Roy Panton–Over 50 Years of Sweet Song

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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.”

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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.

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