Let’s Do the Rocksteady

A few months ago I shared the advertisements that Ronnie Nasralla had made showing how to dance the ska. These advertisements pictured himself with Jeannette Phillips along with dance steps, five of them to be exact, and they appeared on the back of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires’ albums, and in the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaica Star newspapers for five sequential weeks. These dance steps were also demonstrated at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and at various events in the United States during that year, by Ronnie & Jeannette, Sheila Khouri Lee, and other dancers who brought the ska to the world. You can see these advertisements and read about them here.

IMG_2214IMG_2215
So when I saw the back of this Byron Lee album, I realized that a similar approach was taken a few years later with the rocksteady, and it got me wondering about the dance steps for this genre that came in 1966 to 1968.

Ronnie Nasralla is this time photographed with a different female dancer, perhaps because Jeannette Phillips had gotten married, although I am not sure who the new dancer is, so if anyone knows, please comment below.

The dance steps are as follows:

 

 

IMG_2221

A

B

B

IMG_2223

C

D

D

IMG_2225

E

F

F

G

G

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dance steps are described on the back of the album, so put on your dancing shoes and get ready.

One step shuffle — completely relax then sway your body from right to left sliding on your feet, allowing your hands to sway from side to side (A) following your hip movement. The shoulder must be raised and tucked under the chin. This shuffle is done all around the dance floor with couples swaying in and out of each other.

Stamp one foot at the same time bending both knees (B). Come up wriggling the body very loosely, then extend the foot which you did not stamp to the side (C). Repeat using other foot going to other side. This is done facing your partner. A variation of the step is shown in (D) where the leg is placed forward then backward instead of to the side. The girl does the reverse by placing her leg backward when her partner places his leg forward. When the leg is placed forward you lean back, and when the leg is placed backward, you lean forward. Remember: loosely wriggle your body when coming up on each stamp.

A bouncing one step action like marching with the body bobbing at least two beats to every step (E). The whole body is loose with the hands very limp up about chest high. This is a continuous action with the partners “marching” and bobbing all over the dance floor.

A variation to this step is when the right leg is placed across the body (F). Then you press back by placing the left or back leg further behind at the same time, leaning forward from the waist (G). You continue by stepping to the right, then left, then ready to repeat. The same marching action is continued during this, only with the hands swinging alternately to maintain balance.

The “Rock Steady” dance is probably the most relaxed dance ever done — the whole body at all times must be loose & “oily” and partners never touch each other. They get on and leave the floor together but once on the floor, everyone dances with everyone, getting into the spirit of the Rock Steady beat which is sensuous, heavy and throbbing. The lyrics are so catchy that they are sung by everyone while dancing.

Alton Ellis recorded his hit “Rock Steady” for Duke Reid in 1967. The lyrics gave a few tips on how to dance the rock steady, whose steps were more smooth and fluid than the ska since the tempo and energy were more subdued as well.

Better get ready
Come do rock steady, ooh
You got to do this new dance
Hope you’re ready
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
If you don’t know

Just shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake your shoulders, ev’rything in time
Then see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

You got to shake your shoulders

Better get ready
Just to do rock steady, yeah
You got to do this new dance
Just like Freddy
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
If you don’t know it

Shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake them shoulders, ev’ry thing in time
Then see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

You got to shake your shoulders

Now you’re ready
Let’s do rock steady, yeah
You got to do this new dance
Now that you’re ready
You got to do it just like uncle Freddy
Now that you know it

Shake your head, rock your bodyline
Shake your shoulders, ev’rything is fine
Now see
Oh-oh-oh-oooh-oh-ooh

Ev’ryone, oh dance

Hopeton Lewis’s “Rock Steady,” recorded in 1967 for Merritone, also offers a few instructions for the rock steady dance:

People get ready
This is rock steady
Keep those dancin’ shoes on
Keep those feet movin’
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Shoulders jerkin’
Heads are movin’
Hear the beat now
Move your feet now
Then go steady
If you’re ready
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Shoulders jerkin’
Hips are movin’
Hear the beat now
Move your feet now
If you’re ready
Go rock steady
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

People get ready
This is rock steady
Keep those dancin’ shoes on
Keep those feet movin’
People are you ready?
This is rock steady

Although it offers no actual dance steps, Dandy Livingston’s “(People Get Ready) Let’s Do Rocksteady,” recorded in 1967 for King Edwards’ Giant label told us, “When you’re feeling blue, you know just what to do, do rocksteady, uh-huh.” There’s the Uniques’ “People Rocksteady” where Slim Smith sings, “Out in the moonlight we will dance.” And there were plenty of other songs that referenced the genre but not too many that gave us the dance steps we needed to do the dance, possibly because the era of the twist and mashed potato and stroll were now passé.

Share your thoughts on the rocksteady dance below, especially any memories from the days when it originated.

Lord Tanamo

From the Jamaica Star, June 5, 1964.

tanamo From the Jamaica Star, June 5, 1964.  

 

Found this article in the Jamaica Star recently, noting how Lord Tanamo had switched from calypso to ska. What a dapper young Tanamo! Handsome fellow! In case you don’t want to get out your glasses, here’s what the article says:

Big name in the world of ska today is Joseph Gordon, alias Lord Tanamo. The 28-year-old Kingtonian entered show business 13 years ago as a calypso singer appearing at leading hotels in the city with his small band before moving to the North coast to perform at hotels. After two years on the north Coast, where he appeared at such hotels as the Royal Caribbean, Tower Isle, Casa Montego and Casa Blanca, Tanamo began recording calypsoes, his first one being “Crinoline.” In 1962, however, he switched from calypso singing to ska and today his first ska recording, “Come Down” is still a favourite with radio, juke box and sound system fans. Tanamo now claims hit parade tunes “Iron Bar” and “Matty Rag,” both of which are old Jamaican folk songs done up in ska style. His popular “Ol’ Fowl” recently finished a long stay on the hit parade, but is still riding high in juke boxes and on sound systems. Apart from thrilling thousands of record fans, Lord Tanamo has long been a favourite with stage and nightclub audiences.

If you have the chance to see the Legends of Ska documentary by my good friend and skamrade Brad Klein at the International Ska Festival at 2pm on April 4th, BFI Southbank in London, you’ll see footage of Lord Tanamo performing at the Legends of Ska concert on his rumba box–what a treat! Here he is photographed below during the concert. Tanamo is on the far right next to Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, Justin Hinds, and Stranger Cole.

Tanamo

And of course, here is the great Lord Tanamo here with the Skatalites, as one of the four vocalists for the legendary group. Lord Tanamo is to the right of Doreen Shaffer.

The Skatalites

So raise a Red Stripe in toast to Lord Tanamo, and enjoy these fine chunes from Mr. Gordon!

Iron Bar

Come Down

Dash of Sunshine

Watch him perform in 2003 at the Glastonbury Festival with Lester Stirling, Lloyd Knibb, and of course, Ken Stewart on keyboard and band manager for decades! I’m in the Mood for Ska

One of my favorites, a tribute that Lord Tanamo did for Don Drummond Big Trombone

Click on the link to Side A to hear Crinoline Incident and click on Side B to hear Wedding Bells

Happy Birthday Cosmic Don

clinton hutton don drummond

Clinton Hutton’s masterful art dedicated to Don Drummond.

 

Yesterday, March 12th, was Don Drummond’s 83rd birthday, had he been provided with proper treatment for his mental illness, given Margarita love and respect instead of violence and death, and gone on to live and share the wealth of his talent with the world as he did for his short 37 years. Don Drummond was a complicated man with genius skills on the trombone and my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist unravels the myth behind the legend, but today I would like to share a few of my favorite works by the master, and a few photos that I took while in Jamaica in recent years.

Please share your thoughts on Cosmic Don. Keep the beauty of his spirit alive by enjoying his music, today and every day.

Confucious

Addis Ababa

Cleopatra

Alipang

Music is My Occupation

 

The classroom at Alpha Boys School (now Alpha Institute, a day school) where Don Drummond went to class. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

The classroom at Alpha Boys School (now Alpha Institute, a day school) where Don Drummond went to class. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

The stage at the Ward Theater upon which Don Drummond stood and played during the 1950s and early 1960s. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

The stage at the Ward Theater upon which Don Drummond stood and played during the 1950s and early 1960s. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

 

The Palace Theater stage, upon which Don Drummond performed for many years. Photo by Heather Augusty, 2013.

The Palace Theater stage, upon which Don Drummond performed for many years. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2013.

 

Inside Bellevue. Photo by Heather Augustyn 2013.

Inside Bellevue. Photo by Heather Augustyn 2013]

Looking through the back door of 9 Rusden Road, the residence of Don Drummond and Margarita, the site of her murder at his hands. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

Looking through the back door of 9 Rusden Road, the residence of Don Drummond and Margarita, the site of her murder at his hands. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

 

Debris beneath the home at 9 Rusden Road. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

Debris beneath the home at 9 Rusden Road. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

 

The gate at the Rockfort Police Station, through which Don Drummond walked to report the tragedy. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

The gate at the Rockfort Police Station, through which Don Drummond walked to report the tragedy. Photo by Heather Augustyn, 2010.

 

 

Roy Panton–Over 50 Years of Sweet Song

panton1

 

This photo appeared in the Star Newspaper on November 6, 1964. A few days ago I sent this to Roy Panton who appears smiling to the right of Phyllis Dillon in the front row and he told me how this moment with the Vulcans was a happy one for him, but shortly thereafter he and Phyllis experienced a disappointment. “They went to Germany without us,” Roy told me. I know that this may have been horrible for Roy at the time it happened, and still it is hard for him to remember without feeling sadness today, but I told him that had he gone, his life’s path would have been altered so who knows if it was actually may have been for the better. He told me that he also had recorded a song with Rita Anderson (Marley). “At Studio One. I only recorded there once. Title was “Everyday,” but don’t know if it was ever released. And by the way my first recording was for Duke Reid not Beverley. Stranger & I recorded two songs titled, “Adam & Eve b/w “Freedom Land” but Duke change the name to “Come and Hold My Hand.”

panton2

The above article appeared in the Star Newspaper with a dapper-looking Roy Panton on January 17, 1964. The article reads:

For most entertainers the way to the top in the entertainment world is usually hard. In the case of Roy Panton, however, there was comparatively little hardship before he made it.

Roy Panton, a 23-year-old Kingstonian born Samuel Panton, made his first move about three years ago. That was in 1961 when he made his first disc, “She’s Mine,” backed with “Girl Of My Dreams” on the Beverly [sic.] label [Roy Panton says this is not true as noted above] with vocal accompaniment by popular Eric Morris.

A great lover of teamwork, Roy decided that singing solo was not for him and true to his word he teamed up with a female vocalist. Soon after, a record entitled, ‘We’ll Meet’ on the E&R label sung by Roy and Millie, as they were soon to be known, was released.

This record made the No. 1 spot on the Hit Parade and held it for sometime, causing the pair to be in demand for public appearances.

Very keen on public appearances, this duo appeared on many big shows around Jamaica and were featured on The Ray Charles Show when he appeared here.

Now singing with “sweet voiced” Yvonne Harrison after splitting with his former partner Millie, who is now in London doing well vocally, Roy, a married man, records exclusively with Gay-disc. He has several records to his credit of which, “My Happy Home,” “This World,” “Oh Shirley,” “Seek and You’ll Find,” and his latest release, “Two Roads Before You” are tipped to do well.”

–Jackie Estick

As mentioned in the article, Roy recorded and performed with Millie Small beginning in 1962 and it was their song “We’ll Meet” that piqued Chris Blackwell’s curiosity in Small’s tiny voice, leading to her future success. “She got the opportunity to go to England with Chris Blackwell. We talked about it and I told her, it’s an opportunity, why not?” says Roy.

Millie’s return to Jamaica in August, 1964. From left to right, Roy Panton, Hon. Russell Graham, Millie Small, and her mother, Elvie Smith.

Millie’s return to Jamaica in August, 1964. From left to right, Roy Panton, Hon. Russell Graham, Millie Small, and her mother, Elvie Smith.

 

Yvonne Harrison recorded with Roy Panton in 1964 and today the duet is married and performing all over the world. “Don’t ask me how Roy and I got together. I don’t remember. I think it was Derrick who told him about me. Roy and I did a lot of stage show and were all-island tours with Byron Lee, we were the local artists when the foreign artists came to Jamaica—to name a few, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, the Drifters, and quite a few others,” says Yvonne.

She explains how they got back together. “I lived in Kitchener for a while. I came over in ’91, lived in Kitchener, all this time not knowing that Roy Panton, my partner all those years, was living in Canada. I thought he was in England and he thought I was still in New York. It wasn’t until I decided to move down to Jamaica in ’97 and I was there for a while when Michael Barnett who puts on a show, Heineken Startime, he wanted me to do a show with Derrick Morgan on the show. Michael Barnett is also a good friend of my nephew. So in talking to him he asked me, ‘Where is Roy?’ So I said he is in England and just then it was Merritone (producer Winston Blake) who was in Canada, in a show, and he happened to see Roy. Merritone was at the show and said he knows where Roy is, he has connections. And so they wanted to put on the 60th birthday party for Byron Lee in Jamaica and so the plan was to bring Roy down and we do the show. So, not seeing Roy in over 40 years, I decided to come back up to Canada, meet with him to do some rehearsals and see if our voices were still in working condition. Unfortunately, the show didn’t come off because of funds, but I think it was a way of Roy and I connecting. I met him in August of 2005 and we were together in October and got married on June 23, 2011,” she says.

It was the rekindling of a musical career too, for Yvonne as well as the duo of Roy & Yvonne. But Yvonne points out that the two never had a romantic relationship in the early years. “When we sang before, it was business because I was involved with somebody else and he was married and I keep out of that thing because back home it was a known fact that when a female and male work together there’s something hanky panky going on. But I stayed out of that because I didn’t want to get involved in that kind of thing. He used to tell me he was afraid to hold my hand because when he hold my hand I pull it away when we are on stage,” says Yvonne.

The couple will perform on March 15th in Toronto, so make sure to check out this fantastic-looking show if you are in the area.

sang