9 Rusden Road

rusden

This is 9 Rusden Road, the house where Don Drummond lived with and murdered Anita Mahfood, Margarita in the Rockfort neighborhood at the foot of the Wareika Hills. I took this photo last February and it was my second time visiting the home which a lovely woman named Carmen still lives in. These are her grandchildren sitting on the front steps, the same steps that Margarita climbed early in the morning on January 2, 1965. Don Drummond had fallen asleep earlier in the night and missed his gig with the Skatalites at the La Parisienne Club in Harbour View, a club near the Palisadoes Airport in east Kingston. He never made it to that performance. It was not the first time he missed a gig. He frequently missed performances or was late for a gig. Tommy McCook has said that he went to pick up Don at 8 p.m., prior to the gig, and found him asleep so he left without him and returned after their first set during intermission to try again. Still, Don was asleep, a side effect of the medicine he took, said McCook.

I want to take a moment to logically think about an argument that has been made over the years blaming Margarita for giving him his medication late, causing him to fall asleep, and then slipping out to dance against his wishes. How would we know that Margarita did that? She was dead so she couldn’t tell. Could Don have claimed that Margarita gave him his medication late? Not likely as Don was despondent and what talking he did do at the Rockfort Police Station was a lie since he claimed that Margarita stabbed herself and that was proven untrue. It simply defies logic to argue that Margarita administered Don’s medication that night, but it does put the blame on her so it is interesting that those in disbelief over the incident would want to shift the blame.

Margarita’s best friend, Faye Chin, remembers the murder which was easily overheard by the other tenants of the house. That’s right, there were other tenants in this small home. It was split into four rooms with Don and Anita occupying one. It was furnished with two single beds and a desk that contained Don’s compositions on paper. Faye says, “Now this place was like a house and you rent a room and another person rent a room and another person rent a room. So this woman that her room was behind their room, she said she heard when Anita came in and she laid down on her bed, she heard a scream and said, ‘Oh God, Don what are you doing?’ She’s screaming, ‘Don, what are you doing?’ And he stabbed her so badly. There was no blood. The knife stabbed her in the chest. I got a call early in the morning and I phoned Conchita, her sister, I tell her, ‘Okay, I’m coming to pick you up,’ and I drove over to Conchita’s house, pick her up and we went down to identify the body. She had on her jeans (sobbing) and she had on a shirt with a stain in the front at her waist and she was just laying on her bed on her back (sobbing uncontrollably).”

You can read all about the murder from the recollections of many fellow family, friends, and musicians, as well as the trial that ensued in my book Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist (click the “skabooks” link above for more info). I would love to hear your thoughts on this event that literally changed the course of music in Jamaica forever, for it was after this event that the Skatalites broke up without their master composer and it was after this event that the heat wave that summer ushered in slower rocksteady and subsequent reggae. How important do you think Don Drummond was to ska?

 

Margarita Mahfood

margarita

With the recent release of my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, and the launch of this blog, I thought it only fitting to start with Anita Mahfood and a photo of her father and sisters that didn’t make it into the book. I love this photo. I think it says it all. There are the four sweet girls, innocent and young, full of potential and life, and their protective father, Jad Eid Mahfood, behind them, proud, brooding. But there is something sinister beneath the surface. Anita, the beautiful cherub, appears on the far left next to her sisters Janet, Conchita, and Monira from left to right. Theses four girls would each experience their own level of abuse from Jad Eid depending on the stages of his suffering. Anita would leave that home to go to another where the abuse was worse, marrying Rudolph Bent, the great British Honduran boxer, only after she was pregnant by him, the result of a rape. She would leave that marriage for the security of another, Don Drummond, her colleague of many years in the entertainment circuit–she a rhumba dancer, he the greatest trombonist the island, perhaps the world, had ever heard. But that abuse was worse than all others, resulting in her murder at Drummond’s hands early the morning of January 2nd, 1965 after she returned from her performance at Club Havana where she headlined.

I was sad to learn that Conchita had passed away this year in her home near Toronto, Canada. She was the last of the four girls here on earth. Jad Eid passed away the year after Anita was murdered–a heart attack, or a broken heart. Janet passed away a few years ago and Monira before that. Such tragedy had come to this family, not only from Anita’s murder and the aftermath of the pain that all the sisters and family felt, especially Anita’s children, forever, but also there was the tragedy of the girls’ mother, Brenda May Virtue, who attempted suicide twice before succeeding a third time. It was a brutal life. But in this photo, all appears happy, peaceful, loving, proud. You would never know by looking at this beautiful family photo all the pain that would follow.

I promise not to make all of my blogs so macabre. It’s just that, as I said, I do love this photo and my publisher wasn’t able to put it in, said the resolution wasn’t good enough and it was the only version I had. The world of foundation ska is big and there are many things for me to talk about, most all brighter than this, so upward and onward!