Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 10/8/14: Clarendonians Ska

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Ernest Wilson and Peter Austin: The Clarendonians

We started off the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady this week with a thunderous version to version excursion which we always send out to my mentor and dearest departed friend Magnus Johnstone:  Errol Dunkley and his killer cut on Count Shelly from 1973, “Where Must I Go,” followed by Daddy URoy’s version, “Merry Go Round” which was cut for High Note in 1976.  We had a fun mento set this week that started with a bizarre release on MRS that featured a new-report style tribute to Princess Margaret entitled “Caribbean Curtsy.”

The history behind the Clarendonians is a bit unclear and conflicting.  We know for a fact that Fitzroy Ernest Wilson and Peter Austin were the two founding members of the group. Both grew up in Hayes, Clarendon and formed the duo in 1963 when Austin was 18 and Wilson was only 12. After performing in local talent shows, the Clarendonians caught the eyes of the music industry and recorded first for Leslie Kong in 1963 with their single, “A Day Will Come.” As Austin and Wilson continued to perform, they caught the attention of Coxone Dodd and began recording for his Studio One And after this point, things get very confusing, but before we dive into the cloudy history of the Clarendonians line up, we’ll first hear “A Day Will Come,” their first single and then their early cuts for Studio One. We know that Freddie McGregor joined the Clarendonians at the age of seven, and it is believed that Coxone Dodd was the one who suggested that Freddie should be the member to expand the Clarendonians into a trio. While the Clarendonians recorded as a trio, the members of the group also recorded in duets with each other. McGregor recorded with Wilson as the duo Freddie and Fitzie, and Austin also recorded with McGregor as Freddie and Peter. And even though the duet recordings did not include all three members of the Clarendonians, the recordings of the duets were often branded with the Clarendonians name. And to make matters much more confusing, each member of the Clarendonians recorded solo tracks that were occasionally pressed with the Clarendonians name as well.

Despite all of the confusion and mystery surrounding who exactly is on each recording that claims to be that of the Clarendonians, we do know that there are three core members, and as a trio they predominantly recorded for Studio One.  Austin became disaffected with Dodd in the late 1960s and went on to record as a solo artist for producer Ken Lack and Phil Pratt, but eventually left the music industry and went on to work as an aviation supervisor at Norman Manley International Airport. Of the Clarendonians, Ernest Wilson was the first member to establish himself as a solo artist. McGregor took more time to establish himself as a solo artist, working at Studio One as a session drummer and backing singer, and eventually found success with “Bobby Bobylon”, and of the trio, had one of the most successful careers. On “The Best of the Clarendonians” record pressed by Studio One, there are only pictures of Austin and Wilson (as seen above). In addition, there is written introduction and description completed by Vin Dunning which does not mention Freddie McGregor in any way.

On October 8th, 2014, we did our spotlight on The Clarendonians from the earliest recordings during the ska era only.  We hope you enjoy it!

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here: LISTEN HERE

This link will be active until 10/21/2014.

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