments above.


Money Is King
   Also available on
The relationship between money and "opening the bedroom door" is explored. Nice interplay between banjo and bamboo throughout.
 

Big Sid
Although the sound quality is somewhat trying, the combination of languid rhythm and the slice of life story telling about a notorious incident, arrest and acquittal (explained by Ivan above) make this track stand out. Alert's delivery is slow and articulate, as he is in full story telling mode. The song is performed with a relaxed languid chop that prefaces the reggae that would come decades later.  The lyrics are below:
 

"Big Sid" by Everard Williams

Pearl Harbor, why you buck that gal?
Look 'pon her mouth, lips all a split
Yet you want she with such repel[?]
Was it because she said she quit?
Why you mash up the gal eyebrow?
Tell me nothing but the whole truth now.

Your honor, I am guilty sir
But allow me now to explain, please
Anywhere me go along the street
it's a habit for she to laugh and flee                    [or could be "sheep laugh and bleat"]
But they say no sir, that blow me lid,
as when dem bawl out, "Hello Big Sid"

It must because me big and fat
Why this maga gal come call me that?                                               [maga = skinny]
Cause night and day me can't walk in peace
So me buck her down fe make it cease
?For the rifling, Pearl Harbor real?
How do you do sir, it's a Big Sid

Man, no tell no lie, me grab her sir
Then me buck her about once or twice
Then me kick her down like Kenny[?] cow
And she stretch out flat with her lips down
But when she come down, listen what she did:
She look at me good, and shout "Big Sid!"

The judge say, "I don't blame you child
You are admonished and discharged
Me no know how she foolish so                      [or "sow" could be ", sir"]
She the police she should have charged
But she was foolish as a young goat kid
When she call that woman "cow by the name Big Sid""
 

Rough Rider   Also available on
One of the four songs from the initial Chin's session, this  risqué track is described by Ivan in his notes above. A great melody and tale.
 

Jamaican Folk Tune #1
Actually a medley of Jamaican folk
songs. It includes a song I do not recognize, one that sounds like "Matilda" with different lyrics, and "John Tom".
 

I Visited A Wedding
A celebratory mood and lots of hot instrumental jamming make this self explanatory song
stand out. Cooking! The other recordings of this track are also fine, but are played at a more leisurely pace.
 

"I visited A Wedding" by Everard Williams

I visited a wedding
for the first time in my young life
And there I learned with pleasure
how a man can take a wife
While them knelt at the alter
mister parson did not falter
He put to them these questions
and the answer was 'I do'

Take this man for you Rosebawn   --  I do
Cherish him and treat him well tonight   --  I do
and in the night treat him right   --  I do

I what to do I do know
'cause I know what to do know
when the parson ask the questions
all I ever say, 'I do'

Take this woman for you wife
take her well and treat her fine
in the night treat her fine
don't [not] remember to treat him fine

Well we're ready now for marriage
'cause I know what to do know
when the parson ask the questions
all I ever say, 'I do'
 

Don't Fool Round Me Gal
This song of interracial romance is also known as "Mo Bay China Man" and was covered by Lord Tanamo, Stanley Beckford as "Leave My Kisaloo" and others.  The proto-reggae beat is in full effect.
 For label scans, visit the Count Lasher page here.
 


Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 3

In October of 2004, "CD 3" was released. The song listing for Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 3 is as follows:


1. Samson And Delilah
2. Bra Dog And Bra Puss
3. Boogu Yagga Gal
4. Peaka Pow
5. Night Food Recipe
6. Black Market Beef
7. Calypso Pepperpot
8. Big Boy Instrumental
9. Come to Jamaica [vocals Alliandro Clarke]
10. Calypso Opinion
11. Woman Ghost Fool Man
12. Adina
13. A Woman’s Mind
14. A Victim Of Love  [vocals E. F. Williams]
15. Come Back My Darling
16. I Am In Love
 

My favorite tracks from CD 3 are described below. One clip that was posted before Ivan released CD 3 is included.  [Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]  CD Baby has posted additional song clips from this CD, as seen here. Clips can also be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can be purchased. 


Night Food Recipe
A sequel of sorts to the better known song "Night Food", is all about the preparation of this "dish". It's a little on the rude side! This song also appeared on the relatively easy to find (for out of print mento vinyl) Monogram LP, "Meet Me In Jamaica".
 

Black Market Beef
A medium tempo performance, bamboo sax, flute and banjo all playing together, rather than alternating leads. It's yet another interesting true story of the time, as explained in Ivan's notes, above.
 

Big Boy Instrumental  Also available on
A rare instrumental by Chin's, based on their vocal hit "Big Boy and Teacher". A rollicking, country good time.  Bamboo sax, flute and banjo alternate solos and jams. The acoustic guitar is more prominent the mix and briefly rises from its usual rhythm role. I haven't been able to play this track without immediately playing it a second time. The overall musical approach of this recording brings to mind the video of the T. Miller Band.

You may notice that this track appears to be in stereo, which is a surprise. Ivan Chin explains:

When I was recording Big Boy Instrumental, I was experimenting with Stereo on 78 records. I prepared a sound booth for the experiment, in which I would interchange the right side instruments with the left also the vocal.

During the recording I would signal one section of the band to go into the booth and after a while I would interchange that section with the other along with the microphones, these exchanges would take place about three times during the recording.

If you listen carefully you can actually hear these exchanges taking place by the shifting of the instruments from the right and left speakers also the vocal from one speaker to the other.

The recording was made on a Grundig Reel To Reel. It was about the end of the mono period, I was switching from cutting discs to recording on tape, that tape never reached the mastering and pressing stage to 78 records.  I sent a tape to Decca with all my stereo recordings, they said they could not find it, only the 78 discs masters, which
they sent to me. The Big Boy instrumental is from a copy of a tape I took to Canada with me along with some other songs. That tape was a reject, I tried to salvage what I could, but only got about three songs from it, there are other recordings in the set that were part of the stereo experiment. The other two were "I Visited A Wedding" (CD 2) and "Mussu & John Tom # 2" (CD 4) .
 

Come To Jamaica  Also available on
Interesting for a number of reasons. In addition to featuring Alliandro Clarke who handled vocals on this and a few other Chin's tracks, it also has some instrumentation not usually heard on a Chin's track: electric guitar and hand drums.

Calypso Pepperpot      Also available on
As the liner notes and lyrics to this song found in the Boogu Yagga Gal collection reveal, this is a medley of three songs told with an interesting story telling device. As the singer walks through town, he hears different bands performing on the street. How can a song with lyrics like these, below, not be loved?

I was walking by the Spanish Town Road, and when I reached by Darling Street,
Me hear Alerth Bedasse singing a song that sound like this...

I continue a little further, and when I reach Lambert Street,
Me hear Chin's Calypso Sextet play a song that sound like this...

The middle song is to the melody of Mattie Rag, but with new lyrics. Also of interest is the lyric "Rain a come but dutty [dirt] tough". Probably a folk proverb, the same lyric is also heard decades later Bob Marley's "Them Belly Full".

Calypso Opinion
As Ivan explained in his comments above, this is song about the government's reaction to some of the more risqué calypso lyrics. Amazingly, they wanted to ban calypso! I'm glad Ivan explained this song, because, in spite of the good sound quality, a lot of the lyrics are hard to pin down. Here's my best shot, with no guarantees:

"Calypso Opinion" by Everard Williams

Calypso must be important, fe true
that it put some people in a stew
Ministers: 'Fast rhythm of you man,
so with calypso should aban'                                ["aban" meaning abandon]

Thousands of passers say, 'That's a peach'
wanna hear more calypso hits
But is we lay some tons of lead
so feel so nice calypso dead

The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'
The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'

Some say the words are very rough
While many say it good enough
Some say it makes the children sin
While other like it till dem bring

Many [?] calypso land
are sure to talk about their new band
But if we lick up tons of lead
me no like calypso dead

The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'
The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'

We want everyone be glad and gay
especially the calypso way
That's why we kill some of the hig[?]
that call me 'rascal, lips so big'
No more 'Night Food' or 'Recipe'
On that the subject we agree
Tilloc[?] will lay some tons of lead
So feel so nice, calypso dead.

The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'
The tourists say, 'Jamaica, it's calypso land'

 

Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 4

At the beginning of November 2004, "CD 4" was released. The song listing for Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 4 is as follows:   

1. Depression
2. Look Out Fe Yu Tongue
3. Honey Bee
4. Red Tomato
5. What’s A Kiss
6. Mussu And John Tom # 2
7. Farm Yard Cha Cha
8. Not Me Again
9. Quadrille Figures 1 & 2
10. Quadrille Figures 3 & 4
11. New Federation
12. Industrial Fair 1955
13. Let’s Play Ring: Sally Water
14. Let’s Play Ring: Show Me Yu Motion
15. Let’s Play Ring: Kisses Go By Favour
16. Let’s Play Ring: Jane And Louise
 

Some Favorite tracks from CD 4 are described below. A clip that was posted before Ivan released CD 4 is included. CD Baby has posted additional song clips from this CD, as seen here[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.] Clips can also be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can be purchased. 


Depression     Also available
Reggae is associated with tales of the sufferah, where personal and societal hardships are the subject of song. ("Bad To Worse" by The Ethiopians springs to mind as a good example.) But as the lyrics and comments in Boogu Yagga Gal's liner notes about Chin's "Depression" show, Jamaica's songs of sufferation were born decades earlier in mento. With a chorus including, "What a depression, it gwine kill me dead", there is sufferation, but with lyrics by E. F. Williams, there is also irony and humor.     
 

Quadrille Figures 1&2
Quadrille Figures 3&4
Look here for a bit more on the significance of the Quadrille in mento or see the liner notes Boogu Yagga Gal. This is a fine example of a mento group recording a quadrille single where "figures" or parts spread across both sides. Bamboo instruments are given the night off and a guest fiddler takes the lead. "Big Boy Instrumental" along with these sides and are the only instrumentals Chin's recorded.


Let’s Play Ring: Sally Water
Let’s Play Ring: Show Me Yu Motion
Let’s Play Ring: Kisses Go By Favour
Let’s Play Ring: Jane And Louise

Children's "ring" songs and games take their name from the holding of hands to form a ring. One hundred Ring Songs (including some of the above) are documented in Walter Jekyll's book, "Jamaican Song and Story", published in 1907. As such, ring songs are a type of Jamaican folk music. A testimony to the versatility of Chin's Calypso Sextet's is the fact that they recorded original songs naughty to be banned from radio as well as traditional Jamaican children's music with equal zeal. My favorite of these, "Sally Water" can also be heard on the 2006 CD compilation, "Take Me To Jamaica".
 

Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 5
 
Just when Chin's Calypso Sextet fans thought it couldn't get any better, Ivan surprised everyone in August of 2005 by finding enough recordings from three different sources to compile a fifth volume of Chin's music. "CD 5" will be available at CD Baby by the end of September. The song listing for Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 5 is as follows. Clips can be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can also be purchased.

1. Calypso Merengue  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
2. Melda (Lord Composer, vocals)  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction] 
3. Rufus’s Honeymoon  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
4. My Red Shoes  [Mono, from recently acquired vinyl source]
5. Mussu Instrumental  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
6. Rock And Roll Calypso  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction]
7. I Want Love  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
8. Night Food Recipe  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction]
9. No Money No Music  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
10. Honey Bowl Mono  [Mono, from recently acquired vinyl source]
11. Big Boy And Teacher  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
12. Woman Ghost Fool Man  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction] 
13. Big Boy Instrumental  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
14. Woman’s Style  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction] 
15. I Visited A Wedding  [Stereo, from reel to reel tape]
16. Jamaica’s Folk Tune  [Mono, from 78 source with improved noise reduction]

Eight of these tracks come from a reel-to-reel tape that Ivan recently discovered. These tracks are different renditions -- in stereo -- of the following songs:

Calypso Merengue
Rufus Honeymoon
Mussu Instrumental
I Want Love
No Money No Music
Big Boy And Teacher
Big Boy Instrumental
I Visited A Wedding

Note that these are different performances from the three stereo tracks (that came from another spool of tape) that are spread across CD 2, CD 3 and CD 4. Being sourced from tape, these renditions are free of the surface noise that sometimes plague the versions of these songs that are sourced from 78s. Plus, they are in stereo, which 78s are not. And although there is the occasional dropout as would be expected from a 50 year old reel of tape, the sound quality is pleasurable. In September of 2006, Ivan said the following about these tracks:

The stereo recordings on this CD were the last recordings that were done with the Chin's Calypso Sextet Band. We had a little breakup session as we said goodby to each other in 1957. It was a sad time for everyone, there was no work for the band as a complete unit. Ska had just come in and calypso was going out.

Please preserve these recordings for as long as you can, as it may be very difficult to find composers as good as Williams and Bedasse. They were in a class by themselves. Bedasse was the man who put the band together and directed the men, he also composed the melodies for each song along with them. Williams was a very intelligent man and manager of the band, he was also a great talented composer. Williams was also a very stabilizing influence for the band.

A number of hits are performed here, such as "Big Boy and Teacher" and "Rufus Honeymoon" (a.k.a. "Rufus Said" or "Honeymoon"). Other tracks such as "I Visited A Wedding" and "Mussu" are lesser known Chin's classics, bought to light by CDs 1-4. ("Mussu Instrumental" is actually a vocal performance of "Mussu & John Tom".) There are even a two songs not heard before and apparently never previously recorded: the sprightly instrumental  "Calypso Merengue" (a different song from "Mambo Merengue" on CD 2) and the vocal "I Want Love".

The performance at this session finds the Sextet at ease, the sound slightly more relaxed and loose than the versions released as singles. For example, this version of "Big Boy and Teacher" features a more playful rhythm. Listening to these tracks is as close as one can come to hearing a live set by Chin's. Two of these tracks,  "Big Boy Instrumental" and "Mussu" can also be heard on the 2006 CD compilation, "Take Me To Jamaica".

Next are two sides of a rare Chin's single that Ivan recently acquired a copy of:

My Red Shoes
Honey Bowl

These tracks have a fair amount of 78 RPM surface noise, but are still quite listenable. "My Red Shoes" is an outrageous double entendre song, where a fellow has trouble fitting his "foot" into the woman's "red shoe", causing consternation, and discussion of such potential solutions as wetting the shoe, etc. I'd go on, but this is a family web site! There weren't too many things that Everard Williams couldn't turn into a double entendre.

Finally, there are 6 recordings that have already appeared on CD 1 thru CD 4, but are included here to help round out the CD, because Ivan was able to make significant improvements with noise reduction compared to the recordings on the other CDs:

Melda
Rock And Roll Calypso
Night Food Recipe
Woman Ghost Fool Man
Woman Style
Jamaica's Folk Tune

Chin's Calypso Sextet, CD 6
 
In June of 2007, Ivan Chin continued his drive to release the entire catalog of Chin's Calypso Sextet on CD. This disc brings the track count to nearly 100 songs! It consists of six very rare 78 RPM singles sides, two more single sides from a more common single released on CD elsewhere elsewhere, but making its debut on a Chin's CD, and, to fill the CD, two tracks already released on previous volumes, plus six more tracks created by Ivan from sections of other already released tracks.

Several tracks were released on Ken Khouri's  label, Kalypso, in the early part of the 1950s and appear here courtesy of Ken's son, Paul. Four of the rare tracks were happily given to Ivan by me, reuniting him with songs he had not heard in 48 years. Two other tracks were given to Ivan by RedBwoy.

From Ivan Chin:

This CD6 contains the first and last recordings produced in the 50s by Everard Williams and Alerth Bedasse. The first was Juicy Oyster/ Weekly Lover. Then Night Food/Walk And Talk. The last was Our Beautiful Wedding Waltz and a later version of I Visited A Wedding.

1. Strictly Instrumental [Instrumental excerpt of "I Visited A Wedding"]
2. Juicy Oyster [Rare single on Kalypso]
3. William’s Favorite [Instrumental excerpt of "A Victim Of Love"]
4. Not Guilty [From a rare Chin’s single]
5. Night Food [From a single released on Kalypso]
6. Medley Ring Tunes [Instrumental portions of two Ring Songs]
7. Weekly Lover [From a rare Chin’s single]
8. Strictly Instrumental [Instrumental excerpt of a track different from track 1]
9. Letter From Jamaica [From a rare Chin’s single]
10. Walk and Talk [Single released on Kalypso]
11. I Visited A Wedding [From a rare Chin’s single]
12. Jane and Louise [Excerpt of a Ring Song]
13. Our Beautiful Wedding Waltz [From a rare Chin’s single]
14. I am in Love [previously released]
15. I Love You So [previously released]
16. Chins Special [Instrumental excerpt of "Monkey’s Opinion"]
 
 
 on the Third Edition of this CD, released in early 2008, the last track is changed to

16. Give Her Love
[From a rare Chin’s single]
 

Some Favorite tracks from CD 6 are described below. A clip that was posted before Ivan released CD 6 is included. CD Baby has posted additional song clips from this CD, as seen here[Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.] Clips can also be heard on iTunes, where downloads of these songs can be purchased. 


Night Food   
  Also available  Also available on  Also available on  Also available on
CD compilation Boogu Yagga Gal includes this classic (and often compiled) song and its lyrics, so you will have no problem understanding this naughty tale of a man who learns what night food is. Dan Neely's liner notes in CD 2 explains that this hit song started not only the recording career of the group that would come to be known as Chin's Calypso Sextet, but also helped establish producer Ken Khouri, and even may have been the start of the Jamaican government's scrutiny of mento lyrics. The original label can be seen below. Like the lesser known early Chin's single described below, this side and its flip, "Walk and Talk", are unusual as the band does not yet feature banjo.
 


The Juicy Oyster, 
backed with, The Weekly Lover
This fine, rare single released on the Kalypso label is described and pictured below.


Not Guilty,
backed with, Give Her Love
Another rare Chin's single, with one good side and one disappointing, is described and pictured below.
 

Letter From Jamaica
This good Chin's track s described and pictured below.
 

Beautiful Wedding Waltz, backed with, I Visited a Wedding
Is the very last single by the great Chin's Calypso Sextet.  This unusual single is pictured and described below.

Chin's tracks unreleased on CD

With six CDs of Chin's material released by Ivan Chin, you may wonder if any Chin's tracks are still unreleased on CD. There are a few.

One Chin's single, for the time being, is lost:
"Out of Bounds" backed with "The Woman and the Man".

Anyone who has a copy of one of the lost Chin's tracks please contact me at mike@mentomusic.com, so that we can reunite Ivan with a copy of these recordings.

Two obscure singles on the Kalypso label (as pictured and described below), from before Bedasse, Williams and company were called Chins ,
   "Fool Fool Sammy" backed with "Woman Walk"
   "Old But Not Cold" backed with "Never Trust and Old Man
"
have not yet been compiled. It's possible that there are other obscure pre-Chin's singles by this band that have not yet been documented.

 

1950s Label Gallery

Below are some labels from the original 78 RPM Chin's releases, and a few 45s. Although most releases were on the Chin's label, sometimes tracks were released on Kalypso. Chin's Calypso Sextet also recorded under the names: Calypso Quintet,  H. Cunningham, Jamaican Calypsonians and Local Calypso Quintet.

Ivan stated that the first record he made sold for three shillings and sixpence in 1955. This is roughly $.34 in current US dollars. However, collector's pay magnitudes more for these records today, much to Ivan's amazement.


 
 
 

Both sides appear on Chin's CD 6. This is the single discussed in Dan Neely's liner notes found in Chin's CD 2 as the first recording of the group that would soon be known as Chin's Calypso Sextet.  Interestingly, reggae singer Nora Dean world cover both sides of this single. See above for more on the classic and well remembered "Night Food". Sorry, a larger image for the a-side is not available. To the right is the 45 RPM single re-release of "Night Food". Another variation of this 45 is below.

On Ken Khouri's label Kalypso, by the group billed as Calypso Quintet, written by E. Williams and vocals by Bedasse:

Night Food   b/w
Walk And Talk

 

 

In an October 30, 2005 interview by Basil Walters in The Jamaica Observer, Alerth Bedasse recalled the details of the recording of "Night Food" and its aftermath. Prior to its release, Alerth and his partner Everard Williams were street performers, who could be found at the corner of Oxford Street and Spanish Town Road in the vicinity of Myers' Drug Store.

This area was conducive for that kind of thing; a lot of people frequented that area because of the Coronation Market. We used to feed ourselves, buy clothes and give our girlfriends 'a money', as we would go home with £3 or £4.

[Everard] composed a song and it was the first commercial song we recorded... In 1952. But initially, nobody would produce the record. None of the recording places, and I can name a few. In those days you had Stanley Motta, Ivan Chin from Chin Radio, you had Wonards, and one or two more. Williams went to them and they say it was too suggestive. We eventually got it recorded when a guy name Stanford bought it.

Stanford was at Church Street and Beeston Street corner. He said he was going to take a chance and buy it and that was the greatest chance any human being ever took. Believe me when the song was recorded at Stanley Motta's studio we couldn't believe. It gained momentum and sold like wildfire. Every dance you go, Night Food would play 10 times. All the people who refused to produce it were so saddened.

Mr Chin, who at first was not interested in the song called and gave us a contract to make two songs per month. That was a big break for us. In fact, we left [performing in] the streets after that. Ken Khouri distributed Night Food and we got about £18 for both of us.

Here's another pre-Chin's 78 on Kalypso, but unlike the hit single above, this one is very
 
  obscure. In fact, it's the most obscure release  of the many recordings made by this crucial act. With the band credit listed as,
Bedasse & Band
:

The Juicy Oyster      b/w
The Weekly Lover

It bears the legend, "Kalypso Music from Bedasse & Band", a primer not found on "Night Food". We know from Dan Neely's liner notes in CD 2 that "Night Food" was the hit that resulted in Ivan Chin hiring the group to record on his label and bare his name. When I shared these recording with Ivan in late 2005, he was surprised by them, not having been aware of them before. He would include both tracks in Chin's CD 6.

Both sides of the label list the unknown Tenaj Letreah as the author of both songs, but we again know from Dan Neely's liner notes that by the time this record was recorded, Everard Williams was Bedasse's long standing writing partner. The lyrics do not sound especially unlike Williams' work. Perhaps this act was so new to Ken Khouri, that a mistake was made with this credit. Or perhaps its a false credit. Or perhaps it's deliberately obscure. Dan Neely explained that a "Janet Heartell" was a term for a gossip and that Tenaj Letreah  is nearly Janet Heartell spelled backwards.

What is certain is that this is a great single with typically fine vocals by Bedasse, great lyrics (transcribed below) and rhythm guitar that has a relaxed sway that carries these tracks. Prominent bamboo plays lead. Solos are provided by acoustic guitar rather than banjo. In fact, uncharacteristically, there is very little banjo on "Juicy Oyster" and none at all on "Weekly Lover". This is consistent with the other pre-Chin's single -- "Night Food" and "Walk And Talk" have no banjo either.

The lyrics on "The Juicy Oyster" are an extended double entendre  -- a mento lyrical staple that both Williams and Count Lasher excelled in. In it, men try unsuccessfully to get at the, er, exceptional pearl found in the, um, juicy oyster. If the conclusion is not exactly what one might call a classic happy ending, at least it's a tale of perseverance, or something. Because it's a favorite and because it's out of print, here is a sound clip from "The Juicy Oyster", followed by the lyrics.  [Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

"The Juicy Oyster" by Tenaj Letreah

There was once an oyster in the bed
It was fat and juicy and it was red
The pearl it held was very rare
And no one at all could ever get near

The oyster had a certain lure
The pearl it held was very pure
Men tried their best to get at it
But none of them were ever fit

But once a man got to it
He held and pulled, until it fit
The oyster was not quite in pain
For the pearl was swallowed, what a sin

And later on there came a man
Who squeezed the oyster in his hand
The pearl he caught and neatly[?] cherished
No one else could get it until he perished

The flip side, "The Weekly Lover" is similar in sound and arrangement. It's a humorous tale of a man whose lover is so fit, the demands of making love have him exhausted and looking elsewhere. The woman finds a solution by employing the man to make love daily, mindful to follow union work rules! Because it's also a favorite, and because it's out of print, here is a sound clip from "The Weekly Lover", followed by the lyrics.  [Click here for notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]

"The Weekly Lover" by Tenaj Letreah

I have a lover, so to speak,
love me all the live long week
But end of month, bwoy, me no care,
for dem have some other nice girl everywhere

Then one night him said to me
I cant stand it, if fit is she
a week, a week to drop down dead
I reply there must be rum in his head

Now him say is not the rum
I don't know why you tumble down
The night is true and a do and vary
some time you Matilo[?] and Miss Mary

And now him stop all the dirty play
and play with me every single day
But only buy the week, you know
The union say I must employ him so


   

Another pre-Chin's 78 on the Kalypso label, with the band billed as both, The Local Calypso Band and Bedasse with The Jamaican Calypsonians.  

Fool Fool Sammy          b/w:
Woman Walk

This single is even rarer than The Juicy Oyster/The Weekly Lover. Though good, it is not quite as interesting musically or lyrically. "Fool Fool Sammy" is tale of a sexual naivety. "Woman Walk" describes the many differences therein.


 

A third pre-Chin's 78 on the Kalypso label, with same double band billing as on the single above:

Never Trust An Old Man          b/w:
Old But Not Cold

This single could be referred to as "the old record". "Never Trust An Old Man", they advise young girls on one side.  On the other side, and old woman explains her viability for love in "Old But Not Cold", a song that is musically reminiscent of the Chin's song, "Honeymoon".


 


Courtesy of Matt Lyons of the US,  here is one side of the very first single on the Chin's label, "Rough Rider", credited to the Local Calypso Quintet, vocals by Bedasse.  This track is discussed in Ivan's notes above and can be heard on Chin's CD 2, as well as on one of the Valmark CDs and on Boogu Yagga Gal, which includes lyrics. 

The flipside below, from another record, is be "No Money No Music", which can be heard on Chin's CD 1 as well as on Boogu Yagga Gal.

Note the cruder version of the graphic in the Chin's logo compared to the later labels below. Matt reports that the second single on the Chin's label, "Money Is King" b/w "Honeymoon", has the same early graphic. Because these are early Chin's recordings, both Matt and I assumed that this was an early version of the logo. But Dan Neely believes that these may be re-releases, perhaps illicit ones at that.

  Scans courtesy of Rob Powers of Retrorelix in Freehold, NJ:

Credited to the Local Calypso Quintet is the well known Chin's  single,

"Honeymoon"     b/w  
"Money Is King"

 

"Honeymoon" is available on Chin's CD 1. For more on this track, including lyrics see above.  "Money Is King" is also included on Chin's CD 2 and is discussed a bit above

To the right is another example of the alternate label.

Scarcer than hens' teeth is this original sleeve from a Chin's 78 RPM single. (The record found in this sleeve can be seen below.) From this sleeve, we learn the names of all 6 band members, as listed above. Closer examination reveals more. Under the listing of "Records Obtainable...", an unknown song called "More Firewood" is listed. But Dan Neely points out that this is an alternate title for "Woman's Tenderness", whose lyrics contain the phrase, "more firewood". The sleeve also includes the following blurb:

The band that produces the type of records liked by most Jamaican[s]. Played in homes and all Sound Systems and Juke Boxes throughout Jamaica.

  "New Federation"   backed with
"Farm Yard Cha Cha"

The former, about the political alliance of Caribbean nations from 1958-1961. The latter, about farm yard animals. Both the light and heavy side can be found Chin's CD 4

  "Depression"   backed with
"Boogu Yagga Gal"

The former, from Chin's CD 4 is described here. The latter, about an ugly girl is found on Chin's CD 3. (Former owner Cleve made sure his property was well marked!)


 
 
First on Chin's, then for some (potential shady) reason, released on both Kalypso 78RPM and 45 RPM singles is a single by Chin's Calypso Sextet:

Samson and Delilah     b/w
Industrial Fair

This is actually the first recording by Alerth, Williams & company where the act was billed as "Chin's Calypso Sextet".

"Samson and Delilah" was included on Chin's CD 3 and "Industrial Fair" was included on Chin's CD 4. This track can be heard on the 2006 CD compilation, "Take Me To Jamaica". Dan Neely's Chin's discography shows that this is the third single recorded by Ivan Chin.

The Kalypso releases of this particular single are not the only questionable ones, as seen below.

  Courtesy of Greg Lawson of Toronto, Canada, is a different release of the same single. But why is it on the inaccurate pun named Ska-Lip-Soul label? Why is it billed (artist and producer) to Chin's Radio and T.V.? And why does it sound to Greg like it was mastered from a 78 RPM single?

These three questions can be answered with one word: bootleg. Says Ivan Chin,

They are the worse bootlegging I have ever seen. The "Chin's Radio & TV" sounds like someone did it in Montego Bay. My brother has a store there named "Chin's Radio & TV", but he does not do records.

To the right is an even shoddier bootleg of the same single, that does not even credit the group properly. 

Thanks to Jurjen Borregaard of Amsterdam for these scans.

 


 

 

Richard Noblett of London win the prize for finding the shoddiest bootleg of this often bootlegged single. One side is improperly identified.

  


    Oops, sorry Richard. This one may actually be worse!

  Another shoddy 45 RPM re-issue on the Prophet label, this time with two of the four ring game songs:

"Kisses Go By Favour"     b/w:
"Jane And Louise", a mis-titled "Jane And Louise".
 


 

Courtesy of Robert Schoenfeld of
Nighthawk Records and Roots Natty Roots fame is a rare Chin's track, "Guzoo Doctor". Guzoo means obeah or witchcraft. Banjo takes a back seat to flute on this track. This track was included in Chin's CD 1. This track can be heard on the 2006 CD compilation, "Take Me To Jamaica".
 

 

 

Four scans, courtesy of Ulrich Stark of Germany. First, Chin's Calypso Sextet backing singer Lord Composer:

Melda  
  b/w
I Love You So

"Melda" was included on Chin's CD 1 and is described a bit more here. "I Love You So" was included on Chin's CD 2.

  Courtesy of Paul Steward of London, 

Honey Bee   b/w:
Come Back To Me

The former is R&B flavored, while the later is a waltz that is sung like a  lullaby.

"Honey Bee" was included on Chin's CD 4. "Come Back To Me" is available on Chin's CD 3, where it is titled "Come Back My Darling". This single was later re-released on 78 and 45s, as seen below.

     Here it is as a Kalypso  78.

  The above single, obviously from two different pressings, re-release on Kalypso  as a 7" 45 RPM record.

 

    The same two songs, this time on a bootleg 7" 45 RPM single. Chin's did not press any 45s.

 

  Scans taken from two different copies of the strong single:

"Red Tomato"  backed with
"Big Boy and Teacher"

 


"Red Tomato" is also released as "Ripe Tomato", the title that The Jolly Boys used when they covered it on their "Sunshine and Water" CD. This song is not to be confused with the older and more popular mento tomato song, "Don't Touch My Tomato". This song was included on Chin's CD 4.

"Big Boy and Teacher" is found on Chin's CD 2 and is discussed here.



Here are
both sides
of the
same single,
but released
on the
Kalypso
label.
To the left
is the
78 RPM
version.
To the right
is the
45 RPM
 version, c
ourtesy of
Ray Templeton
of the UK. 


 
  Here is a Chin's 78 followed by its re-release as a 45 on  Kalypso:

Adam and Eve (as heard on CD 1)
   backed with
Not Me Again (as heard on CD 4).

Below are its release on Kalypso as  45 and 78 RPM singles

 

 
One side of the 78 RPM single:

Night Food Recipe b/w
Woman Style

"Night Food Recipe" was included on Chin's CD 3 and is described a bit more here. "Woman Style" was included on Chin's CD 1. It's a tale of romantic travails that features some nice syncopated bamboo sax and flute lines interplaying with banjo.

  Here is the same 78 RPM single, but label variations indicate a different, later pressing Also, "Woman Style" gains a longer title.

The rare Chin's sleeve comes from this record.

   

The same single released on a UK 45 RPM discs on the Kalypso label.

Here is one side yet another strong Chin's single:

"Black Market Beef" was included on Chin's CD 3 and is described here.

Its unpictured flipside is "Rent Worries". This track is included on Chin's CD 2 and is described here.

  Courtesy of Matt Dinsmore of San Francisco, here's
the 45 re-release, on
Kalypso, of "Night Food". The original 78 RPM release can be seen above.

  "Not Guilty"       

   backed with

"Give Her Love"

This single had been lost until RedBwoy discovered a well worn 78 and provided a copy and scans to Ivan in late 2006. Ivan would later release it on Chin's CD 6.

"Not Guilty", featuring fine flute and banjo playing, is a courtroom story like "Big Sid" and many reggae songs thereafter. In it, Adina must defend herself against Rebecca's slander charge that was driven by romantic rivalry over "the same man-friend, a fellow that we call Big Ben".

Disappointingly, "Give Her Love", appears to be the is the same recording as the already released track "Woman's Tenderness", as heard on both Chin's CD 1 and the CD compilation Boogu Yagga Gal. Richard Noblett of London was able to explain this situation:

The 78 used for "Woman's Tenderness" on Boogu Yagga Gal and Chin's CD 1 was mislabeled and so is actually "Give Her Love". I have a copy of "Woman's Tenderness" on Chin's 78 so it does exist.  The copy is very poor and looks like someone spilt nail varnish on it but enough is audible to identify it. 

The chorus may have been an influence on Stanley Beckford's reggae hit, "Soldering". It can be heard on the Third Edition of Chin's CD 6, as Richard provided Ivan Chin a copy of the song.

  Not in the best shape, but here is the actual track "Woman Tenderness"       

   backed with

"Calypso Pepperpot", as heard on  Chin's CD 3 and described here.

    "Mussu and John Tom"       

   backed with

"A Woman's Mind"

 

"Mussu and John Tom" is a pair of folk songs and a fine side, as described here can be heard on Chin's CD 1.

"A Woman's Mind" can be heard on Chin's CD 3". It's a cute tale of not knowing what his woman want from him, wondering is anyone can read a woman's mind.

  Complete with name tag, ink and blood, here is:

"Calypso Opinion"       

   backed with

"A Woman Ghost Fool Man"

 

"Calypso Opinion" is described here along with the lyrics can be heard on Chin's CD 3.

"A Woman Ghost Fool Man" can also be heard on Chin's CD 3". Ivan briefly discusses the song here.

  Both sides bearing a writing credit to credit A. Bedasse & E. Williams, here is the Chin's Calypso Sextet single:

Monkey's Opinion        b/w:
Letter From Jamaica

"Monkey's Opinion" is available on Chin's CD 1 and is described a bit here . "

Letter From Jamaica" recounts tough conditions at home "a yard" (in a tenement yard). An early (if not the earliest) example of what would in reggae be called a sufferas (sufferers) song. Lyricist Williams is truly the most important name in Jamaican music that is all but completely forgotten. Though it's not apparent to the listener, singer Bedasse errored and skipped an entire section of verse. But it was remembered by Ivan, who saw this as sufficient reason to not include this track on his CD reissues. But when myself and others were made privy to this track, we convinced Ivan otherwise and this good track was included on Chin's CD 6.

Note that this record as well as the one below appear both to previously owned by someone with the initials, "E. O.". I am glad E. O. didn't allow them to break.

  Appropriately last (being the last record released on the Chin's label), but not least (with two interesting tracks), here is the Chin's Calypso Sextet single:

I Visited A Wedding      b/w
Our Beautiful Wedding Waltz

 


Both sides give writing credit to A. Bedasse & E. Williams. Both sides appear on Chin's CD 6.

"I Visited A Wedding" is not the version found on Chin's CD 2 or Chin's CD 5. Although vocals are credited to A. Bedasse & Choir, but the backing vocals aren't different from any of this band's other recordings. However, the instrumentation is. Professional clarinet surprisingly replaces bamboo and electric rhythm guitar supplements acoustic guitar and banjo, making the sound somewhat less rural than all other Chin's tracks. Bedasse sings in a lower register than ever before, proving a bridge between all his previous recordings and his 1960s urban recordings as Count Alert. The lyrics are a somewhat different from the CD versions, though they amount to the same story.

"Our Beautiful Wedding Waltz" is the self descriptive title of the second side of this wedding single. Instrumentation is similar to the flipside, except sax replaces clarinet and the electric guitar plays some lead in addition to rhythm. Banjo is there but in a reduced role. The vocal is credited to C. Chuck, who is Ivan Chin's brother in-law, Cecil Chuck. But Ivan states that the vocalist is not Cecil, but a female member of the Chuck family, whose name is lost. This makes for the only Chin's track with a female vocalist.


 
 

Here is "What's A Kiss" as heard on CD 4.

Courtesy of Jerry Kerns comes a scan of it's flipside, "Peakapow", as heard on CD 3. It reveals an exception in that the lyricist is Lord Davy rather than Willaims.

Also see:

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mike@mentomusic.com

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