The Best Of Millie Small LP released on Island Records, 1967, value £55

KNOWN to most of us affectionately as Millie, her 1964 release of My Boy Lollipop, first recorded by the American singer Barbie Gaye in 1956, became one of the most significant and best selling singles by a female artist in the sixties, writes MICHAEL BROOKS. It was a huge international hit all over the world, reaching number two in the UK and USA, number three in Canada and number one in Australia; sales exceeded well over seven million. A remarkable achievement for a girl born Millicent Dolly May Small. One of 12 children living on a sugar plantation in Jamaica, her father was the overseer.

Millie was discovered by young Chris Blackwell, who had just moved to Jamaica to begin his Island Record recording studio. He spotted Millie singing in a talent show. Recognising her ability and with her parents permission, he became her manager, legal guardian and brought her to England.

She first appeared on British television in 1964. Her exuberant, sparkling personality endeared her to the nation.

What makes this record so significant is that Millie became the precursor of the Jamaican music genre known then as ska or bluebeat, which later evolved into reggae music, sometimes known as rock steady. She opened the door to artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, including probably the biggest legendary star of them all, Bob Marley. Reggae music has been prominent throughout the music world ever since; 50 or so years later top UK bands and singers have included many reggae songs into their repertoire: Boy George with Everything I Own; Eric Clapton and I Shot The Sherrif, to name just a couple, are prime examples, but the list is endless. One has to wonder if bands such as The Specials, Madness, UB40 and Black Uhuru would be in existence today? Who knows, I think they do owe a nod of thanks to Millie.

For many years it was claimed that Rod Stewart played harmonica on this recording; it was in fact Pete Hogman of The Pete Hogman Blues Band who provided the backing on My Boy Lollipop. Rod and Pete did know each other and were sometimes members of a band called 5 Dimensions, a UK blues band. Rod Stewart was virtually unknown at the time and has always denied being present. Millie, however, is adamant that it was Rod playing harmonica, but after carefully examining the facts, we have to say it was a case of mistaken identity.

All of Millie's record releases are quite collectable; her 1961 Millie EP issued on the Blue Beat label when she was only 15 is exchanging hands for £140. She released a further selection of EP and LPs until the beginning of the seventies with synonymous titles More Millie, Millie And Her Boyfriends, Millie Sings Fats Domimo (value £60) and Time Will Tell.

MBL is still a perennial favourite on oldie radio shows. Even after all this time it is still an absolute joy to listen to. To younger people who may never of heard of it, do give it a listen, I guarantee you will love it.