White Rum Raymond: Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae Violin

"White Rum" Raymond, or Raymond Young, at 82 years old.

“White Rum” Raymond, or Raymond Young, at 82 years old.

When we think of harmonica, we think of Charley Organaire. When we think of melodica, we think of Augustus Pablo. When we think of violin, we think of “White Rum” Raymond. These are the artists who really were the only ones doing something a little different, a little special, a little spicy with Jamaican music by taking on an instrument that was not a typical piece of brass and they made it their own.


We know plenty about Augustus Pablo and in fact, his record shop, Rockers International Records, is a wonderful store still located on Orange Street that I had the privilege to visit last year. We know plenty about Charley Organaire and in fact he just performed last weekend in Chicago with Susan Cadogan. He lives in Evanston, Illinois. But I always wondered about “White Rum” Raymond. Who was this nicknamed violinist whose stringed melodies peppered The Paragons’ The Tide is High with such catchy skill that even a bombshell like Debbie Harry couldn’t distract us from its absence in her version? I decided to do a little digging.


I found that “White Rum” Raymond’s real name was Raymond Young and he was a member of the Jamaica Military Band in 1959, although I’m not sure for how long he served. He played a variety of Christmas carols on “amplified violin” at a holiday concert at Hope Gardens in December of that year. He also performed “electric violin” at the newly opened Queen of Hearts Club on 28 Oxford Terrace in Kingston in 1964. He performed for the Paragons on The Tide is High which was recorded for Duke Reid in 1967.


But here is a bit more from the man himself from the Jamaica Star, June 9, 2012 in a story by Rasbert Turner:


Raymond ‘Paganilli’ Young is 82 years old, still plays the violin, and says he enjoys it.


“I have played with John Holt and a host of other artistes and bands. I could have done better, but it was not to be,” Young said.


The senior musician was spotted near Rodney’s Arms playing a sweet rendition of Gregory Isaac’s Night Nurse. He then segued into Carpenter, Seven Spanish Angels and a slew of other popular hits.


It was indeed a remarkable feat as the violin was being played with a piece of steel instead of a bow.


“All I really need is a bow for the violin as I am just doing the best that I can as I am still enjoying the music, ” Young said.


He told THE PORTMORE STAR he lived in America from 1950 to 1956 but was sent home as his wife said he was a “girls man.”


The octogenarian, who said he has a daughter, said he sees music as life. “I played with the Merry Knights band and we usually enjoyed the music of the day,” Young said.


Young was born at 29 Regent Street, Kingston. He said he has also played for Martin Luther King and the Mighty Sparrow.


“I was part of the celebration of Jamaica’s Independence in 1962 where I played,” he beamed.


In earlier days, Young said he was among many musicians who would gather at Chancery Lane and discuss music. He said in those days, Prince Buster, Chris Blackwell, and Coxone Dodd were the big men in the business.


“I have an electric violin, so I get work. But although I love the violin, it is still not fully appreciated locally, but it is my instrument,” Young said.


If you have any more information on “White Rum” Raymond, including how he got that fantastic nickname or any memories, as well as any shout-outs for other unique JA instrumentalists, comment below.


  1. lol….. he got the name “White Rum” because he was a Wray & Nephew man! and i’m sure Duke Reid kept him knee deep in it, as Duke was fond of drinking it straight as well.

    not unusual, to this day many Jamaican men are “whites” drinkers, typically with water or some other chaser (it’s a bit rough going down) – the potent W&N is by far the most popular rum in JA. antecdotal references i have seen over the years about Raymond Young implied that he was a bit of a drunk back then. even most of the musicians of the time couldn’t remember his name, other than he was “the drunk guy” who played violin.

    dunno if he quit or is still fond of putting back a bottle, but God bless him for still being around! i would have thought he had drank himself into oblivion many years ago

    thanks for the article, Heather, it’s more than i ever knew about him.

  2. In 1963 he played at least one time in the studio with The Skatalites and could be heard on the following tracks
    “Fever” (The Maytals & The Skatalites)
    “I Mean It” (Roy Panton & Annette & The Skatalites
    “Patricia My Dear” (Derrick Morgan & The Skatalites
    “Rhythm Of The Blues” (Lord Creator & The Skatalites)
    “Christopher Columbus” (Shenley Duffas & The Skatalites)
    “No More Wedding Bells” (Shenley Duffas & The Skatalites)
    “Adam’s Apple (Don’t Bother Me No More)” (Tommy McCook & Roland Alphonso & The Skatalites
    “Cow And Gate” (Tommy McCook & The Skatalites)
    “Driftin’ (Below Zero)” (Lester Sterling & His Group)
    “Junior Jive” (Lester Sterling & The Skatalites)
    “Wheel Turn” (Frank Anderson & Tommy McCook & The Skatalites)
    “Get Ready” (The Maytals & The Skatalites)
    “Sinners” (Joe White & The Maytals & The Skatalites)
    “Tell Me You Love” (The Maytals & The Skatalites

  3. Find two more, one for Prince Buster
    “So Said So Done” (Prince Buster & His All Stars) and one for Reid’s production:
    “Look Before You Leap” (Stranger Cole & The Skatalites)

    I don’t wanna know, how much I overlooked or better not heard!

  4. Just discovered that my father is “White Rum” Raymond. He phones me monthly from Jamaica and tonight he casually said that a friend of his had died and had I heard of him ? He told me the friend was John Holt and that he played the violin for him. I never knew that before and so I looked on the internet and found this to be true. He is a character and has had a fascinating life which I am just putting together now. For more accurate information , when my mother left Jamaica to pave a better life in England he became brokenhearted at the split and took to drinking more for comfort. I think this is the origin of the nick name.

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