'Jolly good' show

Observer senior reporter

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

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If British film-maker Rick Elgood has his way, a film on mento band, The Jolly Boys, could be released in July.

Elgood, road manager of the band for the last 10 years, is currently editing the film and will be heading into final stages of post-production in a few weeks.

The project, he noted, evolved from a need to document the incredible ride of these “little, old guys from Port Antonio”, who made a valuable contribution to the growth and development of Jamaican music.

“When I started going on the road with them, I realised the value of the experience these men were having, which was such a contrast to their Jamaican life. Since I could manage and shoot at the same time, I did both. I quickly realised how big a part of history I was witnessing,” said Elgood.

He added: “That early footage took in shows in New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong, as well as the Sade tour around Europe. Aspects of this footage was used for a series which was aired on CVM TV. In 2015, I realised that this history had to be told in a bigger format and I got a small budget from GeeJam Records to put this film together.”

It's Never Too Late, the film's title, tracks The Jolly Boys from the 1940s to present. It will explore their earliest outings when they met American film star Errol Flynn, who was looking for musicians to entertain guests on his Navy Island in Portland.

Their work in the 1960s, including a stint in the United States, will also be examined as well as tours of Japan, Sweden and Canada in the 1980s and the three albums they recorded during that period.

Their most recent incarnation, when they were signed by GeeJam Records in Portland, also forms part of the project.

A central point to Elgood's film is The Jolly Boys' family tree which looks at members over the years.

“There have been about 15-20 members of The Jolly Boys in the nearly 80 years since it was formed. At the core of it, is the fact that the band has always maintained a link to older members. For example, Noel Howard, who played with The Jolly Boys in the 1980s and 90s, then migrated to the United States; he is now back in the band. Larry Christie, who now plays the rumba box, his stepfather was one of the original band members,” said Elgood.

The need for a film is more important, seeing that within the past five years three original members have died. Joseph “Powda” Henry died in 2014, lead singer Albert Minott passed in 2017, and Derrick “Johnny” Henry made his transition last month.

Elgood noted that It's Never too Late will “also look at the social climate in the early days of The Jolly Boys. How they were treated in hotels, hidden away from guests before and after performances. There is also the matter of how much they were paid. It is also interesting when you look at the ups and downs of mento music and how they adapted to the new and emerging music forms of the day... so many went on to play in ska and reggae bands.”

Elgood is director for films, including Dancehall Queen (1997) and One Love (2003).

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