Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Crucian "Scratch" Band Music on Vinyl

I've had an interest in the traditional or folk music of the Caribbean for several years now. Despite this interest, I remained mostly unaware of the Scratch music from the U.S. Virgin Islands, in particular St. Croix, until recently. 

Scratch music is kind of like St. Croix's version of old-time, with jazz and calypso influences, and also European quadrille dance music traditions. A modern day (since the 1970's at least) full scratch band usually has seven people or instruments: saxophone as the lead, plus banjo-ukulele, electric guitar, triangle (steel), guiro (squash), conga, and electric bass guitar. 

I've obtained a few vinyl LP's of vintage scratch music by bands such as Jamsie and the Happy Seven, Blinky and the Roadmasters, and Joe Paris and the All-Stars. The most interesting one is probably Caribe Songs Music Can't Done by Joe Paris (picture shown above). It was supposed to be another Jamsie record, but it was mislabeled. I think it's always mislabeled. The seller sent it to me anyway and I'm glad he did. It's definitely a USVI scratch band playing, but Side A is all music like for a square dance or contra dance, with a caller and a band playing traditional tunes fronted by saxophone. I believe the Joe Paris credited on the back of the record is actually supposed to be spelled Joe Parris.

By far the best overall, however, is the Crucian Scratch Band Music LP by Blinky and the Roadmasters. This album was put out in 1990 on Rounder Records, so you know it's good! It took about a month for shipping from the seller in Europe, but my copy finally arrived in brand new unopened mint condition. This could actually become one of my favorite albums of all time, and features such standards as Ay Ay Ay, Cigar with the Race, Labega's Carousel, Father Molloy, Quadrille Figure Six, Caroline, Pussy Whiskers, Matty Gru, and Queen Mary. 

In my very, very, vanilla way I am trying to learn some of these melodies. I also got the Zoop, Zoop, Zoop CD of traditional music and folklore of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John...mostly so I could read the liner notes. It's got some great songs too!



  1. Hi, I played music many times with Blinky in St Croix in the 1970’s, and have sat in with Joe Parris and the Hot Shots at a Quadrille dance. I know these songs, so let me know if you’d like to discuss any aspects of Cruzian scratch band music (now known as Quelbe music.

    1. Hi Mark. Your comment got held up in a filter but I just noticed it. That's so cool that you got to play with those guys!