In 1968, when Bernard Collins, along with brothers Donald and Linford Manning decided to form a vocal group, they chose a name that reflected their rasta faith, the Abyssinians.
Paying a fitting tribute to the career of Alton Nehemiah Ellis in just a few paragraphs is an impossible task.
Best known globally for his chart busting collaborations with Dave Barker, keyboard maestro Ansel Collins contributed to many of the finest recordings to see issue during the golden age of reggae.
Born Horace Swaby in Kingston, Jamaica in 1953, Augustus Pablo was and raised in the comfortable middle class suburb of Havendale.
In the mid-seventies, when reggae singers were expected to wear dreadlocks and be wrapped in the colours of the Ethiopian flag, Barry Biggs was considered something of an oddity.
Few living Jamaican have had a more profound influence on popular music than Manley Augustus Buchanan, a man more familiarly known to the world as Big Youth.
In the late sixties, Bob Andy was instrumental in raising social consciousness in Jamaican music to a new level, and by so doing profoundly influencing its future development.
Bob Marley & The Wailers
The title of ‘legend’ has been ludicrously over-used in recent years, particularly so in the field of popular music, but there are a few cases, where the talent and influence is so great, such injustices do not hold true – Bob Marley & the Wailers being arguably the greatest example of them all.
Although the manifest talents of Boris Gardiner have beat at the heart of reggae music from its early beginnings he still remains relatively unsung, despite contributing far more to the music than many other more celebrated ‘stars’.
Bruce Ruffin has one of the move impressive CVs in the reggae business, having workled with some of the biggest names in the history of Jamaican music, with their number including Duke Reid, Winston Riley, Lloyd Charmers, Herman Chin-Loy and Leslie Kong.
Bunny Lee's achievements have been both manifold and profound, with his incredible long run of Jamaican hits unlikely to ever be equalled.
Consistently overlooked by reggae historians for his populist approach to music making, Byron Lee nonetheless undeniably played a significant role in the global success of Jamaican music in the sixties and seventies.
Of Guyanese parentage, Candy McKenzie spent most of her life in Kilburn, North West London, learning the piano and picking up vocal harmony from her father, a jazz bass player.
One of the most under-rated singer-songwriters in Jamaican music history, Carl Dawkins penned some of its most enduring hits.
Chaka Demus & Pliers
The duo of Chaka Demus & Pliers enjoyed successful solo careers before teaming up in the early 1990s to become one of the most successful acts in the history of Jamaican music.
Valdene Dixon aka Charlie Ace was born on 27th December 1945 and while details surrounding his early days remain a mystery, it is known that he began his recording career with Joe Gibbs around the start of 1970.
Born in Dean Pen in St Mary’s near Highgate on December 9th 1940…
The Clarendonians initially comprised of two childhood friends, Fitzroy (Ernest) Wilson and Peter Austin, who began singing in local talent competitions around their home parish from where they took their name.
Clement 'Coxson' Dodd
Few, if any producers have exerted a more profound influence upon their nation's music industry than Clement Seymour Dodd.
At the height of the ska revival in the late seventies and early eighties, few outside Jamaican music circles were aware that two of the most significant hits of the era were penned and originally performed by Robert Thompson - a man more commonly known as Dandy Livingstone.
Dave & Ansel Collins
The singer-keyboard dup that formed the charts in 1971 with 'Double Barrel' and 'Monkey Spanner'. See: Dave Barker, Ansel Collins
'I am the magnificent, I’m backed by the shack of a soul boast - most thundering storming sound of soul. I am 'W – 0 – 0 - 0' and I’m still up here again' 'Double Barrel' (1970)
U Roy's enormous success with a series of singles for Duke Reid early in 1970 sparked frenzy among producers, eager to jump on the deejay bandwagon. Of those who burst forth upon the island’s music scene at this time, none proved more popular than Dennis Alcapone.
Over the past half-century, Jamaica has spawned an array of gifted performers, many of whom have gone on to achieve international recognition for their talent.
In the early 1960’s, when the Jamaican recording industry was still very much in its infancy, the local music scene was dominated by a mere handful of performers. Among these musical pioneers were Laurel Aitken, Owen Gray, Wilfred ‘Jackie’ Edwards and, of course, Derrick Morgan.
Throughout this pre-roots era, the name most people in the street would most readily identify with the rhythms of the Caribbean was Desmond Dekker.
For those unfamiliar with Don Drummond’s music and the story of his tragic life, it may be difficult to comprehend why, some 47 years since his death, Jamaica still mourns his passing.
The greatness of any individual can be measured by their impact on history, and musically, few have left a greater impression than Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid.
Eric Donaldson’s unrivalled success at the Jamaican Song Festival has resulted in him becoming known as ‘Mr. Festival’, the singer having won the contest a record breaking seven times.
Ernest Ranglin is a man of firsts. After being instrumental in the development of ska, he supervised Bob Marley & the Wailers' first release and soon after arranged the first Jamaican hit to break internationally. But that's only half the story.
The Ethiopians were one of Jamaica's most influential vocal groups during their heyday.
The Fabulous Five
On the album. 'The Fabulous Five Inc.', the liner notes refer to those who “have” to be told that the group famously provided a reggae backing to Johnny Nash and have been voted 'Best Band In The Land' for three consecutive years which is “further testament to the fact that they are doing what they are doing better than anyone else”.
Freddie McGregor has remained at the forefront of reggae music for over five decades - a remarkable achievement given the music industry is a business noted for its fierce competitiveness.
I recall the time I first met Gregory Anthony Isaacs. He had come to…
Greyhounds’ roots can be traced back to the 1960s when drummer, Danny Bowen Smith formed the first incarnation of the band that featured singer Freddie Notes, keyboard player Sonny Binns, Errol Denvers on lead guitar and bassist Trevor Ardley White.
The Harry J All Stars
The generic group name bestowed by producer Harry Johnson upon those instrumentalists employed for this recording sessions.
Anyone with more than a passing interest in reggae music knows and loves the Heptones for, as the foremost Jamaican vocal harmony trio ever, they unfailingly set the standards for everyone else to aspire to and to measure their own work by.
The Hippy Boys / The Upsetters
Recording either under their own name or as an anonymous backing combo, the Hippy Boys laid down some of the most satisfying and danceable reggae rhythms that Kingston could offer.
One of Jamaica's most under-rated singer-songwriters, Hopeton Lewis is widely acknowledged as being the godfather of the rock steady sound.
Horace Andy, born Horace Hinds in Kingston, Jamaica on 19th of February 1951, started his long musical journey in 1967 at the age of sixteen when he made his first recording for Ken Lack’s Caltone label.
The In Crowd
If ever a reggae band had inconsequential beginnings it was the In Crowd.
By the time Inner Circle found fame in the USA in 1987 after their song ‘Bad Boys’ was selected as the theme tune to the Fox television series ‘Cops’, the group were already long established veterans of the music business.
The work of Jamaican DJ Roy Samuel Reid aka I Roy helped shape the sound of popular music in Jamaica and the world at large.
Jamaica's first national singing star, Wilfred ‘Jackie’ Edwards was not only one of the island most naturally gifted performers, but also a much beloved gentlemen, whose career spanned four memorable decades.
Widely recognised as one of the true giants of reggae music, Jimmy Cliff launched his recording career in the early sixties while still in his early teens.
Jimmy Riley's passing on 23rd March 2016 was not just a huge blow to his family, friends, but also all those whose lives have been enhanced by the wonderful music he helped create over the past five decades.
Joe Gibbs produced some of the most influential and significant recordings ever to see issue in Jamaica.
‘He was the oracle everyone went to when it came to Ska in the…
John Holt was born in Greenwich Town, a seaside community that…
Johnny Clarke was born in Kingston in January 1955 and he grew up in the district between Waltham Park Road and Maxfield Avenue known as Whitfield Town.
Look in many authoritative books on Jamaican music and you will find little or no entry for Alex Hughes, a man more familiarly known as Judge Dread.
Keith Hudson: one of its most interesting and idiosyncratic characters with an insightful writer and creator of a selection of timeless songs and rhythms that will live forever.
Had Ken Boothe been born in Birmingham, Alabama or Memphis, Tennessee there is no doubt he would today be heralded as one of the finest Soul singers of all time.
Although over two decades have passed since King Tubby was tragically taken from us, he remains one of the most enigmatic personalities in Jamaican music.
Widely heralded during his lifetime as both 'The High Priest Of Reggae' and 'The Godfather Of Ska', Cuban-born Laurel Aitken was one of the most influential Jamaican performers to make their mark at the birth of the island's recording industry.
Lee 'Scratch' Perry
For many Jamaican music purists, Reggae reached its creative its…
While the likes of Coxson' Dodd, 'Duke' Reid, 'Bunny' Lee and Lee 'Scratch' Perry are often heralded as being the most popular record producer in Jamaican music history, none of these giants came close to matching the commercial success of Leslie Kong.
Countless people will be familiar with the music he has created even if they are unfamiliar with the name of Linval Thompson. He has collaborated with many of the greats of Jamaican music recording, initially as a singer for luminaries such as Augustus Pablo, Bunny Lee and Lee Perry, before progressing to the role of one of the island's leading producers .
One of the most overlooked performers to make their mark win the Jamaican music scene in the sixties, Little Roy has written and performed some of the finest roots songs ever to see issue
Lloyd Winston Tyrell, a man who became widely known as Lloyd Charmers, was a profound talent, who as a performer, songwriter and producer left an indelible mark upon Jamaica's music industry.
When the surviving members of the Skatalites reformed at the beginning of this century, they were joined on tour by one of the most influential Jamaican vocalists of all time: Lord Tanamo.
Born in 1934 in the San Fernando region of Trinidad, Nearlin ‘Lyn’ Taitt displayed an interest in music at an early age, and while still a youth he helped form a neighbourhood steel drum band, later winning an island-wide competition as a soloist.
The white hot heat of the reggae business with its insatiable appetite…
Max Romeo’s ability over the past four decades to portray and convey with equal fervour and conviction the manifest tribulations of Jamaican life in tandem with its equally amusing aspects have ensured his position as one of the most popular and versatile singers of his generation.
Few performers can command the respect and admiration widely accorded to Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert.
The arrival of the laid-back style of rock steady in the summer of 1966 introduced a new wave of groups and of these, none proved more popular than the aptly-named Melodians.
In the summer of 1964, Millie Small a wide-eyed, innocent young Jamaican country girl became an international celebrity, whose success popularised ska on a global scale and provided the finances to enable Chris Blackwell to establish Island Records as a major force in Popular music. This is her story...
In the mid seventies, Jamaican music was considered to be ‘en vogue’ with world music followers, which was probably due to the fleeting major label interest at this time. Through the punk/reggae connection the uninitiated discovered already established artists such as Culture, the Mighty Diamonds and the Gladiators. While this new following championed the major label signings they unbelievably dismissed other recognised acts such as Desmond Dekker, Dandy Livingstone and Nicky Thomas as being too commercial!
Niney The Observer
Niney The Observer a.k.a Winston Holness and born George Boswell, is and will always be a musical innovator and creative genius of comparable calibre.
Best known for her risqué hit. Barbwire', Nora Dean was a truly unique talent whose recordings as both a solo performer and member of the Soul Sisters had a significant impact on the Jamaican music scene from the late sixties to the mid-seventies.
Owen Gray has the distinction of being one of the pioneers of Jamaican music, standing alongside such luminaries as Derrick Morgan, Wilfred ‘Jackie’ Edwards, and Cuban-born Laurel Aitken.
‘Let’s Go And Have Some Fun, On The Beach, Where There Is A…
Hundreds of visitors make their way to Peter Tosh’s seaside shrine in Belmont, Westmoreland, each year. They didn’t find it in a brochure; they made their own way, determined to pay respects to a musician who always appeared to stay true to his beliefs, his religion and his music.
In the 1960s and early seventies, Phyllis Dillon was a rarity: a female performer who not only turned out numerous popular singles, but also happened to cut every one of them for a single producer.
Among the first of Jamaica's singing trios to successfully breach the British pop listings, the Pioneers remain one of the most popular reggae acts of all time.
Some might argue that Pluto’s style is nothing more than the Jamaican equivalent of music hall. Others might compare his tales to that of a Calypsonian. But whatever camp you choose with lyrics such as those in his hit, ‘Ram Goat Liver’, based on a traditional Jamaican folk song, he clearly has a unique way of telling a good story.
“There’s hardly a man, woman or child in Jamaica who doesn’t know the voice of Prince Buster”, boldly states the first line of the original sleeve notes for the great man’s ‘Fabulous Greatest Hits’ album.
One of Jamaican music's most underrated and overlooked singer songwriters, Reggae George penned and performed some of the finest roots music of the late 70s and early 80s
From the Duke Reid Group to the Jools Holland Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, from ghetto studios to the stage of ‘Top Of The Pops’, from the heat of Kingston to the less inspiring climate of suburban London, it had been a long musical and geographical journey for Emmanuel ‘Rico’ Rodriguez
He was one of Jamaica’s most original vocalists, his unique approach and peculiar delivery ensuring a place apart. Credited as the artist who recorded the first rock steady vocal, he scored several lasting hits in the reggae era, yet Roy Shirley remains one of the music’s lesser-known figures, his great contribution rendered unjustly obscure.
Among the new wave of young, dynamic producers that shaped the sound of Jamaican music in the late 1960's and early 1970s, Rupie Edwards is perhaps best known for his international hits, 'Ire Feelings' and 'Leggo Skanga'.
Born on 13th August 1956 in London, Sheila Hylton spent her first five years in England before moving with her family to Jamaica, where, following her schooling, she completed her education at the Jamaica Commercial Institute.
The Skatalites defined the sound of Jamaican ska just as surely as the Ventures defined the guitar instrumental, Count Basie defined the sound of swing or the Sex Pistols defined the snarl-and-snot of punk.
Widely regarded as one of the finest tenors to have graced Jamaica’s music scene, Keith ‘Slim’ Smith fronted two of the island’s most revered vocal groups during his early career before tasting success as a solo artiste on a scale that few others have equalled.
Sly & Robbie
The powerhouse rhythm duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare have been at the cutting edge of the Jamaican music scene for over four decades.
Sonia Pottinger O.D.
Sonia Pottinger O.D. deserves to be regarded as one the greatest Jamaican record producers of all time.
Sophia George’s steps toward international glory began in 1985 when reggae reporters began writing rave reviews about a pre-release from Jamaica, written and produced by Anthony ‘Sangie’ Davis - its title: ‘Girlie Girlie’.
Sugar Minott came into this world as Lincoln Barrington Minott on 25th May 1956 in Kingston, Jamaica.
Though Lee Perry's work with artists such as Leo Graham, the Silvertones and Prince Jazzbo was highly creative and inspired, it was far left-field of the dominant sound of the day, and the Ark’s minimal equipment gave the material a sparseness that was at odds with the successes of his contemporaries. When a big hit finally broke in the UK at the start of 1975, it came from an unknown female vocalist who was then a university librarian.
Formed in the mid-sixties by Albert George Murphy, Maurice Johnson and Norman Davis, the Tennors became one of the hottest acts on the Jamaican scene following the release of the debut disc, ‘Pressure And Slide’ in 1967.
The Upsetters was the generic group name bestowed by producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry upon any amalgam of instrumentalists employed for this recording sessions.
Born Ewart Beckford, more commonly known by the reggae music world as, simply, U Roy not only revolutionised the sound of Jamaican music, but was also a major inspiration in the development of rap.
Throughout the late sixties and early seventies, few musicians were in greater demand by Jamaica’s pioneers than Winston ‘Brubeck’ Wright.
Throughout the seventies, Zap Pow was arguably Jamaica’s most successful reggae band, with no less than four No. 1 hit records to their credit.