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Jolly Boys hit the silver screen

Published:Sunday | December 2, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Sadeke Brooks | Staff Reporter

Years ago when he was a struggling musician in Port Antonio, Portland, Albert Minott, of the mento group Jolly Boys, had no idea that he would be starring in a reality TV series and a docudrama to boot.

By February next year, Jamaicans will be able to see The Jolly Boys on their television screens when the group appears in a reality TV series shot by Rick Elgood, who has also done films like One Love, Dancehall Queen and Westway to the World. And by April their docudrama, 'It's Never Too Late', also directed by Elgood, will alsobe making its way to film festivals around the world.

Minott, the lead singer for the band, says viewers will be able to see and know the group and what it has been through.

"Over those years, we were in the hotel preserving ourselves and preserving mento. We wasn't making anything, we were just working for bus fare. But we still keeping on in the hotel preserving and entertaining the people dem," Minott told The Sunday Gleaner.

"We were playing our souls out, but we were doing it for good. I am proud of where we are and still looking to go further. I am realising that I was a star from long time, now I am a set star in the Geejam galaxy. I am feeling good to know that at this stage in my life, I am a star."

But The Jolly Boys were not always doing major tours and making films. In the 1950s, they rose to prominence but for decades their presence would only be felt in Port Antonio and on the hotel circuit until they were rediscovered in 2009 by Jon Baker.

Baker, founder of Gee Street Records and one-time leader of the A&R team at Island Records in New York City, held a recording session at Geejam studios in Portland to capture some of the Jolly Boys vintage material. The Jolly Boys delivered and that led to new things for the group. Baker, together with his long-time friend and creative partner Mark Jones from Wall of Sound, worked together and chose tracks from artistes like the Clash, the Stooges, the Stranglers and Amy Winehouse.

This led to a project with the group covering several of these songs with a mento flavour.

The Jolly Boys' new-found popularity also led to a string of tours, including one on which they opened for international singer Sade in numerous countries in Europe. They also had stints in Hong Kong and Australia.

peculiar experience

The group's time on the road is also what led to Elgood's decision to film the band and eventually make the reality TV series.

"I started managing The Jolly Boys and I thought it was such a peculiar experience travelling with them to some locations all over the world. When I started out with them, it was such a strange contradiction between them and the rest of the world. I decided to start shooting it. I shot everything, the love, the hate, the arguments," he said.

Elgood said he captured their time on the road, as well as time spent in Portland. This led to the 13-episode reality TV series that will be shown on CVM in February.

"It's really about their journey going across the world. But what is very key to it is the difference between them being on the road and them being back at yard," he said, noting that it was shot over a two-year period.

He added that viewers will be completely fascinated with the group's journey, as well as the places they have visited.

Although he is working on the reality TV series, Elgood also decided to tell The Jolly Boys' story in another form, a 90-minute feature - 'It's Never Too Late'.

"There was nothing going on and then at 70 years old, everything is happening. It is a story that everyone can learn from. I love the fact that they were given a second chance and this is happening to them. Through dramatic recreations, I tell the story of The Jolly Boys from the age of about 10 years old," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

Elgood said he used boys from Portland to play the role of The Jolly Boys' members in the 1940s. For the 1950s, he said the scenes were shot like old Hollywood movies, with No-Maddz playing the group members in their 20s. The film also captures their lives from then until their sudden boom in 2009.

"The history of The Jolly Boys feeds into another documentary about the history of mento music in Jamaica and it just seemed to me that there is little awareness about that rich history," Elgood said.

Minott also hopes the docudrama and reality TV series will make Jamaicans more aware of the band, as well as Jamaica's musical history.