“Being on stage is like drinking lemonade!” says Albert Minott, the 75-year old lead singer of The Jolly Boys. He’s got charm for days (decades?) and sartorial sensibilities second to none. As a kid, before his famed hip-twisting and soulful singing, Albert swam for coin: “When the tourists came on ship they’d throw me money and I’d dive for it!” His next hustle would be fire breathing, which he says he’d recommend to any singer—or any bachelor. “Girls would beg the fire dance in 1962. I’d make them scream!” he proclaims.
Albert is a legend, but whether his talent would reach beyond the Rock was never in stone. It’s not for lack of skill, but because his music is mento, which is considered by some to be old-fashioned style—long before the Marley reggae global explosion and well before dancehall. Musically, it’s more complicated. “But everyone in Jamaica knows mento,” Albert says, “It’s in your bones and in your blood.” He’s from Port Antonio, a sleepy, sultry town on Jamaica’s northwest coast, where he grew up sleeping on a mattress made from “banana trash” and went on to sing and dance for Errol Flynn (who named the band in the 50s), Elizabeth Taylor and Dean Martin.
Today, the Boys are the house band at local boutique hotel, GeeJam. Founded by two music executives-turned-hoteliers, the on-property recording studio has seen the likes of Rihanna, Arcade Fire, No Doubt and more. One of the owners, Jon Baker, produced a 2011 Jolly Boys album to stellar reviews. The most talked about track is a genius mento cover of Amy Winehouse’s Rehab: “I put my whole heart into it. I wanted it to go up up up in the charts,” Albert says. Now he can’t walk through town without little kids yelling and has made tour stops in Australia, Hong Kong and the Maldives.
“Of course I’m still feeling jolly!” Albert says with a laugh, “The bounce is still there. Mento is like grinding corn—a lot of wining!” At that, he stands and demonstrates he’s definitely still got the moves.
Photo Credit: Photo by William Richards
Digging Jamaica? Visit the 100m Shop and get your jerk-reggae-patois-sunshine fix. (Sunscreen recommended.)