Arthur Knibbs has a
career that makes us wish he recorded more. Though his three golden age
singles (on the MRS label, backed by Cecil Knott and His
Joybell Orchestra) were too few, they were good enough to warrant a separate page
for this artist.
These tracks that blur the line between
classic and dance band mento, as jazzy piano (played by Cecil
Knott, better know as Cecil Lloyd) and rural banjo are on equal footing. Arthur Knibbs features a
distinctive, relaxed vocal style. This mix made for a very appealing
act. But, sadly Arthur Knibbs has not yet made appeared on CD.
Arthur also recorded at least one 1960s
single and a hotel LP
(as King Arthur).
Thank you to Arthur's daughter, Shaun Knibbs,
for supplying this photograph of her father and providing the following
Arthur Knibbs was
born June 26, 1929 in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. He played the maracas in his
band and he was the lead singer. He played at the Bay Roc Hotel in
Montego Bay and also at the Runaway Bay Hotel and other places too. He
spent several years with his band working in Lima , Peru. (He spoke
fluent Spanish.) He died from a brain aneurysm on May 24, 1975.
Here is a picture of Cecil Lloyd Knott from the late 1950s.
He was born March 4 1936, Spanish Town, and grew up in Port Maria,
As a child, Cecil began playing the organ in his church, where his
father was the reverend. By the time he was 17, he leading a
10-piece band playing for tourists at the Tower Isle Hotel. Soon, he
would record the below mento 78s, leading The Joybell Orchestra,
backing singer Arthur Knibbs. He later went on to record jazz LPs,
attend the famous Juilliard School in New York, and played a
classical concert at Carnegie Hall.
In addition to recording straight jazz, he more than dabbled
in jazzy mento as can be seen on this site's
Mento Music: More
Middle Period Album Scans page, and
Mento and Jazz page.
Regrettably, the name of The
Joybells' talented banjo player that was such a fine complement to
Knott's lush piano is not known.
Golden Age Singles and sound clips
Both sides baring the legend, "Jamaican
Mento", indicating that they are old folk songs rather than new
compositions, here is a Arthur Knibbs /
Cecil Knott and His Joybell Orchestra single:
b/w "Soldier Man"
||Here is the same single, but this
time re-released as a 7" 45 RPM single, rather than the more
familiar 10" 78 RPM form factor.
"Banana" is a fine example of this oft recorded
song. Because its a favorite of mine, was not in print, when I posted this
clip, here is a sample of "Banana". [Click here for
notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.] The track can now
be heard on the double CD collection called "Jamaica - Mento 1951-1958 as
A single with two medleys by Arthur Knibbs and
Cecil Knott and His Joybell Orchestra:
"Teacher Lick The Gal; Ada"
"Sammy Dead; Get Up Adina; Mr. Ramgoat, Oh"
Two two-song medleys :
"When You Come America; Cowhead"
"Belly Lick; Bargie"
"When You Come America" is a tourist song and could be the only
original that Knibbs recorded. "Cowhead" is the familiar song, "Ten Penny
Nail", Both "Belly Lick" and "Bargie" are popular mentos." Because its a
favorite of mine, and is not in print, here is a song clips for "Belly Lick". [Click here for
notes About the Audio Clips On this Site.]
||On the Carl's
label is a 1960s single by King Arthur Knibbs and Native Band:
"Island in the Sun" backed with "Jamaica Farewell".
"Island in the Sun" begins and ends with an identified woman providing a
spoken word introduction over the sound of surf. Its a soulful rendition of
this oft recorded song. Both songs feature with rural mento instrumental
with the addition of prominent Hawaiian (!) guitar.
To the right is the same
single in an "Island Music Souvenir" postcard-like
||Here is a more
complete view of a less well preserved, different colored specimen of the
relaxed vocals. This LP is in
stereo, whereas most middle period mento LPs were not, perhaps indicating
that this was released late in the 1960s or early in the 1970s. Two covers
are of interest: "Something Has Change Me" is the early Wailers song "Your
Love". And more surprising is that "John B" is The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B"
(unless you are aware that this song was a West Indian folk song long before The
Beach Boys recorded it).
On the 1960's version of the
Kalypso label "Runaway Bay Hotel Jamaica" by
King Arthur and The Ad Libs. This is a typical hotel album of
mento's middle period. As was too often the case, the notes do a better job
of advertising the hotel than describing the musicians. The repertoire adds
nothing new since the 1950s. As you can see from the detail of the front
jacket, this is a rural mento group. (Arthur is standing leftmost.) The band
is quite good, with playful banjo and Arthur's
to Richard Noblett of London for the following newspaper clippings.
From February 26, 1954:
Two of Arthur Knibbs' 78 RPM
singles with Cecil Knott and His Joybell Orchestra appear in this add for
"lively M.R.S. Calypsos from Stanley
From June 11, 1956:
"Arthur Knibbs received a
thunderous ovation from the cosmopolitan crowd" in St. Ann and won the right
to compete against The Silver Seas Calypso Band for "1956 Calypo Band
Champions of Jamaica". The "foot high Calypso Cigar Challenge Cup" is at
August 26, 1958:
first big group of summer tourists arrives at Montego Bay, and they are
entertained at customs by "the lilting calypsos of Arthur Knibbs
and His Merry Knights".
From October 5, 1964:
five-piece Arthur Knibbs
and His Merry Knights" returns from a five month
engagement in Lima Peru, their third trip there.