Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 12/3/2014: The Emotions

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On this past week’s episode of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, we started off the show with two full sets of ska, including some supremely danceable tracks from Prince Buster and his All Stars and The Pioneers.

In the first hour, we also played some unearthed rocksteady singles from The Merritone Singers and The Dynamites in preparation for the early rocksteady tracks from Max Romeo’s first musical endeavor with The Emotions, the vocal group for this week’s spotlight.

After his mother decided to immigrate to England, Max Romeo lived with his father near Wareika Hills. However, after continued disagreement between Max and his stepmother, he decided to run away at 14, living in the hills and trying to get by as best as he could.

In trying to get stable work, Max ended up working in a sugar cane field in Clarendon as a canal cleaner. In the field, he met Denham Edwards, and the two sang together at work. It was at work where Denham would write a song for Max to sing, which was his entry for a regional song competition. Max sang the track with Kes Chin and the Souvenirs at the contest and won, putting him on the track to a music career.

Eventually, Max moved to Kingston and met Lloyd Shakespeare through his friend Suckro. Then, through Lloyd Shakespeare, he met Lloyd’s singing partner, Kenneth Knight. Originally, the two were going to be the duo Ken and Lloyd, but given that they were not entirely ready as a duo, Max offered to join the group and lead.

Max would then become a salesman for Blondel Calnek, an importer of Chinese figurines. During this time, Blondel would open a record label and create a pseudonym for his persona as a record producer. This name was Ken Lack, his last name backwards. Lack’s label, Caltone would be the first label to record The Emotions, which was initiated by Lack when he heard Max singing one day at work. The first track to start the spotlight was, “I’ll Buy You a Rainbow,” the first track they recorded for Caltone

Lack decided to move to the U.S. in 1968, which caused the Caltone label to dissolve. After the dissolution of Caltone, the Emotions would travel over to Phil Pratt to record some pretty singles before Max decided to pursue a solo career in 1968. During this time he was replaced by Audrey Rollins. Audrey would eventually decide to work for Lloyd Daley at his Matador label and was then replaced with Lloyd Brown. However, when Max’s solo career did not flourish as much as he had hoped, Max re-joined the Emotions by the end of 1968.

Around the same time, Max Romeo worked as a salesman for Bunny Lee. Max wrote the now infamous “Wet Dream” and gave it to Bunny Lee to find a vocalist for the track. Bunny offered it to Derrick Morgan, John Holt, and Slim Smith, but all of them passed on it because of its salacious content. Bunny then told Max that he would have to be the one to record it, or else it would never be recorded. “Wet Dream” became Max’s track to put him on the map in music, with its notoriety pushing it up in the charts, especially in the U.K. where it was banned on BBC radio, but, regardless, it made it into the top ten of the charts. After the popularity gained by “Wet Dream,” Max toured England and recorded further innuendo-laden tracks and ended up staying there until 1970 when he returned to Jamaica to form his Roman record label and soundsystem.

Listen to the spotlight and the full show HERE.

Enjoy! The archived file will be available until 12/16/2014.

 

 

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 10/29/14: Happy Halloween with King Horror!!!

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This past week’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady is one of our favorite shows of the year….the Halloween show!!!

The show featured songs with ghoulish, sinister themes and titles ranging from devilish reggae, duppy mento, dracula reggae, and zombie ska. There’s even an entire set of duppy themed reggae and a duppy story weaving through the sets! We started off with a set of “Satan” themed reggae, beginning with a new acquisition here at The Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, “Satan Side” by Keith Hudson and Chuckles which was released on DUKE in 1972 and was produced by Keith Hudson himself.  That opening set ended with a back to back version excursion from The Ethiopians on Matador, “Satan Gal” and “Satan Boy.”

Given that the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady almost always needs a spotlight, this show has a special one from the most terrifying reggae voice of all, King Horror!

King Horror-Frankenstein

This 1969 King Horror cut is pretty spooky!

Much of the fun of the King Horror spotlight comes from the question: Who is King Horror?

The real answer is that we have no idea, but we have a few suspicions. Across all accounts, the most likely answer is that King Horror was Lord Davey, who was produced by Laurel Aitken. Given the involvement of Laurel, there is some confusion surrounding who really performed on the King Horror tracks. On many of the tracks, it is clear that you do not hear Laurel‘s voice, which would confirm that King Horror is actually Lord Davey. But, of course to make the identity more puzzling, it is believed that Laurel Aitken actually did cut a few singles as King Horror, but the rest of the singles were Young Growler, a calypsonian named Errol Naphtah Davy who immigrated to London from Trinidad in 1961.

Given the name similarities, we could guess that Young Growler and Lord Davey are most likely the same person. While multiple sources point to Davy, there is another claim to the King Horror name out there. Joe Mansano, of Brixton’s Joe’s Record Centre, claimed that King Horror was one of his DJs known as Lloydie and Lloyd the Matador, not to be confused with Lloyd the Matador Daley. Lloydie was apparently not the best looking man, and consequently, Joe and his people began to call him King Horror.

Regardless of the identity, all of these King Horror tracks feature eerie sound effects, great screams, and amazing reggae rhythms.

Listen to the spooky edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady HERE.

Enjoy! The archive will be available until 11/11/2014.

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: 10/15/14 Generoso’s Birthday Show and 1968!

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Three Tops Great 68 Train

The Three Tops “Great 68 Train” from 1968

Besides being the year of Generoso’s birth, 1968 was one hell of a year for Jamaican music. That year saw the end of the rocksteady era and the rise of a new rhythm in Jamaica…reggae. As the tradition goes during the last eighteen years of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, Generoso’s birthday radio program is punctuated by having good friends stop by the station, the making of a cake with one slightly disturbing word as it’s message for the year, and the playing of tracks from 1968, both rocksteady and reggae of course.

The show begins this year with eight tracks that actually feature the year “1968” in their title, many of which were Jamaican song competition entries for that year like “Intensified ’68” by the late, great Desmond Dekker which begins this year’s show followed by the version from Lynn Taitt and The Jets going out as always to Magnus. The Three Tops punchy rhythm on “Great ’68 Train” produced by Coxsone followed and a smart reggae from producer/vocalist Clancy Eccles “Festival ‘68” ended that opening set. Of the 1968 titled tracks we played, we must say that “Come Down 68” featuring the smooth voice of Trinidadian, Kentrick Patrick, a.k.a. Lord Creator is my favorite. We so wished that Creator had cut more tracks during early reggae as his voice was made for the rhythm and the track does remind me of his masterpiece, “Such Is Life,” which he cut for Randy’s.

This year, we called out to the listeners for their favorite 1968 tracks and our good friend Melody Wining suggested the track that many people regard as the very first reggae release… “Do The Reggay,” a Beverley’s produced cut that does possess that irresistible early reggae rhythm that we love here on the show, and a lead vocal from Toots which is as always as raw and brilliant as you could ever hope for in a cut.

Finally, we want to wish love to you our Brian, Nancy, and Brett who came to the station that night to help us celebrate and to all of our listeners and friends who called or emailed good wishes throughout the day and the show.

Listen to the show via the WMBR archives here: LISTEN HERE

This link will be active until 10/28/2014

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

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clarendonians photo

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.

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/10/2014: Remembering Hopeton Lewis

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We were very saddened to hear about the passing of legendary vocalist, Hopeton Lewis, on September 4th.  Hopeton had passed away at his home in Brooklyn last Thursday after a long battle with kidney disease.  Hopeton was a guest on the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady back in 2006, a very sweet and reverent man, who had been almost exclusively performing non-secular music for the last thirty years.  When we spoke back then he still had great affection for his earliest cuts for Merritone, Treasure Isle and Dynamic.  There are his landmark tracks such as his first hit, 1966’s “Take It Easy,”  which many people consider the very first rocksteady tune ever recorded, and the track he would record the same year, “Cool Collie,” the very first Jamaican record to openly speak about the positive effect of marijuana.

Hopeton Lewis was born in Kingston and raised in Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland. At the age of 6, he began signing for the Burnt Savannah Holiness Church, which was his starting point for his passion for music. As a young boy, he returned to Kingston to live with his grandparents. At the age of 15, his grandparents passed away, and Hopeton was left on his own to survive in Kingston. As a young man, he quickly entered the music industry in order to fulfill his love for singing and also to try to earn a living.   He began his recording career as a member of the vocal group, The Regals, by cutting a side at Coxsone’s Wincox label.  Not much came of it, so he took his smooth voice and began a solo career at Merritone where he scored a hit with the aforementioned “Take It Easy.” which stayed at the top of the charts for weeks and sold over 10,000 copies!

Take It Easy

Hopeton Lewis’ “Take It Easy” LP on Merritone

After leaving Merritone in 1967, Hopeton had brief stops at “JJ’s” and “Fab” before finding more success with Duke Reid at his Treasure Isle label.   Besides singing backup for many of the Duke’s established artists, his turn at lead vocals there would result in a Festival Song Competition winner with “Boom Shaka-Laka.”  He would move to Byron Lee’s Dynamic label and the hits kept on coming as “Grooving Out On Life,” the title track from his full length LP released in 1973 became a signature song for Hopeton.

On the September 10th edition of the Bovine Ska, we took you on a musical trip through Hopeton’s career and tried to help you get a better picture of his progression as one of the most talented vocalists in Jamaican music history.

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

This link will be active until 9/23/2014. Enjoy!

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 8/27/14: Spotlight on the SEP Label

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This August 27th, 2014 edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady radio show on WMBR featured a two hour retrospective on Lindon Pottinger’s SEP Label, so you know what that means…Yes, two hours of classic skaand rocksteady produced by Pottinger from 1963 to 1967.

“Ska Is Here To Stay” by Karl Bryan from 1963

SEP Label

Years before entering the music industry, Sonia Durrant and Lindon Pottinger had experience with accounting.  After their marriage, the two began to open businesses together in Jamaica, ranging from a bicycle store to a shop that sold Sonia’s homemade patties.  However, their business focus shifted in 1961 when Lindon began producing records, and as his career progressed, he eventually established Golden Arrow, Gaydisc, and the label that is the focus of our spotlight tonight, SEP, the record label bearing Sonia’s initials. Upon the creation of the record labels, Lindon also opened a recording studio in the Pottinger home. This would be the first recording studio to be opened and owned by an Afro-Jamaican. The records from the Pottinger’s labels sold at the Tip Top record shop on Orange Street, which increased their presence on the growing music center in Kingston.

This show focuses just on the SEP releases, featuring tracks from all SEP artists including Roy and Millie, Lord Tanamo, and Winston Samuels.

Here is a link to hear this radio show from the WMBR Archive.  The link to this show will be active until September 10th, 2014.  LISTEN NOW