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Artist Hall of Fame

Rico RodriguezText by Harry Hawks

A founding father of Jamaican music in the late fifties whose career went from strength to strength over a period of sixty years and who eventually reached a significantly wider audience than many of his original contemporaries...
Date Added: Oct 9, 2015, Date Updated: Oct 13, 2015 Copyright (C) 2020 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Emmanuel Rodriguez
Oct 17, 1934 - Sep 4, 2015
Place of Birth: Habana
Cuba
Related Artist(s):
Specials
Prince Buster
Count Ossie
Bob Marley
The son of a Cuban father, who was a merchant seaman, and a Jamaican mother Emmanuel 'Rico' Rodriguez(Rico Rodriguez) was born in Havana, Cuba on 17th October 1934 and, on returning to Kingston, his family settled in the Mark Lane area. Rico was, apparently, a troublesome child and his mother sent him to Sister Mary Ignatius Davis at the Alpha Catholic Boys Home where, like so many Jamaican musical masters, he was taught a trade: book binding and printing. Although he had initially wanted to play the saxophone by the age of ten Rico had become extremely proficient on the trombone. He was mentored at Alpha by the legendary trombone player Don Drummond where, like so many other wayward youths, Rico flourished "under the strict guidance and supervision of the sisters". From 1952 to 1954 Rico trained as an apprentice car mechanic and completed his education at Stony Hill Industrial School while playing at night with the Eric Deans Orchestra and competing in, and winning, Vere Johns Junior's Opportunity Hour talent contests.

In 1958 Rico became a convert to the Rastafarian religion and settled in Count Ossie's encampment in Wareika Hill where he was also surrounded by a host of talented musicians.

"Ossie's camp, in time, became the base for a great many of Jamaica's noted instrumentalists of that period, among whom were the immortal Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Ernie Ranglin(Ernest Ranglin), Johnny 'Dizzy' Moore, 'Big Bra' Gaynair and other illustrious musicians." Basil Walters

The lengthy 'grounations' (gatherings involving Bible readings, drumming, chanting and reasoning) held at Wareika Hill allowed Rico greater freedom of expression and he continued to expand and develop his musical style. He recorded with Count Ossie's Band on The Mellow Cats' 'Rock A Man Soul' for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) and on 'First Gone' (featuring Reco) for Harry Mudie's Moodisc label and began to regularly play sessions for the many sound system operators turned producers on Kingston's nascent recording scene. Rico played on countless shuffle and boogie records including Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd's gospel influenced 'Over The River', also known as 'I'll Be Here When He Comes', by The Jivin' Juniors, 'Milk Lane Hop' as one of Clue J's Blues Blasters and Theophilus Beckford's seminal 'Easy Snappin''. As one of Duke Reid's Group Rico recorded 'Pink Lane Shuffle' and for Vincent 'Randy's' Chin he actually gained a rare credit on the beautiful 'Rico Special'.

On relocating to England in 1961 he became a stalwart of London's recording scene working as session musician for a number of producers including Sonny Roberts' Planetone label and Georgie Fame who at the time was incorporating Jamaican 'Blue Beat' into his extremely popular act. In the spring of 1964 his reworking of Jimmy Cliff's 'King Of Kings' as Ezz Reco & The Launchers with vocals by Boysie Grant reached Number 44 in the UK National Charts. When Prince Buster visited London in 1966 for his triumphal tour he enlisted Rico to play on 'Wash Wash' and a further working of the 'Judge Dread' saga entitled 'Barrister Pardon'.

"And for celebration I've brought for them today a freedom man by the name of Brother Rico..."
'Barrister Pardon' – Prince Buster

The following year Rico's trombone refrain helped propel 'Rudy A Message To You' by Dandy (Livingstone) on Rita & Benny King's Ska Beat subsidiary to lasting popularity. The continuing interest in Jamaican music from England's mod and skinhead audiences ensured that Rico was in constant demand for session work in London where he featured on numerous un-credited recordings as well as his own albums 'Reco In Reggae Land' for Bunny 'Striker' Lee(Bunny Lee) and 'Blow Your Horn' with The Rudies. In the early seventies Rico worked with a band of stellar expatriate musicians known as The Undivided but, as reggae slid from popularity in the UK, he found it increasingly difficult to live by music alone and had to work as a painter and decorator and even spent a brief, dispiriting period on the Ford production line in Dagenham, Essex.
Following the commercial success of Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1975 he played on Jim Capaldi's 'Short Cut Draw Blood' and Toots & The Maytals' 'Reggae Got Soul' albums for Island Records who then sent him back to Kingston in 1976 to record the 'Man From Wareika' album with a stellar cast of session musicians, including Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Regarded by many as Rico's defining statement it was licensed by the prestigious jazz label Blue Note for release in the USA. He was the support act for Bob Marley & The Wailers 'Exodus' European Tour in 1978 and, as the Two Tone ska revival gained momentum in 1979, Jerry Dammers requested that Rico played on their updated version of 'A Message To You Rudy' which reached Number Ten in the UK National Charts. He worked extensively with The Specials on their first two albums, 'Specials' and 'More Specials', and his haunting contribution to their 1981 UK Number One, 'Ghost Town' a radical re-working of Prince Buster's 'Seven Wonders Of The World', captured the mood of despair in that summer's riot torn city centres.

He worked with a number of artists from different genres including Joan Armatrading, Paul Young and Ian Dury & The Blockheads who celebrated Rico's artistry alongside The Marx Brothers on 'Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part Three)', "Listening to Rico... Groucho, Harpo, Chico...", and released two solo albums for Two Tone, 'That Man Is Forward' in 1981 and 'Jama Rico' the following year, before returning to live in Jamaica. He flew back to Europe in 1987 to work with Heartbeat Band in Switzerland, who had sent him a 'plane ticket, before relocating to London where he played on Jazz Jamaica's debut 'Skaravan' long player in 1993. Rico then joined Jools Holland And His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, recording ten albums, touring extensively and making regular appearances on Jools Holland's television shows. This connection finally brought Rico a measure of financial stability and praise accompanied the raise when he was appointed MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2007 for services to the British music industry. Towards the end of his long and successful career Rico was no longer able to play the trombone but continued to sing while others played his music.

Rico Rodriguez died in London 4th September 2015 aged eighty and is survived by his wife, Tracey. All at Dub Store respectfully send their heartfelt and sincere condolences to his wife, family and friends at this sad time.

Sources:
Basil Walters: Liner Notes Remembering Count Ossie A Rasta 'Reggae' Legend
Moodisc LP (USA) 1996
Oct 9, 2015 (Oct 13, 2015 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Rico Rodriguez - Rico's Message: Jamaican Jazz
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Rico Rodriguez - Man From Wareika (180g)
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LP Rico Rodriguez - You Must Be Crazy: The Official Live Album Grover EU
  
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Rico Rodriguez, Rafael Anker - Mountain Of Wareika
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Rico Rodriguez, Jools Holland, His Rhythm, Blues Orchestra; Jimmy Cliff - L.o.v.e.; Dreams (Picture Sleeve) (Colored Vinyl)
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Rico Rodriguez, Tommy McCook - Going West
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