We’ve mentioned poor hapless L.O.L. Productions before, whose films are usually the absolute nadir in terms of Soundies production. With only $1,200 budgeted for each completed film, and imagination hemmed in by these constraints, many of their shorts are shoddy, listless, racist, embarrassing or just downright boring. And a large number of seem to come directly from the “What were they thinking?” department.
In late 1942 someone at L.O.L. realized that they could probably obtain the services of Sam Manning, Jamaican-born calypso singer, for a song … so to speak. At this time calypso music was largely unknown to most American listeners – the hit songs “Rum and Coca Cola” and “Stone Cold Dead In the Market” were all in the future. Manning was probably willing to perform for a low fee, knowing that he and his music would receive considerable exposure on the Panoram screen. Manning had recorded for Decca Records and worked in and around New York City, where he had a small but enthusiastic following among the roughly 20% of Manhattan’s black population that had an Afro-Caribbean backgroun
Manning is joined by dancer Belle Rosette. Trinidad-born Rosette (born Beryl McBurnie) began performing as a child and moved to New York City in 1938 where she studied dance with Martha Graham and Kathleen Dunham. In the early 1940s she began teaching classes at the New Dance Group where she preserving dances and melodies from Trinidad and Tobago that would have otherwise become lost.
To further cut cost L.O.L. either licensed or bootlegged a Decca recording by Manning, backed by Gregory Felix and his Krazy Kats from 1941. Whatever the money paid to the artists and for the recording, L.O.L., had money left over for a fairly elaborate café setting. What results is a real surprise: authentic calypso sounds presented in what is a superior Soundie released during the recording ban of 1943-44.