Don Drummond Royalties

Royalties from Coxsone to Yap

This is a document showing royalties that Coxsone paid to Justin Yap for use of the Top Deck songs Justin recorded that Coxsone then used on the Studio One album, The Best of Don Drummond. These songs were “Confucius,” “The Reburial,” and “Ringo” which appeared on this album, also Yap also recorded others with Drummond like “Chinatown,” “Smiling,” and “Marcus Junior” but Coxsone didn’t place these on this album. So this statement is for three of the songs that Top Deck recorded, a measly $157 for seven months of sales. It is surprising the royalties were paid at all, frankly. But Drummond was dead by this time, having just died that May 1969, so he certainly didn’t see a dime and even if he were alive, he still wouldn’t have seen a dime. Other songs on the album that were not recorded by Studio One and were instead recorded by Duke Reid for Treasure Isle, according to the album notes, are “Eastern Standard Time,” “Occupation,” “Don D Lion,” “Cool Smoke,” “Aliphang” (should be Alipang), “Corner Stone,” and “Burning Torch.” Wonder if royalties were paid to Reid?!

don d album

This album also credits the artist who performed with Don Drummond on these tunes, or certainly some of them: Roland Alphonso, Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook, Bobby Gaynair, Lester Sterling, Lloyd Knibb, Lloyd Brevett, Brother Jerry (Jah Jerry Haynes), Jackie Mittoo, Gladstone Anderson, and Charlie Organaire. If you are near Chicago and attend any of the Jamaica Oldies events hosted by Chuck Wren you will see Charlie Organaire take the stage with his harmonica for a few tunes, and let me tell you, he is amazing. Charlie lives in Chicago. Lester still performs frequently with the Skatalites, but unfortunately, all other musicians listed here have returned to the universe to commune.

Back to the topic of royalties. Musicians during the days of ska never received royalties. They didn’t know about royalties. They knew their instrument, not the business, in many instances. The way it worked in the studio was artists either punched in and out on a time clock, or others were paid by the record side, about two pounds a tune if they were lucky. And today, the royalties are owned by the producers and their estates, so those whose talent and imagination created the song, like Don Drummond and Roland Alphonso and even Bob Marley in his earliest years, either don’t see a dime or receive a small slice of the pie from reworked agreements. For example, on one of Bob Marley’s first songs, a ska song called “Simmer Down,” only Bob Marley’s estate and Coxsone Dodd’s estate, since he recorded the song for Studio One in 1964, receive royalties, and they fought in court in the 1990s for monies from the song. None of the artists who perform the actual music on this song that sold 80,000 copies just in the months following its release, not Roland Alphonso on saxophone, nor Lloyd Knibb on drums, nor Lloyd Brevett on bass, nor Don Drummond on trombone, nor Tommy McCook on saxophone, nor any of the others, not even the Wailers who sing backup, Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston, Junior Braithwaite, and Beverley Kelso, get one red cent from Simmer Down. Marley’s widow, Rita Marley, said she had never received money from any of Marley’s early work with Coxsone. This is but one song of hundreds, thousands, earning hundreds, thousands for their producers’ estates. Producers defend their exploitation by saying that it was the system of the day, akin to today’s “free culture” of ripping tracks from a torrent or megaupload music site.

 

 

 

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?