Jolly Boys musician ‘Brutus’ dies suddenly in Portland
Musician Lenford ‘Brutus’ Richards, who was the banjo player and at one time the band leader for famous mento group, The Jolly Boys, died suddenly last week Wednesday, shortly after collapsing at his home in Portland. He was 67.
Richards’ widow, Donna, shared that veteran guitarist who toured with Burning Spear and Jahpostles band, had been a patient at the Annotto Bay hospital for four days and was discharged last week Monday, feeling quite fit. Two days later, he was dead.
“I’m just in a daze,” Donna said. “The issue he had was that he was getting tired just moving around and he went to the doctor to check it out. They didn’t find anything, but he was told that he had received a serious diagnosis 17 years ago after one of his legs kept swelling and he had to start wearing compression socks. The doctors did a scan and realised that the same old clot was still there from all those years. He was hospitalised to deal with that and was feeling better and was discharged.”
Donna, in recalling the events last week Wednesday, said Richards “woke up good good, had some punch and went to do some work in his office”. Shortly after, she heard a sound and when she went to check, she saw her husband lying on his back, unresponsive.
“He came around and even unlocked his phone – my husband has a code on everything – and we got him in a car and took him to the Port Antonio hospital. But while there he was pronounced dead. We were supposed to go to Kingston for a full cavity check, but he didn’t live for that to happen,” she lamented.
Richards, who operated a bar and other business in Portland, was hugely popular in the area and every year he would host his birthday party at Folly in the parish.
“He loved music and he still toured occasionally, but because his leg would swell up, he needed to travel first class. He is the kind of person who would take the time to teach all who asked. When people heard that he died big man and little boy cried,” Donna said.
Saxophonist and producer, Dean Fraser, described Richards as “an exceptional bredren and an overall great person”.
He added, “Musically very talented … he even played the banjo for the Jolly Boys.”
Frazer recalled being present at Richards’ birthday party in January and the discussion that they had about turning the event into a music festival because it was so very well supported and got bigger each year.
“Last week Wednesday was not a good day at all,” Fraser said. “He and I talk regularly ... every two weeks at least. I never go Portland and don’t check Brutus. His death was so shocking. He came out of hospital on Monday and by Wednesday him gone.”
In a June 2019 interview with The Gleaner, Richards, then the band leader of the Jolly Boys, spoke of reviving the band, going on tours and putting out a new album, following the deaths of three of the original members. Founding member Joseph ‘Powda’ Bennett died in 2014; charming lead singer Albert Minott died in 2017, and in March 2019, rhumba box player Derrick ‘Johnny’ Henry died.
“There can’t be a Portland without The Jolly Boys – we’re all from Port Antonio. That’s a Portland legacy. That’s history,” Richards was quoted as saying.
The Jolly Boys at that time comprised Richards on banjo; Donnovan ‘Puss’ Miller on jimbe; Karl Thompson on lead vocals and maracas; Lawrence ‘Larry’ Christie on the rhumba box, and Noel Howard on guitar.
“Mento is still alive. People are still interested. So we definitely have to keep it going,” was Richards’ message to the world.
Plans are for a musical send-off to be held at Folly the last week in June for the father of three.
“Anywhere the music playing and him passing my husband would stop and listen. He loved music and his funeral will be about music ... very little talking,” Donna said.