1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Tulips For Toinette – Johnny Kongos & The G-Men

Tulips For Toinette - Johnny Kongos & The G-Men

Tulips For Toinette – Johnny Kongos & The G-Men

Before his sons were taking pounding pop rock music into the US and Canadian charts, and before he was taking pounding pop rock songs into the UK charts (after he dropped the ‘ny’ at the end of his name as well as the G-Men), Johnny Kongos and his G-Men were making rock ‘n’ roll music in the early 60’s. One of those songs is the rather beautiful ballad ‘Tulips For Toinette’ which was released in 1963 and in those days before the Springbok Top 20, it made number 2 on the LM Hit Parade.

The song was written in memory of a fan of the group (aged 11 if the lyrics of the song is anything to go by) who tragically died on her way to one of their concerts and as such has a rather sad tone to it. There is a cowboy riding his horse rhythm to the beat of the song while a piano gently tinkles in the background (which may well be Koos’ Lisa playing as is a mooiste melodie). This gently rocking and piano underpin some nice harmonies in the vocals which suggest that some Everly Brothers must have been on Kongos & his mates turntable at some point.

Yes, there were loads of American teen idols from the 50s and early 60s who made this sort of music. Names like Ricky Nelson, Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton come to mind, but this was a local lad who was doing it and doing it really well. The song has certainly dated, but as the opening track on the first volume of the original and very important historic record ‘The Best Of SA Pop’ series, it has cemented its place in SA rock history and I am sure the memory of little Toinette will live for a long time still.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 1 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)

Video:

Johnny & The Mermaid – Johnny Kongos & the G-Men

Johnny & The Mermaid - Johnny Kongos & the G-Men

Johnny & The Mermaid – Johnny Kongos & the G-Men

Before the thundering power-pop of ‘Tokoloshe Man’ and ‘He’s Gonna Step On You Again’ John Kongos went by the name of Johnny Kongos and he had G-Men. He also made rock ‘n’ roll records and ‘Johnny & The Mermaid’ was one of his early offerings that goes way back to 1963. The song shot up the LM Radio charts and peaked at number 6. There’s nothing fishy about this tail (apologies) of a man who is off fishing to try catch himself a mermaid. It is a classic rock-a-billy song with Elvis-y vocals, Hank Marvin-y twangy guitars and has an added girlie chorus in a question and response set of lyrics. It’s toe-tapping, ducktailing, boogie that announced to all and sundry that Rock ‘n’ Roll had arrived in South Africa.

It is quite hard to connect the dots between this and his later offerings when he went to the UK and began to rock, or even to the full-on hectic stuff he’s produced with his sons of late. Although the Mother Grundies of the day would disagree, the song takes one back to an age when music seemed innocent. Those opposed would be be moaning about what this young upstart had in mind, once he found himself that mermaid and would ensure that any memaids that were found had the appropriate stars across offending parts of their anatomy. But stick on a Seether track afterward and show them the uncensored video of ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke and you may find them saying that, yes, things were innocent back then. And we should not forget this era of music. It is always refreshing to pop back to it now and again and pretend that all is right with the world.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610

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