A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Jack, Voice, Big
Big Voice Jack started his musical career at an early age in the dusty township of Alexandra on the outskirts of Johannesburg. In the late 40’s and early 50’s, Alexandra was alive with bands playing various styles of music. There were brass bands, jazz bands, bands playing marabi, boogy woogy and progressive jazz, but the sound that really captured young Jack’s heart was the sound of the pennywhistle. On weekends in Alexandra, Big Voice Jack furthered his love for the marched and played. The group that captured young Jack’s attention consisted of a rather bizarre lot of men who used to dress up in Scottish kilts and march through the streets playing pennywhistles and home made drums made from rubber and bottle tops. “We used to call them ‘Amaskotish’, “ says Big Voice Jack. “I saw these men and from then on I urged my parents to get me a pennywhistle.” Big Voice Jack taught himself to play by rehearsing all the popular songs of the time. Songs like “In the mood” and “The Chattanooga Choo Choo”, and once he became good enough he joined the older men and went out with them on weekends to play for money. In 1952, Big Voice Jack recorded his debut 78 inch single with Troubadour Records called “Fislasiya Rhala”. Over the next couple of years he recorded many singles and by 1956 he was starting to receive recognition for his unmatched skill with the pennywhistle. He formed a band with his brother Alias Lerole, David Rhamamosa. Peter Khumalo and Zeph Ncabinde called, The Alexandra Shamba Boys and recorded an album that became hugely popular in the dancehalls and shebeens of South Africa. “Suddenly I had an entourage,” remembers Jack, “and people used to follow me through the streets like I was a preacher.” Jack and his band used to march from one end of the city to the other, playing and collecting money as they went. This was during the dark days of apartheid South Africa, and the band members were frequently arrested for causing a public disturbance. “We used to just pay the fine and carry on playing,” says Jack. One of the other dangers at the time were the gangsters who would frequently pressurise bands for protection money. For this reason, Jack and his band used to carry around tomahawks around with them for protection. By the end of the 50’s the pennywhistle had gained in popularity so much that international audiences began to be interested in the sound. Jack had become involved with a theatre group called “Gibelani Madoda” and he accompanied them on his first international trip when they set off for a tour of Italy. The tour was to take Jack through the dancehalls and theatres of Europe where his pennywhistles were gaining new converts with every show. In the early 60’s Jack returned to South Africa and embarked on a solo career. It was at this time that he got the name Big Voice Jack because of the distinctive singing style he employed, a deep groaning style that striped his vocal cords forever. Jack’s solo career took off and he put out many hit singles throughout the 60’s and 70’s, “Cherry Beat”, “Big Voice Jack no 1” and “Jacking Jack” were some of his more popular hits.