Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lord Flea and his Calypsonians - Swingin' Calypsos (1957)

In the 1950's, music from the Caribbean was gaining popularity as it continued a process of cross-pollination with other musical styles while its influence spread.

The essence of Jamaican Mento music began to blur while running the risk of disappearing under the umbrella of the Trinidadian Calypso craze, but one of its prime ambassadors in the U.S. was Norman Thomas, a.k.a. Lord Flea.

Lord Flea gained increasing popularity performing with his band at nightclubs in his native Kingston, Jamaica in the early '50's, and the success continued after a move to Miami, Florida.

He was at his peak by 1957, appearing on national TV programs and in films, and releasing this album. (Likely Capitol viewed Lord Flea as their answer to RCA's Harry Belafonte.)

Band lineup:

Lord Flea - leader, singer and guitarist
Porkchops - banjo
Count Spoon - drums and spoons
Prince Charles and Lord Largie - timbali and tumba percussion
Fish Ray - washtub base

Tragically, Lord Flea was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease a couple of years later.
He died far too young in 1959, at the age of 25.

(Though some reports vary, his age has been confirmed by his daughter. See comments)

- You can read about Mento music and Lord Flea in very detailed pages at Mento Music.Com

From the 'Swingin' Calypsos' LP
(Capitol Records, 1957),
Listen to Lord Flea and his Calypsonians:

Shake Shake Sonora
Bachelor's Life
I Can't Cross Over
Out De Fire
Mister Give Me De Rent
Calypso Be Bop
Pretty Woman
Magic Composer
Naughty Little Flea

(click for audio)

- - OR download all 12 tracks in one 26.0 Mb zipfile.


baikinange said...

Holy feckin' feck, this is indeed a great find. Thanks for this.

If you want to see Lord Flea in action, lookie here:

Anonymous said...

It seems that the popularity of Lord Flea is resurging of late. I think that this is great. He should be remembered. He was only 25 years old at his death in 1959. I am sure, I am his daughter.

Raphy said...

Just Discover your great blog...

Thanks for this gem

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. You did the right thing. You can sleep well tonight.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, if you are his daughter we need to talk. I am your cousin. He was my mother's cousin.

Unknown said...

My name is Barbara if you are my father's cousin please contact at

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this. My sister and I used to listen to it so much when we were little kids, especially 'Naughty littl flea'. Shes been talking about it a lot recently so i searched. Thanks uploader and Lord Flea and company.

Ninja Gaijin said...

Just wanted to say how much Lord Flea's mento music has meant to me. One of the greatest musicians of the 20th century in my opinion. Passion and heart and a huge sound that can never be topped in this style. Such a loss that Hodgkins took him so young. Huge bless.

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