Great Expectations: The Jolly Boys Story

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

As told to SHERMAN ESCOFFERY by ALBERT MINOTT

Forget Ska, Rocksteady, and Reggae. Long before all those Jamaican Music form, it was Mento that ruled the original dancehall. Unknown to many and considered an anachronism by some when they hear it is still being played by the oldest Jamaican band in existence, the Jolly Boys. Entertaining locals and visitors for over 60 years, the Jolly Boys was also Errol Flynn’s band of choice when he entertained friends back in the 50’s on his very own Navy Island: off the coast of Portland Jamaica. 

The Jolly Boys is now led by singer Albert Minott, a gravelly voice, charismatic, and energetic 74 year old, who is eager and hungry for stardom like any aspiring teenage singer. A recent cover of Amy Winehouse’s song, “Rehab,” has taken them on sold out concerts all over Europe in 2010, and you would think that he would be looking to retire at his age, but he is just getting started on his quest to conquer the world musically with Mento.  Albert talks about the Jolly Boys cover of Rehab, his inspirations, the Rumba Box, and the song “Dog War”.

SHERMAN:  How long have you guys been playing music before you actually recorded a song?
ALBERT: IS OVER 60 year we have been together playing in different places in different style: from Port Antonio to Montego Bay, and now the world. Some year ago, some white men came to Jamaica and did try to do a recording thing with me and Johnny, but it never really worked out, but now we go to this wonderful studio called Gee Jam in Port Antonio and make this magnificent album, Great Expectations.

SHERMAN:  Who are some of the Artist that inspired you?
ALBERT: I WAS always inspired by singers like Nat Cole, Brook Benton, Louise Jordon, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino. It’s been over 50 years we have been performing in Jamaica and planning to travel oversees. It didn’t come when we were younger but now we are touring the world and holding on to it.

SHERMAN: Many people have never seen a Rumba Box, What is it?
 ALBERT: THE RUMBA box is made of Cedar wood and the back is a thin ply wood to get the vibration. It carry’s a bridge with a hole in the front. Its history goes back hundreds of years and it takes a man with good talent to play that box like an acoustic bass guitar.

SHERMAN:  Many people have never heard of Mento music and consider Reggae to be the root of Jamaican music, how do you feel about that?
 ALBERT: REGGAE could never be the root when everything comes from Mento. Look! Bob Marley’s grandmother and mother, is Mento music them use to dance to you know iyah! Lots of them don’t want to talk about Mento because it is a harder music to play, its not no two chords or one drop thing, you have to be able to play three to four chords with melodies and groove.  

SHERMAN: Your first recognized single was a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” tell me about that.
ALBERT: WE LIKE where that song “Rehab” has taken us and we have a responsibility because soon when you go to Jamaica, you are going to see several more bands start playing Mento. We are taking it to another level right now- we are going to conquer the dancehall again. We are not finished yet you know because we are mixing it up with different styles and there is a lot more to come. We staying green with that energy, because next year, we have to show the people that this is not a gimmick and we are proud of what we are doing.

SHERMAN: Have you ever met the Mento giant Sugar Belly?
 ALBERT: I KNOW Sugar Belly good good good. I remember dem man deh playing at the Sombrero club with man like Byron Lee, and we even play together at the Beaumont Club, at an event call Teenage Dance Party. Long time we a doing this thing and we really never get the buss until now mi is in mi 70’s, so mi have to hold the responsibility, to let the young people see that you can never be too old to pursue your dreams.

SHERMAN: Tell me about the song “Dog War.”
ALBERT: “DOG WAR is about the violence that gwan a Kingston for year’s man: ask your grandmother or great grandmother about Rygin, He was the inspiration for the Movie “The Harder They Come.” He was a real bad man from Kingston when we were growing up. Coronation Market, Matthews Lane, and Bond Street, are places we use to be afraid of. So when we say Dog War, we not talking about the four foot animal, we talking about the two foot one them with a thing called knuckle duster, knock you out cold man! Then some had knives and some even walk with two guns. Is a long time Kingston hot, but back in Portland you can still sleep with your doors open.”

SHERMAN: Albert, I was told you use to be a fire dancer before you took over as the lead singer for the Jolly Boys?
ALBERT: Well THERE is no longer a place in our performances right now for me to make some lovely costumes and display my fire dancing and glass dancing. I am still a very good acrobat too you know, I can still walk and dance on my hands. I am not just a singer and a musician, I am an ENTERTAINER.  Purchase the album here: The Jolly Boys


Sherman Escoffery is a music consultant, music producer and host of Musical Reasoning Interactive (MRI) on E2onair.com. Blazetv@gmail.com


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