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.