Monday 10 June 2013

Lemmy Mabaso - Lemmy Hit Parade No.1 (1962)

This post will be my last for a while at Electric Jive. I am taking some time to concentrate on a number of other creative projects. I want to thank the team here at EJ for inviting me two-and-half years ago to be a part of this amazing resource. Much of South African music history remains undocumented and significant information is rapidly fading away. Electric Jive continues to provide a critical window onto that history and I am honored to have played a small part in this valuable archiving project. Chris, Matt, Nick and Francis thank you so much!

For this final post I though it might be appropriate to feature two LPs from Gallo’s New Sound label: Lemmy Hit Parade No. 1 (NSL 1008) and Top Hits of the Big Three (NSL 1006). Both are exceptionally hard to find and seldom, if ever, come up on the various auction sites.

Gallo introduced the New Sound label in 1958 as a marketing strategy to brand their more popular jive and kwela releases. It set those recordings apart from their own more “traditional” ones and became a visually catchy product that could rival the competition. The familiar vermillion and yellow label was a bright, modern shift away from the more conventional black, gold and silver label designs of the preceding decades. (For more on the New Sound label check out my provisional discography at flatint.)

The label showcased some of Gallo’s most popular jive and kwela artists of the late 1950s and early 1960s including Lemmy 'Special' Mabaso, Spokes Mashiyane, Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks, Reggie Msomi to name but a few. Significantly this label was introduced just as Gallo was signing Mashiyane away from Trutone and it also arrived as the popularity of kwela was peaking internationally. The timing in my opinion cannot be coincidental.

The label, like the music, was bright and easily identifiable. Early issues carried the name Gallotone in a modern san-serif font (the previous logos were all in cursive) but this too was dropped in favor of the clean simplicity of just “New Sound” next to the Gallo rooster logo.

At first the design was used only on 78 rpms, which at that time were chiefly marketed to black consumers. In 1959, some discs were issued as 45 rpms, and in 1960 the company began a series of LPs and EPs featuring some of their best artists. It is likely that these formats were to be marketed to white consumers. New Sounds of Africa, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were the first two LPs issued and included primarily tracks by Spokes Mashiyane but also significant hits by Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks. Coincidentally these came out just as Makeba was becoming popular in the United States — she had left South Africa in August of 1959.

The label continued with a string of LP releases featuring Mashiyane, Mabaso and Msomi and then in 1962 issued the classic live recording of the 1962 Cold Castle National Jazz Festival. Generally Gallo issued jazz recordings on their Continental label, but this LP marked an important departure. This was soon followed by an even more significant classic in Jazz - The African Sound featuring Chris McGregor’s Castle Lager Big Band - one of the most collectable South African records.

New Sound maintained issues until around 1965 when it was replaced by Mavuthela's iconic Motella label under the stewardship of Rupert Bopape. Introduced in 1964 soon after Bopape joined Gallo, Motella became home to the leading South African musical styles of the late 1960s. Mavuthela followed up with other new labels including Gumba Gumba, CTC Star, Smanje Manje and so on.

The two LPs featured today both include tracks by Lemmy 'Special' Mabaso who, in the late fifties along with Spokes Mashiyane, was South Africa’s biggest kwela star. As with all New Sound issues till this point both LPs are compilations of recordings previously issue on 78 rpm.

Mabaso was born in Alexandra Township in 1946 and along with his brothers Jerry and Meshack and three friends formed the Alexandra Junior Bright Boys, a four penny-whistle group accompanied by string-bass and guitar. They would busk the streets of Johannesburg for tips before making their first recordings probably around 1956 or 1957. Mabaso must have been ten or eleven at the time. (Huskisson)

The Alexandra Junior Bright Boys with Mabaso became some of the first black artists in South Africa to be featured on a long playing vinyl record in the 1958 compilation Something New in Africa (GALP 1015) and then again that year on the 10” LP Lemmy Special (GLP 119), both on the Gallotone label. By this point Mabaso must have been twelve.

Lemmy Special, as he is known on many of the recordings, became an overnight sensation and soon found himself performing in some of the biggest stage shows of the day, including African Jazz (1957) and both local and international stage productions of King Kong. After the decline in popularity of kwela he shifted to saxophone in 1963 and joined Reggie Msomi’s Hollywood Jazz Band before forming his own group, the Down-Beats. (Huskisson)

Mabaso continued recording for Gallo well into the 1970s and can be heard playing saxophone on many albums, including Ntemi Piliso’s classic 1975 sessions with the Members. Do yourself a favor and search for Lemmy here at Electric Jive to see the many other LPs he is featured on.

See you later!

Lemmy Hit Parade No. 1
Lemmy Special
New Sound
NSL 1008

Top Hits of the Big Three
Spokes Mashiyane, Lemmy Mabaso, Reggie Msomi
New Sound
NSL 1006


  1. Thanks for all your wonderful offerings, Siemon! Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy the fruits of your labors over at flat int.

  2. Thanks, Siemon, and way to go out with a bang. Good luck with your other projects. -MB

  3. I sincerely hope your absence from this great blog will be a short one. I find your posts particularly informative, - and love the music too!

  4. Thanks you so much, Siemon. I just want you to know that your different posts were so clear and so fruitful that I can't you imagine you far from EJ, or just for a moment.
    Hoping this moment will be the shortest
    Best wishes

  5. Thanks for educating us. You spread knowledge and understanding. The music has been wonderful.

  6. Thanks all for you kind comments!

  7. Thank you for all you have given us. We Americans might never get to hear this wonderful music without folks like you!--Bill

  8. These recordings are awesome. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. beautiful stuff. thankyou.

  10. Thanks for the music ( and the informative texts !)

  11. Hello

    I just found this page.

    would really like to download the Lemmy Mabaso albums but the links seem to dead.

    Any chance you could refresh them?

    thanks very much

  12. Thanks so much man! Kwela music is so hard to find.

  13. It's sad that today Lemmy Special was announced as late. May his beautiful soul rest in peace.


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