Saint Thomas, Jamaica
|Died||1977 (aged 55–56)|
|Genres||Mento, calypso, ska, reggae|
|c. 1950 - c. 1970|
|Labels||MRS, Bongo Man, Kalypso, Melotone, Chin's, Caribou, Lasher Disc|
Count Lasher was the stage-name of Terence Parkins (c.1921 - 1977[note 1]), a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Born in the mountainous parish of Saint Thomas, Lasher predominately utilized first rural, and then urban mento styles in his music, although in later years he recorded some ska and reggae singles. Successful and prolific in output, Count Lasher remains an overlooked figure in the history of Jamaican music.
Count Lasher's career started soon after leaving school. An avid fan of mento music, he taught himself how to play the piano and the guitar before traveling to Kingston where he entertained the tourists on boats moored within Kingston Harbour.
A prolific performer, Lasher appeared at hotels, beach parties, charity events, and occasionally in cinemas before the start of the movies. He recorded on several different labels (his debut being produced by Stanley Motta), and was accompanied by various backing bands over the course of his career; early singles are credited to Count Lasher's Seven, with names such as the Royal Calypsonians and Calypso Quartet used later. Though Lasher's music was technically mento in style, Jamaican acts of the era often recorded under calypso-related names as the term 'calypso' had greater recognition amongst tourists.
Count Lasher entered some of the music competitions held regularly at Jamaica's Ward's Theatre. On 20 April 1957 the theatre's "Federated Calypso Clash" saw Trinidadian calypso artists Lord Pretender and Lord Melody battle mento locals Count Lasher and Lord Messam. Count Lasher continued to perform until the mid-1970s, releasing more than fifty songs, yet he never recorded any albums or compilations.
Both his age and the spelling of his real name[note 2] are still open to question, and despite believing that he could be the greatest of all the mento performers, musicologist Michael Garnice has also stated that: "Count Lasher may be the single most neglected artist in the history of Jamaican recorded music."
Early recordings released by mento artists were primarily intended for use on the island's sound systems, only later being released to the general public. Like most of the mento songwriters, Count Lasher is a storyteller and social-commentator as well as an entertainer. Colorful local dialect is also employed liberally throughout Lasher's work, with themes and issues easily recognizable to the island's inhabitants. The chorus in "Mango Time" presents a list of mango cultivars:
- Yes, the fellows push the carts all day and hear dem holler--"Mango dem!"
- Dem got Beefy, Turpentine, Bombay and Number 11 - "Mango dem!"
- Kidney, Harris and Joellen, Calcutta and Black Mango
- Robin, Hilltop, East Indian, and all different kind of mango.
- Chorus from "Mango Time", Count Lasher's Seven (MRS)
More Jamaican idioms are to be found in Lasher's arrangement of traditional song "The Weed" (aka "Man Pyabba"), which tells of a hungry man encountering an old lady with a basket packed with different medicinal herbs. The protagonist in the story is offered a bewildering array of herbs, with unusual local names such as: 'Tomtom Callback', 'Deadman get-up', 'Granny Back Bone', 'Granny Crack Cracks', 'Guzzu Weed', 'Puss in Boots', and the 'Ducky Batty'. Lasher laments that, "The only one she didn't have was the wicked 'Ganja Weed'.."
Many mento acts used suggestive lyrics in their work, and with a name like "Count Lasher" (local slang for a Don Juan-like character), it is unsurprising that Perkins recorded several 'saucy' numbers. "The Man with the Tool", "Female Boxer", "The Ole Man's Drive", and "Water The Garden" are examples of songs where double-entendres are gleefully employed by Count Lasher. Sometimes the subtext is only thinly-veiled, for instance in "Robusta Banana":
- She said the reason why she like the Robusta fruit
- That kind of banana was born to suit
- It was bigger and harder than the rest
- And it can always stand the boiling test!
- Verse from "Robusta Banana" a.k.a. "Jamaica Bananas", by Count Lasher's Calypso Quintet
In "Maintenance" Count Lasher recounts a tale of having been sued for child support, when he is adamant that the baby does not belong to him. The baby is white, and Lasher notes how: "I'm black, you think, and [the mother] is closely related to ink". After he is told that the baby is white because the mother drank Milk of Magnesia when pregnant, Lasher retorts: "..put me in jail if you like, I ain't paying.. ..For me to mind a child, well you have to know, that the scamp must be born singing calypso".
Many other subjects were examined by Lasher in his work. The West Indian passion for cricket is documented in tunes like "Final Test Decision" and "Tribute To Sobers", and in "Trek to England" Lasher angrily commented on the West Indian emigration boom of the time. He felt that the local 'gals' had been made 'vicious' by their obsession with obtaining enough money to purchase a ticket to the country.
Count Lasher's "Calypso Cha Cha" was covered and renamed "Rocking Steady" by Bob Marley. The track appears on Marley's album 1967-1972 Gold. "Sam Fi Man" was later recorded by fellow mento artist Stanley Beckford.
Count Lasher was prolific in terms of singles released, yet he never recorded an album, and no compilation of his music has been issued. A (possibly incomplete) selection of Count Lasher's recordings is given below: