The Jiving Juniors were a Jamaican vocal group, heavily influenced by American rock’n’roll
and rhythm and blues who cut at least a dozen singles for possibly as many labels. The group was Eugene Dwyer, Herman Sang, Maurice Winter, and lead singer Derrick Harriot who’d go on to stardom in Jamaica later as a solo act, producer and label owner. Many other singers passed through the group but names are hard to come by at this late date. They cut sides for producer Duke Reid’s bewildering variety of labels as well as a few for his main competitor Sir Coxone Dodd, they even recorded for future prime minister Edward Sega. They had one single issued in the US– Moonlight Lover b/w Sweet As An Angel for the tiny, Harlem based Asnes label (whose first release was the Dorsets’ brilliant homage to the swine– Porkchops.). Their first disc appeared around 1958, their last in ’62. That’s pretty much all I know about ’em. But man, they sounded good. Listen to their cover of the Starlites Valerie (for the Starlites incredible story see last months entry here). Here’s a few of my favorites– I Wanna Love, Tu-Woo-Up-Tu-Woo, I Love You, Come On Honey, Don’t Treat me Bad, My Heart’s Desire, Dearest Darling, and their biggest Jamaican hit– Lollipop Girl. Their harmonies are gorgeous, but they still sounded dirty and raw, and they could rock when they wanted to. They never made the transition to ska and by ’62 they must have sounded dated to Jamaica’s record buying public, but to me, nearly a half century later, they sound as good as any of the major American groups of the era, in fact better than most. Duke Reid always used the best musicians on his discs and you be sure that Rolando Alphonso (sax), Don Drummond (trombone), Owen Grey (piano), Ernest Ranglin (guitar), and Arkland “Drumago” Parks (drums) were on a lot of these sides. There were tons of great R&B acts in Jamaica before the dawn of ska– the Blues Busters, Laurel Aitken, Derrick and Patsy, the Mellolarks, et al, but the best one I’ve ever heard are the Jiving Juniors, and even though I don’t have much to tell you about them, their sounds are priceless. There’s a bootleg called Jamaican Doo-Wop Vol. 1 (no label, I never saw a volume two), that has a bunch of their tunes, and Trojan UK has issued a three CD box Tojan Jamaican R&B Box Set, 50 tunes over three CDs with an excellent selection of pre-ska R&B and rock’n’roll from the Island.