Remembering Monty Douglas
Celebrating our creative personalities
By Ray Seales
July 4, 2004
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I was recruited as the new bass guitar player by Walter (Cowboy) Scott who at the time worked for my father at GEMS. He knew first-hand how aggressive I was on the bass and that I had had some experience playing rhythm guitar with The Mountaineers.
Aubrey Cummings insisted on a more seasoned player, but most seasoned players wanted to play in top bands, and The Dominators at the time was not in the running, but soon!
This time I was playing with a group of musicians who were enthusiastic about practice and showing up on time.
Monty Douglas joined the group as lead vocalist and MC. At first, I was puzzled by the choice because he did not look like a front-liner, but I soon found out that his knowledge of harmony and his songwriting skills would become part of the driving force of the Dominators.
Before Monty came to the band, he was a Jehovah's Witness, and before that, I was told he was a boy preacher. This accounted for his extraordinary knowledge of the Bible and his decency as a human being.
He was well read and this was most likely responsible for his well put-together lyrics.
Monty had all the qualities of a great songwriter. He was completely in touch with our social and political problems of the time, which he wrote about intelligently with rhythm and rhyme.
In any other place and time, a lot more attention would have been given to the depth and meaning of his songs. But Guyana settled for being dumped on with meaningless rhetoric from foreign recording companies with the full support of our radio stations.
I produced and recorded Monty's Mr Odds and Ends in 1972. This was his first original recording and also my first as producer-engineer-player. The record was manufactured in Jamaica by Record Specialist for GEMS on our EKO Label. The 45 rpm was released in 1973, the same year the original members of the Dominators became the Telstars International who toured Brazil. To me, this song is classic original Guyanese music of the '70s, but very few copies were sold.
Monty Douglas' Self Preservation is another masterpiece that was recorded at GEMS in the '70s, but was never released. My father loved this song. To him, it was like an anthem, and he thought we might be wasting a great song on deaf ears. He thought we should wait.
In 1974, The Telstars International went to Barbados to record its first album for which Monty Douglas wrote five of the 10 tracks on the album Telstars Orbiting. They are:
1. Mr. Odds & Ends
3. No Liberation
4. Sweet Vibration
5. Making a Living
This album was our best effort. Making a Living was sung by Phil (Bumpy) Dino. This is a song that the working class in any society can relate to - classic Monty Douglas.
Send me an S.O.S. is another Monty Douglas song about brotherly love. Mr. Odds & Ends is a remake and is an-all time classic about social awareness - about the homeless.
I will always remember Monty Douglas. This was the guy who practised many weeks to perform an opera in Portuguese with the Governor General, Sir David Rose and represented Guyana at songwriting festivals in the Caribbean. This was the man who could eat 25 of Boyo's dhal pouri in one sitting, and drink the largest bottle of coke in Brazil. Those were the days.
The last time I saw Monty was in 1980 when I visited Guyana.
He told me he was finished with the music business and that he had thrown away his music book with all his compositions.
He had lost all hope and was in a complete state of depression. This meeting was our final encounter. It is believed that Monty died a few years later in the interior of Guyana while working as a miner. May he rest in peace.
In the coming months, Monty Douglas will be honoured by GEMS Music of Guyana for his musical contributions.
Music by the Telstars International, The Dominators and Monty Douglas is available at: www.gems-av.com/gemsav.html
Editor's note: In 2003, the Guyana Folk Festival Committee was the recipient of the GEMS Music 2003 Appreciation Award for "their continuing effort in the development of Guyanese culture."