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?
1 thought on “9 Rusden Road”
I think (but in most cases it is evident) that the trombone genius named
Donald Drummond have actually influenced good part of the Jamaican brass players after him (other really influencial musicians in the same field being Val Bennett and Baba Brooks to be honest) and he have undoubtedly participated in the completion of the Ska genre. In my opinion he influenced the music not with his unique, instantly recognizable and inimitable phrasing (nobody ever reached his level, neither his most famous pupil Rico Rodriguez, nor Ronald
Wilson, nor Vin Gordon, all musicians that I love), but he did it with the
“general sound”, the mood, of his arrangements, thanks also to the use, among other things, of the minor keys. He was able to write some heavy “hammers” just like “Thoroughfare” (among the less famous track but it makes me crazy), as he was able to create superb, relaxing masterpieces like “Eastern Standard Time”, and he was certainly ahead of his time (check the perfect reggae guitar in “Green Island”).
That said, I don’t believe that the murder of the poor Margarita and the
following imprisonment of the Don has actually changed the course of Jamaican music. The change was just around the corner, with its near boiling hot summer of 1966 and the enormous mass of social and political problems that was going to invest one of the poorest of the islands of the Caribbean. We lost the Skatalites, it is true, but we have had the chance to saw them again from the 80s onwards!) but on the other hand we have had the Supersonics and the Soul Brothers; we lost the Don (and it is a real shame for every music lover not to know what he would have made during the Rocksteady and Reggae craze) but on the other hand Drummond’s music is still capable of influencing hundreds of musicians and is still able to convert to Ska new fans everyday. And most of all today the Don has the biography he actually deserved ! 😉