Jamaican teenager Millie Small
stunned the music business by reaching number two in both the U.S. and the U.K. with "My Boy Lollipop" in 1964. Born Millicent Small in Clarendon, she was the daughter of an overseer on a sugar plantation (her reported date of birth varies from 1942 to 1948), and she was one of the very few female singers in the early ska era in Clarendon. She was already recording in her teens for Sir Coxone Dodd's Studio One label with Roy Panton (as Roy & Millie), with a hit behind her in that capacity ("We'll Meet"), when Chris Blackwell
discovered her and brought her to England in late 1963. Her fourth recording, "My Boy Lollipop," cut in London by a group of session musicians that included guitarist Ernest Ranglin
(and, according to some accounts, Rod Stewart
on harmonica) and featuring her childlike, extremely high-pitched vocals, was the first (and indeed, one of the few) international ska hits. It remains one of the biggest-selling reggae or ska discs of all time with more than seven million sales.
, who was known as "the Blue Beat Girl" on her album, was perceived as a one-shot novelty artist from the start because of her unusual, almost screeching vocals (which actually owed a lot to Shirley Goodman
of the '50s New Orleans R&B duo Shirley & Lee
), and she only made the Top 40 one more time, with the "My Boy Lollipop" soundalike "Sweet William." She did cut an entire album around the two hits (and video clips exist of Millie
miming to "My Boy Lollipop" and another single, "Henry"), which also includes the first of several of her covers of Fats Domino
material ("I'm in Love Again") with whom she later recorded an entire album.