As part of the Black History Month Saga here at the club, I was really excited to have interviewed the legendary singer Millie Small. The first time I dialled her number, my heart was pounding with excitement. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.
Karlina: Millie, what can you tell me about your beginnings?
Millie: Yeah, well, I’m from a town called Clarendon in Jamaica. I am the youngest of five children from my mother’s side.
Karlina: That’s great. How did you start your singing career?
Millie: I started at a Talent Show in Jamaica called the Vere Johns Contest and I won the second place. I was twelve then, so I was pretty young.
Karlina: So what happened then? You won second place, who found you? How did it happen?
Millie: Yeah, after that prize I went to Kingston and recorded with Roy Panton and we called ourselves ‘Roy and Millie’ and we made a record called ‘We’ll Meet’. And that was my first record and the one that brought me to England.
Karlina: Oh amazing!
Millie: So Chris Blackwell became my manager then, he heard it and he brought it to England and released it and then he helped me come and live in England to promote the music and so on.
Karlina: Where you signed to a particular record label?
Millie: I wasn’t signed. In Jamaica those days we don’t sign for anything we just made the record and we don’t get paid for it. Those days were very mean.
Karlina: Very very mean indeed. But obviously when you came to the UK it all changed right? How old were you when you came to the UK?
Millie: I was almost 15 years old and Chris Blackwell, he was the one that brought me to England, as I said before. So he liked my music and he released it on his label, Island Records.
Karlina: Ok, so those were very exciting beginnings indeed. Did you ever have a mentor to guide you or anything like that?
Millie: No, no, no just me on my own. I came here when I was very young. Chris Blackwell looked after me and we were like a little family. Yeah man. It was very interesting; no problems at all, no pain, I just carried on, did my thing and looked after myself.
Karlina: That’s good and actually very impressive. Some people just fall off the wagon especially being so young and all, coming to another country.
Millie: Yeah, I was fulfilling my destiny.
Karlina: That’s great. So whilst in the UK, how many records did you release?
Millie: ‘My Boy Lollipop’ was my biggest hit. So when I came to England I made a few other records, but Chris Blackwell had heard the song ‘My boy Lollipop’ and he thought be a good song for me to sing and he was right. It was right.
Karlina: Indeed, it was. Everyone knows your version and enjoy the song. It is very catchy, uplifting and positive.
Millie: Yes, I really enjoyed making it.
Karlina: So, while on your journey, did you ever have a favourite singer or artist that you got inspired from?
Millie: No, not inspired, but I did love Fats Domino and he was one of the people I loved listening to and another signer called Solomon Burke. They were the only two people that really switched me on musically.
Karlina: Ok, and what was it about their music that got you?
Millie: Is the Rhythm and Blues, something that really got me at that time.
Karlina: So just a little question about pop culture, do you have a favourite movie or book that sometimes you back to?
Millie: No, I love painting though. I used to do a lot of painting in the 70s. I also used to read a lot when I was on my early days travelling around. I don’t have a favourite one, I just love reading and loved going to the cinema when I was touring and had nothing else to do.
Karlina: I love going to the cinema.
Millie: Yeah man, I used to love it on my early days.
Karlina: Great. So digging into the Black History Month theme, is there a particular black person that you think are a good example for society?
Millie: I don’t have any role models but I know there are lots of good people out there doing very very good things. Everyone, black and white.
Karlina: I agree. And what do you think about Black History Month?
Millie: Every month should be everyone’s month. Human month.
Karlina: Good one. Moving on now, what do you think about the world today? How different is it from back in the day in terms of making it as an artist?
Millie: It is so much better now because you have lots of radio stations, different ways to promote and show you music and everybody can hear it. In my days it was very difficult to get my record on the radio, unless it’s in the charts. In another country not as bad, but in England, people were very tight when it came to releasing singles. Yeah man!
Karlina: Indeed. What would you say to your teenage self?
Millie: I would say carry on because nothing changed I’m still the same person and I haven’t had any problems. Chris Blackwell became like my father and we were a little family that was really important for me to have that support.
Karlina: That is indeed great when you have that and makes the journey much easier doesn’t it?
Millie: Oh yes. I was well looked after.
Karlina: If there is anyone that you would thank for anything good in your life, who would it be?
Karlina: Good stuff. I would too. If you had a super power, what would it be?
Millie: Fly a spaceship.
Karlina: I love spaceships!
Millie: Yeah man, I love the universe and the stars.
Karlina: What are you most proud of?
Millie: My daughter.
Karlina: Oh that’s sweet! Do you want to tell us about her?
Millie: Well, her name is Jae-Lee Small and she a very talented singer of her own merit and she is out there doing the best she can.
Karlina: That’s also very inspiring and amazing how she is also a singer.
Millie: Yeah man. She is a very kind and lovely human being.
Karlina: What would you advice to young people today? Maybe some that wants to achieve their dreams but don’t know how?
Millie: I would say no matter the difficulties, it you want something bad enough you have to carry on with it because if you want it, it means it is your destiny and you have to go for it. So you must accept their dream and most importantly remember their dream to go for it.
Karlina: Accept and remember; those are really words of wisdom there. Because I think some people get carried away on the little things of everyday life and forget their dreams and goals. And then they are unhappy. So that’s a really good thing to do.
Millie: Yeah man. Stay focused and carry on.
Karlina: Indeed. Well, thank you Millie for your time today and I hope it all keeps going well for you.
Millie: Thank you, the same to you.