This appreciation of Jamaica’s Merritone label was a long time coming and it’s not done yet. It took a while to hear all the music and to interview singers, players and producers. There’s still unreleased recordings, AKA outtakes, but the majority of the label’s output has been reissued. However, questions remain unanswered and I’ve been unable to reach all the artists I’ve sought. That’s where readers come in. If you can provide information about questions in this text and artist whereabouts, please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks and respect to the many who’ve assisted so far. There’s a more complete listing at the end of this article, but couldn’t have done it without major cooperation from Lynn Taitt, Hopeton Lewis, and Keith Scott. Taitt and Lewis have both died since this project began in 2009. It’s deplorable that they, as well as Keith Scott, Sam Mitchell and the surviving artists and musicians, had no involvement in the reissues from Dub Store of Tokyo, Japan. More on those later.
The music produced and arranged by Sam Mitchell, Keith Scott and Lyn Taitt for Federal Records Merritone label is venerated as among the best in Jamaican Rock Steady recordings. For a label with such big hits, little is known about the Merritone name and how it was rented for its use as a record label.
The name originated with Val Blake, who founded the Mighty Merritone sound system in Morant Bay in the early 1950’s and died in 1955. After the passing of their father, brothers Trevor, Winston, Tyrone and Monty dropped Mighty from the name. Before the Merritone record label began in 1966, the Merritone sound system spent years making a name for itself. Asked about the early days, Winston Blake replied, “From the beginning, it was US music. Rhythm and Blues it was then. And while the US Black wailed and sang his way out of his terrible situation, likewise the Jamaican, because he was also finding himself. Afterwards our stuff became a little bit faster, then by virtue of interpretation and necessity we soon had our indigenous stuff. People suffered, experienced, wrote while others danced for their expression. A sometimes rude and crude music took shape, but it was that of a people who were finding themselves, identifying.
Well, we are from Morant Bay, where at that time our sound was dominant. In those days we would play at Lyssons, Springfield Club and further east. We only came into Kingston occasionally. Our chance came when we played at Wembley Club in East Kingston one night. That night at Wembley Club several records were set; 89 crates of beer were sold, our philosophy got over to the fans – variety – a little soul music, a sense of mood and less noise and we played new shots. But what gave us, my brothers and I, such great satisfaction was when we with our sparse equipment quickly impressed then shut up our know-it-all and impromptu critics who were stunned, stupified and unarmed at the thump and tone we get from our system. We won many fans that night. We never looked back.” (“Merritone Raps. . .” by Selim, Swing Magazine, August/September 1973.)
That big night at Wembley Club was in 1962. It was called, “their first big jig . . . that Kingston had a chance to savour the exciting sound of the Merritone Discotheque.” (Swing Magazine, 1969.)
Discotheque was code for a sound system that catered to uptown audiences by playing a variety of music, ie; from foreign, and didn’t focus on Jamaican productions as sound systems based in downtown Kingston did. Merritone’s home base in 1960s Kingston was Peyton Place, a club located uptown. Winston Blake described how such a club allowed them to avoid “unsoulful elements.” “We try our best to live down this, whenever these little snags arise we take a rest to beat the heat, however now that we make our home at Peyton Place, the chances of violence have decreased.” (Swing Magazine, 1969.)
“Chances of violence?” Apparently, Merritone was not universally well regarded. In fact, Blake was attempting to get out in front of the problem, but as detailed in the article an incident occurred with the reporter present. A number of guys paid to enter and then threw bottles to try and incite something. Based on that and other tales, Merritone may have been targeted for dirty tricks and sabotage more than most sounds.
What was Federal Records hoping to achieve by renting the Merritone name for their new label? To stand out from the music being produced by Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, Prince Buster et al? Perhaps not, as Federal employed many of the same musicians those producers did. There was a certain cachet attached to the Merritone name by 1966, when it was rented by Federal. They were known to play more soul music than other sound systems. To quote Winston Blake, “our philosophy – variety.” So pop and soul sounds were emphasized as much as Rhythm and Blues, Ska and Rock Steady were. That approximates the output of the Merritone label and hints at what the Khouri’s were seeking. It would appear they were aiming to attract the same audience that backed the Merritone Discotheque.
Few writers have examined the output of the Merritone label in more depth than Derrick Morgenthau for the German publication Big Shot, issue #6, October, 2009. Dutch DJ and collector Theo Van Bynen kindly translated Morgenthau’s article from German to English in 2011.
Morgenthau recounted an interview given by Merritone arranger/producer Keith Scott to The Beat magazine. Scott described that what changed in the Rock Steady period was that the Jamaican music industry thought they could do a better edition of American records. “And there are a lot of American records that the Jamaican version is better.”
Merritone issued many Jamaican versions and Scott goes on to compliment the singers during Rock Steady for working hard to achieve polished, tight harmonies, “so as to compete with American groups like the Temptations, and the Four Tops and the Drifters . . .” Specifically, he cited the Sensations, “their harmony was so sweet, so polished, so unique. It’s incredible.”
The Sensations didn’t record for the Merritone label, but the Tartans, the Renegades, the Minstrels, the Paragons, the Termites, the Ethiopians and other top groups did. I spoke with Lloyd Parks about his start in the music business as a young singer. More famous as a bassist and leader of the band We The People, Parks recorded his first song, “We Gonna Make It,” as a member of the Termites in 1966.
Lloyd Parks was born on May 26, 1949 and starting singing as a teenager. Eventually he earned a spot with a local band that featured Wentworth Vernal on lead vocals. “Wentworth was singing with a band that had been around for a little while. So I was happy to be able to join him.” Asked how the group chose the name Termites, Parks denied any role. “The group already named when I join as another singer. You see, it was a band and they had been around for some time, maybe before Wentworth join. I was told that they wanted a name similar to Beatles, as the Beatles were big then. So they pick Termites. I never like it but that was their name when I start sing with Wentworth. ‘Wenty’ was a year or two older than me.”
Keyboardist Bobby Kalphat knew Parks before he joined the band and claimed to know how the group was named. “Oh yes. I know how they got the name Termites, ‘cause we used to live together in the same community, and we got this old piano. And when we tried to get it in tune we learned that the tuning block was eaten out by termites. Yeah, they were the Termites. They named themselves from that as the Termites. I lived in the same community with Lloyd Parkes, around Tower Hill. I think I gave him the first electrical bass. I bought an Egmond bass, gave it to him. We had a lickle band, with our friend Ansel Collins. We were all from the same community, Tower Hill.” (Bobby Kalphat was interviewed by Peter I. Published at Reggae-Vibes.com on January 23, 2010.)
Parks explained how he and Vernal got their big break. “How we came to record for Federal was that we heard about an audition they were having. So we go to the audition and they choose us to record. It’s hard to remember about that, it was so long ago and I was so young. I don’t remember much at all about the audition. One thing is that the Renegades audition same day and they get picked to record too. We know each other, the young groups around know the other young groups. I think that we sing two songs but I’m not sure, like I said is hard to remember. Is one man give the approval and choose us, but I didn’t know him and we not at Federal long. We have a few songs that we sing but the studio have Hopeton Lewis then. When we audition, he had a big hit with ‘Take It Easy.’ At that time, when a studio have a big hit with someone, they don’t give attention to the other acts. I think that’s why we only record one song at Federal.”
BK: Who was the writer of “We’re Gonna Make It?”
LP: “It was co-written. Wentworth and I write our songs together. That song is talking about what we going through and what we could do.”
BK: The lyrics are universal, maybe excepting the mention of the Boogaloo and the Jerk. Who helped you put your song to music?
LP: Lyn Taitt. Lyn Taitt was just great in the studio. He was in charge and direct us in the studio. He came up with the music right after he hear our song. Right away! I don’t even remember if our song get released by Federal. After we record it and then we don’t hear it, we don’t check Federal again. We went to Coxson and audition for him. (Lloyd Parks was interviewed by the author, September 15, 2009.)
It was a pleasure to supply Parks with a copy of “We’re Gonna Make It” shortly after the interview. It’s up there with the label’s best.
Another little known group that debuted on the Merritone label were the Minstrels. Their tune “So Weary” was called “the soundman’s definite weapon of mass destruction” by Derrick Morgenthau. He quoted a price of $900 for the 45, which is borne out by popsike. However, that sum was exceeded exponentially on September 9, 2015 when $5,389 changed hands for the copy at left. The writing credits on the label were assigned to “(Robinson – Chung),” although the melody brings to mind a certain Gerry & the Pacemaker’s ditty. Someone heard Gerry Marsden’s “Ferry Cross The Mersey” and adapted it for the song written by Lennox Robinson. More was revealed in 2015 when Robinson posted on youtube. “This tune was sung by the great, late Geoffrey Chung and Billy Chung. I wrote this song at 4 Antrim Road in Vineyard Town. Used to sign [sing?] with makeshift instruments made by Bill Chung . . . wonderful days . . . Lennox Robinson.” I was able to follow up with Robinson and learned that he resided at 4 Antrim Road and that the Chungs lived next door. It’s his voice you hear singing lead on “People Get Ready,” the first song the Minstrels recorded at Studio 1. When asked if he had a publishing deal at Federal, Robinson replied. “No publishing deal. I just wrote the songs and sing the melody for Geoffery and he did the rest. Geoff may have had a publishing deal with Federal. He worked directly with the Richard Khory (sic). I did sign a document with Studio 1 (Clement Dodd) for the “People Get Ready” but don’t know what I signed as I was only 17 or 18 and just glad to make a record. My memory is really fuzzy here and Mickey and Claude could probably give an accurate account. What I remember is not adding up. I can remember recording as lead vocals on “People Get Ready” at Studio 1 with Geoffrey and Michael as harmony back up. I can remember going to Federal but can’t remember signing any document. I was born in Nov, 1950. I think Claude came in after and that Geoffrey wanted me to write for him so I did the melody and words on “Good To You” and “So Weary” and “Why Love One Another.” The problem is that I recall these songs being done after “People Get Ready” which now confuses me. Mickey [Mikey] is here in Jamaica so I will find him and set the record straight.” Robinson left Jamaica in 1969 to pursue a scholarship at Michigan State University where he played soccer. Back to “So Weary.” Cue the record, the music starts, here come those voices, “Tears will fall down like rain, you will never see him again . . . ”
Like Lloyd Parks of the Termites, members of the Minstrels went on to lengthy careers in Jamaican music. Brothers Geoffrey and Mikey Chung played in the Now Generation band and worked in production and as a guitarist and arranger, respectively. I spoke with Mikey about the Minstrels.
BK: Did the Minstrels start in the Glee Club at St. George’s College?
MC: No, not in the Glee Club, we just love singing. We love it too much sometimes as we get reprimanded for singing during prayers.
BK: Who was John McKay and did he bring the group to Federal Studio?
MC: John McKay was a biology teacher at St. George’s. He knew we loved to sing and he encouraged us. I don’t think he brought us to Federal.
BK: Who did you audition for at Federal?
MC: Ah, I really can’t recall. So long ago.
BK: Was it the group’s idea or did someone at Federal come up with the music to ‘So Weary?’
MC: I’m really not sure. Sorry, but I can’t remember. (Mikey Chung was interviewed by the author, July 7, 2011.)
The Minstrels also recorded “Hey There Lonely Girl,” a version of the hit by Ruby and the Romantics, before moving on to Studio 1 on Brentford Road. There, they quickly passed an audition and recorded “People Get Ready” in 1967. They cut several numbers for Studio 1 but only two were released. Geoffrey remembered the Tennors voicing ‘Pressure and Slide’ before the Minstrels recorded their songs. Also, that the backing band was the Soul Brothers with Patrick MacDonald on guitar and Denzil Laing on percussion.
The Termites and the Minstrels delivered sure shots in their first efforts for Merritone, but with little promotion, “We Gonna Make It” and “So Weary” sank quickly from sight. That prompted both groups to move on to Studio 1 where their efforts were more successful.
Merritone Artists, alphabetized.
Additions, corrections, criticisms and commendations appreciated at email@example.com
The Black Brothers [Hugh Black & George Ferris?] (One song.)
Henry Buckley, AKA Henry III, AKA Don Henry (Died 200?) (Went to Alpha school, according to Roy Sterling.)
The Dynamites (At least two songs, maybe four.)
The Ethiopians [Leonard Dillon, Stephen Taylor & Aston Morris.] (Two songs.)
Ford, Laxton (One song.)
The Gaylettes [Merle or Marie Clemenson, Beryl Lawson, Dawn Hanchard. Hanchard later replaced by Judy Mowatt.] Beryl started the group. [She’s now a restaurateur in the Bronx, NY according to singer Yvonne Harrison.]
Greenwood, Desmond “Tulles” or “Pulus” [Singer of “Judy Drowned,” according to Sam Mitchell.]
Higgs, Joe (Died December 18, 1999. One song.)
Lewis, Hopeton (Died September 4, 2014.)
The Mighty Vikings [Lynford “Hux” Brown/Wallin Cameron, Ferdinand ‘Ferdy’ Brown, Lloyd Delpratt/Neville Hinds, Desmond Miles, Bobby Ellis, Peter Miles, Tony Wilson, Headley Bennett, Esmond Jarrett, Trevor ‘Trummy’ Miles. Victor & Sonny Wong.]
The Minstrels [Geoffrey Chung (died November, 1995), Mikey Chung, Lennox Robinson and/or Claude Braithwaite.] (Two songs.)
The Paragons [John Holt (died October 19, 2014), Tyrone Evans (died October, 2000), Howard Barrett.]
The Renegades [Winston “Pipe” Matthews, George “Buddy” Haye, Lloyd “Bread” McDonald.]
Smith, Ernie [first recording “I Can’t Take It” and “Tell Me Why.”]
The Soul Brothers [Roland Alphonso et al]
Taitt, Lyn & The Jets
The Tartans [Devon Russell (died June 18, 1997), Cedric Myton, Lindbergh Lewis, Lincoln Thompson (died January 23, 1999).]
The Termites [Wentworth Vernal and Lloyd Parks.] (One song.)
Tomorrow’s Children [Pluto Shervington, Ken Lazarus, and John Jones on vocals, Cornel Marshall (drummer), Richard Daley (bass), Willie Stewart, Steve Bachelor (bass), Garth Gregory (keyboards), Jerome Francisque (trumpet/trombone), Barry Collins (guitar) and Clive Morris (trumpet).]
The Untouchables [Enos McLeod, ?, ?]
The Zodiacs [Claude Sang Jr., Eugene “Gino” or “Geno” Dwyer, Winston John Service, Roy “Robbie” Robinson (died 1975).]
The above acts comprise virtually all the singers and the three bands that cut for Merritone. The house band, Lyn Taitt and the Jets, play on the vast majority of Merritone records. Guitarist Taitt was a brilliant arranger and a deeply talented musician. He and the Jets were the fourth band during the Rock Steady era, following the Soul Vendors, the Supersonics and the Carib Beats. While all four spent more time in the studio than playing out, the Jets likely played the most sessions and the fewest concerts. As Keith Scott explained, “Federal signed Taitt to a contract, but the other musicians were fluid, it wasn’t a group at first. Taitt started to moonlight and the others too, but then the whole band came together as the Jets and started to work for everyone. Duke Reid, Pottinger, Joe Gibbs, WIRL, the Jets were in constant demand. I think the Jets start had to wait for Taitt to wind up his Comets band.” (Keith Scott interviewed by the author, November 1, 2009.)
The Jets were a recording band, but not a live act, until the spring of 1967 as they were precluded from concert work by Taitt’s contractual obligation to lead the Comets band. Lynn Taitt & the Comets were playing live into 1967, when they headlined the “Pre-Holiday Jump-Up” show at the Sombrero Club on February 7, 1967. “The financer of the Comets was a wealthy guy who had a car mart on East Parade. Keith Earl Roberts was his name. He also owned a couple of race horses. He was a laid back Jamaica white man. But the Comets weren’t making that much. So Mr. Roberts ten percent was small and eventually it got so bad that he sue me for $1400 pounds, which was the cost of the group’s instruments. You see, Mr. Roberts had paid for them. [big laugh] I think that end the Comets,” Taitt declared.
As he explained it to me, Taitt’s contract with Federal meant he was bound to them from approximately 10 a. m. to 5 p. m., Mondays through Fridays. This meant that the Jets band would usually pack up at 5 p. m. and make the short trip from Federal over to WIRL on Bell Road where they would play sessions late into the night. Unless Taitt was obligated to perform with the Comets. So the Jets incarnation, from the summer of 1966 through the first seven months and two weeks of 1968, was largely as a recording band. The group ceased to exist after Taitt emigrated to Canada that August. Here’s a roll call of the members of the Jets and the other musicians who recorded for Merritone.
Nearlin “Lynn” Taitt – Leader of the Jets. Writer, composer and arranger. Guitar and organ. (Died January 20, 2010.)
Gladstone Anderson – Piano. (Died December 3, 2015.)
Roland Alphonso – Tenor and alto saxophones. (Died November 20, 1998.)
Ron Wilson – Trombone.
Headley Bennett – Alto saxophone. (Died August 21, 2016.)
Lennox Brown – Alto saxophone, after Bennett.
Karl “Cannonball” Bryan – Alto saxophone.
Lloyd Knibb – Drums. (Died May 12, 2011.)
“Fergie” – First drummer on Merritone releases, according to Hopeton Lewis. Likely Robert “Fergie” Ferguson of Desmond Miles Seven. However, Keith Scott says only drummers used were Lloyd Knibb and Joe Isaacs.
Joe Isaacs – Drums from February, 1967.
Clifton “Jackie” Jackson – Bassist from 1966 through February 1967, according to Keith Scott and Lloyd Knibb.
Lloyd Brevett – Acoustic bass on Tartans material, including “What Can I Do,” according to Keith Scott. (Died May 3, 2012.)
Bryan Atkinson – Bass from February, 1967.
Carlton Samuels – Tenor and baritone saxophones.
Leslie “Bobby Ellis” Wint – Trumpet.
Lynford “Hux” Brown – Rhythm guitar.
Gerald “Gerry” Creary – Rhythm guitar on live shows and in studio when Hux Brown was on his primary gig with the Mighty Vikings Band.
Leslie Butler – Second piano “on occasion,” according to Lynn Taitt. The Steinway Grand was the best one at Federal. [Butler had a six month gig at the Sheraton Eastland Motor Hotel in Portland, Maine in 1968, along with his wife, Jamaican guitarist Janet Enright.]
Mike Thompson Jr. – Piano, organ.
Sammy Ismay – Lead tenor saxophone on two numbers with Mighty Vikings.
Conroy Smith – Piano. According to Ernie Smith, Conroy plays on his “I Can’t Take It.”
Merritone recordings of all these singers and players were supposedly engineered by one man.
Recording Engineer: Louis “Buddy” Davidson – He was also responsible for naming many tunes, according to Hopeton Lewis. Davidson was cited by engineer extraordinaire Graeme Goodall as an unsung hero of Jamaican music.
Another gentleman seldom if ever mentioned when Merritone recordings are discussed and rated is Ainsley Folder.
Federal Salesman and Merritone Talent Scout: Ainsley Folder – He later had the Dee Jay label and produced and issued music by Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, U Roy, Tommy McCook and others. Keith Scott credited Folder with bringing the Renegades to Federal. Folder’s talents were evidently valued as he was still working at Federal fourteen years later. Scott also reported that “Folder helped to set up the pressing plant at Tuff Gong, after Federal was sold. Now he lives in Brooklyn.” More recently, its been reported that Folder moved to Florida and was residing there in the 2000’s
Arranger (UK credits add Conductor): Keith Scott – Based on the testimony of Sam Mitchell and many singers and musicians, Scott should be considered a producer for Merritone recordings in addition to his curious “Arranger” citation. [Scott was interviewed by the author, November 1, 2009, and on additional occasions.]
Producer (UK credits add Arranger and Conductor): Sam Mitchell.
Associate Executive Producer: Paul Khouri.
Senior Executive Producer: Richard Khouri.
Managing Director: Ken Khouri.
Based on the testimony of Keith Scott, Hopeton Lewis, Lynn Taitt and others, the roles played by Ken Khouri’s sons Richard and Paul in Merritone was largely that of executive producers, with father Ken as Managing Director of the Company. Richard and Paul took credit on at least three tracks by The Paragons as “Producer & A & R” and “arranger,” respectively. Those are “Talking Love,” “I’m So Depressed” and “We Were Meant To Be.” There’s confusion regarding the roles of Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell, prompted by their credits as arranger and producer, respectively. Curious about how productions came together, I asked Scott and Mitchell to describe their responsibilities and how Merritone functioned.
Mitchell was an expert pressman who initially worked at Tropical Records, “the largest engineering works in the Caribbean.” Tropical was located at 40 Port Royal Street in Kingston. However, Mitchell noted that he worked, “at the warehouse which was on West Race Course. I worked at Tropical Recording Company before I start at Federal. Tropical burned down around 1960-61. It was after that I start at Federal. When I start as a pressman, I got penny per record to press them. When I was at Tropical I can remember seeing Chris Blackwell once or twice. He’d drive up in his little black Triumph car. Tropical pressed Jackie Edwards and Owen Gray 45’s for him, I can remember. One that we press for Dodd is ‘Rock A Man Soul.’”
When Mitchell wasn’t stamping out 45’s and LP’s, he was playing them on nights and weekends. “I had a small discotheque at the time I was working at Federal as a pressman, so I had some idea of what people wanted for sounds. My sound system was Mitchies HiFi. I would find the artists, rehearse them and get them ready for auditions and recording. Once they started recording, I was back to my pressing. That was my role. Keith would spend time with artists while they were recording. We didn’t have the same roles. What we should’ve done was record for ourselves at Studio 1 or Treasure Isle. Both studios were offered to us and I wanted to take them up but Keith didn’t. He didn’t want to leave Federal and if we couldn’t do it together, well, it wasn’t going to work. So we stayed with Federal and we regret it now.” [Sam Mitchell was interviewed by the author, October 16, 2009.]
“When Federal started to produce in the business, we started out with the name ‘Federal.’ The first or probably second session that we did weren’t really that successful. The records were pretty good but they didn’t take off in the market. This was probably because nobody knew who Federal was and because we weren’t in the sound business. So Ken Khouri or his son Paul said, ‘We need something that will bring the customers to us.’ So they went to Merritone with Winston Blake and said we ‘will pay you to use your name.’ Because Winston Blake was a very popular sound with the middle and upper class crowd. So they paid him to use his name and that’s how come we ended up with the Merritone label.” (Keith Scott, page 7, Dub Catcher #4, June, 1992.)
Now, you have to remember I was about what, 15, 16 years old, maybe 17 years of age. I was just a youth and I pressed records in the factory. So when the Khouri’s approached me and my partner to go and produce the records in the studio we jumped at it because we’re interacting with all the top musicians, as young as we were. I don’t read music, (laughing) I don’t know anything about music, but I knew what the public wanted. Just from watching Duke and Dodd and Prince Buster in the studio I was able to do pretty much the same thing with the artists and musicians in the studio. So that’s how that came about. (Keith Scott, Wake The Town radio, 89.5 KPOO, San Francisco, October 9, 2013.)
“I remember when they were in the studio during ‘Take It Easy’ by Hopeton Lewis and Charlie Babcock [Popular radio DJ] was spellbound. ‘Take It Easy’ was a very funny record. As I said, Keith did not know anything about music and neither did I, but we had that sound. While Hopeton was singing, the guys started to get frustrated, because it wasn’t musically related at one point. He was a singer that was young and immature, and here was producers who did not know anything. So the musicians were sort of frustrated. I went to Gladdy and said, ‘Try the left hand key’ and he went, ‘Bung, bung, boom, boom’ on it. Then he says, ‘Well, that’s no music.’ Mrs. Khouri says to him, ‘well if that’s what the guys want, this what the guys are gonna get.’ So that‘s how Gladdy come up with that, ‘Tu du dung dung dung dung dung dung.’ Because that was on the low side of the piano. [When I read this account back to Sam, he said he was describing how Sounds & Pressure was created.] When Charlie [Babcock] heard that, he was spellbound because he did not know what to make of this music. He asked Richard Khouri for a dub copy and he played it that Saturday. Pretty soon everybody started talking about this record. What it was is, everybody was moving so fast, but there is no reason for it. So Hopeton came up with that thing.” (Sam Mitchell, page 7, Dub Catcher #4, June 1992.)
The accounts above both allude to the fact that there was tension between the experienced musicians and their youthful producers. Also between the musicians and the inexperienced singers that Scott and Mitchell were bringing in to voice. When I questioned Taitt about the arrangements that he and the Jets played, and what input Scott and Mitchell had, it was clear that tension hadn’t dissipated. “Keith Scott is a damn liar if he say he arrange music. He never arrange anything. He’s not a musician so how could he arrange music? He used to work in the back room at Federal and press records.” (Lynn Taitt was interviewed by the author, August 28, 2009.)
Note that most Merritone releases had an “Arranged By” credit to Keith Scott. Taitt’s vehemence would seem to indicate that he didn’t appreciate that. How could he when he was doing the arranging! I should also mention that Taitt was assured that Scott hadn’t claimed arrangements, I was just asking how it worked between the musicians and he and Mitchell in the studio. Taitt explained that the musicians were responsible for the music and the arrangements and for working with the singers on their songs, while Mitchell and Scott were involved with finding and bringing singers to the studio.
Asked the same question, about arrangements and what input he and Mitchell had with the band, Scott replied. “With or without music sheets, Lynn Taitt was a creative, creative guy, a very creative musician.”
When Paul Khouri was asked about the roles of Scott and Mitchell, he gave this reply via Naoki Ienaga. “Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell were working at pressing, never involved in studio work, but they had strong link with downtown people, so they knew what is happening in downtown, so federal used their name as producer for political reason, when they put the tune with their name on record, downtown people liked it.” (Via email, July 23, 2009.)
The Take It Easy LP by Hopeton Lewis credits Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell as “Music Supervisors.” However, the album has no credits to the musicians on the jacket or the labels. No individual credits and not a mention of Lyn Taitt and the Jets. This, despite Taitt having composed and arranged the music, and led the band, on all ten tracks. I surmise that’s because Taitt and the Jets were not under contract to Federal at the time, and Lewis was, but its unusual and worth noting.
Equipment wise, Federal was outfitted with high quality instruments and materials. Keith Scott recalls that playback in the studio was heard through “very large Altec speakers, monitor speakers.”
Among the signature sounds of a Merritone production are the sharp, shimmering notes generated by Leslie Butler commanding the Steinway grand piano.
The biggest hitmaker for the Merritone label was singer Hopeton Lewis. His first session produced “Take It Easy,” an instant smash that led to a string of hits and a successful LP. In 2016, 50 years after it was recorded, “Take It Easy” was licensed for use in Corona beer commercials. Lewis was doing well and happily residing in Brooklyn, New York when we spoke in August, 2009. He was leading a church and was active in gospel music circles through his Songs 4 Life Ministry. He also hosted a gospel music program on the radio. We spoke several times over a few years to cover all the material below.
BK: I’ve read that you grew up in an area near Mountain View Avenue in Kingston, is that right?
HL: Well yes. But I was born in Trenchtown. At #9 Seventh Street. When I was very young my mother died and I was sent to live with some Aunts in Westmoreland. A place called Burnt Savannah. That was where I started to sing. At a church in Burnt Savannah. It’s called the Holiness Church. After that I move back to Kingston and live with my grandparents on Jarrett Lane.
BK: So what factory were you working at when Sam Mitchell took you to Federal Studios?
HL: Sally Brassiere. Yes, a brassiere factory. It was on Foreshore Road.
BK: How old were you then?
HL: I was sixteen going on seventeen when I worked there.
BK: What was Sam’s job at Federal when he brought you there?
HL: He was working around the pressing plant at Federal. He was a pressman I think.
BK: What was the name of the Youth Club you attended, where Sam heard you sing?
HL: It was the Vineyard Town Police Youth Club.
BK: What do you remember about when you first went to Federal?
HL: Well, it was Mitch who carry me there and he introduced me to a lot of people that day. They asked me to sing and I did an Otis Redding song for them. You know I re-did an Otis Redding song right? [“Let Me Come On Home”] They said after my audition that I should come back and that I should write some songs and sing those when I came back.
BK: Do you remember around what date this was? I think mid or late-1966?
HL: Yes, it was in 1966 but I’m not sure what was the date.
BK: Now that was the second time that you went to a recording studio, right?
HL: Yes, the year before, in 1965, I recorded one song for Coxson Dodd at Studio 1. That was with the group I was in, the Regals.
BK: Who were the other members of the Regals?
HL: There were three of us. The others were Winston Fraser and Eddie. We didn’t last long after we make that record. The other guys weren’t into it as much as I was. I kept rehearsing and things and they just move away from the singing. Now Winston Fraser lives in England. I’ll have to ask Winston for Eddie’s last name, I can’t remember it. “Shammy Back, old lady.” That was just a lyric. We were trying to come up with a dance tune. Yunno, to start a dance off the song.
It was a great experience to record “Shammy Back,” even though we don’t get any pay from it at all. Well, I shouldn’t say at all because Coxson invited us to come to the Success Club [On Wildman Street in Kingston] to hear the song play back that night. We all came to hear it and he welcome us and give us each a beer. So I guess our pay for that song was one beer each. [laughing]
[Since our initial conversation, Lewis phoned Winston Fraser.] “Well Winston remember more than me about what Regals did at Studio 1. He remind me that we recorded four songs for Dodd. We do ‘Shammy Back,’ ‘Pick Yourself Up,’ one call ‘What Is Life.’ That one we make from a Shakespeare play. You know the lines, What is life . . . ? Well we turn his lyrics into our song. We also do one more but I can’t remember the title.”] [Some sleuthing turned that one up, which Lewis confirmed as “I Love Salvation.”]
BK: So tell me about your first session at Federal. Which musicians?
HL: Well it was Lyn Taitt who was in charge on guitar. Jackie Jackson on bass, Hux on guitar, Gladdy on piano and Leslie Butler play piano also. It’s Leslie that played lead piano on “Sounds and Pressure” which we record that day. “Sounds and Pressure” was the second record that Federal release from me. It was put out right after ‘Music Got Soul.’ It’s that piano playing that attract everybody’s attention. I record ‘Take It Easy’ before, but the song that release next was ‘Sounds and Pressure.’ Leslie Butler play his great solo on the second piano. The drummer was a guy named Fergie, who was from the Army. He play the drums on my first sessions with Jackie Jackson.
BK: So it wasn’t Bryan Atkinson and Joe Isaacs?
HL: No, they didn’t come on until well into 1967 sometime. I think Fergie and Jackie Jackson play on all my stuff at Federal. Mitch can tell you Fergie’s correct name. [No, he couldn’t. He also declined my suggestion that Fergie might be Robert Ferguson from the Desmond Miles Seven. Jackie Jackson has spoken of playing these sessions with drummer Lloyd Knibb, that’s also the recollection of Keith Scott.]
BK: Were there other musicians?
HL: Yes, there were a few guys who would come in on the sessions. Aubrey Adams plays piano on some of my songs. Ernest Ranglin plays guitar on some. He’s on ‘Mighty Quinn’ for one. [That song is credited to Claude & Gino of the Zodiacs, but it’s actually Hopeton and the Gaylettes.] ‘Cannonball’ Bryan plays the sax solo on my song “Don’t Cry.” That’s the only one I think he’s on because Headley Bennett was more regular at the studio.
BK: Do you recall who would sing backup on your songs?
HL: Backup vocals on my songs? Well, not many have backup vocals but there was a group there that back me up on one or two. I can’t remember their name. I never know any of those guys names.
BK: Were they the Zodiacs?
HL: Yes, that’s who it was. How did you know them?
BK: I think there’s a credit on the UK release of your album Take It Easy. One member of that group may have been Claude Sang, from the Jiving Juniors?
HL: Yes, I think that’s right.
BK: So what was it like in the studio? I’ve read Sam and Keith’s accounts that they gave to Dub Catcher magazine, but they didn’t ask you the same question.
HL: Well, the person who was really in charge, no one call her name. It was Mrs. Khouri who run things in the studio. I’ve read where they say Richard Khouri was the producer of my songs but he wasn’t really involved. Ken not involved at all. I think Ken’s focus was on the American labels they licensed. I know he was focused on American things and American artists like Johnny Nash. But it was Mrs. Khouri who really in charge. Whatever she said goes. Everyone was afraid of her. Paul was there and he did things but he wasn’t really in charge of anything. At my first session I record three songs. I wrote them all that week, after I had sang my Otis Redding song and they tell me to go home and write my own songs. ‘Music Got Soul,’ ‘Take It Easy’ and ‘Sounds and Pressure’ all record at my first session. I can remember the first time I heard one of my songs played. It was in a yard off Mountain View Avenue that we call Donkey City. [The title of a Ben Bowers’ Mento with Bertie King’s Royal Jamaicans as well as a Baba Brooks instrumental for Duke Reid.] It was just a yard, a zinc fence yard that wall off so they can hold dances there. I was hanging out there when I heard ‘Music Got Soul’ for the first time. The sound playing then was Techer Hi Fi, owned by a guy named Owen Techer. He was from Saunders Lane, not far from where I was living at Jarrett Lane, so I know him good. Man, what a feeling I get to hear my song play like that. The people love it too! I think that was the first song that Federal released by me, ‘This Music Got Soul.’ Then “Sounds and Pressure” and after was “Take It Easy.” That one really go big. As Lester Sterling put it, “That tune mashed up Jamaica, me a tell you. ‘Take It Easy’ was the first one, I can remember. I was playing Ska then and ‘Take It Easy’ was the first Rock Steady and everyone else who claim first is lie them a tell. ‘Take It Easy’ was the first Rock Steady and everything change after it release.” [Mrs. Gloria Khouri died October 30, 2016.]
BK: One way to check primacy is by month and year of release. Lewis’s initial two sessions at Federal were released in September, 1966. As the year changed to 1967, Lewis was on top with “Take It Easy.” The first song to challenge it was “007” by Desmond Dekker and the Aces.
According to Lynn Taitt, “We record ‘Take It Easy’ a week or maybe a couple weeks before we do ‘007.’” [What dates in Federal log book or on tape boxes?] Since the Beverley’s session which Lyn Taitt refers to was held on October 6, 1966, that would put Hopeton Lewis’ first session at Federal in mid to late September, 1966.
HL: It was that very day. I sign the contract then the session start.
BK: When was your second session and what did you write for it?
HL: I think the second session was the next week. Federal keep their sessions regular and I think I record about every week for a while. For my second session I think I write “Pick Yourself Up,” “Rocka Shocka” and one other one. I think it was “Deh Pon Dem.” Sometimes I come to the studio and I only have a melody and part of the chorus or one chorus and the musicians play something to help me finish it. Did you know the Labour Party used a ‘Deh Pon Dem?’ (Interviewed by the author, October 7, 2009.)
BK: Did they ask permission?
HL: Permission? They just use it. They play it to say that they ‘Deh Pon the PNP Dem.’ Those the days of Hugh Shearer.
HL: Well that song now. Buy one stick it will make you slick now, buy a half it make you cough. [Laughing]. Do you believe they play that on the radio a few time before they realize and ban it. That’s a tune that the underground people who really check the music love. People love that one.
BK: Did you name all your songs when you wrote them?
HL: No, I didn’t. Sometimes the name just reveal itself. Like when I come to studio with parts of a song, those songs don’t name till after we record them. Buddy Davidson take charge of naming sometimes. He was the engineer and he have to write something down on the tape box after we record so he would just a listen back and sometimes he just name it after a recurring lyric.
BK: Can you recall when the Take It Easy album was released in Jamaica?
HL: Yes, I think it was in October of ‘67.
BK: How about the other artists at Federal. Do you remember what other artists recorded on the days that you did?
HL: Well, yes. I remember that on my first session the Gaylettes also record. I don’t know whether it was before or after me, but I remember they record that day too.
BK: How about Henry Buckley, do you remember him? He wrote the Gaylettes song “Silent River.”
HL: Yeah, I remember him. Growing up I know Henry Buckley too. Before I get to know him at Federal. He was around our youth club.
BK: The Vineyard Town Police Youth Club?
HL: Yes, that was our place.
BK: Did you know Tartans with Cedric Myton and Devon Russell?
HL: No, I didn’t know those guys.
BK: How about Minstrels?
HL: I know they do at least one song at Federal and then I know they go to Coxson, but that’s it.
BK: Tomorrow’s Children?
HL: Those guys I know and I remember. They were uptown cats who came into the music as a fun thing. They not too serious.
BK: Did you know they had a full album released on Merritone in England?
HL: Yes, I did know that! Those guys come like they a big deal. They just start off in the business and were packing the clubs. They play nice places like Glass Bucket and full it up. They do things on stage like wear baby nappies, that’s it, with a big safety pin a hold up the nappy. The crowds loved those thing. [They performed on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968 at the Ding Ho club, formerly Club Havana, on Windward Road.]
BK: Do you remember the names of the guys in Tomorrow’s Children?
HL: Yes, you had Willie Stewart. He played with Byron Lee right after and then he was one of the guys that start the band Third World. Then you have Garth, he played keyboards. Then there was Pluto, Pluto Shervington. He was in there and Ken Lazarus too, I think. A lot of guys who go on to work with Byron Lee.
BK: As you went on to work with Byron, right?
HL: Yes, that’s right. He wasn’t the first band I work with though. First I was with the Mighty Vikings. I do quite a few shows with Vikings.
BK: One I learned of was for the opening night at the Bounty nightclub on January 21, 1967. “The Bounty’ adjoined the ‘Ferry Inn’ an open air club with a capacity of 350. The proprietor of the ‘Bounty’ and the Ferry Inn was Charles Hernould. Featured entertainers for the opening night were, “ . . . top-of-the-chart riding, Hopeton Lewis of ‘Take It Easy’ fame, Desmond Dekker and the Aces, more popularly known as the ‘007’ or ‘Shanty Town’ boys, Alton Ellis and the Flames with their ‘Girl I‘ve Got A Date’ and Derrick Harriott with his ‘Last Letter.’ On the bandstand will be the high-riding Mighty Vikings orchestra.” (Page 3, The Star, Friday January 20, 1967.)
HL: We did one big one up at the University and then afterwards this guy approach me. His name was Junior Gray and he was with Byron Lee. He did some stuff for the band and I think he played percussion too. But he told me that Byron wanted me and that I should go see him about it. Well, they hired me soon after that.
BK: Yes, I’ve seen that you started appearing with the Dragonaires just a few weeks later. “In February, 1967 Lee Enterprises launched their “Rock Steady ‘67” tour. Featured artists on the tour included “Hopeton Lewis (The ‘Take It Easy’ guy), the Blues Busters, Little Speck, and Desmond ‘007’ Dekker . . .” (Page 4, The Star, February 14, 1967.) In Montego Bay, the show played the Coral Theatre on Monday, February 13.
BK: Was Little Speck dancing with his partner on that tour? [Big Dot]
HL: No, I don’t remember him dancing with a partner. Little Speck, he was a, what you call it, a dwarf.
BK: Yes, that’s right. I’ve seen a photo of him with his partner, Big Dot, and she’s a large woman, maybe 3 times his height.
HL: I remember her, she was tall. I spend several years with Byron Lee. From I go with him, he want me to sing only my hit songs. When I come with new songs I write, he wasn’t interested. After a while he wasn’t interested anymore in my originals. He want me to do only covers. [Hopeton appeared on the Desmond Dekker Farewell Show at the Tropical Theatre in Kingston in November, 1967. Also on the bill were “ . . . the Paragons, the Jamaicans, the Melodians, the Uniques, Errol Dunkley, Roy Richards and a host of others.”]
BK: So you told me that Federal signed you to a bad contract. What do you mean by that?
HL: Well, they signed me to a contract when I was 17 years old and that’s underage. They signed me to a five year contract. Then I don’t get much money at all for having number one hits that are selling big. Duke Reid get me out of that contract. Or his lawyer did. They were able to get me out of it because I was underage when I sign it. Before they get me out of it, I get so frustrated I almost stop with the music. I was only with Federal for a short while, then I move on and start to do other things for other producers because I was still writing songs. But eventually I get so frustrated that I go to Canada for a while. I went by myself and I spent about a year. I met Joe Isaacs up there. Never met him before. That’s how I know is Fergie play drums on all my songs at Federal. With Jackie Jackson. [When I asked Isaacs, he said he took over from Lloyd Knibb. His account follows this interview.]
BK: Do you still have a copy of your contract?
HL: No, I gave my copy to Duke Reid’s lawyer and that’s what they use to start the case. I do a lot of things for Duke Reid before he get me out of the contract and I was able to do ‘Boom Shack A Lacka.’ That was 1970. Before that I do songs with Phyllis Dillon and the Techniques, I do “Ride Your Donkey” and I work with other artists too. [“I Can’t Stand It” w/ Alton Ellis] One of the things that I do for Duke Reid, well more than one, never get released. I was the first one at Treasure Isle to voice ‘Ali Baba’ but don’t ask me the title. It never come out and I don’t think I hear it again from I voice it. [“Come Live It Up Tonight” was released but only as a very limited blank label 45. It was reissued shortly after we spoke and I provided a copy to Hopeton.]
BK: Did you sign a contract with Duke Reid?
HL: No, I didn’t. No contract with Duke Reid. Do you know my song ‘Grooving Out On Life’?
BK: Yes I do.
HL: Well I do that originally for Duke Reid but he never liked it and he never release it. Then later I do it over for Winston Blake when he have his own Merritone label. When I do ‘Boomshackalacka’ for Duke, is Ken Parker on the bass vocal, and the Chosen Few do the backing vocals. [Perhaps it wasn’t Ken Parker. “I was also responsible for this fellow’s festival song. Hopeton Lewis is his name. I was in the background singing the bass line, ‘Baboom, baboom.’” Lascelles Perkins to Dr. Buster Dynamite, May/June 1992 issue of ETNA magazine.]
HL: Do you know Arthur Jenkins?
BK: Well I know the name. He worked with Danny Sims and Johnny Nash right?
HL: Yes, that’s him. I was with Bob Marley and some other singers one time up in Cherry Gardens and we all sing and try out for Arthur Jenkins and Don Taylor was there too. He was one of the organizers. Eddie Lovette was there too. Well, a little while after I sing for them, Don Taylor come over to me and say, ‘well, they like your voice but they don’t think it’s marketable.’ Coxson say to me around when I record ‘Spanish Harlem’ for him, and about ten others, ‘you’re the one that got away.’ As he have me in Regals but say he don’t record us enough.”
BK: Do you recall how your songs did on the charts?
HL: In January, 1967, I had four tunes in the top twenty at one time. ‘Take It Easy’ was still number one, ‘Sounds & Pressure’ was number four, ‘Music Got Soul’ was number eleven and ‘A Deh Pon Dem’ was number fifteen or sixteen.” [According to a page 6 advertisement in the January 14, 1967 Jamaica Gleaner, “Take It Easy” was indeed #1 and “Sounds & Pressure” was at #4. “Take It Easy” had knocked Ken Boothe’s “Puppet On A String” from the top spot in late 1966.]
BK: Do you remember working at the Sombrero Club with the Mighty Vikings?
HL: Yes, I do. But I think I work there with Byron Lee too. I used to live at 34 Molynes Road, so I just walk to Sombrero Club when I was working there. Wee Pow from Stone Love lived in the same yard. Is he and my brother a start up the sound.
BK: Above, Hopeton discussed the five year contract that Federal had signed him to when he was underage, and his dissatisfaction with his compensation. As he put it, “Then I don’t get much money at all for having number one hits that are selling big.”
HL: The most I get from Federal was 500 pounds. I think I get that twice, but nothing more.
BK: That’s a larger number than I recall hearing from any artists when discussing renumeration for recordings in the 1960s. Of course, Hopeton had hits that topped the charts and others that came close and that figure would be covering a year but it still looms large. After his singing career had cooled down a bit and Lewis wasn’t touring regularly, he went into business for himself.
BK: What year did you open Bay City Music?
HL: I open Bay City Music store in 1980. I was living and working at the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay and the first record shop that I open was in the Holiday Inn. After that was going okay I open a second Bay City shop downtown.
BK: Was that the number 2 Church Street location upstairs in Mobay? I bought a pile of 45’s from you in 1995.
HL: Yes, 2 Church Street. [Hopeton has two songs on the soundtrack to the 2009 documentary, Rock Steady: The Roots of Reggae. Those are rare secular performances, he told me. Since he began formally preaching the gospel, he’s pretty much sung only devotional songs. According to trombonist Ron Wilson, “Hopeton’s gone over to the Christian side and doesn’t perform secular music anymore.” (September 19, 2009.)]
In recent years, Keith Scott has done excellent on-air interviews and been feted and squired around the globe by record lovers such as Minoru “Tommy Far East” Tomita. On October 9, 2013 he was interviewed by DJ Adam on Wake The Town radio, 89.5 KPOO, in San Francisco. “Myself, my partner [Sam Mitchell] and Richard Khouri, we gave Lynn Taitt the name the Jets. Now, a lot of people don’t know this, it was Lynn Taitt and the Comets before they were Lynn Taitt and the Jets. So today when you read the liner notes in a CD or whatever, everything says Lynn Taitt and the Jets when it was Lynn Taitt and the Comets actually. So, in 1968 one of Lynn Taitt’s biggest selling records for us was “Napoleon Solo.” Okay, #1 for months okay, sold like crazy. It’s not easy to sell instrumentals. People like vocals you know, but “Napoleon Solo” was a big seller so we came up with “Batman” after “Napoleon Solo!” We came up with “Batman,” a huge hit again. It was because the TV show was very popular in Jamaica.”
After “Napoleon Solo” was a big hit, Ken Khouri told me that we’re going to get Taitt for us, we’re going to sign him. That was because after 6 pm Taitt would work at WIRL for everyone else. Sonia, Joe Gibbs, everyone. I’d walk by and see the Jets. (Keith Scott interviewed by the author, November 1, 2009.)
I became involved with the re-issue of Merritone titles when I was contacted via email by Naoki Ienaga of Dub Store in December, 2008. He told me that he was planning on issuing a 3 CD set featuring Ska and Rock Steady material from 1966 on the first disc, Rock Steady from 1966-67 on the second disc and Rock Steady and Reggae from 1967-68 on the third disc. He was looking for certain songs in case he was unable to obtain them on master tape via his licensing deal with Paul Khouri, son of Ken Khouri, owner of Federal Record Manufacturing. He also asked if I was interested in writing the annotation to the CD’s and if I would write up a contract for that and the tracks he wanted. I did so and sent it off. He signed and returned the contract, see above, along with a deposit and a CD sampler of ten tracks. Immediately below is the tracklist it was sent with. Below on the right is the amended and corrected list after it was played for Lyn Taitt, Keith Scott and Hopeton Lewis.
I used most of the deposit to travel to Montreal in August, 2009, to interview Lyn Taitt about his work for the Merritone label. That went well and I contacted and interviewed other singers and musicians. All while speaking regularly and checking new information with Keith Scott and Taitt. The process of learning about the recordings from the singers, musicians and producers went great, generating enough material to annotate three CD’s. If you’ve read this far, hope you agree. However, Naoki Ienaga’s enthusiasm for the involvement of Lyn Taitt and Keith Scott in the re-issue program quickly waned. Ienaga also decided he wasn’t going to release three CD’s, or in fact any compilations of Merritone material. At least not before 45’s and re-issued LP’s with no bonus tracks. The Merritone downloads available at tallawah.com were prompted by my experience contracting with Ienaga of Dub Store for; A)Liner Notes, B) Photos and Jamaican advertisements/articles, C) Assistance in obtaining label scans of Merritone 45’s, D) Supplying 19 Merritone productions which he couldn’t locate masters for. The contract was later amended because I supplied two more tracks, 21 in total. The article you’ve been reading began as the annotation to the planned trio of Dub Store CDs. After Ienaga informed me that he would be releasing my material without completing payment, I decided to make everything I’d collected available to all. More on that later.
Keith Scott on the Merritone Sampler: “Tracks 3 and 10 are different takes of the instrumental ‘Check Point Charlie’ by Lyn Taitt and The Jets. I remember that one well as I came up with the title. You know, ‘Check Point Charlie’ from the Berlin Wall. Both takes should be put out. The wrong take was put out at the time. If you listen you can tell that the bassist makes mistakes during the intro. The second take has a different intro, without mistakes by the bassist. ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ is an original composition by Taitt.” [Note that “Checkpoint Charlie” features the saxophone of ‘Deadly’ Headley Bennett, although the reissue, like the original, is mis-credited to Lester Sterling. “Checkpoint” has traded for over $2,000.
Reggae 45 LESTER STERLING / LYN TAITT Check Point Charlie / Whiter Shade Of Pale
Ended: 30 Jun, 2013 17:53:33 BST
Winning bid:US $2,025.00
[ 30 bids ]
Keith Scott continued, “The Henry Buckley track, and the ones by Hopeton Lewis, were purposely not released. We thought they were weak at the time, compared with the material that we released. ‘Put It On’ was not released. It’s by the Jets. It was adapted from either a Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass track or by one from the American group, the Brass Ring. ‘How Soon’ is a Henry Mancini tune. It was the theme song of the Richard Boone Show, a TV program. It was very popular at the time. Have you ever heard of it? [No, I hadn’t.] Richard Khouri had us give Roland [Alphonso] the Mancini album for him to study it. There were lots of choruses in that music. He studied it and then he cut it.” [Scott may have been referring to Mantovani?] ‘Pipeline Rock Steady’ is the #2 instrumental. It wasn’t released. Taitt had several other sellers at the time, like ‘Napoleon Solo.’ In Jamaica at the time if you have a hit you tried to work it into a bigger hit. I think ‘Napoleon’ was recorded in mid-1968.”
Asked if he had a good collection of Merritone vinyl, Keith Scott replied, “Man, I used to have everything on Merritone, everything on the first Federal label, all the Kentone, Discovery. I started collecting records in 1956. I have “Word Is Wind” by Stranger and Patsy on Discovery, but for some reason Dub Store re-released it as a Kentone repress. I also had a great collection of the Starline label. All those Khouri labels. On Starline, which was very early, I had Teddy Brown and Trenton Spence, a lot of stuff. The Starline label material was all backed by the Caribs. Dennis Sindrey, Lowell Morris and Peter Stoddart. The Australians. When I first moved out here [Los Angeles] from New York a lot of my records get stolen. It was almost World War Three with me and some people that were in my building. It’s painful to talk about.”
Henry Buckley worked for Chris Blackwell, according to Justin Yap in notes to the Top Deck CD Skaravan. He recorded for Yap as Jo G. Henry and he was also known as Ephraim “Joe” Henry. No matter which name he recorded under, Buckley was a talented songwriter and arranger. Perhaps the final position he held in music was leading the Jamaica Police Band. “I was stunned to hear of the death of Henry Buckley. I had seen him not too long before he died. He was leading the Jamaica Police Band and they came and played in Prospect Park, in New York. Afterwards we got together at a place and had a drink or two.” (Sam Mitchell interviewed by the author, October 16, 2009.)
The Renegades were Winston “Pipe” Matthews, Lloyd “Bread” McDonald and George “Buddy” Haye. Pipe and Bread grew up on First Street in Trench Town. Like other talented youth in the neighborhood, including Bob Marley from Second Street, they were rehearsed by veteran singer Joe Higgs. Matthews started his recording career at age 12, recording “Little Dilly” for Prince Buster as a member of the Schoolboys with Colin Johnson in 1963. Matthews is on the left and Johnson on the right in the photo below. There’s still more questions than answers regarding the Renegades. But comments below from “Bread” shed some light on the group. The Renegades cut at least a couple smashers. Their paeans to lager, “Mr. Hops,” and to full figured females, “Big & Fine,” are classic Rock Steady with jaunty tempos. For some reason they don’t appear to have been issued with a proper label. That is they were only pressed in limited quantity with blank labels. Not so for “Knocking On My Door” and several ballads, which include “Why Make Me Cry,” “You’ve Lost The Love” and “Too Young To Love.” Lloyd “Bread” McDonald talked about the Renegades when he was on a panel assembled by the “Grammy Museum” to discuss the ‘History of Reggae.’ “We started as the Renegades at Federal Records in ’64, ’65. [More like ’66-’67.] We were still at school. First of all there was this guy named Ainsley Folder. He was an accountant down by Federal. So Ernie Ranglin, you know the great guitarist, was doing an album and they needed some background vocals. Now he used to hear us rehearsing all the while in the kitchen, you know that where we rehearse, in the kitchen at First Street. The kitchen at the government yard, like you hear Bob [Marley] sing ‘bout. Well he knew we could do the job so he tell them, you know, I’ve got some guys that can do the job. So they say, ‘bring them come,’ ‘bring them come.’ Because you know Trenchtown have a reputation when it comes to singing. So from he told them that, they said bring them come. So we come and listen to the songs and do the backing vocals and Ernest loved it. Then there was this English lady, named Pam Blyth [“Boy From Ipanema”] who was living in Jamaica at the time. She had a song, I think it was called ‘Somewhere My Love.’ It was from a big movie at the time. [AKA “Lara’s Theme” from Dr. Zhivago 1967.] She wanted to cover that song and we did the background vocals for her and that song went number one. So, ah, Federal said okay we need you guys to come and record some singles for us. So we went and record about three or four singles for them. To cut a long story short, we weren’t pleased. As Santa said, there was no money running. We were school guys, so that wasn’t a real problem with us as we were still living with our parents. So that wasn’t a problem. We just need money to go to the movies and buy two cake and stuff like that. Bun and cheese and ting like that and we good. So after a while, this guy ‘Buddy,’ he was a good artist, George Haye, we call him Buddy. He was a good artist, so he wants to go to Art School. Now he had gone to St. Aloysius. It was like a Catholic school. Well, he says he going to leave the singing for a while because he wants to go to Art School. Take a break and go study his art. So he went. Myself and Pipe, Winston Matthews, we talk and say we have to continue this thing. So ah, by this time now the Wailers and the Soulettes, we get close with Bob and Rita. So it was the Wailers, the Soulettes, so I say to myself, the Wailers and Soulettes, our next group gonna be called the Wailing Souls. Kind of like the Wailers and the Soulettes. Cause we start get tight, with Bob, everywhere he goes we’re with him. Start singing in the kitchen all over the place, now and ting [laughing]. So this guy named Lloyd the Matadors, he was just coming out yunno and a good, good producer. He had some hit songs. He sent somebody to come and get us and we went and we did a song for him. A song called “Goldigger.” But that song it was banned. Cause at the time they were banning a lot of songs in Jamaica, yunno, if it sound too militant and that one was kind of like a militant song. At the same time we had ‘Back Out Wicked Your Days Are Numbered.’ We tried to do it for him but his wife say no, they going to ban that song too we don’t want that song.’ So that’s when we go to Coxson.”
Another group that started off at Federal was the Tartans. Until I hear an explanation of the group’s name, I’ll consider that they may have intended to be the Titans, which is the how their name was pronounced by Lloyd Parks. One difference with Tartans recordings for Merritone, compared with other groups, is that they feature the acoustic bass playing of Lloyd Brevett.
Angus Taylor: How did you first meet Lincoln?
Cedric Myton: When we started our group the Tartans. It was two of us start first. I myself and Devon Russell. And then we recruit another kid named Lindbergh Lewis and Lincoln who was the youngest of all. Lincoln was going to Excelsior School at the time. He was still going to school when we recruit him in the group. This was 1964. End of 1964, beginning 1965. So we did our first single ‘Dance All Night’ for Federal Records. The four of us – Lincoln Thompson and myself, Lindbergh Lewis and Devon Russell.
Angus Taylor: How did you recruit him?
Cedric Myton: Well, he was a brilliant singer as a young kid coming up. He used to sing and I like his tone of voice. And he was just a kid going to school and I thought ‘we could take him in.’ But it was not my own decision. It was myself and Devon Russell. He [Lincoln] was a kid living up the street from us. He didn’t live far from us. All of us were just living in a circle right there in Cockburn Pen, Kingston 11. So we all know each other you know?
So, anyway, then we split with Federal. They didn’t give us enough justice. The single was a hit and they didn’t give us enough attention. We told Federal we like other man dispensation so we left Federal and go to Duke Reid. And we did ‘Far Beyond The Sun’ and some other songs there.
Angus Taylor: What was it like working with Duke Reid?
Cedric Myton: He was worse than Federal I think! [LAUGHS] We jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire! [LAUGHS] What happened then was I myself and Devon Russell did some songs that we produced ourself. And I myself and Lincoln worked together. So when the group split I myself work along with Devon Russell, and I work along with Saxman also. So that’s when the Royal Rasses album started. But we still carried on with the Tartans work. (Cedric Myton interviewed by Angus Taylor in 2009. www.reggaenews.co.uk/interviews/cedric_myton.asp.)
The photo above shows bandleader Lyn Taitt leaning against the Jets custom painted Volkswagen van. Another view shows sections emblazoned with song titles like “Mr. Dooby” and other graphics. The van was driven by Jets guitarist, and substitute for Hux Brown, Gerry Creary. Creary was born in Above Rock, St. Catherine on August 28, 1941. “I was the driver for that van. It was brand new. I was the guy Lyn had to bring to Khouri. I was the only guy who had the CMC [Commercial Motor Cars] license. It’s a special license for driving people and equipment. We needed it because we carry people and instruments. The Jets played hotels in Ochi and Montego Bay. People would hold dances in hotels then. We also played in Portland, where Lennox Brown from, and most Parishes around the island. I’m from rural St. Catherine and I learned banjo and used to play a bit. I really get to know Hux Brown because as a young guy I see the Mighty Vikings and like them. We pick the Vikings to follow more than any other band. Eventually I speak to Hux and make him know I play banjo and want to learn guitar. So I come to live in Kencot and Hux was living nearby on Lyndhurst Road. He start teaching me and after a time at Vikings dance I get to play on stage sometimes. After that the Jets form and Hux bring me to play for him when he was with the Mighty Vikings. I used to work days at Kingston Public Hospital so I’d play sessions in the evening when Hux can’t be there. I left for America just before Taitt. It was a few days before independence. The reason why I left in 1968 was because my girlfriend was there. Also, I feel like ‘hey I want to know America.’ The Mighty Vikings were coming to the US later that year too. I drove myself to the airport in the Jets van when I emigrated and Taitt drove it back. I play on a lot of songs with the Jets and I played on Johnny Nash’s album [Hold Me Tight]. One song I don’t play on is “Napoleon Solo,” that’s Hux [and Lyn]. (Gerry Creary interviewed by the author, April 20, 2016.)
Trumpeter Bobby Ellis recalled when Taitt was presented with the van. “Ken Khouri comes out and says ‘Hey Taitt, catch this.’ What Taitt caught were keys to a new Volkswagen van which Federal gave him because of the success they were having with his song ‘Napoleon Solo’ and for him to use with Jets band.”
THE MERRITONE DISCOGRAPHY
I started a Merritone discography to track and trace records over twenty years ago. In addition to regular label copies with credits, a number of Merritone titles were also issued with only the label name and no other credits. Or with the label name and underneath that only “PRE-RELEASE.”
Still others were issued with plain white, yellow, black, red, blue or green paper labels. Through many additions and revisions I’ve learned of anomalies and missing titles, as the numbering appears to have been consecutive. The seven digit system that Federal employed for Merritone was unusual and maybe unique for Jamaica. I’ve asked Sam Mitchell and Keith Scott about it but their answers aren’t definitive. Among the anomalies, the first productions by Sam and Keith were issued on the Federal label, although noted as “Mitchell and Scott Production.” Keith recalled that for the first half of 1966 the Federal label was used, with Merritone starting up around August, 1966.
The Merritone name, logo, record speed and manufacturing credit were always rendered in red or purple ink, with credits in black. Sometimes the red and purple credits were used on different pressings of the same record. For instance on “Stranger From Durango” by Rolando Alphonso. Sam recalled that “Roland was there at the first sessions. He was the most impatient.”
Any additions or corrections are appreciated. firstname.lastname@example.org
Order # – Matrix # – Title – Artist – Recording Date – (Most Likely) Year Of Release – Coupling/Notes
1. FED 6911 – Do Re Mi – The Mighty Vikings – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
2. FED 6912 – The Sound Of Music – The Mighty Vikings – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
3. FED 6930 – Ain’t Too Proud To Beg – The Mighty Vikings – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
4. FED 6931 – More And More Amour – The Mighty Vikings – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
6. FED 6941 – Run Down – Hopeton Lewis – 9/??/1966 – 1966 – Great growling trombone by Ron Wilson.
7. FED 6942 – Pick Yourself Up – Hopeton Lewis – 9/??/1966 – 1966 – B-side of “Run Down.” More great trombone playing by Ron Wilson.
8. FED 6945 – Sow To Reap – Desmond “Pulus” Greenwood – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “How Soon.” [Features Rudy Mills, Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell on harmony. The late Greenwood was a pressman at Federal.]
9. FED 006 6948 – This Music Got Soul – Hopeton Lewis – 9/??/1966 – 1966 – Hopeton’s first solo release.
10. FED 007 6949 – Let The Little Girl Dance – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1966 – 1966 – B-side of “This Music Got Soul.” Tenor sax solo by Rolando Alphonso?
11. FED 008 6950 – Beware Of All Those Rude Boys – Henry Buckley – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
12. FED 009 9951 – Dance All Night – The Tartans – ??/??/1966 – 1966 –
13. FED 010 9952 – What Can I Do – The Tartans – ??/??/1966 – 1966 – B-side of “Dance All Night.”
14. FED 011 9953 – If I’m Right Or Wrong – Henry Buckley – ??/??/1966 – 1966
15. FED 012 6954 – Sounds & Pressure – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/19?? – 1966 (Keith Scott speaking to Adam on Wake The Town radio commented, “Richard Khouri said to me, ‘we’re going to give you another pianist, other than Gladstone Anderson.’ I said ‘who?’ He said, ‘Leslie Butler’ and I said, ‘okay, cool.’”)
17. FED 014 6956 – Rolling Rolling AKA Rolling Down The Street – The Euphonics – ??/??/1966 – 1966 – B-side of “I’m Ready.” AKA The Tartans. – Also issued on blank label.
18. FED 015 6957 – Oh Tell Me Darling – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1966 – B-side of “Sounds & Pressure.”
19. FED 016 6958 – Stranger For Durango – Rolando Alphonso – ??/??/1967 – 1967 –
21. FED 018 6959? – ? – The Dynamites – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Not sure where credits derived.
22. FED 017 6960 – Where Can He Go – Oswald Sewell – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Oh My Girl” by Oswald Sewell.
22. FED 019 6961 – Born To Rule – The Black Brothers – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Not sure where credits derived, not seen a label copy.
23. FED 020 6962 – Shanty Town Curfew – The Soul Brothers – ??/??/1967 – 1967
24. FED 021 6968-1 – Saipan – Rolando Alphonso – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Born To Rule.”
25. FED 022 6764 – Ungrateful Person – The Dynamites – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – AKA “Fountain Bliss.” Not sure where credits derived, not seen a label copy.
26. FED 023 6973 – Tribute To The Greatest – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967
27. FED 024 6974 – Happy Christmas – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967
28. FED 025 6975 – Oh My Girl – Oswald Sewell – ??/??/1967
29. FED 026 6976 – Finders Keepers – Laxton Ford – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Not seen a label copy.
30. FED 027 ???? – ???????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
31. FED 6977 – Tell Me Why – Ernie Smith – ??/??/1967 – 1967
32. FED 028 6977 – You’ve Lost The Love – The Renegades – ??/??/1967 – 1967 [Is this really 028 or 027?]
33. FED 028 6978 – Why Make Me Cry – The Renegades – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “You’ve Lost The Love.”
34. FED 028 6979 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
35. FED 028 6980 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
36. FED 028 6981 – ?????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
37. FED 028 6982 – ?????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
38. FED 028 6985 – Knocking On My Door – The Renegades – ??/??/1967 – 1967
39. FED 028 6986 – You’re Too Young To Love – The Renegades – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Knocking On My Door.”
40. FED 029 ???? – ???????????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
41. FED 030 6987 – It’s Real (Gone Sweet) – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967
42. FED 031 6988 – Lovers – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “It’s Real (Gone Sweet).”
43. FED 036 6988 – Lover – Carl Dawkins – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – On the Federal label or on Merritone?
44. FED 032 6989 – Sounds Of Silence – Rolando Alphonso – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Stranger For Durango.” (Keith Scott commented, “This was recorded sometime between late 1966 and early 1967. The Simon & Garfunkel movie was very popular in Jamaica at the time and so was this song. Think the movie was called The Graduate. Jackie Jackson on bass, Karl “Cannonball” Bryan was on the session and that led to a conversation between he and Alphonso. Alphonso proposed that Bryan lend him his alto and that’s what happened. Roland cut the tune playing Bryan’s alto sax.” As for “Stranger’, Roland was covering either Richie Allen’s 1963 version or Tommy Garrett’s 1964 cut on Liberty 7”. The writing credit is to “Polodor” on Merritone. Keith thinks the organ soloist on “Stranger” is Leslie Butler.)
45. FED 033 6990 – Walk On By – The Zodiacs – ??/??/1967 – 1967 (Keith Scott interviewed by Adam on Wake The Town Radio commented “A beautiful version and a beautiful arrangement. I didn’t have a lot to do with that. Lynn Taitt was the one who started that arrangement. He played me what he had and said he’d intertwine that figure after each verse and we went back to the control room and he just went to it. We went back to the control room and listened to it and just excitement man! Because no one had ever heard that type of arrangement in Rock Steady. That was coming out of the Merritone stable. It was completely different from Studio 1 and Treasure Isle.” Adam: “Top shelf stuff.” Keith: “Yeah, top shelf stuff.”)
46. FED 034 6991-2 – Take It Easy – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Second take? Guitar solo by Lynn Taitt.
47. FED 035 6992 – Why Must I Cry – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Take It Easy.” Backing vocals by The Zodiacs.
48. FED 036 6993 – Who’s Loving You – The Zodiacs – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Walk On By.”
49. FED 031 6995 – What You Gonna Do Now – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967
50. FED 032 6996 – Village Of Love – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “What You Gonna Do Now.”
51. FED 037 ???? – ???????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
52. FED 038 6997 – A De Pon Dem – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Guitar solo by Lyn Taitt.
53. FED 039 6998 – Don’t Cry – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Deh Pon Dem.” Alto sax solo by Headley Bennett.
54. FED 7006 – Green, Green Grass Of Home – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “We’re Gonna Make It.”
55. FED 7007 – We’re Gonna Make It – The Termites – ??/??/1967 – 1967
57. FED 039 7009 – You Give Me Headache – The Ethiopians – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “We Gonna Be Free.” – Fantastic piano intro by Leslie Butler (and Gladdy?) Debut recordings by the Ethiopians. Keith remembers that ‘Headache’ was the final recording of a long day. It was cut at approximately 7 pm and was considered to have been the best recording made out of a possible “15 or so” tunes cut that day.
58. FED 039 7010 – It’s Not Right – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967
59. FED 040 7011 – ??????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
60. FED 041 7012 – ??????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
61. FED 042 7013 – Do It – The Tartans – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Featuring Headley Bennett on alto saxophone.
62. FED 043 7014 – ???????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
63. FED 044 – 7015 – ???????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
64. FED 045 – 7016 – Let Me Come On Home – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Hopeton covering a Redding/Jones composition released on April 21, 1967 on Stax 7”.
65. FED 046 – 7017 – Hardships Of Life – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967
66. FED 047 – 7018 – ???????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
67. FED 048 – 7019 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
68. FED 7020 – Blue Tuesday – Mike Thompson & Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1967 – 1967
69. FED 7021 – Something Stupid – Mike Thompson – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Blue Tuesday.” (A Frank Sinatra cover.)
70. FED 049 – 7021 – Rocka Shacka – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967
FED 7023/7024 – Please Don’t Leave Me Now/Wait Baby Wait – Henry Buckley as “Henry III” – ??/??/1967 – PRODUCED BY BYRON LEE
FED 7026/7029 – Rockitty Fockitty/Give Me Back Me Gal – Sammy Ismay & Mighty Vikings – “VIKING PRODUCTION” according to RKR #3.
72. FED 049 – 7067 – Stars Shining Bright AKA Tonight My Love Tonight – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967
73. FED 050 – 7068 – Everybody Rocking – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Stars Shining Bright AKA Tonight My Love Tonight.”
74. FED 7033 F&R – Whiter Shade Of Pale – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – 8/8/67 – 1967
75. FED 7034 #2 F&R – Checkpoint Charlie – Headley Bennett with Lyn Taitt & The Jets – 10/2/67 – 1967 – B-side of “Whiter Shade Of Pale.”
77. FED 7044-B – I Don’t Want To See You Cry – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – 10/13/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Nice Time.” [K. Anderson-C. Dodd writing credit.]
78. FED 7045 – You Could Never Be True – Henry IIIrd w/Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1967 – 1967 (AKA Henry Buckley)
79. FED 7046 – I’ll Reach The End (Dance With You) – Henry IIIrd w/Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “You Could Never Be True.” (Rock Steady version of the Troggs “With A Girl Like You.”)
80. FED 7047 – Hornpipe Rock Steady – Leslie Butler – 1967 – ??/??/1967 – 1967 –
82. FED 7049 – ????????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
83. FED 7050 – ????????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
84. FED 7051 – NON MERRITONE – Details @ End – 1967
85. FED 7052 – NON MERRITONE – Details @ End – 1967
86. FED 7053 – ???????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
87. FED 7054 – Talking Love – The Paragons – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
88. FED 7055 – If I Were You – The Paragons – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Talking Love.”
89. FED 7056 – ?????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
90. FED 7057 – ??????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
91. FED 7058 – ??????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
92. FED 7059 – Bang Bang Rock Steady – Tomorrow’s Children – ??/??/1967 – 1967 Version of Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down), written by Sonny Bono and performed by Nancy Sinatra.
93. FED 7060 – Rain (Rock Steady) – Tomorrow’s Children – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Bang Bang.” Written by The Beatles.
94. FED 7073 – I Can’t Take It – Ernie Smith – ??/??/1967 – 1967
95. FED 7074 – Wait – Ernie Smith – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “I Can’t Take It.”
96. FED 7075-2 – I Am So Depressed – The Paragons – ??/??/1967 – 1967
97. FED 7076-2 – We Were Meant To Be – The Paragons – ??/??/1967 – 1967
FEDERAL PRODUCTIONS W/ UNKNOWN PRODUCERS
FED 7077 – Devaluation Of The Pound – Lord Brynner, Lyn Taitt and The Jets
FED 7078 – Jacqueline – Lord Brynner, Lyn Taitt and The Jets
FED 7079 – Rock I Say Steady – Lord Brynner and Lynn Taitt and The Jets
FED 7083 – Trevor Lopez and The Sharks – Theme From A Man and A Woman
98. FED 7084 – Rocksteady Wedding – Mike Thompson – ??/??/1967 – 1967 –
99. FED 7090 – Flower Pot Bloomers – Mike Thompson – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Rocksteady Wedding.” [Two with same matrix? FED 7090 – Trevor Lopez and The Sharks – Nicole – Unknown Producer.]
100. FED 7091 – I Do Love You – The Untouchables – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Not sure where credits derived, not seen a label copy.
101. FED 7092 – Mackie Mackie – The Untouchables – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Not sure where credits derived, not seen a label copy. [Reissue 45 sourced from my VG copy.]
102. FED 7093 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
103. FED 7094 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
104. FED 7095 – ????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
105. FED 7096 – Silent River Runs Deep – The Gaylettes – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – Written by Henry Buckley.
106. FED 7097 – You’re My Kind Of Man – The Gaylettes – ??/??/1967 – 1967 – B-side of “Silent River Runs Deep.” Written by Henry Buckley.
107. FED 7098 – ?????????????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1967 – 1967
108. FED 7099 – Pressure & Slide? – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 [Two titles with this matrix? FED 7099 – Last Weekend (Before Ash Wednesday) – Lord Brynner and Lyn Taitt Jets.]
109. FED 7100 – Napoleon Solo – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968
110. FED 053 7100 F&R – You Hurt My Soul – Joe Higgs – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – Issued on a blank.
111. FED 054 7101 F&R – Why Am I Treated So Bad – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – B-side of “You Hurt My Soul.” Solo by Karl “Cannonball” Bryan. [Taitt was multi-tracked on it. Lead and rhythm guitar. Federal had just upgraded to four track. “That was an adaption of a Jazz tune,” according to Keith. Written by Roebuck “Pops” Staples.]
112. FED 7102 – Batman – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968
113. FED 7103 – The Joker – Lyn Taitt – The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – B-side of “Batman.”
114. FED 7104 F&R – How About You? – Ernie Smith, Lyn Taitt and the Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968
115. FED 7105 F&R – Tell Me Why – Ernie Smith, Lyn Taitt and the Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – “B-side of “How About You?”
116. FED 7106 – I Like Your World – The Gaylettes – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – Written by Henry Buckley. (Keith speaking to Adam on Wake The Town radio commented, “‘I Like Your World’ was the follow up to ‘Silent River Runs Deep.’ When I left Federal Records in 1968, the was one of the very last recordings I did. As a matter of fact I did this session without my partner, Mitch, because we were so unhappy with the returns we were getting from our boss. So this was one of the last sessions. While we were doing it, Richard Khouri came over to me and said ‘You want to come over to the studio, we’re getting ready to record the Gaylettes.’”
117. FED GAYLETS – That Lonely Feeling – The Gaylettes, Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – B-side of “I Like Your World?” Written by Henry Buckley. [Why no matrix number?]
118. FED 7107 – The Mighty Quinn – Hopeton, Henry & The Gaylettes (Credited to Claude & Geno of Zodiacs, likely as it was released after Lewis had left Federal.) – ??/??/1968 – 1968
120. FED 7109 – Doctor No Go – Mike Thompson – ??/??/1968 – 1968
121. FED 7110 – You Only Live Twice – Mike Thompson – ??/??/1968 – 1968
122. FED 048 7110 – This Poor Boy – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1968 – 1968
123. FED 049 7111 – Cool Collie – Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – B-side of “This Poor Boy.” (Keith recalls asking Jackie Jackson to play a “walking style bass” on this.)
124. FED 7111 – As Long As I Live – Henry “Don” Buckley & The Gaylettes – ??/??/1968 – 1968 (Buckley was covering Neil Sedaka’s version on RCA 7.”)
NO LISTINGS BETWEEN FED 7111 and FED 7119
125. FED 7119 – The Untouchables – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968
126. FED 7120 – Pepper Pot – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – ??/??/1968 – 1968 – B-side of “The Untouchables.”
127. FED 7121 – ????????????? – ??? – ??/??/1968 – 1968
128. FED 7122 – Congratulations – Ed Parkins – ??/??/1968 – 1968
129. FED 7123 F&R – Hey There Lonely Girl – The Minstrels – ??/??/1968 – 1968
120. FED 7124 – Love Is Blue – Sonny Bradshaw (Lynn Taitt & The Jets?) – ??/??/1968 – 1968
131. FED 7125 F&R – So Weary – The Minstrels – ??/??/1968 – 1968
132. FED 7126 – ???????????? – ??? – ??/??/1968 – 1968
133. FED 7127 – ???????????? – ??? – ??/??/1968 – 1968
134. FED 7128 – ???????????? – ??? – ??/??/1968 – 1968
135. FED 7129 – Nothing For Nothing – Don Henry & Hopeton Lewis – ??/??/1968 – 1968
Titles Without Matrices
Hopeton Lewis – Rock Steady.
Gaylettes – Be On Your Guard.
Eddie Parkins – I’m Coming Home.
Lyn Taitt & The Jets – Put It On, Chances, Soul Shot, Talking Love.
Henry Buckley – I’d Like To Know, Silent River, Take Me Back, Thank You Girl. (Latter two released on Island UK.)
Dynamites – You Got To Be Clean/Miss Nora.
Tartans – A Day Will Come.
Renegades – Mr. Hops 028?, Big & Fine 028?
Dub Store Issues of Merritone Outtakes
Lyn Taitt & The Jets – Rocking Mood, Pata Pata.
Oswald Sewell – Oh My Love, Where Can He Go.
Hopeton Lewis – At The Corner Of The Street, Move Along With Me [An early version of “Right Track” which Hopeton later recorded as a duet with Phyllis Dillon O. D.], Run If You Are Afraid, [Correct title “Dread After You”], Rude Boy A Wail [“For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” intro. Keith recalled that this was cut right after Desmond Dekker did “007 Shantytown.”] Mis-credited to Merritone Singers.
I’m Coming Home Instrumental – Dub Store invented credit to “Merritone All Stars.”
Tartans – Don’t Take That Train, Rockin’ Chair.
House Upon The Hill – Mis-credited to “Merritone Singers.” Identified by Jah Frank Hasfal, cousin of singer Robbie Robinson of the Jiving Juniors and the Zodiacs, as by the Zodiacs.
Roland Alphonso – How Soon Pt. 2.
Paragons – We Were Meant To Be Accapella.
Minstrels – Hey There Lonely Girl Accapella.
Merritone Titles In Need Of Reissue
Ethiopians – Headache.
Minstrels – So Weary [Master is missing.]
Non Merritone Titles Within Span of Matrices
FED 6913 – King Striker – The Captain Say
FED 6914 – King Striker – Archie Buck Me Up
FED 6944 F&R – Father Dunstan’s Magpies I Can’t Believe [Merritone/Discovery]
FED 6945 F&R – Father Dunstan’s Magpies When Day Is Done [Merritone/Discovery]
FED 7051 – Jackie Edwards 10,000 Kisses [Chris Blackwell prod.]
FED 7052 – Jackie Edwards Tell Me What’s It All About Fed [Chris Blackwell prod.]
Merritone ended in late 1968
Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell were all done by FED 7158 “Reg-A-Train” by Karl “Cannonball” Bryan, IF NOT BEFORE.
203 – Hopeton Lewis – Take It Easy : Take It Easy / Sounds And Pressure / A De Pon Dem / Why Must I Cry / Let The Little Girl Dance // Rock Steady / Cool Collie / Music Got Soul / Hard Ships Of Life / Poor Boy
204 – Lyn Taitt And The Jets – Sounds …… Rock Steady : Puppet On A String / Unity / Romeo & Juliet / Nice Time / Only A Smile // Rock Steady / Move Up / I Don’t Want To See Tou Cry / Old Beirut / Mother Young Gal
205 – Lyn Taitt & The Jets – Rock Steady Greatest Hits : Napoleon Solo / Solomon / To Sir With Love / Winey Winey / Why Did You Leave? / Soul Shot // Pressure And Slide / Just Like A River / Last Waltz / Long Story / Julie / Talking Love
206 – Tomorrow’s Children – Today : Mighty Quinn / Ride Me Donkey / Dock Of The Bay / Lady Madonna / Hold Me Tight // Honey / Expressway To Your Heart / How Near Is Love / Love Is Blue (Inst.) / Mr. Walker
207 – Lyn Taitt And The Jets – Glad Sounds: Intensified 68 / Words / ABC Rocksteady / If I Only Had Time / Changes // Starlight / Ride Me Donkey / Rainbow Valley / Love Me Forever / Once Upon A Time
According to Keith Scott, “the Gaylettes were coached to sing in certain octaves as Richard Khouri and Keith Scott wanted them to sing harmony like Sweet Inspiration, the backup singers who recorded with Booker T. and with Elvis Presley, among others.”
There were singers who only cut a tune or two and then moved on. For instance, Oswald Sewell. Here’s Keith Scott replying to a query about Oswald Sewell. “I do recall this session somewhere between 1966 into early 1967. Jackie Jackson on bass, Lloyd Knibb on drums, Gladstone Anderson on piano. Not much is known about this artist. There were dozens and dozens of wannabe singers who came into the studio almost daily. Sometimes we could not get any work done in the factory pressing records. It was hard to keep track of some of the artist, especially if they came from the country [not living in the city]. My partner Sam Mitchell and I ran most of the greater amount of the music that appeared on the Merritone label and the Federal label from 1966 through the ending of 1968. If my memory serves me correctly, my partner Sam Mitchell said that he [Sewell] almost sounds like Henry Buckley and he liked his voice so we should record him. Oswald was kind of tall, lean and lanky. We recorded two tracks with him. As far as I can remember we paid him and we never saw him again. When we sat down to mix tapes for release, each time we would come across Oswald tunes but we would always put it aside because we thought that his production was not strong enough to sell on its own. The same thing happened to some of Hopeton Lewis’ tunes also.”
Keith Scott on Check Point Charlie. “Yes, ‘Check Point Charlie.’ There were three horn players on this track. Carlton Samuels on tenor sax, Cannonball Bryan on a muted alto sax and Bobby Ellis on trumpet.
“Of note the mp-3 sample you sent me is take 1*** I think Dub Store may have reissued this track, but they have reissued take 2*** This is the take I originally wanted to be released, however my
good friend Mitch & Richard Khouri said that the horns on take 1*** were much more dramatic. So take 1*** was the one that made the cut. Brian Atkinson played bass on this track. I think he may have missed one note in his early stage of playing. If you listen carefully just after the horns started playing Brian missed a note. Before he realized that it was a wrong note the take was completed. However, we decided to do another take [ t**2 ] the rest is history !!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!BRIAN A little studio history for you. The original title for this was **Check Point** but that night when I got home and turned on the **TELLY** the news was all about E. Germany and the Berlin wall. Sure enough, there was a sign at the American sector and it read ***Check Point Charlie***.
Next morning I got to work I told Richard I wanted to make a slight change to the title of the instrumental. ‘He said what kind of change?’ I said gonna add Charlie to Check Point !!!!! Hence Check Point Charlie. THIS IS THE WAY IT WAS [ smile ]” (Keith Scott email to author, December 7, 2013.)
“This track from circa 1967/1968 was based upon what was taking place during the Berlin wall occupation. I named this record after watching what was taking place at the Berlin wall on TV, the Americans had a check point separating East from west at the time. The Americans called it **Check Point Charlie. The Instrumental was originally called ‘Check Point, but just before it released I added on Charlie to complete the title, ‘Check Point Charlie.’ The Lester Sterling credits on the label were an error that never got corrected. FACT*** FACT.” (Keith Scott email to author, October 26, 2014.)
After I sent Keith Scott the link to Naoki Ienaga’s writeup heralding Dub Store’s release of Kentone and Merritone label productions he sent the following reply.
“This is shocking, bull shit, Awful, a crime, sickening, Stupid, The Worst that I have ever seen Ever. So glad that my name is not on this Project. When yours is Ready it will look Very Good with proper credits ‘ETC ETC’. So Many, Many, Errors. What a laughing Stock. Let me hear from you soon.
IF ONE DOES NOT KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE MUSIC THEN LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE.”
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Merritone materials
Date: Tue, 9 Jun 2009 23:46:34 +0900
From: “Naoki Ienaga [Dub Store Sound Inc.]” <email@example.com>
Sorry for a delay in getting back.
I have attached the list of actual vinyl I have, and the follows are the tracks I got from Master Tape:
-Rolling Rolling (Rolling Down The Street)- Eufhonies(Tartans) 2:58
-I’m Ready – Eufhonies (Tartans) false start 0.58
-I’m Ready – Eufhonies (Tartans) false start
-I’m Ready – Eufhonies (Tartans) false start
-I’m Ready – Eufhonies (Tartans)
-Sounds & Pressure – Hopeton Lewis 0:30 – 3:33
-Sounds & Pressure – Hopeton Lewis false start + Full Take 0:28 – 3:45 (Alternative Take)
-Strangr For Durango – Roland Alphonso false start
-Strangr For Durango – Roland Alphonso false start
-Strangr For Durango – Roland Alphonso 1:43 – 5:35 (Long Alternative Take)
-Run Down – Hopeton Lewis only 1:20
-Run Down – Hopeton Lewis false start 1:25 – 1:45
-Run Down – Hopeton Lewis 1:50 – 4:30
-Dance All Night – Tartans false start 1:00
-Dance All Night – Tartans 1:10 -4:44
-Dance All Night – Tartans false start 1.00
-Dance All Night – Tartans false start 1.10 – 5:00 (Long Alternative take)
-What Can I Do – Tartans 0:20 – 2:53
-If I Am Right – Henry Buckley 3:00
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait 2.40 (Unrelease)
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 0.25
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 0.30 – 1.25
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 1.44-2.00
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 2.20 – 3.18
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 0.15 – 1.07
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 1.20 – 2.42
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 3.00 – 4:34
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait false start 4:40-6.57
-Batman (early cut) – Lynn Tait 0.10-2.45
-Sterling? (Ballard) – Lynn Tait false start 0.25
-Sterling? (Ballard) – Lynn Tait with Lester Sterling false start 1.00-2.00
-Sterling? (Ballard) – Lynn Tait with Lester Sterling 2.10-6.10
-Unknown Rocksteady Inst. – Lynn Tait ★ 要確認 2.48
I also have the follows from master tape, but I could not check properly,
there are plenty of false starts and studio chat in between.
I will check them properly this weekend:
Why Am I Treated So Bad Take 1
Why Am I Treated So Bad Take 2
What Can I Do – the valliauts
Sounds of Silence – Roland Alphonso
Renegade – Zodiacs
Who’s Lovin You (Ballard)- Zodiacs
I’d Like To Know – Zodiacs?
Everybody Rocking – Hopeton Lewis
Stars Shinning So Bright – Hopeton Lewis
Talking Love – Paragons
If I Were You – Paragons
Bang Bang – Tomorrow’s Children
Bang Bang take 2- Tomorrow’s Children
Rain – Tomorrow’s Children
Rain take 2 – Tomorrow’s Children
Let Me Come On Home – Hopeton Lewis
Let Me Come On Home- take 2
Let Me Come On Home – take 3
Rude Boy A Wail – Hopeton Lewis Take 1-6(Unreleased?)
Judy Drownded – Unknown (Unreleased)
Move Along With Me 7 takes – Hopeton Lewis (Unreleased)
At The Corner Of The Street 3 takes – Hopeton Lewis (Unreleased)
Beware Of All Those Rudeboys – Henry Buckley
Beware Of All Those Rudeboys take 2
If You Did Love Me – Dynamites
If You Did Love Me take 2
Let The Little Girl Dance – Hopeton Lewis
This Music Got Soul – Hopeton Lewis
Sailers Hornpipe – Leslie Butler
Run If You Are Afraid – Hopeton Lewis
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Khouri family
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2009 05:03:50 +0900
From: “Naoki Ienaga [Dub Store Sound Inc.]” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I just spoke to Paul, and he told me that
Federal were family company,
so nobody care about credit.
Richard did not know anything about music, so he was not working in studio.
He was more into bringing artists.
Paul were always in Studio, he was in studio while those Merritone session were going on,
and Paul used to do booking of Studio as well,
so he write down most of artist booking in the 60’s.
Federal were looking for sound system who play Federal music exclusively,
and they found Winston Blake Merritone soundsystem,
so they name their label as Merritone for exclusively played by Winston Blake.
But Winston never concerned in production, probably only opinion.
Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell were working at pressing, never involved in studio work,
but they had strong link with downtown people, so they knew what is happening in downtown,
so federal used their name as producer for political reason,
when they put the tune with their name on record, downtown people liked it.
It seems like they just did not care about credit because everything were Khouri family business thing,
That Paul tole me,
All the best, Naoki
——– Original Message ——–
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 2009 12:42:54 +0900
From: “Naoki Ienaga [Dub Store Sound Inc.]” <email@example.com>
Thank you for your quick reply.
About the transfer, Yes “Untouchable” is not bad.
Probably, I can go with it but if you have chance to get better transfer, it would be better.
I ask some friends about “Mackie Mackie” and find out.
I might be able to find more tracks from Master Tape which we need.
but in the mean time, I will try to find better transfer for the ones we need in better sound.
I think 3 CD separate release is better than 2 CD, and make almost complete selection except
obviously boring common tune.
Which do you think better to compile:
1st: 1966-1967 Ska, Rudeboys early merritone only
2nd: 1967 Rocksteady
3rd: 1967-1968 Rocksteady to Reggae
or no defenition, just put tunes way I like.
Glad Sound will be ready by Jan.2010 I think.
Can you figure out estimate all other cost to gether materials including Mr. Taitt with list.
I do not need scans for “Napoleon Solo,” “Nice Time”
Here is the recording dates I know of, most of the 2 track tapes did not have dates:
1967 Aug 08
Whiter Plade Of Pale (Ballard)
1967 aug 17
Only A Smile
1967 Aug 18
Move Up take 1
Move Up take 2
Bad Treatment Take 1
Bad Treatment Take 2
Unity take 1
Unity take 2
1967 oct 02
Unknown Instrumental 1
Unknown Instrumental 2
(the ones I sent on sampler)
1968 Feb 23
Batman (Diff take)
Dub Store Tshirts is still at the factory.
That’s all for now,
All the best, Naoki
—— Original Message ——-
From: Naoki Ienaga [Dub Store Sound Inc.] firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 8 Dec 2009 01:22:46 +0900
Sorry for a long sirence.
I have finished most of my work, and I finally get chance to get back to
I am sending some Merritone materials for restoration to London tomorrow
including Gladdy album.
and it only takes a week, and mastering only takes a week. and vinyl
pressings takes 6 weeks.
so Gladdy and plenty of 45s will be ready by middle of Feburary.
I am using the follows from your transfer before compilation CD:
Big & Fine
Knocking On My Door
It’s Not Right
so I can pay for above now, how much should I paypal you?
Have you found any better transfer sice then?
“So Weary” better transfer will be really appreciated.
Can you get good transfer of “I Like Your Words – Gaylettes,” I thought I
have vinyl, but I can not find it.
Do you know the original coupling of the following tunes:
Mr. Hops / Big & Fine / Knocking On My Door / It’s Not Right / We Gonna
I have attached the Excel sheet of label copies I have, and any other clean
label scan of good tune is appreciated.
Few clean UK Scan is also appreciated.
About the image list you sent me, it is very hard for me to get idea.
I have some other takes, but most of those are very similar to what we know.
plenty of them are even very hard to tell the difference. Batman is totally
different recording, good but sounds like reharsal and did not finish.
Lots of studio chat as well.
What happened to Treasure Isle at Supreme Court?
I have never seen any of the vintage Boss DVD, are they good? I used to see
that guy in Jamaica, is he still doing it?
I recently found rare Ska track from Federal which is adapted vocal of “One
Scotch, One Bourbon and One Beer,”
Do you know production of it?
All the best, Naoki
The End Of Merritone
Keith mentioned that he and Sam left Federal in 1968, but the reasons and the circumstances that led to this were unclear. When asked about the last production that he and Sam were responsible for at Federal, or what month during 1968 that they departed, Scott replied, “it was very late 1968, November into December before Christmas. It was either the last week of November or the first week of December. After we left Federal, Byron Lee put us on the payroll weekly. This was before Dynamics opened and he wanted quality people to press his records. They were still working on WIRL to convert it. We went to Byron for a weekly check and then when Dynamics opened in the spring of ’69, we worked there.” That was short lived however, as Keith emigrated from Jamaica in September, 1969.
Sam Mitchell recalled a meeting with Ken Khouri prior to he and Keith’s departure from Merritone and Federal. “Merritone label lasted less than three years. Keith and I just walk away from Merritone after Mr. Khouri refused to pay we what we think we’re owed. I can remember going to see him in his office and he asked me, ‘Don’t you get your pay every Friday? Isn’t your pay right?’” (Sam Mitchell interviewed by the author, October 16, 2009.)
In 1971, Keith Scott and Sam Mitchell opened Mitchies Records in Brooklyn on Nostrand Avenue. Keith recalled, “There was a John Holt LP that was a smash in England then and we were the only shop that had it.”
Thanks to all interviewees. My eternal gratitude to the principals of Merritone who not only put up with my inquiries, but answered them. First and foremost to the late Nearlyn “Lyn” Taitt, the late Lloyd Knibb, and the late Hopeton Lewis. Also to Keith Scott, Sam Mitchell, Lloyd Parks, Mikey Chung, Jackie Jackson, Brian Atkinson, Joe Isaacs, Headley Bennett, Gerry Creary, Ron Wilson, Lennox Robinson and Lester Sterling. Also, Paul Khouri via Naoki Ienaga.
There were many folks that assisted my writing and compiling of this article and I intend to credit every one of them. I’d appreciate help in doing so.
To the folks who played and then traded and/or sold Merritone recordings with and to me. Jacky Deronne, Ska Nick, Theo Van Bijnen, Charlie Morgan, Greg Lawson, Al Kaatz, Todd Campbell, the late Bob Schoenfeld and the late David “DRO” Ostrowe.
Thanks to all who assisted, especially Theo Van Bijnen and Rusty Zinn. Thanks to all who supplied scans, photos or art including Lyn Taitt, Theo Van Bijnen, SJ, Jacky Derrone, Mark Williams, Bob Schoenfeld, Jeremy Collingwood, Richard Fletcher and traditionalrudies.blogspot.com. Thanks and much respect to Derrick Morgenthau, Angus Taylor, Peter I and Mr. T. @ Reggae-Vibes.com for their writing and interviewing. Thanks and respect to Adam of the Wake The Town radio show on San Francisco’s KPOO 89.5, online at KPOO.com. Check Adam’s Revival Sound System in the Bay area. Thank you to those who supplied matrix #’s, including Markus Vogel and Michael Turner. Thanks to those who’ve added information, including Roberto Moore, Rey Donnart and man called Jumbo.