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Artist Profile
Jackie Mittoo
Mar 3, 1948 ~ Dec 16, 1990
Jackie Mittoo’s work at Studio One in the sixties built, shaped, refined and defined reggae music as we know it. He was not only an extremely talented keyboard player but was also a supremely gifted arranger and record producer.
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Real name:
Donat Roy Mittoo
Place of birth:
St. Ann
Browns Town
"He was an ambassador of our music worldwide... there can be no doubt. Read the legacy this young man has left behind. May his name be remembered and his music live on." Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd)

Born in the parish of St. Ann in Browns Town 3rd March 1948 Donat Roy 'Jackie' Mittoo(Jackie Mittoo) grew up in York Castle where his grandmother was a music teacher and, from the age of three onwards, she taught him to play classical piano. Jackie made his first public appearance at the tender age of ten and his first band, Jackie Mittoo's Ragtime Band, played rags and rhythm & blues. Three years later his family moved to Kingston where Jackie joined The Rivals, who were not together for very long, before he left to join The Sheiks many of whose members would go on become hugely influential musicians. Their line up included Lloyd Knibbs on drums, Lloyd Spence on bass, Lyn Taitt on guitar, 'Deadly' Hedley Bennett and Bobby Gaynair on saxophones, Roy Sterling (Lester's brother) and Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore on trumpets and Dobby Dobson, 'Honey Boy' Martin, Norma Frazer and Ken Lazarus on vocals. The Sheiks played to audiences before the films began at a number of Kingston cinemas including The Majestic, The Tropical and The Rialto. The band also played at clubs such as The Sombrero where they provided the backing for more established local vocalists and they eventually became known as The Cavaliers Orchestra.

"These bands filled in the time and gave their members an opportunity to work out their ideas and develop their talents..."

By the time Jackie started High School he was already a semi professional musician playing piano just for fun in the week in his lunch hour at Kingston College with his school friends and playing a more serious role at weekends with The Cavaliers in cinemas, clubs and theatres. Jackie was then approached by Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd while sitting in with Lyn Taitt and the house band at Federal Recording Studios.

"Jackie came to the attention of Recording Executive Clement S. Dodd in Kingston Jamaica; and while still at school he worked as a staff musician for Coxsone Records appearing as a 'side man' on many recording dates for that label." Evening Time

And in 1963 when Coxsone opened the Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio, better known as Studio One, at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston 5 on the site of The End, a former night club, he asked Jackie to come and help him with the arrangement and development of songs. Jackie was originally employed to compose five new rhythms a week but would soon become a key figure at Brentford Road as a musician, arranger and talent scout. Jackie and other key musicians including Tommy McCook, Theophilus Beckford and Gladstone Anderson played a seminal role in the development of the music: they would give the bass player his lines, write out the chords for the guitarist, then arrange and produce the records. He also began to play both piano and organ with The Skatalites and, by the time ska had become a fully-fledged musical form, Jackie's piano had become an integral part of the music. Two years later The Skatalites broke up and Jackie formed The Soul Brothers. They soon transformed into The Soul Vendors who, alongside Lynn Taitt's Jets, Tommy McCook's Supersonics and Bobby Aitken's Carib Beats, were responsible for the aching, elegant music known as rock steady.

In rock steady the organ became a regular addition to the rhythm section as the slower approach gave more space for it to be featured alongside the piano and guitar and, from now on, the name of Jackie Mittoo would become inextricably linked with the sound of the Hammond organ. It was still used mainly for intro lines and riffs in vocal tunes but the organ now began to play a more important role in the arrangements of backing tracks. Jackie would often play piano throughout a song and simultaneously play an organ fill with his right hand at the appropriate moment.

In 1967 The Heptones' risqué 'Fattie Fattie' was banned from the Jamaican airwaves and Jackie originated what would become another defining element of the music when he created a next instrumental version to 'Fattie Fattie' over the rhythm or backing track. Entitled 'Ram Jam' in tribute to the celebrated club in Brixton, South London where The Soul Vendors had appeared on their legendary UK tour it was one of his most soulful organ pieces ever and a huge hit.

"These are the men that have set audiences Grooving All Night up and down the country at clubs like 'The Cue Club', Ram Jam', 'The 32 Club', 'The Roaring Twenties' and a host of other night spots and dancehalls." Soul Vendors On Tour

He was able to wrest great depths of feeling from his chosen instrument and, as his career as a solo musician began to take shape, Jackie made a series albums at Studio One that exemplified all that the Hammond organ was capable of in the right hands. As rock steady developed into reggae the organ began to establish its place in the rhythm section and Jackie Mittoo, along with keyboard maestros such as Gladstone Anderson and Winston Wright, developed a style of playing that helped drive the beat onwards and upwards. The organ now became an important lead instrument and organ instrumentals, often with the addition of a film themed introduction or an early deejay workout, created by playing over existing rhythm tracks often proved more popular with record buyers than the original vocal versions.

At the close of the sixties Jackie moved to Canada and settled in Toronto although he continued to regularly return to Jamaica and work for Coxsone at Studio One. While in Canada Jackie played with visiting Jamaican artists, set up his own Stine Jac label and became very well known there as a purveyor of 'easy listening' music through his work for the Canadian Talent Library. He had known Bunny 'Striker' Lee(Striker Lee) before Bunny had entered the music business but, by the time they met up again in Canada in 1976, Striker had become one of Jamaica's most successful record producers. Striker persuaded Jackie to work for him on a selection of updates of Jackie's Studio One material from the previous decade. Their first album together, entitled 'The Keyboard King', was a big seller and the duo continued to work together on a series of collaborations, in Jamaica and in the UK, which worked wonders in raising Jackie's profile with younger record buyers. His work at Studio One with countless vocal groups, solo singers and his own, and other musician's instrumentals became the template for the 'rockers' sound of the mid seventies through the work of Augustus Pablo, Joe Gibbs(Joel Gibson) and the Hookims(Joseph Hookim|||) at Channel One.

In the early eighties Jackie was approached by Sugar Minott and asked to join Sugar's Black Roots/Youth Promotion collective. Sugar had established his own label after leaving Studio One and to many followers of the music their adaptations of some of Coxsone's finest rhythms for Black Roots remain the definitive versions. Jackie's impeccable musicianship and consummate production skills ensured that his services were always in demand and he freelanced for a variety of different artists and producers. He played on two tracks on UB40's 'Labour Of Love' album where the Birmingham band paid tribute to the music and the musicians that had first attracted them to the sound of reggae. In 1989 he was asked to join the reformed Skatalites.

Everyone that Jackie Mittoo ever worked with gained from his abundant talents and generosity for he was always willing to share the knowledge and expertise of a lifetime spent making music. Highly respected as an elder statesman he was always willing to share and pass on his deep musical understanding with the younger generation and his name has long been revered throughout the reggae world. However his work and its far reaching influence deserve far wider recognition. It is not enough to describe Jackie Mittoo as one of the greatest keyboard players to ever come out of Jamaica although he undoubtedly was. It is his towering influence on the development of reggae music as a composer and arranger that is truly remarkable and his absolute authority over a genre that, probably more than any other single figure, he helped to create. His untimely death in Toronto, Canada from cancer on 16th December 1990 robbed reggae music of one its most inspirational figures.

"Best of music continually... always." Jackie Mittoo
Related artist(s):
Don Drummond
Roland Alphonso
Soul Brothers
Soul Vendors
Sound Dimension
Ernest Ranglin
Pablove Black
Tommy McCook
Alton Ellis
Ken Boothe
Sugar Minott
Freddie McGregor
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Description of item
[All Items] → [12"] → [Roots Reggae] → [Roots Reggae 1970s] → [Danny Rank, Jackie Mittoo]
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vinyl 12" 12"
Danny Rank, Jackie Mittoo
Stepping On Strong (Extended Mix) / Fitty (Extended Horns Dub Version)
Iroko Records EU
¥1880 (US$15.45)
Rating: 1234
Genre: Roots Reggae
Sub Genre: Roots Reggae 1970s
Produced by: W.Godden
Approx. year: 1978
Date added: May 31, 2011
Date re-stocked: Aug 11, 2015
Country: France
Catalog number: BB-04
Music type: Deejay B: Horn Inst.-Dub
We hardly expect that this item to be in stock another time.
We recommend you to purchase it at your earliest convenience.
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listen Stepping On Strong (Extended Mix)
listen Fitty (Extended Horns Dub Version)
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