After the session, Johnny made his way over to Alton Ellis himself to see if he might find work with him since he knew Ellis had a good handle on the scene, having just come from Coxsone’s studio as well. He stepped around a pile of empty Red Stripe bottles in the corner of the cramped studio, behind chrome stands holding microphones and cymbals, past a group of fellow musicians who rested now, each with a giant cone-shaped spliff just taking light.


Ellis was a charming man Johnny had seen around Trench Town and he was especially popular with the girls in the yard. Johnny looked up from the wooden floor, stared past Ellis to the empty mixing board. “Why nuh trombone? Yuh know I can be of service if yuh can use one,” said Johnny. Ellis responded with a sweet smile and removed his pork pie hat. “Well yuh know, mi wish mi could. In fact mi hear bout yuh skill. Rico say te look fe yuh before him go te London. Say he work wit yuh as a kid at Alpha. Ting is, music is changing now. It too hot out dere te keep dancing all night an de rudies are mashing up, so we ave te cool tings down a bit wit de music. We not using a lot of de horns right now. Dis ere rocksteady.” It was the first time Johnny had heard the name. He told Ellis he had been to Prince Buster‟s too and found the same thing and was going to head up to Studio One to see what was going on there.

About Johnny Too Bad


“A ripping novella set in Kingston when ska and reggae met” 

           — Charles Benoit, author, musician

Johnny Too Bad Displaced from his oppressive yard, Johnny finds no work for a trombonist in the recording studios of Kingston. A life of crime as a rude boy is an easy way out, but will Johnny join his friends, or will he confront his past to realize his true potential? Set in Kingston, Jamaica, 1966, Johnny Too Bad is an historical fiction set in a record-heat summer when ska transitioned to rocksteady and politics defined the country’s identity. Go inside the musicians’ studios, the Rasta camps, the streets and the tenement yards to witness first-hand life during a time of both creation and destruction.

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