The Presidents

Star Newspaper, January 8, 1963.

Star Newspaper, January 8, 1963.

Not every band made it during the fruitful days of ska. Some bands who performed live but never recorded disappeared from history like a ghost, only to whisper that they once existed. Case in point is a band called The Presidents. I have only been able to find two articles on this group, one an advertisement and one bearing a photograph of the band. I can find no evidence of them ever recording. They, like many other bands that come together in youth and dissolve as life happens, were really just kids when they formed, as referenced in this article from the Star Newspaper on January 8, 1963. The caption reads, “They call themselves The Presidents, but they could well have been The Youngsters or The Teenagers. However The Presidents is their name and they are one of the newest bands to hit the local music scene. Just over two months in operation, the average age of the band is a little more than 15 years. From left to right are guitarist Carley Simon, Bobby Demercado (leader) and Phllip Chen. Back row (left to right) Bill Pitt, percussion, Francis Chen, percussion, Sidney MacFarlane, drums, vocalists Peter Dawes, Richard Kirkwood, and Neil Dalhouse, Clive Morris, trumpet and Sidney Smith clavolin.”

presidents 11 4 62

Daily Gleaner, November 4, 1962.

This advertisement above must be from one of The Presidents’ first public appearances, if the Star article is correct that the band had formed two months prior. This show occurred two months prior and the names are relatively the same in the lineup with the addition of a saxophone player, Rupert Williams.

What ever happened to these musicians? Did they grow up and move into other occupations? Is Phillip Chen on bass the same Phil Chen that became the world-famous bass player with Jimmy James & the Vagabonds, the Vikings, Bob Marley, Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Jackson Browne, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others before being awarded the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government in 2014? If anyone has any further information on these young guys, please add to the discussion below!

 

 

10 comments

    • Thanks, blackbeltjonez, I know that this is when his career took off–I’m wondering if this could be the same person in this band? Or a different Phillip Chen. Hard to tell from the photo!

    • Yes, same Bobby (Robert) de Mercado – he has lived in Jamaica for the past 30+ years, and has been active as a musician/performer/Elvis impersonator at a north coast resort, I believe. Not sure if he is still performing or not.

  1. Hi Heather,
    Great article…Thanks for sharing another precious gem of Jamaica’s musical heritage.
    1) Phillip Chen in the picture is the same Phil Chen who played bass on Rod Stewart’s mega-hit “Do You Think I’m Sexy” as well as playing bass & rhythm guitar for many of the other artists that you mentioned in your piece.
    2) Among numerous other Jamaicans of Chinese heritage who all made significant contributions to the development of Jamaican popular music since the 1950’s, Phil was deservedly honoured for his largely unsung achievements during the annual “Tribute to the Greats” celebration held in Jamaica in August 2014.
    3) I may be mistaken, but Richard Kirkwood could possibly be the same “Kirky” who was a member of the “Casual T” vocal group that achieved a small level of success in Jamaica & the Caribbean during the 1970’s. The members of the four-piece harmony group were all medical doctors who trained together at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). The group consisted of Audley “Nap” Betton, Charlie Roberts, Lennie Miller & Richard Kirkwood and made a few recordings, foremost of which was a R’n’B influenced single called “Let’s Hold On”.

  2. Thanks Heather doing a great job. Yes Phil Chen became one of the greatest Bass players of all time. Was so glad when he played on one of my tracks, which is still strong even in Jamaica, (Extra Careful) Respect to the great man Phil.

    Winston Cobra Man Francis

    • So much respect and love to you, Mr. Fix-It! I had a wonderful time doing the “Wash Wash” dance with you in Chicago last year. You are an incredible performer and vocalist and the world owes you a great debt for your contribution to music! Love, Heather

  3. Honor to the man Winston Francis more life and continue keeping the music alive brethren. To you Heather i say much respect and thanks for the wonderful work you’re doing. I’m gonna need your permission to repost some of your works to help get the knowledge out to more people.

    • Dr. Luv, you have my permission, I just ask that you credit me, Heather Augustyn. Winston Francis is still an amazing performer. I had the pleasure of dancing with him and seeing Mr. Fix-It perform in Chicago last year and it was one of the great highlights of my life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *