Merritone reunion goes virtualThursday, November 19, 2020
By Howard Campbell
Monte Blake is used to couples rocking and friends enjoying a night on the town at Merritone dances. With the spectre of COVID-19, things have changed, and Jamaica's oldest sound system is adapting to the new normal.
This weekend, Blake leads 'Virtual Reunion', a three-day event celebrating Merritone's 70th anniversary, the 80th birthday of his older brother Winston, and the 30th year since their annual family reunion was launched.
“It's been a tough year for most because of the COVID pandemic but especially tougher on the entertainment scene. The devastating loss of some of our top entertainers and the lack of work due to the lockdown measures is creating extreme hardship for sound systems, promoters, club owners, and even vendors and workers,” Blake told the Jamaica Observer. “Merritone has felt it very hard; since the cruise in March we have been idle.”
Calendar events such as Merritone Reunion, Merritone Family Fun Day in New York, Father's Day in Atlanta, Memories in The Park Fort Lauderdale and Merritone First Sunday at The Regency are some of the Blake events that have been affected.
“Our Merritone family and friends demanded that we do something virtual so that they could enjoy the Merritone brand of music in their homes. Hence, the alliance with the Vinyl Collectors Association whose platform we will utilise for our first outing in the virtual world,” Blake disclosed.
Tomorrow and Saturday are party nights while Sunday is a fusion of collectors and Merritone Lagniappe music. Blake and several selectors including Merritone stalwart Craig Ross and guest, actor Glen 'Titus' Campbell, will provide music.
The Merritone sound system was founded in 1950 in St Thomas by Val Blake, patriarch of the family. When he died in 1956, two of his sons, Trevor and Winston, took over; younger brothers Tyrone and Errol (Monte) joined them in the 1960s.
For 28 years, the brothers operated the Turntable Club at Red Hills Road which was among the hottest leisure spots in Jamaica during the 1970s. Winston, the face of Merritone, died in 2016 while Tyrone passed away four years earlier.
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