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Artist Profile
Skatalites
1963 ~ 1966
The Skatalites worked together as a recording band from 1963 to 1965 but during those two incredibly creative years they established the template for all that followed.
>>Featured Page
Members:
Bass:
Lloyd Brevett
Lloyd Spence

Drums:
Lloyd Knibbs
Arkland ‘Drumbago’ Parks

Alto Saxophone:
Lester Sterling
Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan

Baritone Saxophone:
Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan

Tenor & Baritone Saxophone:
Dennis ‘Ska’ Campbell

Trumpet:
Oswald ‘Baba’ Brooks
Reverend Billy Cooke
Percival Dillon
Bobby Ellis
Raymond Harper
David Madden
Johnny ‘Dizzy’ Moore

Trombone:
Don Drummond
Emmanuel ‘Rico’ Rodriguez
Ron Wilson

Organ & Harmonica:
Charles ‘Charlie Organaire’ Cameron

Piano:
Gladstone ‘Gladdy’ Anderson
Jackie Mittoo

Guitar:
Jerome ‘Jah Jerry’ Hines
Harold McKenzie
Nerlyn ‘Lyn’ Taitt
Ernest Ranglin

Vocals:
Doreen Schaffer
Tony Da Costa
Dobby Dobson
Tony Gregory
Jackie Opel
Lord Tanamo
Place of establishment:
Jamaica
Kingston
"The Skatalites consist of musicians who are the best individually and have combined to produce a sound that is the greatest."

Bass: Lloyd Brevett & Lloyd Spence
Drums: Lloyd Knibbs & Arkland 'Drumbago' Parks
Tenor Saxophone: Roland Alphonso & Tommy McCook
Alto Saxophone: Lester Sterling & Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan(Karl Bryan)
Baritone Saxophone: Karl 'Cannonball' Bryan
Tenor & Baritone Saxophone: Dennis 'Ska' Campbell
Trumpet: Oswald 'Baba' Brooks(Baba Brooks), Reverend Billy Cooke, Percival Dillon, Bobby Ellis, Raymond Harper, David Madden & Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore(Johnny Moore)
Trombone: Don Drummond, Emmanuel 'Rico' Rodriguez(Rico Rodriguez) & Ron Wilson
Organ & Harmonica: Charles 'Charlie Organaire' Cameron
Piano: Gladstone 'Gladdy' Anderson(Gladstone Anderson) & Jackie Mittoo
Guitar: Jerome 'Jah Jerry' Hines, Harold McKenzie, Nerlyn 'Lyn' Taitt(Lyn Taitt)
& Ernest Ranglin
Vocals: Doreen Schaffer, Tony Da Costa, Dobby Dobson, Tony Gregory,
Jackie Opel & Lord Tanamo

The supply of hard driving American rhythm & blues records that had provided the heartbeat for Jamaican sound systems throughout the fifties began to dwindle towards the end of the decade as audiences in the USA turned towards a softer, less aggressive sound. Rivalry between the sounds was still at fever pitch and, in order to keep one step ahead of the opposition, the more progressive sound system controllers began using musicians from Kingston's jazz and big band fraternity to make one off 'soft wax' or 'transcription disc' recordings.

"The purpose for producing these new songs was to provide music which his followers could dance to with ease, as well as listen with pleasure."

The jazz movement had started in Jamaica with the first large scale Jazz Concert at Kingston's Ward Theatre in 1954. But the stars of this show, including Wilton Gaynair, Noel Gillespie, Joe Harriott and Harold McNair, subsequently left to seek their fortune overseas because of the lack of musical opportunities in Jamaica. However the second wave of jazz players were able to work on the home front and established players such as Roland Alphonso, Oswald 'Baba' Brooks(Baba Brooks), Don Drummond, Tommy McCook and Ernest Ranglin began to record for the sound system operators. The acetates that they created were originally intended for exclusive play on the sound systems but the demand proved so great that the operators began to press and release some of them commercially on vinyl.

These records soon became far more than attempts to capture the spirit and feel of American rhythm & blues and a new sound was created that was not only totally original but that would also go on to outlive a large proportion of its formative influences. This music took the driving drum and bass beat derived from rhythm & blues and boogie woogie from the USA, the influences of the big bands of Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington, forties swing bands and free blowing be-bop, South American latin and samba influences blended together with African based buru drumming, the religious fervour and drumming techniques of pocomania and jonkanoo, Rastafarian ideology, the formality of quadrille, mento's topicality and local 'story telling' lyrics were all combined into one unmistakably Jamaican whole. The origins of the name of this music are not as clear but most agree that it was onomatopoeic as the musicians urged and encouraged each other to "play it like ska,ska,ska".

Named by Tommy McCook "Somebody had suggested 'The Satellites'... it was Dizzy, Lloyd Knibbs or one of the brothers. But I said no... 'The Skatalites' since the ska was what we played" The Skatalites were officially formed at a meeting in the Odeon Theatre, Kingston in 1963. Shortly afterwards they played their first official engagement at the Hi Hat Club in Rae Town. Over the next two years they would play out at venues such as La Parisienne (immortalised on Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dood)'s seven inch record 'Ska La Parisienne' released on C & N Records and credited to Roland Alphonso & Orchestra), The Orange Bowl and the Bournemouth Beach Club. They played their farewell show in August 1965 at a police dance held at the Runaway Bay Hotel.

Their output in the recording studios was staggering, both for the amount of records that they played on, and the inevitable incredibly high standards that they invariably maintained. Powered by the rhythm section of Lloyd Knibbs and Lloyd Brevett accompanied by 'Jah Jerry' and schoolboy Jackie Mittoo the distinguished soloists, including Roland Alphonso, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore(Johnny Moore) and Lester Sterling, not only recorded countless instrumental sides but also backed every singer and vocal group of note during this intensely creative period. Trombonist Don Drummond was one of the major driving forces within the band. Born in Kingston in 1934 he had attended the legendary Alpha Catholic Boys Home And School where he was a prominent member of the School Band. Voted Jamaica's best trombonist in 1954 he joined the internationally famous Eric Deans Band the following year. His first recording was for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) backing Owen Grey singing 'On The Beach' and extolling the virtues of "dancing to the music of Sir Coxsone the Down Beat on the beach..." It was released on Coxsone's Cariboo label.

In the days before multi-track recording and 'drop-ins' the musicians, and the vocalists, had to be right first time and there was no room for mistakes.

"At that time you had two track recording. With most of them Skatalites things you had to record the horns man, the singers and everybody going at the same time so if a man made a mistake everything had to start over." Bunny Striker Lee

This engendered a palpable intensity in the recording studios and the sound of USA rhythm & blues records became obsolete in the face of The Skatalites' untrammelled originality and creative enthusiasm. Their rhythmic complexity and inspired musicianship, both individually and collectively, now replaced the music of America as the sound of young Jamaica.

The Skatalites were a short lived phenomenon. The tragedy of Don Drummond's conviction for the murder of his common law wife, the dancer Margarita Mahfood, and his subsequent confinement in Kingston's notorious Belle Vue Mental Hospital dealt a serious blow to the band. Coxsone held Don Drummond in such high esteem that an image of his trombone was incorporated in the famous Studio One logo. Responsible for much of what had made the definitive ska sound it has been said that his trial was a harbinger of the demise of the music. This shy and reserved genius died in Belle Vue in 1969.

"Don.... had his share of ups and downs in life but the unfortunate chapters are soon forgotten when one listens to the golden notes of his trombone."

The presence of so many gifted musicians doubtless resulted in intense rivalries but the break up of The Skatalites was probably due to a combination of personal, organisational and financial problems. As the music slowed down and shifted towards rock steady Jackie Mittoo and Roland Alphonso formed the The Soul Brothers at Studio One and, down on Bond Street, Tommy McCook's Supersonics became the house band for Duke Reid. Tommy also became musical co-director for Treasure Isle alongside alto saxophonist Herman Marquis. Other members of the band continued to work through the sixties, seventies and eighties and their presence was felt in countless rock steady and reggae recordings.

The remaining members of The Skatalites reformed in 1984 to play the Reggae Sunsplash festivals in Jamaica and the UK. They have toured the world ever since featuring one of their original vocalists, Doreen Schaffer, and recruiting other Jamaican musical legends along the way including Cedric 'I'm' Brooks(Cedric Im Brooks). They continue to play to ecstatic audiences the vast majority of whom were not born at the time of their heyday.

"It was not as easy as it sounds. It took years of study and research to perfect the beat that we now all seem to be enjoying, not only in Jamaica but in other countries as well."

The Skatalites created a music of lasting and permanent value that has long outgrown and outlived its genesis in local sound system rivalry. Its impact and influence proved world wide and its timeless appeal will last for as long as people listen and dance to music.
 
>>Official site
Alton Ellis
Sep 1, 1938 ~ Oct 10, 2008
Alton Ellis was, beyond any doubt, Jamaica’s most soulful singer ever and his influence on the development of Jamaican music through his matchless singing and song-writing is profound.
>>Featured Page
Real name:
Alton Nehemiah Ellis
Place of birth:
Jamaica
Kingston
Mr Soul Of Jamaica, born Alton Nehemiah Ellis in Western Kingston 1st September 1938, not only possessed one of the most expressive voices in Jamaican music full of emotion, exuberance and love but also wrote some of the finest and most memorable songs in the history of reggae. He regarded himself primarily as an interpreter of other people's material although Alton's self deprecation was typical of a man who did more to fashion the fabric of reggae music than many other, more celebrated, performers.

Alton came from a musical family and his younger sister, Hortense Ellis, appeared in six semi finals and four finals of the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour. Alton also triumphed in Vere Johns' legendary talent contests but for his dancing prowess rather than his singing skills.

"I win a couple of contests dancing and then switch to singing... in those days you have a lot of harmony singers in pair: Higgs & Wilson, Blues Busters, Charmers, Clarendonians, Melodians."

In the early sixties Alton formed a partnership with Eddy Perkins; the pair wrote a heart rending ballad, 'Muriel', and took the song to Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) who recorded it and released it on his Worldisc label. It was a huge hit which they followed up with 'My Heaven'. Alton and Eddy also recorded 'Let Me Dream' and 'Love Divine' for Vincent Chin(VIncent 'Randy' Chin)'s Randy's(Randys) label in a similar lachrymose style. At this time no-one saw the nascent Kingston music scene as a long term prospect and these fledgling singers, with their shared love of music, wanted nothing more than to become well known local personalities.

"You are a guy from the ghetto and you want to be on the radio, the TV, to be on the Christmas morning big concert. It really was the recognition."

Eddy Perkins departed for a solo career and Alton started to work for Dodd's arch rival Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label as lead singer of Alton & The Flames. As rock steady came to prominence in 1966 Alton became the undisputed leader in this brand new musical field and Treasure Isle the undisputed top studio and record label. Rock steady allowed singers, influenced by American harmony groups such as The Impressions, to express themselves in a uniquely Jamaican way. Alton's 'Rock Steady' seven inch release was one of the first ever records to use the term and his long playing 'Mr Soul Of Jamaica' for Duke Reid is rightly regarded by the cognoscenti as the definitive rock steady album.

He was one of the first Jamaican singers whose songs reflected local social issues and, while others remained ambivalent towards the lawless behaviour of the rude boys, Alton put himself in the firing line and issued a series of records, including 'The Preacher' and 'Blessings Of Love', that condemned their anti social behaviour. In 'Dance Crasher' he urged the rude boys to do something constructive with their lives and, instead of committing acts of negative violence, to be more like local hero boxer Bunny Grant. But taking a stand like this in the volatile area of Kingston where Alton lived only served to make him another rude boy target.

"Then I got threatened a couple of times. Living in Trench Town and being in that environment amongst the people and being an artist I'm easy to get at. So I tell Duke Reid I would refrain from singing these types of songs..."

In 1967 Alton was persuaded by Coxsone, now running his powerful Studio One organisation, to become the featured vocalist, alongside Ken Boothe, for The Soul Vendors UK Tour and Alton left Duke Reid and re-recorded many of his Treasure Isle hits for Coxsone. The tour was an unqualified success and Alton, Ken and The Soul Vendors returned to Kingston in triumph. Alton now began work on a series of recordings at Studio One that would enhance his reputation still further; some of his best work from this period can be found on three essential Studio One albums: 'Alton Ellis Sings Rock & Soul', 'The Best Of Alton Ellis' and 'Sunday Coming'. Many were autobiographical love songs about his wife Pearl and the heartbreak he endured when they broke up: one his most beautiful songs, 'I'm Still In Love With You(I'm Still In Love)', was sung as a direct appeal to Pearl.

"I back off from that type of recording and go back to more loving sounds. But of course love is a fact too and a serious fact... It's easier for me to sit down and write a song about love than about other situations. I feel it more and express it more. I think it's in my nature... And most of these songs are a story I'm telling about my life... it's personal."

As the sixties drew to a close Alton began to freelance for a number of different producers. He interspersed romantic songs including 'I'll Be Waiting' for Winston 'Techniques' Riley(Winston Riley) and 'Too Late To Turn Back Now' for Clive Chin at Randy's(Randys) with more socially conscious 'reality' lyrics such as 'Back To Africa' and 'Deliver Us' for Lloyd 'The Matador' Daley(Lloyd Daley). He returned to his anti rude boy stance and admonished them once again in 'Big Bad Boy' for Keith Hudson's Mafia label.

He came to England in 1972 to record for Herb Alpert & Jerry Moss' prestigious A & M label and, after the release of 'Sho Be Do Be Do (I Love You)', Alton took up permanent residence in London where he added immeasurably to the capital's reggae scene. He recorded sparingly but nurtured the careers of others including Janet Kay at the beginning of her rise to 'Queen Of Lovers Rock'. Alton also organised annual Rock Steady Gala shows held at the Hammersmith Palais over the Easter holidays in the nineties which showcased the cream of sixties Jamaican talent in a superbly sequenced setting. In 2004 Alton was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government in recognition for his services to the music business. Four years later, on 10th October 2008, he died of cancer of the lymph glands in West London's Hammersmith Hospital.

He continues to inspire a singular love and devotion amongst reggae devotees but, outside of reggae, people are aware of his music but remain unaware of the creator. 'I'm Still In Love With You(I'm Still In Love)' inspired Althea & Donna's 1977 worldwide smash 'Uptown Top Ranking' for Joe Gibbs(Joel Gibson) and the song was returned to in 2004 by Sean Paul and Sasha; their version remained on the Billboard charts for six months. 'Mad Mad' another huge hit from Alton's Studio One sojourn became a dance hall staple in the eighties after Michigan & Smiley deejayed the rhythm as 'Diseases' for Henry 'Junjo' Lawes. In the nineties it went on to become a hip hop staple sampled by KRS One and The Notorious B.I.G. amongst many others. To call his work influential, even seminal, barely hints at the truth.

Alton Ellis is a giant but a giant who is nowhere near as well regarded as his myriad musical achievements deserve. During his lifetime he learned to accept this lack of recognition with a proud yet world weary resignation but, had he worked in any other musical genre, he would be universally revered as a towering presence for shaping and making music as we now know it .
 
Related artist(s):
Ken Boothe
John Holt
Hortense Ellis
Derloy Wilson
Label Profile
Randys / 17 North Parade
1958 ~
>>Show additional info
 
Hit title(s)
LP Greatest Hits: Don't Stay Out Late 1962-1966 - VP US
¥1880
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vinyl 10" Presenting Don D. EP: Dandy Don D.; Alive And Well - Randys US
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vinyl 7" A Way From It All (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥800
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vinyl 7" Mouth A Massy (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
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vinyl 7" King & Queen - Randys US
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vinyl 7" Ska Easy (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥600
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vinyl 7" Malcolm X (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥600
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vinyl 7" Black Joe (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥570
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vinyl 7" Tribute To Nehru (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥980
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vinyl 7" Hello Mother (Coloured Vinyl) - Randys US
¥900
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>>Best seller(s)
 
Related label(s):
Impact
Pat's
Creative Calypso
Hornet
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Description of item
[All Items] → [7"] → [Ska / Rocksteady] → [Ska] → [Skatalites]
Skatalites - Ska Easy (Coloured Vinyl)
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vinyl 7" 7"
Skatalites / Alton Ellis
Ska Easy (Coloured Vinyl) / Ska Beat
Randys US
¥900 ¥600 (US$5.41)
Rating: 12345
Genre: Ska / Rocksteady
Sub Genre: Ska
Produced by: Vincent 'Randy' Chin
Approx. year: 1965
Date added: Sep 18, 2007
Country: USA
Catalog number: RRM 014 (COLOR)
Music type: Inst. Ska B: Ska
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SIDE A:
listen Ska Easy
SIDE B:
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Rating: 12345
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