You may remember the song “Jump in the Line” and may have even thought that this was a Harry Belafonte original, later to be remade in 2011 by rapper Pitbull backed by T-Pain. Well this song is actually a cover of a song first recorded by legendary Calysonian and Jamaican native Lord Flea “Shake Shake Senora”. Little Flea's version of the song was reviewed in February 1957 by Billboard, which stated that: "Flea has a dynamic drive" and that the single "could put many to shame."
Born Norman Byfield Thomas in 1934, the great Lord Flea was a Jamaican mento musician responsible for "helping start the calypso craze in U.S. Thomas was born in Kingston, Jamaica and began his career in entertainment at local dancehalls like the 'Adastra Gardens' and 'Success'. In 1949, he earned himself a year-long engagement after he had performed in the talent competitions held at the Sugar Hill Club. Flea recorded and released records with the assistance of local business men, Alec Durie and Ken Khouri. Early singles featuring Flea's vocal performances were attributed to 'The Blue Mountain Caroleers' or 'The Jamaican Calypsonians' Lord Flea & his Calypsonians later received a contract and began to perform in America for Bill Saxon, owner of Club Calypso on Byscayne Boulevard in Miami.
Lord Flea is credited as one of the first Jamaican musicians to penetrate the mainstream market in the United States:
Though the music produced by Lord Flea was mento, it was marketed as the popular music at the time which was 'calypso'. In a 1957 interview for the U.K. Calypso Star magazine, Lord Flea explained:
"In Jamaica, we call our music 'mento' until very recently. Today, 'calypso' is beginning to be used for all kinds of West Indian music. This is because it's become so commercialized there. Some people like to think of West Indians as carefree natives who work and sing and play and laugh their lives away. But this isn't so. Most of the people there are hard working folks, and many of them are smart business men. If the tourists want "calypso", that's what we sell them.
Suffering from Hodgkin's Disease, Lord Flea was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami in 1959. On 18 May 1959 , at the age of either 25, Lord Flea died. Thomas's subsequent funeral procession was, at the time, the longest ever seen in Miami-Dade County.
FJN honors Lord Flea and The Calysonians.................