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Artist Profile
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.
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Lloyd Brevett
Lloyd Spence

Lloyd Knibbs
Arkland ‘Drumbago’ Parks

Alto Saxophone:
Lester Sterling
Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan

Baritone Saxophone:
Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan

Tenor & Baritone Saxophone:
Dennis ‘Ska’ Campbell

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

Don Drummond
Emmanuel ‘Rico’ Rodriguez
Ron Wilson

Organ & Harmonica:
Charles ‘Charlie Organaire’ Cameron

Gladstone ‘Gladdy’ Anderson
Jackie Mittoo

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

Doreen Schaffer
Tony Da Costa
Dobby Dobson
Tony Gregory
Jackie Opel
Lord Tanamo
Place of establishment:
"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.
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Description of item
[All Items] → [7"] → [Ska / Rocksteady] → [Ska Revival] → [Skatalites]
No Stock
vinyl 7" 7"
Lalibela / Dub Lalibela
Wadada Music US
¥1050 (US$8.91)
Rating: 12345
Genre: Ska / Rocksteady
Sub Genre: Ska Revival
Produced by: Skatalites
Approx. year: 2013
Date added: Mar 5, 2013
Date re-stocked: Mar 19, 2013
Country: USA
Catalog number: WA004
Music type: Instrumental B: Instrumental
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