What’s In a Name We all know that words can have multiple meanings and that context is everything. As a student and teacher of rhetoric, I will refrain from digressing here, but suffice to say that when The Specials in the 2Tone era chose their name, the word “specials” was a reference to the one-off acetate recording (later called… Continue reading The Original Specials?
Sister Iggy was a deejay. A selector. A collector. In order to help instruct her boys in the Alpha Boys’ School Band, Sister Mary Ignatius Davies curated her own record collection, enlisting the help of Alpharian Floyd Lloyd Seivright who sadly passed away in November 2018. Seivright, Winston “Sparrow” Martin, and numerous other Alpha Boys had told me about… Continue reading Sister Ignatius’s Record Collection
You can hear it in her voice–she is definitely her mama’s child. But Jaelee Small does not, by any means, sing in the shadow of her mother, Millie Small. Jaelee is her own woman, with her own sound and her own deeply creative vision which is on full display in her new EP titled Memoirs (Part II). This five-song… Continue reading It’s A Small World: Millie Small’s Daughter, Jaelee Small, Releases Memoirs EP
I was sad to learn that Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga died yesterday on his 89th birthday. Though not a fan of his politics to say the least, I do admire his passion, dedication, and support of Jamaican music–especially folk music and ska. His contributions to Jamaican culture are undeniable. My most recent book, Operation Jump Up: Jamaica’s Campaign… Continue reading Ska Supporter Seaga Dies
When I heard the news on NPR this morning that Paul Allen had died, my mind immediately went to Sister Ignatius. I had long heard rumors that Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates and billionaire businessman and philanthropist, purchased Sister Ignatius’s record collection and so I inquired and confirmed this fact in December 2015 with the director of… Continue reading Paul Allen, owner of Sister Iggy’s record collection, dies
In 1998 I had the pleasure of seeing Laurel Aitken perform live at Subterranean in Chicago. I took a bunch of photos at the time using film! Yes, that’s right kids, film–a strip of transparent plastic film base coated on one side with an emulsion of silver halide crystals that, when exposed to light, produce a photographic image. I… Continue reading The Lost Photos of Laurel Aitken
Trolls are nothing new. Even in the mid 1960s in Jamaica, decades before the internet, trolls took their aim at various gripes in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Daily Gleaner, and ska could be the target. I’ve started a file of these funny little gems, and offer two excerpts here, from just one day, an average… Continue reading Ska kills flowers
The Frats Quintet were a vocal group popular in the 1950s in Jamaica who sang traditional folk music that is still performed today. Songs like “Linstead Market” “Sammy Dead-Oh” and “Slide Mongoose” (also titled “Sly Mongoose” at times or just “Mongoose”) are staples of the Jamaican culture. One of the very first recordings of these songs came from the… Continue reading The Frats Quintet, Nina Simone, and Edward Seaga
Charley Organaire, whose real name is Charles Cameron, performed on April 14th in Chicago alongside Lester Sterling, the last living instrumentalist in the Skatalites, and Sultan Ali, son of Prince Buster. It was a fantastic show, billed as Two Legends and a Son and it was organized by Organaire and Chuck Wren whose dedication to ska music across the… Continue reading Tools of the Trade for Charley Organaire
The following is a presentation I delivered at the Pop Culture Association conference last month in Indianapolis: “Like a cultural barometer, the rise of ska indicates when and where social, political, and economic institutions disappoint their people and push them to reinvent the process for making meaning out of life. When a group embarks on this process, it becomes… Continue reading I Spy for the F.B.I.: Spy Imagery, Themes, and Style in Cold War Ska
I’ve been doing a little research on Sister Ignatius and found her birth record! Her birth name is Agnes Marjorie Reeves Davies and she was born on November 18, 1921. Her father was named John Davies and he was a planter of Innswood, St. Catherine, and her mother was named Ethel Davies, nee Starego. I am desperately looking for… Continue reading Birth Record for Sister Ignatius
I was combing through some copies of Star Newspapers that I had made a few years back at the library in Kingston, and lo and behold, I found an advertisement from December 28, 1964 for the Skatalites’ show that ended in tragedy–Don Drummond murdering his girlfriend, the Rhumba Queen, Margarita (Anita Mahfood). On the same page appears an advertisement… Continue reading Skatalites’ Tragic Show
Ever wonder how Vincent Chin became known as Randy’s? It was after another Randy’s Records that Chin named himself, his shop, and his label–one that was featured during an advertisement on WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee. On a clear day or night, Kingstonians and Jamaicans could tune in to WLAC to hear early rhythm and blues and so the advertisements… Continue reading Randy’s Records
Jamaican music has long chronicled political and social events, even when there are no lyrics. Ska songs, most notably those by the Skatalites, frequently bear the titles of politics, popular culture, and events of the day. Perhaps the most popular example of this is the Skatalites’ song “Christine Keeler,” a peppy little number with seductive horns that bear witness… Continue reading Skatalites’ Inspiration, Christine Keeler, Dies at 75
CLICK HERE TO ORDER! After three years of intensive research, visits to Alpha, writing, rewriting, editing, layout and design, and countless Skype conversations, Alpha Boys’ School: Cradle of Jamaican Music is finally here! Perhaps one day, Adam, my co-author, and I will actually meet! Yes, you got that right–we’ve never actually met! That’s modern technology for you. We were… Continue reading Alpha Boys’ School: Cradle of Jamaican Music by Heather Augustyn and Adam Reeves is now available!
I wrote the following article for the Vinyl Record Collectors’ Association’s magazine for their 20th anniversary Annual Memorial Day Collectors’ Sit-In in Kingston, Jamaica. Special thanks to my great friends Charlotte Smikle and Roberto Moore for their assistance in allowing me this opportunity, and helping me to research and edit!
I have been spending almost every waking moment finishing my latest book with my co-author Adam Reeves and am pleased to report that it will be out later this summer, so get ready for Alpha Boys School: Cradle of Jamaican Music which is coming in at nearly 400 pages! It has been three years in the making. Which is… Continue reading History of the Term, “Riding a Riddim.”
At the same time that a number of artists were traveling to the United States for the World’s Fair in New York, as well as appearing in New York City for Jamaican Independence Day celebrations, and promotions in Miami and New York for the next dance craze, the ska, some of those same musicians were appearing on Jamaican televisions,… Continue reading Ska Awards
Okay, so maybe this blog title is clickbait, but it’s only done to bring attention to the challenges that women in early Jamaican music, like Hortense Ellis, experienced in the 1960s and beyond. This is a topic I have addressed in my book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music, and Hortense Ellis was an artist who was perhaps most… Continue reading Hortense Sings the Blues
Back in 2014 I blogged about the “pop-a-top” style after Derrick Morgan told me about his foray into this rhythm, and there was much debate about the validity of this music–whether or not it was a proper genre, if it was simply a rhythm, or if it was even something less than that. You can read the original post… Continue reading Pop-a-Top Part Deux
This INTERVIEW on NPR’s “Tell Me More” show is a favorite of mine. Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga talks about the history of popular Jamaican music and his role in this important era where ska was in the spotlight. He talks about the songs “Oh Manny Oh,” “My Boy Lollipop,” “Wash Wash,” “Police and Thieves,” and others, as well… Continue reading Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga Heralds Jamaican Music
The organizers of the Global Reggae Conference at the University of the West Indies Mona really outdid themselves this year with a stellar selection of scholars from around the world presenting their research and work on a variety of topics related to dancehall, as well as films and events related to Jamaican music and culture. Opening panel at the… Continue reading King Jammys and Rodigan and the Jolly Boys, Oh My!
The sweet man who called me Sis Heather, Ronald “Nambo” Robinson, has died today, January 25th at the age of 67. According to Howard Campbell in the Daily Gleaner, “Trombonist Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson, a prolific session musician who worked with reggae’s greats, died this morning at his St Andrew home. He was 67. Robinson’s wife, Marcia, told the OBSERVER… Continue reading Tribute to Nambo Robinson
This past Monday, January 16th we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the legacy left by this powerful man. MLK had visited Jamaica three times during his lifetime. Former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer paid tribute to MLK in December, 1968 when he presented the Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights to MLK’s widow, Mrs. Coretta Scott King… Continue reading Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in JA
This year has been catastrophic with the deaths of so many of the world’s beloved musicians. This week I received word of yet another. The daughter of Jamaican guitarist Keith “Bumps” Jackson informed me that he passed away on November 7, 2016. Earlier in the year I had written about Mr. Jackson, (see blog post here) looking for him… Continue reading Tribute to Bumps Jackson
Last week I interviewed the legendary Ferdinand “Bobby” “Little Bra” Gaynair over the phone. From his home, we talked over the course of a few days for a total of six hours and let me say, it was perhaps the best experience of all of my work. I cannot express in words the generosity and warmth in spirit of… Continue reading Margarita the Rose
In the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving on November 24th this year, a holiday that according to history.com was designated by Abraham Lincoln. “In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were… Continue reading Giving Thanks
Though it is not new news, it was still new to me, to discover that the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose mosque I frequently pass on Stony Island in Chicago, was once Lord Charmer the calypso singer. Even the Nation of Islam website itself states this. “Popularly known as ‘The Charmer,’ he achieved fame in Boston as… Continue reading Lord Charmer–Louis Farrakhan
“Sammy plant piece a corn dung a gully, an ’ it bear till it kill poor ole Sammy. Sammy dead, Sammy dead, Sammy dead oh. Sammy dead, Sammy dead, Sammy dead oh.” Eric Monty Morris sang the now-classic “Sammy Dead” at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York backed by Byron Lee & the Dragonaires, thereby helping to introduce… Continue reading Name That Tune
This photo of the lovely Blossom Lamb appeared in The Star newspaper on March 12, 1960. Blossom and her cousin, Louise Lamb, were popular jazz singers in Kingston during the mid-1950s and early 1960s. I featured the Lambs in my recent book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music, and here is that excerpt on these women who contributed to… Continue reading Blossom and Louise Lamb
I found this article in the Star Newspaper, September 29, 1961 that reveals an altercation occurred in a vehicle returning from a performance, resulting in Clancy Eccles being slashed in the face by a broken bottle. He received 32 stitches. Because the resolution is bad (I had to make a photocopy from a microfilm copy of the original), here… Continue reading Clancy Eccles Slashed in Face by Bottle
I recently wrote the following article for the Vinyl Record Collectors Association’s Magazine and thought I would share it here. I want to thank Charlotte Smikle for asking me to write it, and Roberto Moore for content editing it for me. He is one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the subject of Jamaican music history.
I’ve heard the younger generation talking about “mix tapes,” and I realized it is not the same mix tape as when I was a teenager. This mix tape is just a playlist. But then I started to see actual cassette tapes making a comeback and I grew nostalgic. Chuck Wren of Jump Up Records has been issuing cassette versions… Continue reading The Days of the 8 Track
The August 31st issue of the Jamaica Gleaner featured a wonderful article by music historian and journalist Roy Black on the legendary career of Deadly Headley Bennett who passed away on August 24, 2016. I post this article here, along with one from Howard Campbell at the Jamaica Observer, and will save my own writings on Bennett for my… Continue reading Tribute to Deadly Headley
Can you help solve this ska mystery? I attended Reggae Fest Chicago last weekend, which was extraordinary, by the way, and had a chat with fellow ska fan Jim Cascino, co-host of the Windy City Sound System podcast on Mix Cloud. He asked me if I knew if Prince Buster had been to Chicago in 1964 or prior, and… Continue reading A Ska Mystery
Again I’m busy writing my biography on Byron Lee so don’t have a lot of time to blog this week, but still wanted to share some interesting advertisements I came across in a few copies of Life magazine in the late 1960s that mention ska. As you may well know, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Ministry of Development… Continue reading Ska in Jamaica Advertisements
Part actor, part vocalist, part, well, dare I say funny guy? Count Prince Miller is an entertainer extraordinaire and a true Jamaican legend. Born Clarence Linberg Miller in 1935, Count Prince Miller performed on numerous stages in Kingston beginning in the 1950s. He typically performed as part of a larger stage show, appearing with other acts, including Byron Lee… Continue reading Count Prince Miller
I haven’t posted in the past week or so because I have been entrenched in writing my biography of Byron Lee, literally spending hours everyday at my keyboard surrounded by notebooks and newspapers. I decided to refresh my spirit with what was likely about my 52nd time viewing the “This is Ska” documentary from 1964, hosted by Tony Verity… Continue reading The Sombrero Club
These two articles from the Daily Gleaner in 1969 reveal allegations of discrimination from Prince Buster against the two radio stations in Jamaica, RJR and JBC. Buster complains that his records are banned from airplay, and the response reveals the reasons why in addition to an explanation of how records are selected for play. They are an interesting insight… Continue reading Prince Buster Alleges Discrimination from Radio Stations
I heard word from Myrna Hague-Bradshaw this week that the talented Jamaican jazz singer Totlyn Jackson died on June 15th. Totlyn had a long career in entertainment, first in Jamaica and then in England. I devote an entire chapter to this beautiful woman in my book, Songbirds: Pioneering Women in Jamaican Music. The Voice wrote of her passing, “TOTLYN… Continue reading Tribute to Totlyn Jackson
Derrick Morgan will be coming back to Chicago for Reggae Fest on August 13th along with Toots & The Maytals, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Hepcat, and others, and it got me thinking about the story that Derrick Morgan told me back in 1996 when he had a run in with a rude boy that resulted in the recording of one… Continue reading Rude Boy Busbie and Derrick Morgan
Perhaps you have heard that the name “The Skatalites” came from a play on the words “ska” and “satellites.” It’s true. It was the height of the Space Age and satellites were in the news. The Soviets had launched the first satellite in orbit, Sputnik 1, in 1957. Others followed, including Sputnik 2 a month later with Laika the… Continue reading What’s In a Name? The Skatalites
Before Ronnie Nasralla danced the ska in the iconic step-by-step guides with Jeannette Phillips (above), his dance partner was Evelyn Andrade, Miss West Indies. I recently spoke with the Honorable Arnold Foote, OJ, CD, JP at his home in Kingston who confirmed that Nasralla’s original dance partner was Andrade. “They were a dance couple,” he told me. “It was… Continue reading Ronnie Nasralla’s First Dance Partner, Evelyn Andrade
I had the honor and pleasure of seeing Stranger Cole take the stage again with his performance partner Millicent “Patsy” Todd in Minneapolis on May 13th. I spent the entire weekend with this classy couple and enjoyed sharing a drink and hearing their stories of touring, recording, and even how to properly say, “Rahtid!” Stranger said his favorite song… Continue reading Stranger and Patsy, Together on Stage Again!
We may be aware that music from the United States in the 1950s and 1960s had a profound influence on Jamaican music, but sometimes we forget about the impact that Jamaican music had on United States popular music. Sure we know that Millie Small hit U.S. charts in 1964 (as she did charts all over the world) in conjunction… Continue reading Jamaican Rock–Big Sound on U.S. Pop Scene
Lord Tanamo and his rhumba box The music world received the news that yet another Jamaica legend had recently passed away, and so Foundation Ska pays tribute to this musical master, Lord Tanamo, who died on April 12th at the age of 82 in Toronto, Canada. He was former member of the legendary Skatalites and the Jamaica Observer wrote… Continue reading Tribute to Lord Tanamo
You might think that the only Prince popular in Jamaica is Prince Buster or maybe Prince Count Miller or Prince Jazzbo. However, THE Prince, the artist-once-again-no-longer-formerly-known-as Prince, the recently deceased Prince, was also popular in Jamaica, as he was all over the world. Countless Jamaican artists have included Prince songs in their live concerts, and the Jamaican press has… Continue reading Prince and Jamaica and Ska
An article in Newsweek by Joe Veix on March 30th revealed the meaning of the strange floating businessman emoji and it turns out that this little-used character actually has its roots in ska! Turns out that the emoji has evolved from a version that Microsoft typography employee Vincent Connare created the character for a font in the early 1990s… Continue reading Walt Jabsco and Mircosoft
So thrilled to see that Pasty Todd will be performing with Stranger Cole, her longtime vocal partner after Derrick Morgan, in Minneapolis May 13-15th accompanied by Phil Chen, Dennis Sindrey, and the Prizefighters! I will be there for sure! More information on this show is located here. So today let’s celebrate that talented woman who was one of the… Continue reading Pata Pata Patsy
Today is a celebration for many around the world who recognize Easter, so today, I bring you another kind of celebration–that of the drums of Count Ossie. The above article appeared in Swing Magazine in 1969 and it speaks of a program featuring the drums of Count Ossie to encourage further understanding, or overstanding, of the instrument and culture.… Continue reading The Drums of Count Ossie
In February 2015, I was having breakfast with Tommy Cowan and he mentioned that he was the one who discovered Adina Edwards. I had just finished writing about this incredible woman, and so here was the person who took her from the street where she, a blind woman, played accordion and sang for a few coins and recorded her… Continue reading Get Up Adina Edwards
Don Drummond’s birth certificate. Donald Willis Drummond was born on this date, March 12, 1934. He would have been 82 today, had he not died on May 6, 1969 at Bellevue Mental Hospital. The above birth certificate took me about two years to secure from the Registrar General in Kingston but I wanted to prove once and for all… Continue reading Happy 82nd Birthday Don Drummond
This week I am asking for you, the reader, to share your memories of Chocomo Lawn, should you have the experience in your past. Even better, if you have photos of Chocomo Lawn, then or now, I would be very interested in hearing from you. This site was a “ground zero” of ska, as were other sites such as… Continue reading Memories of Chocomo Lawn
What better way to celebrate an election in Jamaica than with the ruler of them all, Prince Buster?! I recently came across this Swing Magazine dated January 1969 in which Prince Buster appears on the cover of the digest-sized magazine and the small feature cover story details, among other subjects, his recent rise to the top of the music… Continue reading Prince Buster on His Persecution as a Muslim
During my recent visit to Kingston, I conducted some research at the National Library of Jamaica with my good friend and colleague Roberto Moore who has an excellent knowledge of the holdings there at the library. He introduced me to the rare books room where we went through a few bound collections of Swing Magazine from 1968, and therein… Continue reading Dance the Reggae, Reggay, Rege?
The following article appeared in the June 27, 1964 issue of the Star Newspaper with the headline, “Skatalites Go Into Orbit.” The article by Lloyd Davis states, “Whether it was ska-ing ‘On Broadway,’ painting a ‘Ska-trait of my love’ or just plain ‘I’m in the mood for Ska’ there was something for every taste at Bournemouth on Wednesday night… Continue reading Skatalites Go Into Orbit
This article from the Daily Gleaner, Septemner 20, 1961, tells of a real dance crasher. It was uncovered by my friend and colleague Roberto Moore, an extraordinary historian of Jamaican music. We’ve heard the stories of the violence and pilfering at the hands of opposing thugs, rude boys associated with competitive sound system operators. Lloyd Bradley in his brilliant… Continue reading Real Dance Crasher
It is well known that the Skatalites disbanded in 1965 despite their trying to stay together for a few months in the wake of Margarita’s murder at the hands of Don Drummond. They came back together briefly in 1975 to support bass player Lloyd Brevett in the studio for his African Roots album which was finally released in 1997… Continue reading Skatalites Reorganized in 1975
On January 7th, I had the honor of interviewing one of Jamaican music’s biggest legends, Dandy Livingstone, perhaps known best for this classic song, “Rudy, A Message to You,” recorded in 1967 for the Ska Beat label, which was subsequently covered by The Specials during the 2Tone era. Livingstone has built a career of his own, recording for a… Continue reading A Message to You from Dandy Livingstone!
It is with sadness that we learn of that John Bradbury, drummer for The Specials, has died. Bradbury joined The Specials just after their first tour when they were still known as the Coventry Automatics and they supported The Clash. Bradbury replaced Silverton Hutchinson who left the band when he decided he didn’t want to play ska and instead… Continue reading Tribute to John Bradbury of The Specials
A couple of weeks ago I posted the lost chapter of Ska: An Oral History and mentioned how I was unable to use an interview from Prince Buster in my book because negotiations with his manager proved unfruitful. I have decided that it is wrong to leave this important piece of history buried because of money. So I use… Continue reading Prince Buster Interview
The winter holidays are upon us, so why not take a look at holiday traditions in Jamaican culture and how these relate to ska? Then, make sure to get your vinyl ready because I have a fairly comprehensive list of holiday-related Jamaican tunes, some ska, some post-ska, for your festive parties! I’ve also included a few clips throughout to… Continue reading Happy Skalidays!
It’s December, and so the winter holidays are right around the corner. It’s a time of celebration, so why not celebrate Vere Johns, that Santa himself whose show, the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour, gave the world a gift by launching so many musical careers?! Here is our Santa, or a sketch of him, in 1961 in the same newspaper,… Continue reading Vere Johns is Santa
For those who have read my book, Ska: An Oral History, you may notice there are two significant artists who are omitted. In fact, the subject of ska history is so large that there are many artists who are not in this book because it is a cursory introduction to the music, many artists have died and therefore cannot… Continue reading Lost Chapter of Ska: An Oral History
Totlyn Jackson is one of the leading ladies of Jamaican jazz, and beyond. She has an incredible vocal range and can scat with the best of them. Many may know her from her recent work with Basement Jaxx on the 2003 album Kish Kash. But Totlyn has had a long career that started in Jamaica before she moved in… Continue reading Totlyn Jackson–First Lady of Jamaican Jazz
My friend Roberto Moore, a researcher and historian who lives in Kingston, was generous to send me a few clips related to Don Drummond from Star Newspaper archives from the mid-1950s. I asked him if I could share these on my blog and he kindly said yes, so here are the fruits of his labor. First is this… Continue reading Don Drummond in the Mid-1950s
The Jolly Boys have experienced a rebirth in recent years, perhaps due in part to their calypso coverage of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” which is a spirited and novel rendition. I especially love their calypso cover of Iggy Pop’s “Passenger.” It is said that their name was given was given to them by Errol Flynn since they frequently played for… Continue reading Calypso Contest and the Jolly Boys
When we see photos or even some video of Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, we typically only see her in her later years, frail, old, in her habit. But I recently found a photo of Sister Iggy from 1940 when she was just 19 years old. The photo appears in Sister Mary Bernadette Little’s massive book, You Did It Until… Continue reading A Young Sister Ignatius
I had the pleasure of attending the annual Chicago Architecture Foundation’s open house on October 17th and visited a number of fascinating sites, but none as incredible as the site of the former Sunset Cafe. According to the WBEZ website (that’s Chicago’s National Public Radio station), “The Sunset Cafe, also known as The Grand Terrace Cafe, was a jazz… Continue reading Satchmo, Girl Satchmo, and Jamaica
Anita Mahfood, stage name Margarita, had aspirations of one day traveling to the United States to pursue a career in show business, according to her sister Conchita. Here is a photo from the Star Newspaper in 1961 that shows Margarita in her attempt to fulfill her dream of life on the stage. She was not only a rhumba dancer,… Continue reading Margarita Dreams of Stardom
Before the dance known as The Ska, there was The Hully Gully. It was a time of dances, Land of 1000 Dances, dances like the Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Pony, the Frug, the Jerk, and others. It was in this era that The Ska was created by Ronnie Nasralla, of which I have extensively written on this blog.… Continue reading Dance the Hully Gully
I have long continued the argument that Margarita was a champion, an ambassador, of the Rasta drumming that would go on to become the foundation for the reggae rhythm, and without her, it is possible that reggae would not be the same today. I have found now evidence in the Star Newspaper that furthers this argument. In my book,… Continue reading Margarita–Ambassador of Reggae
Don Drummond was admitted a number of times to Bellevue Mental Hospital–sometimes at his own doing, other times at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, namely the last time. The song, “This Man is Back,” was composed by Drummond after one of his stints in the hospital. It was released in 1961 for Coxsone Dodd’s All Stars label. I recently came across… Continue reading This Man Is Back
The past two weeks I have taken a break from the seven-part series I uncovered in the Star Newspaper called Experiences of an Inmate in a Mental Hospital to devote my blog to Rico Rodriguez. Now I return to that series with part two, which is titled, I Join the Working Party by Christopher W. Rowe. This article ran… Continue reading Experiences of an Inmate in a Mental Hospital part two
I uncovered a few new photos of Rico while looking through Star Newspaper archives this week. I thought I’d share them with you. Rico was so much more than a trombonist for The Specials, as many of the obituaries I’ve read seem to forget. Here are some visions of Rico from the past, though his spirit and music will… Continue reading Memories of Rico
I was so sad to learn this morning that Rico Rodriguez has died. He was one of the sweetest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of talking to and had a genuine warm spirit and immeasurable talent. The world is a better place because of the talent and joy that Rico gave to all of us, his fans. Emmanuel… Continue reading Tribute to Rico
In my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, I write extensively of the treatment and experiences Don Drummond likely had at Bellevue Mental Hospital during his numerous stays in the 1960s and his ultimate death there in 1969. I have visited there twice, once unaccompanied, and the sights I saw, the conditions in… Continue reading Experience of an Inmate at Bellevue Mental Hospital
Okay, so we know the controversy surrounding the selection of certain musicians and vocalists to represent Jamaica at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and the omission of others. For those who are still feeling enraged that the Skatalites weren’t selected to travel with the delegates to promote ska, what will it do to their sensibilities now to… Continue reading The Flintstones at the World’s Fair!
I have heard over the years, read in books, and still hear today that on that fateful night, January 1, 1965, that Margarita did not give Don Drummond his medication, or gave it to him late, thus causing him to sleep through his Skatalites gig and, in anger, stab her when she returned on January 2nd in the wee… Continue reading Don Drummond and the Murder of Margarita
I had the honor of visiting with the legendary Carlos Malcolm and his lovely daughter Michelle Williams while in Florida last week and was so pleased to learn that Mr. Malcolm will be releasing his own book this fall! It will be the story of the rise of Jamaican music as he experienced it, as son of a trombone… Continue reading Carlos Malcolm to release book this fall!
This is the legendary Ronnie Nasralla, of Ronnie & Jannette fame, the two who taught the world to do the ska at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964. He is proudly showing his Order of Distinction that he received from the Jamaican government in 2013 for his contributions to music. He showed me his beautiful award on… Continue reading Ronnie Nasralla still celebrating ska!
I have been going through Star newspaper archives over the past year and came across these two photos of Margarita, Anita Mahfood. For those who have read my book, Don Drummond: The Genius and Tragedy of the World’s Greatest Trombonist, you will know the book is almost just as much about Margarita as it is about Drummond. She was… Continue reading More Margarita!
Stranger Cole. Love this man. He is then, an original, and now, an original. Looking dapper in this Star newspaper article on April 14, 1964, Cole talks about how he chose not to follow the style of the American rhythm and blues singers. Sure the style influenced him, as it influenced the style of the music he was singing,… Continue reading ‘Be Original’ is Stranger Cole’s Advice
Not every band made it during the fruitful days of ska. Some bands who performed live but never recorded disappeared from history like a ghost, only to whisper that they once existed. Case in point is a band called The Presidents. I have only been able to find two articles on this group, one an advertisement and one bearing… Continue reading The Presidents
One of my all-time favorite Jamaican songs, or songs period, is Renegade by The Zodiacs, recorded for Duke Reid in 1965. I could never find too much on this band, whose sound I think is pretty tight and polished, so that surprised me, as I would have thought they’d be destined for greatness. Then I stumbled across this article… Continue reading Jamaica’s Threat to the Beatles–the Zodiacs?
This advertisement from the Star Newspaper in July, 1959, features a photo of the great Duke Reid being crowned “King” by Mrs. Iris King, the mayor of Kingston. Mrs. King was the first female mayor of Kingston and she served from 1958 to 1959. The ad reads, “Duke Reid the Trojan, proprietor of Reid’s Sound System & Liquor Store… Continue reading Duke Reid Crowned “King” 6th Time
Check out this article from the Star Newspaper in September, 1964. Lloyd Knibb is a young 33-year-old master, looking snazzy as always in his sharp threads. The article reveals that he was ranked the top ska drummer in Jamaica. As we all know, he went on to world-wide fame and is a legend. Here he tells how he helped… Continue reading Lloyd Knibb
Did you know that there was a National Ska Day? And it’s not a new creation! I found this advertisement for it in a Star Newspaper from September 12, 1964 which proclaims that National Ska Day is on September 13th, the following day, and it is the fifth birthday of the ska, which is interesting. In 1959, Theo Beckford’s… Continue reading National Ska Day
There is a definite link between the jive talk of Harlem and the jive talk of the American deejays who followed, and then the toasters of Kingston. I have written about this connection and evolution here and here and have also written an article on this topic that is in the current issue of Caribbean Quarterly which just hit… Continue reading Jive and Toasting
The week after an article ran in the Star Newspaper on Vincent Bogle’s creation of a hand-held guitar-like electric version of the rhumba box, this article appeared in the Star Newspaper, May 29, 1964 in response. I posted the original article in my blog two weeks ago, and you can read it here to gain context. The response article… Continue reading Modern Rhumba Box Invented By Leabert Bowen
Found this advertisement in the October 4, 1964 Washington Post. It’s no wonder that fashion retailers were looking to capitalize on the ska trend in the United States since ska had recently made its debut at not only the World’s Fair in New York, but also at clubs in Manhattan like the Peppermint Lounge and Shepherd Club, and even… Continue reading Put On Your Ska Shoes!
With such large cabinets of speakers known as Houses of Joy projecting waves of boogie woogie sound down the block, it’s no wonder that sound systems were known to sap an amp or two. This article from the Star Newspaper, May 28, 1964, tells of one sound system that made bills fly. What was even more interesting about this… Continue reading Sound System Makes Electric Meters Spin
This article appeared in the Jamaica Star newspaper on Friday, May 22, 1964 and announced, “Jamaican rhumba box goes modern.” Last December I wrote about Hedley Jones and his musical inventions, and you can read that HERE. But here is another innovator, Vincent Bogle, who improved on the rhumba box. The article reads: Traditional artists who bewail the rapidly… Continue reading Jamaican Rhumba Box Goes Modern
Desmond Dekker was perhaps most well-known for his rude boy songs, the lyrics that celebrated rude boys, but also told them to keep a cool head. His songs also told of the problems of everyday people, those who slaved for bread so every mouth could be fed, how it is very hard sometimes for a man to find his… Continue reading Desmond Dekker’s Girls
Journalist Robin Murray once wrote, “When Curtis Mayfield’s group The Impressions touched down on Jamaican soil in 1967, the move garnered a reaction akin to the opening phase of Beatlemania.” The year was more accurately 1966, but Murray’s sentiment is not lost—The Impressions, and Curtis Mayfield, were of huge importance in Jamaica. Clinton Lindsay has written of Curtis Mayfield… Continue reading People Get Ready–Curtis Mayfield and Jamaica
I thought this article that I found in the Star Newspaper, May 31, 1964 was pretty interesting. It gives two credible and authoritative views on the time when many hornmen were leaving jazz to play ska, and leaving Jamaica to play in Europe. Reading the response that Lennie Hibbert gives may, in fact, be the words of a fighting… Continue reading Are Jazzmen Discontented Over Money? No Says Hibbert
A few months ago I shared the advertisements that Ronnie Nasralla had made showing how to dance the ska. These advertisements pictured himself with Jeannette Phillips along with dance steps, five of them to be exact, and they appeared on the back of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires’ albums, and in the Jamaica Gleaner and the Jamaica Star newspapers… Continue reading Let’s Do the Rocksteady
Found this article in the Jamaica Star recently, noting how Lord Tanamo had switched from calypso to ska. What a dapper young Tanamo! Handsome fellow! In case you don’t want to get out your glasses, here’s what the article says: Big name in the world of ska today is Joseph Gordon, alias Lord Tanamo. The 28-year-old Kingtonian entered show… Continue reading Lord Tanamo
Yesterday, March 12th, was Don Drummond’s 83rd birthday, had he been provided with proper treatment for his mental illness, given Margarita love and respect instead of violence and death, and gone on to live and share the wealth of his talent with the world as he did for his short 37 years. Don Drummond was a complicated man with… Continue reading Happy Birthday Cosmic Don
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