Boom times for the Jamaicans

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer writer

Sunday, July 31, 2016

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This is the 50th anniversary of the Popular Song Contest (formerly the Festival Song Competition). The Jamaica Observer continues a series of stories on the annual Independence event.

Jamaicans were in full rocksteady mode in 1967. The sound, which emerged the previous year, sparked a number of harmony groups including The Jamaicans.

That year, the quartet won the second Festival Song Competition with Ba Ba Boom, one of the most popular in the contest’s 50-year history.

It beat Desmond Deker and The Aces’ U N I T Y into second, with Move Up by Al And The Vibrators taking third.

Norris Weir, Tommy Cowan, Owen Hylton and Martin Williams comprised The Jamaicans which formed in 1966.

In early 1967, they had a hit song with Things You Say You Love.

Prior to going ‘pro’, Clarendon-born Weir and Hylton were members of the Kingston College Chapel Choir. Now based in Florida, he said it was producer Duke Reid who encouraged him to write a song for ‘festival’.

"I wrote Ba Ba Boom at the request of Duke Reid through Tommy Cowan. I did this during my lunch break while working with Buddy Pouyatt at City Retreading, and when I took it to the studio that afternoon and introduced it to Duke and the rest of the group we knew right then that we had a hit song," Weir recalled.

Reid made another suggestion. He insisted Weir assume the role of lead vocalist, which he did after one week of rehearsals.

The Jamaicans and Ba Ba Boom — released by Reid’s Treasure Isle label — were a hit with fans on the islandwide shows promoted by the festival organisers.

It got most votes and handily beat U N I T Y and Jamaica Move Up.

Weir, 71, has been an ordained minister of religion since 2010. He has recorded 10 gospel albums and still does Ba Ba Boom whenever he performs.

Recently, he recorded a version of the song with the Krikka Reggae Band from Italy.

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