In winter of 1946, Errol Flynn purchased Navy Island for the princely sum of US$80,000. For the next decade that small swath of land, not even 100 yards from the beaches of Port Antonio, became the berthing place for Flynn's yacht Zaca, and the staging point for his unending parties that is today the stuff of legend. The entertainment Flynn featured most often in those days was a small local group called the Navy Island Swamp Boys which consisted of Noel Lynch on guitar, Moses Deans on banjo and "Papa" Brown on rumba box. The mentos, calypsos and rumbas they played were the perfect soundtrack for Flynn and company's bacchanalian excesses.
When this group broke up in 1955, Moses and Papa reformed the group with Derrick "Johnny" Henry on maracas & drum, Martell Brown on guitar, and David "Sonny" Martin on guitar. When Papa couldn't make gigs, Allan Swymmer was brought in (he later became a permanent member). Legend tells us that Errol Flynn named this group "The Jolly Boys" after the vibe he caught from their playing. With Flynn's imprimatur, the Jolly Boys music quickly defined mento and calypso entertainment
in Port Antonio and set a high
The Jolly Boys had a committed core of musicians, many others were pulled into and passed through its fold (to date, no fewer than 18 people have been official members). Access to a large number of musicians meant the Jolly Boys–a kind of musical family, custodians of a musical tradition–could take more gigs. One such group of "moonlighting" Jolly Boys was called the Mockingbirds; it was generally led by Allan Swymmer. Although a group leader, Moses sometimes led this kind of group as well. In fact, it was on a moonlighting gig in 1961 that Moses met future Jolly Boy Joseph "Powda" Bennett, who at the time was playing for people rafting down the Rio Grande; the two hit it off and formed an informal band that lasted for two years. (It was Moses who later pulled Powda into the band.)
By the end of the 1960s, the Jolly Boys had become an important part of the north coast's entertainment industry, often performing with dance troupes in floorshows for elite Port Antonio visitors. One of the dance troupes the Jolly Boys very often performed with was led by Albert Minott, a young man of extraordinary talent. Albert specialized in hand-walking and fire eating, and impressed his audiences with his daring feats, but he also loved mento music. When he wasn't busy dancing alongside the Jolly Boys in the floorshows of the 1960s, he joined them on rumba box whenever he could.
With the ascendence of reggae in the late 1960s, work slowed for mento bands. This forced the Jolly Boys to look for opportunity elsewhere and ultimately they split into two groups. Allan Swymmer moved to St. Ann's Bay in 1969 where he started his own branch of the Jolly Boys, while Moses took his Jolly Boys group to the Round Hill estate in Montego Bay for a series of annual gigs. During this time, both groups maintained very high musical standards (as seen on the Jolly Boys LP Lyrichord released in 1977) and kept regular contact with each other.
Then, in the early 1980s, Moses reformed the original Jolly Boys back in Port Antonio, with Swymmer leading on drum and Powda playing rumba box. They found abundant work in all of the parish's major venues, including Jamaica Reef, Frenchman's Cove, and Goblin Hill. But then, in 1989, singer-songwriter and producer Jules Shear saw the band during a visit to the Trident Hotel. Inspired, he recorded an album of their music and revealed their sound to a new generation of international listeners. Between 1989 to 1997, the group released a series of well known albums and toured internationally. On their way to being the most recognized mento band in the world, they even appeared in a scene in the film
The Mighty Quinn, starring
In 1998, the group embarked on a new phase of its existence. Shortly after Moses passed away, the group began playing regularly at Geejam, a residential recording studio in Port Antonio, for the artists recording there, a group that includes Gwen Stefani & No Doubt, the Gorillaz, Drake and Amy Winehouse. When Geejam opened as a hotel in 2008, Jolly Boys became its house band and impressed co-owner Jon Baker with their poise and vibe. With the idea of documenting their music for future generations, Baker teamed up with Dale Virgo, Geejam's in-house studio engineer and producer, to co-produce their current album, Great Expectation.
Despite their busy schedule in Port Antonio, the group is still very much in demand in Jamaica and beyond. For example, it was a featured act in the Institute of Jamaica's Mento in May concert in Kingston in 2003; later that year, it performed at the Montreal Jazz festival. In addition Powda was a featured mento performer in Monty Alexander's Lords of the West Indies concert at New York City's Jazz at Lincoln Center in 2008.
For nearly sixty years, the Jolly Boys and their tradition have persevered, largely due to their ability to draw from the community of original musicians who have been in the group's orbit since the start. Today, the "foundation" group includes Joseph "Powda" Bennett on maracas, Derrick "Johnny" Henry on rumba box, Allan Swymmer on percussion, and Egbert Watson on banjo, with Albert Minott singing lead and playing guitar.
Still here in 2010, the Jolly Boys are truly timeless. With new members Donald Waugh on banjo, Lenford "Brutus" Richards on guitar and Dale Virgo on percussion, the group has a new sound and is ready to take yet another generation–and their bacchanalian excesses–by storm.
Mento was the music of the Jamaican dancehalls before ska, rocksteady and reggae came along. A people's music typically played in the countryside on acoustic–often homemade–instruments, it dates to the late 19th century. Its lyrics often dealt with rude or slack topics, or addressed the social issues of the day. Although often confused with calypso (largely because calling it "calypso" was a handy way of marketing it to tourists who didn't know any better), it has a rawness and rhythmic feel that is
The Jolly Boys are :
The Foundation Group:
Albert Minott : vocals, guitar
Joseph ‘Powder' Bennett : backing vocals, maracas and ‘vibes'
Derrick ‘Johnny' Henry : marumba box and backing vocals
Allan Swymmer : percussion
Egbert Watson : banjo
The New Blood: Donald Waugh : banjo
Lenford "Brutus" Richards : guitar
Dale Virgo : percussion
The Jolly Boys
Produced by Jon Baker and Dale Virgo. Executive Producers Mark Jones and Steve Beaver. Recorded at Geejam Studios, Port Antonio. Mixed by Tom Elmhirst, Geejam Studios. Featured guest artists include Cedric Brooks (flute, tenor sax) and
Daniel Neely (banjo).
Jolly Boys to Tour With Sade
The Jolly Boys To Open for Sade on 21 European tour dates
The Jolly Boys Story
Know more about this modern mento band, watch the documentary.
Rehab - The Jolly Boys ( Modern Mento version of Amy Winehouse's hit)
Perfect Day - The Jolly Boys
The Jolly Boys - Hanging on the Telephone
The Story behind the Jolly Boys
Entertainment One Music and Geejam Recordings are excited to announce that Jamaica's legendary Jolly Boys have released their first album in 20 years. Entitled Great Expectation, it's a collaborative project between Geejam's Jon Baker and Wall of Sound's Mark Jones and the results are 12 joyous interpretations of contemporary songs given a modern Mento makeover. While Jamaica is known for its reggae and ska, Mento is the original sound of the island and the forerunner to these two genres. With an amazing history spanning 60 years, The Jolly Boys name is synonymous with the Mento sound and they are arguably the most recognizable Mento band in the world.
22 New 'ON' this week: 192 Total
Synd: NPR/All Things Considered & World Cafe, Afropop Worldwide, UnderCurrents, Galaxy
Direct: DMX Markets include: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Houston, Cleveland, Portland, Denver, Detroit, New Orleans, Salt Lake, Albuquerque, Providence, Madison WI, Honolulu, Canada
Online: allmusic, MP3, Muruch, WGOE, New World Buzz, GreenArrow, Aggie Radio
The showcasing of Japanese culture at the Courtleigh Auditorium in Kingston, Jamaica Saturday night had a greater impact in demonstrating the ties between the two nations, which are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations, than speeches and product displays. For the second half of the Tsugaru-Shamisen concert, The Jolly Boys joined the performance and played the calypso hit Nimble Like Kimble with the Japanese group, Abeya.
"I thought it was fantastic!" Hylton exclaimed. "I think it was a treat for the Jamaican audience. I think it resonated because it reminds us so much of our own folk music. The fusion with the Jolly Boys, I thought that was very creative and showed that, with both of them playing together, how integrated our music and the culture can be." READ THE FULL Jamaica Observer REVIEW.
A strong cast of veteran and contemporary acts have been named for the August 16-23 Rototom Sunsplash, which takes place in Benicassim, Spain. The eight-day event is the largest of the active European summer festivals. It kicks off with reggae great Jimmy Cliff, mento band the Jolly Boys, and neo-roots singer Kabaka Pyramid. Headliners for the following day are, Beenie Man, Bermudan singer Collie Buddz and Romain Virgo. READ THE FULL Jamaica Observer ARTICLE
EOne Music and Geejam Recordings are excited to announce that Jamaica's legendary Jolly Boys will release their first album in 20 years on May 3, 2011. Entitled Great Expectation, it's a collaborative project between Geejam's Jon Baker and Wall of Sound's Mark Jones and the results are 12 joyous interpretations of contemporary songs given a modern Mento makeover.
While Jamaica is known for its reggae and ska, Mento is the original sound of the island and the forerunner to these two genres. With an amazing history spanning 60 years, The Jolly Boys' name is synonymous with the Mento sound and they
are arguably the most recognizable Mento band in the world.
The Jolly Boys quickly rose to local prominence in the 1950s as the house band for the Rat Pack's Jamaica chapter, chaired by the swashbuckling enfant terrible Errol Flynn. Singing songs of double entendre and ribaldry to those in search of escape and excess, the group served as Port Antonio's go-to band for 30 years. The band have continued in different incarnations throughout the years and have a truly charismatic leader in current front man Albert Minott, who in his younger years, used to entertain at Jolly Boys' shows with his hand walking, fire eating and limbo dancing. His saturated vocals, natural retro chic stylings and limitless charisma convey a rare originality and musical creativity that is entirely his own. Great Expectation was produced by Baker, founder of Gee Street Records, the seminal UK hip hop label that first brought the likes of the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, PM Dawn and the RZA to the attention of the British public and that also developed a domestic roster with acts such as the Stereo MC's, and DJ Richie Rich. Now based in Jamaica, Baker recorded the album at his Geejam studios in Port Antonio. It was mixed by Tom Elmhirst who has worked with the likes of Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, Hot Chip and The Kills.
In the summer of 2009 Baker held a recording session at Geejam to capture some of the Jolly Boys' vintage material. That session led to a fresh creative idea to dip into the rock repertory, take the songs that resonate with Mento's raucous history and put them in a different setting. Baker, together with his long time friend and creative partner Mark Jones, chose tracks from artists like The Clash, The Stooges, The Stranglers, New Order and Amy Winehouse. Over several months the group worked incessantly with Baker's co-producer Dale Virgo on a set of innovative arrangements and modern beats to compliment andcontemporize an older sound defined by banjos, maracas and rumba boxes.
The result is Great Expectation, and with it comes the birth of modern Mento. The album has already been released in the UK and the reviews have been stellar. The Times said "The Jolly Boys are enjoying a glorious renaissance," the Telegraph called Great Expectation "Utterly engaging," the Observer hailed "The Jolly Boys are enjoying a remarkable 'Buena Vista Social Club' like revival," and MOJO, The Times and Mail on Sunday each awarded 4 starts for Great Expectation.