Saturday, 14 November 2009

Victor Olaiya & his "Cool Cats" Band : The Kerosine High-Life

One of my very favourites in my sizeable and rapidly expanding advertising discs collection, this undated, South Africa-made cardboard eight-inch 78-revs single-sider "comes to you with the compliments of Shell". Its manufacturer was Cameo Sound Pictures (Pty.) Ltd. of P.O. Box 5944, Johannesburg. Perhaps strangely, the music isn't South African, but is by the Nigerian Victor Olaiya & his "Cool Cats" Band (
The play side is black with red and yellow print, plus white, and shows a Shell advertising character pointing to that famous company logo, and a great little "HOW TO PLAY THIS RECORD" panel near the top instructs the proud owner on using their "hand-wind portable gramophone" or "automatic electric gram". The disc's reverse is yellow, printed with a great drawing of a kerosine lamp aglow, wit the same advertising character holding aloft a small can/bottle and pointing at the word "kerosine".
The music is, I'd guess, typical of trumpeter Olaiya and his band at that time. The lyric's first verse runs, "For the brightest lights buy Shell kerosine/ For lighting and cooking use Shell kerosine/ It lasts longer and is three times brighter/ Shell kerosine (burns ?) stronger and is three times better." The following verse is , for me, less easy to decipher but does mention the cooking of food and "the brightest light". Prior to all this, a chap announces the band : "The makers of Shell kerosine have pleasure in bringing you the music of Victor Olaiya and his celebrated "Cool Cats" Band, and here they are - the "Cool Cats"."
The clear plastic disc is raised in a few spots around the edge on my copy where not sufficiently adhered, but the record still plays well after all these decades - a bit of pressure of the thumbs helps to subdue those slight bumps, helps the stylus get through them a little more easily - though the defect isn't at all a major one and is only detactable during the announcement. I'm not sure if there's a reliable method of re-adhering the disc to its backing card.
I wonder how this record was presented when new - mine came without a sleeve, via an eBay auction back in February 2008 (the seller described it as being 1950s). It's one I display on its edge, at the front of a shelf, leaning back, permanently visible - a beautiful artefact to the eyes as well as the ears.

South African cardboard record (front)
South African cardboard record (back)

Link to video of cardboard record collector Michael Cumella :


  1. Great blog and I love this record. Any chance of hearing what's on it?

  2. Unfortunately I've no way of posting sound files - this journal is all very low-budget; I don't even have a computer but go to an Internet cafe !