Granville Williams was leader of his own orchestra which he founded in the late 1950s. Granville was a keyboard player who performed on numerous recordings on piano and organ. He also played guitar and was a musical arranger. There are advertisements for Granville’s orchestra performing in December, 1959 at the Mimosa Lodge.
Granville also performed with Byron Lee & the Dragonaires as guitarist and arranger during the early 1960s. In late 1964 Granville teamed up with Ernest Ranglin to “produce a band whose brassy big-band sound is tempered with imaginative arrangements and some first class solo work,” according to the Star Newspaper, November 19, 1964. They made their debut on October 30, 1964 at the St. Andrew Club and it was a big success. Granville’s brother, Audley Williams, performed on bass guitar, recruited from his position with the Carlos Malcolm Orchestra along with drummer Freddie Campbell. Granville brought Sammy Ismay to play tenor guitar from Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, as well as Roland Alphonso from the Skatalites. Vocalist Lloyd Williams came from his own small combo. It was a 14-piece group. Ernest Ranglin had just returned from England.
Granville recorded with other musicians and vocalists such as Baba Brooks, Ernest Ranglin, Derrick Harriott, Lascelles Perkins, Roy Shirley, Ken Boothe, and many others. He had his own album, Hi-Life, released in Jamaica 1966 on his own label, G.W.O., and in the U.K. on the Island label in 1967. The back of the album tells the story of the orchestra:
From the moment in 1964 the Granville Williams Orchestra was first heard, it was obvious that this was a band destined to be among the select top five in the country. For although the band itself had just been born, it consisted of some of the most talented and respected musical giants in Jamaica.
Although still in his twenties, Granville has had many years of musical study and experience behind him. In fact, he relates, he had been playing piano since the tender age of five. Of course in those days, under the watchful eye of his mother and school music teacher, his taste leaned towards the classics, but as he grew older, Granville was quick to realise that in Jamaica a musician was more likely to make a living if he jazzed it up a little.
So it was then that Granville, having come to a compromise with himself and between Bop and Bach, made his professional debut at the Shaw Park Hotel–as a cocktail pianist. It was round about here that the second of young Mr. Williams’ two great loves–acting, which also had been with him since childhood, began to have an effect on the first–music. For it was from the filmed life story of another pianist, the immortal Eddie Duchin, that Granville drew a great deal of his inspiration.
At about this time Granville turned his attention to the organ which had become a more popular instrument than the piano for band work, but in 1963 Granville decided to devote himself to drama and to this end he left the Island and went to the United States to study. It wasn’t very many months however, before news of the great Ska boom reached him and the potential of this new Jamaican music caught his imagination. He came home and in partnership with the great guitarist Ernest Ranglin, formed the Granville Williams Orchestra–a big, brassy, hard-punching 15-piece band that had an immediate impact on the Jamaican public.
In the short time of its existence a lot of things happened to the band and to its personnel, but it never left the headlines of the entertainment world. Now a nine-piece band, with three vocalists, the orchestra is still noted for its punchy big-band sound, but more important, it has matured into one of the most versatile groups in the Island.
To demonstrate this versatility, many of the currently popular beats have been included in this first album by the Granville Williams band. On ‘Sloopy’ and ‘Loving Feeling’ we hear the latest Motown beat. A little bit of Soul is in there on ‘More’ and a Latin beat on ‘La Engandora.’ With ‘My Pussin’ we switch to calypso and this is coupled with ‘Come Le We Go.’ ‘Tear Up’ and ‘High Life’ are among the examples of our Ska beat. One of the highlights of this record is a really driving arrangement of the old Glenn Miller favourite ‘String of Pearls.’ The popular singer and recording star Derrick Harriott is featured on some of the cuts along with resident vocalist Lloyd Williams.
Granville Williams is a young man who has come a long way in a short time and judging from this first L.P. he and his orchestra are destined for even greater heights.”
Granville’s younger brother Audley Williams was a musician in his own right. He was born in Kingston in 1953 and was discovered by Byron Lee and asked to perform on bass guitar whenever Byron went abroad on business. Audley was a tall man who went to St. Jago High School and he started out performing piano when he was six years old. He went on to master the vibraphone, violin, harmonica, accordion, organ, steel guitar, percussion instruments, and the bass guitar. He left Byron Lee to perform with the Kenny Williams Orchestra, the Caribs, and Kes Chin & the Souvenirs for two years. He also performed for Carlos Malcolm and his Afro-Jamaican Rhythms for two years, traveling to Miami, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Martinique, Montserrat, and Venezuela. He composed music, radio commercials, and he recorded for RCA before joining his brother’s band. He moved to Canada in later years along with his other brother, Clinton.
I am looking to find Granville Williams to interview him and so if you know his whereabouts, please let me know. I have heard that Audley pass away in recent years, but Granville is still alive and living in Jamaica perhaps. In the 1980s, Granville entered politics and he served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Public Service. In the meantime, enjoy a few of Granville Williams’ popular tunes!