Willard Cele - Penny Whistle Blues / Penny Whistle Boogie




recorded 1951
issued 1951-03c
Gallotone (black/gold)
made in South Africa
GE 1123
matrix ABC 3804-1
matrix ABC 3806-2
78 rpm
first issue
source: flatinternational Archive



1.1Penny Whistle Blues (take 1)

(Willard Cele)

1.2Penny Wistle Blues (take 2)

(Willard Cele)

2.3Penny Whistle Boogie

(Willard Cele)



WILLARD CELE - flageolot, flute



A former member of the Alexandra Highlanders, Willard Cele, became quite legendary as a solo performer on the streets of Johannesburg and was subsequently recruited by Donald Swanson into his classic 1951 film The Magic Garden. The film was the second major South African release to feature an almost all-black cast and was hugely successful propelling artists like Dolly Rathebe and Cele to stardom. The film release also just happened to coincide with the very first issue of Drum magazine, and a full page article on Cele in the debut issue, certainly contributed to his growing success.

His unique style and approach to holding the instrument allowed him to produce a fuller range of tones and he became hugely influential on younger aspiring penny whisters. Cele was crippled after a sporting accident in his youth and subsequently walked with a limp. As a result he swayed while he played and these movements, perhaps ironically, were adopted by imitators as a stylistic manner in which to play the flute music. Lara Allen points out that many proteges from Alexandra, including Jake Lerole and Lemmy Mabaso, also adopted the swaying manner while playing; however artists like Spokes Mashiyane, who grew up in what is now Limpopo Province, north of Pretoria, did not.

The film was hugely successful and Gallo recorded two tracks by Cele: Penny Whistle Blues and Penny Whistle Boogie. The records were certainly popular enough to be reissued a number of times and released in the UK on the London label. In digitizing all copies in the flatinternational archive, I was able to determine that at least two takes of Penny Whistle Blues were issued commercially. The most common being take two on most issues and reissues. Interestingly the first take can be found on what I believe is the first issue of the record though oddly it is noted as the second take on the label. Perhaps this first take was issued here in error. The first take also happens to be the same as that used in the film soundtrack.