St John USVI Culture: "Eddie and the Movements" & The Birth of "Jam Band"
In the 1970s, most calypso bands were either Virgin Islands bands or "Down-Island" bands. (This separation by national origin was also characteristic of other areas of Virgin Island society.) The members of the St. John band, Eddie and the Movements, however, had members and roots not only on St. John and St. Thomas, but also in the British Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, Nevis, Dominica and St. Lucia. The resulting mix added a special flavor to the band's music.
"Eddie and the Movements provided a fine example of what should have been happening, but was not always happening at the time," said Emanuel "Mano" Boyd referring to the lack of unity between the two groups of West Indians.
Eddie and the Movements even included a white continental, Dan Silber, who brought a hint of blues into the calypso sound. Danny even had the audacity to play a few riffs on the harmonica, an instrument that was first viewed as completely unacceptable, but was soon found to be a positive addition. Later on, Seto, another band member learned to play the harmonica and this instrument was more regularly incorporated into the fusion sound.
Movement Band Circa 1974 taken on Gibney Beach at the Oppenheimer House
1. Rudolph Bratwaite "Umba"
Other band members not shown in the photo include Dennis (Fox) Frett, Otis (Big O) Martin, Seto (Bumps) Jarvis, Sonia Sprauve, Paul (Ding Ding) Thomas, Colin (Carlsburg or Willie) Sprauve, Moses (the Mighty Zealand) Brathwaite and Carly Powell
The unique community consciousness of St. John also came into play around Eddie and the Movements. St Johnians were proud of the band and extended them a great deal of support. For example, Loredon Boynes and Rodney Varlack, the owners of the ferry services, often provided free transportation, special ferries and help with the instruments. The dock master, Mr. Wesselhoft, would make sure that docking and landing formalities proceeded smoothly.
Eddie and the Movements was born on St. John in the early 1970s. A group of young St. Johnian musicians got together and practiced in rehearsal space provided at no charge by Julian Harley, who today is our Island Administrator. "Julian was a positive influence and our first manager. Thanks Julian!" said original band member, Mano.
One night Eddie Francis happened to be in the area and heard the band practicing. He liked what he heard. Eddie was an accomplished musician from St. Thomas and a member of Milo and the Kings, the most popular band in the Virgin Islands at the time. The bandleader of Milo and the Kings was Eddie's brother, the well-known, Milo Francis, for whom a highway in St. Thomas is now named.
Eddie lent his expertise to the band and eventually became a band member. He helped the band with the arrangements of their songs and introduced the band to musicians from St. Thomas. Eddie also had a boat, which in an era when there were no late night ferries, proved to be a great convenience.
Eddie and the Movements debuted at the Cruz Bay Ballpark in 1974 when they were invited to perform at a Bandorama fundraiser for Steel Unlimited, the St. John Steel Pan band organized by Sis Frank and musically directed by Rudy Wells.
Eddie and the Movements put out two albums. The first one, Time is Running Out, was produced by Lewelyn (Big Lew) Sewer on the Truckerman Label. "Big Lew was a mega-influence. I want to shake his hand when we meet in that big musical theatre up in the sky," said Mano. "Dread High" was the hit song on the Time is Running Out album. The lead vocalist for that song was today's well known personality, Ras Reg.
A year later the band released their second album, Paradise Found, which they produced themselves. The album cover featured a photo of Hawksnest Beach, where they used to practice at the home of Toni Oppenheimer. Both albums were recorded at the Ochoa recording studio in Puerto Rico.
Eddie and the Movements took its place alongside Milo and the Kings and Tremile and the Jamals as one of the three most popular bands in the Virgin Islands at that time. The three bands, coincidentally, were led by the three Francis brothers, Eddie, Milo and Tremile.
At first, Eddie and the Movements played in the few St. John venues that existed at that time, the Fish Fries at Pond Mouth, Eric's Hilltop, Fred's, Daniel's in Pine Peace and at the Flamingo and Sputnik in Coral Bay. Later, Eddie and the Movements played throughout the American and British Virgin Islands, in Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. Thomas and St. Croix. As their fame and popularity increased they played gigs in Puerto Rico, Vieques, St. Kitts, Nevis and St. Martin.
During a period when the band membership had declined, Eddie and the Movements merged with a young band from St. Thomas called T & T Brass, in which Eddie Francis's son was a member. The resulting musical group became today's popular calypso band, Jam Band.