Don Drummond Royalties


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?!


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.

3 thoughts on “Don Drummond Royalties”

  1. Here’s a great exchange I had with David Hillyard on Facebook, thought I would post here for you to see:

    David Hillyard You have walked into a thicket here. The issue of ‘royalties’ and ‘songwriting’ in Jamaican music is super complex. In terms of appropriating material from American and Latin sources, Jamaican artists would basically cover a tune, change the name, and then assign a writer to it, either the producer or the leader of the session. Some people like Coxsoone Dodd would assign his publisher to it (jamrec). Thus “hammerhead’ by Mongo Santemaria (or maybe his sax player wrote it) became ‘Phoenix City.’ “”Occupation” incorporates Ring of Fire from Johny cash. The list of tunes appropriated is huge. Royalties were not paid on these covers. This is not to criticize the originality of the artists in question, I love the creativity of their versions, all music comes from somewhere, but it was the common practice of the time.

    Heather Augustyn True true true. It is a sticky thicket.

    David Hillyard Secondly, there is the issue of ‘work for hire’ which is what happened with Familyman and other wailers who sued Rita Marley a couple of years ago. If the musicians were paid a wage for the session it could be termed a ‘work for hire’ and then the songwriting rights could be waived.

    Heather Augustyn You’re right, David, but then thirdly there is the issue of exploitation. This does factor in, to be honest.

    David Hillyard The producer is also paying for the costs of the session and can thus claim the session is his. Its a tricky issue.

    David Hillyard An notable exception to not getting royalties is Glen Adams who played with the Upsetters and Wailers. He was able to keep his songwriting credit for “Mr Brown’ intact which really paid off for him when it became part the Bob Marley box sets that were sold around xmas time. Also, his tune ‘selassie’ was appropriated in part by David Bowie and later by Vanilla Ice. So Glen was able to get a piece of some big hits. Glen was the exceptional musician who was savvy to publishing early on and thus was able to get some rewards.

    David Hillyard People don’t think about this kind of thing enough. Thanks for bringing it up.

    David Hillyard Yes, you are right, musicians are often taken advantage of. Mostly because we are so broke and living day to day, that the minute someone offers us cash we take it and damn the consequences later.

    David Hillyard This is one of the better lists of source material for ska-early reggae jamaican artists. http://www.skaville.de/sites/misc.htm

    David Hillyard This one too. the guy is really thorough I got to say. http://www.skaville.de/sites/jazz.htm


  2. It is normal for musicians not to receive any royalties unless they are listed as a writer or co-writer of a tune. Songwriting is melody and lyrics — musical arrangements and licks for hire are what musicians are expected to provide in many cases, without further pay beyond their session fees. Recording musicians are paid wages — it is that way in the USA, the UK, and pretty much everywhere else. However at one time there was such a thing as “mechanical royalties” paid for actual record sales.


    With the advent of downloading, that whole model is out the window, musicians are not going to get anything from itunes or Pandora, etc. Of course Jamaican musicians and artists, like blues musicians in the USA, were routinely exploited and paid very little. I had a conversation about this with Coxsone Dodd one time…


    1. I’m sure that Coxsone had a very different side of this issue. In Jamaica during this time, royalties weren’t existent for the musician at all, even though they, like Drummond, penned the music. Drummond was the songwriter. Not on all tunes, mind you, as there were a good amount of cover tunes of Mongo Santamaria and showtunes and the like, but Drummond was most definitely a composer. And he was paid 2 pounds a side, just like the other studio musicians, for their work. The new Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis actually brought this issue to mind when the main character, Llewyn Davis, opts to receive $200 immediately rather than file the paperwork for royalties, due to a situation in the plot. Unfortunately, artists like Drummond and the other Jamaican musicians during this era weren’t given that option. There was no ASCAP or BMI for Jamaicans to keep track of how their music was being used. Coxsone owned it. It was his, then and now, even after his death. He owned the royalties and he paid the fee to the session musician and that was that, despite the fact that he was not the songwriter or co writer. Drummond was. McCook was. Marley was. etc. It was thievery. But I’m sure Coxsone had a different perspective. Any emotion I’m expressing here is in no way directed at you, Al, and I LOVE the dialogue, trust me. I am just passionate about it because I see it contributing to Drummond’s struggles in his life so it is a complicated topic! Thanks so much for your post!


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