The Independence Ballroom at the Sheraton-Kingston Hotel buzzed with the sounds of ‘rock steady” on Monday afternoon as the 1967 Festival Song competition got off to a start with an audition for the selection of five finalists.
Six groups of local professional artistes were selected by a panel of five judges from a record number of entries to compete at the Regional Finals of Pop and
Mento for this year’s Festival Song. It was the consensus of the judges that the entries were of such an high standard that six finalists, instead of five, were selected.
The Maytals, who topped the list last year with their “Bam Bam”, made the finals again with a song called “I’m a Big Man.” Last year’s second place winner, Derrick Harriott, whose “Our Time Fe Celebrate’ is still popular with the fans, is back in the finals with a new type of beat and a song called “Happy Times” The Jamaicans, who have gone professional, having won in the amateur division last year, are in the finals with a song called “It’s a Ba Ba Boom Festival.”, The other three groups, new comers to the professional scene who made the finals are Al and the Vibrators with “Move Up”, Desmond Dekker and the Aces with “Unity,” and Eric ‘Monty’ Morris with Festival Time.”
Seventeen groups entered the competition. The other entrants were Stranger and Patsy, The Chambers, Alton Ellis and the Flames, Winston Samuels, Joseph Higgs, The Clarendonians, Ossie and the Upsetters, The Paragons, The Emotions and Lloyd and Glen. The Three Tops, which should have competed, did not attend.
Judges who made the selections included Phillip Jackson, chairman; Archie Undo, Yvonne Jones, Maurice Thompson and Marjorie Whylie.
The Daily Gleaner June 1967
The Entertainment scene comes alive from this week-end and-will continue to swing for the next fortnight as Festival Five dominates. Greatest interest of this weekend is for the Festival Song finals. Over recent weeks, we have been hearing all over the place, six songs which are reaching for the honour of being sung during the national celebrations.
The pace has been hot. To get perspective of the “sounds and pressure” which has gone with each song, the scene goes back several weeks ago when professional artists were invited to create songs for the contest.
These songs were recorded and then judged by a panel which made the choice of six recordings to vie for the ultimate honour. The six finalists who made it were the Jamaicans, with “Ba-Ba Boom Festival”; Monty Morris, doing a solo with “Festival Time”; Derrick Harriott, also soloing with”Happy Times”, Al and the Vibrators with “Move Up” Desmond Dekker and the Aces who sing “Unity” and The Maytals with “I’m A Big Man”.
These finalists were then ‘engaged by the Festival Office to appear onstage at the regional finals of the Pop and Mento competitions, This gave an Island-wide audience the chance of hearing the songs and of making their own decision. At each regional finals, voting was done by the patrons who indicated their choice on the back of their admission tickets.
At regional finals, the main business is to choose the local parish performers who compete for other prizes (awarded by D&G) for pop and mento singing and music-making. The Festival Song finalists, being-well known professionals, have been the main drawing card and according to organizers of this area of the Festival, the response has been overwhelming. At every location patrons have had to be turned away because the theatre was Jam-packed.
Regional finals have been held in these areas: Western in Montego Bay, where competitors represented St. James, Westmoreland, Hanover and Trelawny; Southern with competition in Mandeville, for contestants from Manchester, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth. Northern, staged in Port Antonio, and covering the Portland, St. Mary and St. Ann areas. Because of the great interest shown in these Regional Finals, the organizers have made a new decision about the Eastern Finals which take place in Kingston tomorrow night. Originally, it was scheduled for the State theatre but it is felt that the crowds are going to be out in force, since this is the final voting occasion for the Festival Song. So, the show has been shifted to the National Arena. The Eastern region, covers Kingston, St. Andrews and St. Thomas.
After tomorrow night’s audience has voted, their ballots will join the others from the other three regions and will be counted publicly at the Sheraton Kingston ballroom on. Monday night, the results being broadcast and televised to the “waiting pop nation.”.
Incidentally, at official level, much care was taken to see that nothing happened to give any Festival Song finalists the edge over the others. Luck of the draw determined which competitors would appear in what order on the programme. This order was maintained throughout. The Jamaicans drew first slot, then came Monty Morris, followed by Desmond Dekker and the Aces, then Al and the Vibrators followed by Derrick Harriott and finally the Maytals. It is only at the regional finals that the public can make their vote for Festival Song. So if yon have very strong feelings on which song should be sung over the August weekend, you will have to go along to the Arena tomorrow night and vote then. While the official level has kept a conservative rein to give equal chance to all, each individual record promoter who backed the artists has not hesitated to go all out, plugging their song. Newspaper advertising, radio time have all been bought to push tunes. Some promoters have fully utilized the saturation gimmick with travelling sound systems and some have been giving away copies of their records, to make it more familiar to the public. Incidentally, the Maytals who used to be three but are now two, are going after their second title because they won it last year with that Bam-Bam Song.
There has been talk that the artists’ who actually perform the Festival Song recordings — and others on the local pop scene —get a very small cat of the total sale price. In their defense, the promoters say they take the major gamble, as they have to put up the money to record” and press the tunes, plus advertise to promote the sales.
This means that the promoters have strong say as to what the recording artists do. Some promoters maintain responsibility for their artists all the way from choosing the song lyrics to paying for stage clothes.
The biggest plum on the pop music scene right now is the Festival Song title. The Jamaicans, four young men, in the early twenties, are very happy to be the holders of that title and all that goes with it.
‘It would sound conceited to say that we thought we would win. However, we worked very hard and towards the end, we knew that we could make it. What we didn’t expect was the margin by which we came home”, says Tommy Cowan leader of the group which last Monday night brought their “Ba Ba Boom Time” to the winners post, and now reign over Festival Five pop music.
The Jamaicans pushed Desmond Dekker and the Aces with their tune “Unity”, into second place and Al and the Vibrators with “Move Up” had to settle for third
The annual Festival has special significance for The Jamaicans, The group was actually formed two years ago For the main purpose of competing in Festival.
With Tommy Cowan as leader, the group is Norris Weir, Martin Williams and Owen “Flats” Hylton. They entered the ’65 Festival and won the Pop Group singing award, with a number called “Till the dance is through”. They went back for the title last year and took it home again with “Ma and Pa”.
This year, when they heard that they could compete, for the Festival Song, they got together, spent a Sunday writing Ba-Ba Boom and entered Contest. Tommy McCook and
Ernie Ranglin did tbe arranging of the song. and the disc was pressed on the Treasure Isle label. The boys were off.
They came through the eliminations, were chosen as one of the six finalists and then set out on the island tour. The trail led right round the parishes and back again to the Sheraton on Monday night, when the ballots were counted and Ba-Ba-Boom swept to the top.
What does Ba-Ba-Boom mean, anyway?
According to Tommy, the inspiration came from Haiti. There, he says, wingers out to have a good time, have the war cry of “Va Va Boom”. Tony Verity used to use the saying on one the way English huntsmen get their blood quickened with “Tally-Ho” (At least, that must be the explanation).
Anyhow. Ba-Ba-Boom was the version The Jamaicans chose. They say it means “Swing,
have fun’. And while people are dancing to it and singing it over the next week, The Jamaicans will take great pleasure in the benefits it has of his RJR programmes, much
Their value on the recording market has gone up, for a start. The leader’s diary is
beginning to fill up with performance bookings. After Festival, there is talk of a tour abroad, in fact, “engagements have been made for certain places, but we won’t talk
about it just now”. savs the group’s leader.
How much do the Jamaicans actually get out of the £250 Desnoes and Geddes award? “All of it. And we split it evenly, four ways”, says Tommy. The promoter gets his reward
from the record sales. The Jamaicans will also receive their percentage from each record
sold. “Don’t emphasize the money too much or people will think we’ve got rich out of this”, says leader Cowan. It’s too early to start counting how much they’ll make out of Ba Ba Boom which, up to Monday, was still regarded as a prerelease, which meant that it cost more than the regular issue. It is now on general distribution.
The Jamaicans are known as quite spectacular for their choice of stage clothes. For
the finals at the Sheraton, Monday night, they wore gold silk. They hit the Montego Bay crowd for the Western Regional pop and mento finals in green silk. They also have a
red outfit. These suits are imported front Miami, where many local entertainers get their stage clothes. The pop fans like their idols to dress fussy on stage, according to the tradition of noted Rhythm and Blues artists who have performed here over the years. Besides Ba Ba Boom on record, The Jamaicans also now have in the shops, “Ma and Pa”.
Ba Ba Boom was not allowed into the Top Ten list while the competition was on. Nor were any of the other competing tunes, but now that the finals are over, it is expected that the winning song and no doubt the runners-up will find their way on to the charts.
Meanwhile, the Jamaicans have a lot to do. There are more appearances for Festival, such as at the Grand Gala at the National Arena next Saturday night, the Governor General’s Ball at King’s House afterwards. Then on August 6, the, public holiday, the group will fill one of the non-Festival office bookings. They appear on the “Pressure Plus Soul” show at the Carib.
The Jamaicans have done it — and Festival time is”Ba Ba Boom Time!”
At a pre-festival show carried on both radio and television and staged in the Independence Ballroom of the Sheraton Kingston Hotel recently, the Jamaicans’ entry to the annual Festival Song Competition “Ba Ba Boom Time” won by a popular vote over five other entries became the 1967 Festival Song.
Second place went to the ever-popular artistes Desmond Decker and the Aces with “Unity” and third went to Al and the Vibrators with their song -favoured for it’s lyrics-“Move up.”
The others in order of place were Derrick Harriott’s “Happy Times”, The Maytals’ “I’m A Big Big Man” and Eric “Monty” Morris’, “Festival Time.”
The Festival Song contest (opened to professional artistes) Jetted itself into the minds of the public as the competitors advertised and popularised their entries in the contest.
Immediately after the selection of the six finalists in the competition three of the entries “Ba Ba Boon Time”, “Unity” and Move Up soured to popularity. The contestants crushed other local artistes on the pop scene as the public became all ears to the Festival Song entries.
For the first time since the inauguration of the Pop and Mento contest, for amateurs, parish committees organized and presented their own local contest where they selected winners in the amateur division — Pop and Mento — to vie on the regional levels.
This decision to allow the parishes to man their own shows came early in the planning of the competition and has met with much success. It is hoped that this trend will continue next year with some improvements.
On the regional and national levels of the competition the shows were planned and carried out by the Festival Song. Mento and Pop Music under the chairmanship of Neville Willoughby, with Miss Valerie Robertson of the Festival Office, as Coordinator.
The four regional shows in Montego Bay, Mandeville, Port Antonio and Kingston met with great success as the Festival Song finalists were the big attraction on the bill, with the Mighty Vikings on the bandstand; and only the audience at these shows were allowed to vote for the song they wanted to be the Festival Song.
Desnoes and Geddes provided £1,000 for prizes in both subjects, so winners in these contests will receive the Desnoes and Geddes Sparkling Beverages Awards.
The Gleaner August 1967
Nice work. I’ve been collecting festival tunes and keeping a list of winners and competitors for many years. Hadn’t seen that article. Couple entrants in ’67 that didn’t merit mention were “Send Me That Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers and “Moving To Progress” by the Three Tops, who it reported were no shows. Also that year, I’ve read that “Stepping Razor” by Joe Higgs was disqualified.
This is great information. Is there information available for the other festival competitions? I see for 1966 and 1967. I am very curious about the songs that finished second and third, etc. for each year. The list of winners are easily available, but I know for a fact that many great songs have been overshadowed and forgotten because they did not win. Thanks.