No Place Like Home


Originally published on Ink 19 on October 9th, 2019

No Place Like Home
directed by Perry Henzell
starring Carl Bradshaw, Susan O’Meara, and P.J. Soles
Shout! Factory

Having spent three decades living in Boston, I always have felt a special attachment to Perry Henzell’s groundbreaking debut feature film, The Harder They Come, the movie that shepherded the growth of reggae into a phenomenon in the United States, whilst simultaneously turning the film’s lead actor, singer Jimmy Cliff, into a global star. Though Henzell’s exciting adaptation of the real life exploits of the notorious Jamaican outlaw, Vincent “Ivanhoe” Martin, was released in 1972 in the States with screenings in New York and Los Angeles that resulted in positive press and a distribution deal with Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Henzell chose to promote the film on his own terms, and in 1973, the director cleverly sent a print to film programmer Larry Jackson of the Orson Welles Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The theater, which had just opened its doors in 1969, was looking to program daring cinema for its midnight film series, so when Jackson saw Henzell’s intense, reggae-fueled crime film, he was floored. Midnight screenings of The Harder They Come began in April of 1973 with a word of mouth campaign that elevated the film to a local phenomenon, which resulted in packed houses at each screening at the theater for the next six years, a trend that would soon spread to other cities around the country, making The Harder They Come a bonafide cult classic and its soundtrack album close to a necessity.

Unfortunately, the Orson Welles Theater, where the film continued to show regularly for years following its initial six year run, burned down in 1986, only a few short months before I moved to the city where I would call home for the next 29 years. I became a reggae disc jockey at a Cambridge radio station for twenty of those years, and I saw firsthand the long term effect that The Harder They Come had on the city. Boston was a cultivator for homegrown reggae bands, and given the city’s fertile Jamaican music scene as well as its large West Indian diaspora communities, Boston was also a mandatory stop for touring bands who performed Jamaica’s national music. So unsurprisingly, given the success and the pervasive influence left by The Harder They Come in my adopted city, the question that I would often hear many ask and then would ponder myself was: “Would there ever be a second feature from Perry Henzell?”

For years, many of us had read rumors of a follow up film that Henzell had begun to direct, but completion funds were difficult to raise, and thus, the project remained dormant. That is until 2006, when Henzell, then at the age of 70 and in poor health, painstakingly recut his existing footage of his second feature which was also shot in 1970s Jamaica entitled, No Place Like Home. In September of that same year, with a finished cut of his follow-up feature finally ready to be shown, the director accompanied his film along with its two stars, Carl Bradshaw (The Harder They ComeCountryman) and Susan O’Meara to the Toronto International Film Festival for a screening in front of an enthusiastic full-capacity audience where it was met with a positive reception only two months before Henzell sadly succumbed to cancer. For the next thirteen years, No Place Like Home would be next to impossible to view, but thankfully a new restoration of the original 16mm film elements hit theaters in New York City and Los Angeles this past August, and those screenings were even sometimes coupled with a new 4K restoration of the original 16mm negative of The Harder They Come.

With a plot that is somewhat reminiscent of John Boorman’s excellent and seldom-seen debut, Catch Us If You CanNo Place Like Home begins with that certain feeling of unease which can only exist whilst under the artificial pall over reality created by advertising execs. Here, a film crew from New York is brought to the beaches of Henzell’s Jamaica to film a “naturalistic” shampoo advert for television centered around the forced waterfall and beachside frolicking of an American actress named P.J. (P.J. Soles of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Halloween fame). At first, P.J. is up for the shoot, but after a day of monotonous fabricated naturalism, she is soon faced with the daunting task of repeating that day’s efforts once the newly rebranded product is rushed to the island. Dreading having to go through that endeavor once again, P.J. takes off without notice to discover the real essence of Jamaica, but like our protagonists in Boorman’s film, she soon faces a military-led raid on the peaceful people who are housing her, and consequently, she flees once again.

As the commercial’s sole actress has gone missing, the production becomes halted, which forces the hand one of the shoot’s producers, Susan (Susan O’Meara) to ask Carl (Carl Bradshaw), a well-connected Jamaican who is assisting with the filming, to accompany her in retrieving our missing star. At first, as the pair gleefully travel around the island in search of P.J., their joy increases as they speak candidly and begin to understand one another while they take in the scenic beauty of the landscape and the people with whom they encounter, but as they travel further and discover the ugly truth behind P.J.s disappearance, the harsh reality of the co-opting of Jamaica for massive commercial development, along with Carl’s and Susan’s growing complicit roles in that endeavor, veers the film towards a finale that is now eerily prophetic and in many ways is even more grim than the bullet-ridden ending of our protagonist in The Harder They Come.

Born in Jamaica in 1936, Henzell left his homeland as a teen to attend McGill University in Montreal, and then he subsequently went to Europe where he became a stagehand at the BBC, before eventually returning to Jamaica in the 1950s to direct television commercials. While viewing No Place Like Home, it is abundantly clear that the influence of Henzell’s ad work experience combined with his personal feelings about the subversion of his native country plays heavily into the narrative, and although the pacing of No Place Like Home does not possess the same relentless intensity of Henzell’s debut feature, it is no less compelling and vivid in displaying the dark reality that lurks behind a media fabricated image.

As Boorman had done in the mid-1960s with Catch Us If You Can in his examination of that era’s perversion of “the pop musician identity” for profit, and as Robert Downey had done with Putney Swope just a few years later in showing that even “soul” was for sale, Henzell’s final film pokes gaping holes into the 1970s commodity for all things “natural” by presenting its seldom-seen destructive consequences that extend far beyond the marketing of a product. All three of these exceptional films erratically utilize music and slick advertising visual sensibilities to further underscore the inevitable subversion of an authentic element for profit, and although it took No Place Like Home many generations to finally come together and get a proper release, the underlying message of the film is no less relevant than it was when Henzell first began shooting it over forty years ago.

Review by Generoso



Originally pubished on Ink 19 on March 6th, 2019

directed by Franco Rosso
starring Brinsley Forde
Kino Lorber Repertory and Seventy-Seven

There is a single, glaring line from the obituary for director Franco Rosso that was written in The Guardian by Quadrophenia and Babylon screenwriter, Martin Stellman, that I am compelled to begin this review of Babylon with, solely for the reason that I feel that this film in particular and Rosso’s life are forever intertwined:

“Babylon marked him [Rosso] out as a fearless chronicler of the dispossessed.”

I don’t usually isolate quotes, but I have always felt a deep kinship with director Franco Rosso, as we were both children of Italian immigrants who had left the homeland shortly after World War II to the countries that had defeated Italy: Rosso’s parents emigrated to England, specifically to Streatham, south-west London, and my parents to the United States, to a working-poor section of South Philadelphia. We both grew up in areas where Italians were few, and we were both inexplicably drawn to Jamaican music, as that music, like it has been for so many who have felt isolated, became an anthem for our feelings of alienation. In my mid-20s, I took my lifelong love of ska and reggae and became a DJ at WMBR, an FM station in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and thankfully in his mid-20s, Franco Rosso, who had worked as an assistant on Ken Loach’s classic British film, Kes, and as an editor on John and Yoko’s documentary, Bed Peace, became a cutter on what many consider the first documentary on reggae music in England, director Horace Ové’s chronicling of the 1970 Wembley concert that featured Desmond Dekker, The Pioneers, and the Maytals: Reggae.

In 1973, Horace Ové co-produced one of Rosso’s earliest directorial efforts, a short documentary entitled Mangrove Nine, which was a critical view of the arrests that occurred during an action where black residents protested the longtime police harassment of The Mangrove Restaurant, a community activism center in Notting Hill. The landmark case that followed the arrests resulted in the first judicial recognition of “evidence of racial hatred” in England. As Stellman also noted in his obituary for Rosso, “The film [Mangrove Nine] was so uncompromising in its portrayal of police racism that the BBC delayed its transmission.” Stellman also noted that for years after the Mangrove Nine documentary was shown, Rosso found it difficult to get a project going and felt that he had been blacklisted for his views. It wasn’t until 1979 that Franco produced another stark and honest documentary, this time on Jamaican dub poet, Linton Kwesi Johnson entitled, Dread Beat an’ Blood, which focused on Johnson’s work and his desire to use his words to detail the injustice in the London community where he lived. Dread Beat an’ Blood remains as one of the most powerful examples of the pervasive influence that Jamaican and reggae culture had on 1970s England, and it was out of these efforts that Rosso’s 1980 film, Babylon, was born.

Fittingly, the funding for Babylon came together through the efforts of Gavrik Losey, the son of American director, Joseph Losey, who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and Mamoun Hassan, the Saudi-born head of production of the British Film Institute, who, since the early 1970s, had furthered the BFI’s “radical” policy of assisting low-budget experimental and narrative films with a political agenda. Like Perry Henzell’s seminal reggae film starring Jimmy Cliff, The Harder They Come, the movie that Babylon is often compared to, the small budget worked to the film’s advantage, as the cast would consequently be comprised of mostly unprofessional actors, led by Brinsley Forde, founding member of the British reggae group, Aswad, who was the perfect choice for the film’s lead character, Blue, a sympathetic young English-Jamaican auto mechanic and sound system operator who cannot get over with his family, his neighbors, the police, and even from time to time, his fellow West Indians whom he calls friends. Blue’s raison d’être is to build up his young Ital Lion sound to clash against the mighty and notorious Jah Shaka sound system, but in the days leading up to the event, everything around him is falling and obstructing his path.

Given the extraordinarily difficult struggles that Blue and Ital Lion go through in setting up their sound in Babylon, the score of the film had to capture the chaotic intensity of a sound system clash mixed with the constant racial tensions that existed in late 70s London, and this vital score was provided by former South London Jah Sufferer sound system operator and dub producer, Dennis Bovell. The Barbados-born Bovell spent nearly a year in prison in the mid-1970s after he was arrested during a police raid at a sound clash he was performing at in the Carib night club in Cricklewood Broadway in 1974. Bovell’s conviction was eventually dismissed on appeal, but it is evident that the impact of the incident heavily played into the formation of the soundtrack and also the construction of the narrative of Babylon. With the actors and soundtrack in place, for the visuals, director Rosso called on his former collaborator, cinematographer Chris Menges BSC, ASC (Local Hero, The Killing Fields), whom Rosso had previously worked with on the aforementioned British classic, Kes, a film with a keen eye for the plight of working class youth. With his bold kinetic framing and hazy tones, Menges added an essential element to the raw aesthetic of Babylon which succeeds in presenting a grim view of England that offered its young people limited possibilities.

One of relationships in Babylon that epitomizes the state of racial tensions in 1970s London, comes via Blue’s friendship with the only person he can really confide in, Ronnie (Karl Howman), a white man who has been a friend of Blue’s going back to their youth as skinheads. A hint to the length of their time together is cleverly suggested in a scene where Blue and Ronnie discuss their inability to get into the very 1970 Wembley reggae concert that resulted in the film that director Rosso edited a decade earlier. It should be noted that this particular concert transpired during a time in England’s history when skinhead culture was primarily a combination of working-class white youth and young Jamaican immigrants who came together because of economic status, music, and style.

It is during this scene that we can suspect that the character of Ronnie is the film’s stand in for Rosso, because Ronnie is the only main character in the film who is white and loves reggae music, and neither Blue, because of his race, nor Ronnie, because of his affiliation with Blue and Blue’s sound system crew of young Jamaicans, are accepted by the working class whites around them, as this is a different England than the England of the early 1970s. This is an England that, by this point in time, had over a decade of the National Front’s influence and Thatcher’s implementation of stricter immigration policies, and thus, in the scenes that Rosso constructs where the Ital Lion sound system crew is verbally attacked by their neighbors, there is no distinction in the level of disdain directed toward Ronnie or Blue and his Jamaican friends by the racists around them.

Throughout Babylon, Blue is consistently singled out for punishment regardless of his best intentions, and thus he becomes the embodiment of the frustrations of immigrants in England as he is harassed over and over again for simply trying to work his auto repair job, set up his sound system, tend to his younger brother, and walk home late without being abused by the police. To try to alleviate his feelings of alienation, Blue seeks out a Rastafarian leader from his neighborhood. And, in searching for some hope and guidance after being tested like the Biblical Job, Blue attends a prayer vigil where the group’s leader welcomes him and utters the following line, which solidifies in Blue’s mind his bleak status as a disenfranchised member of the society around him:

“To the East, Africa, to the West, Jamaica, first Babylon. To the North, England, second Babylon. Babylonian triangle of captivity.”

Since its release in the UK in 1980, Babylon has only been available in the United States through poorly transferred versions with fuzzy visuals and muddied sound, where much of the patois is lost on American audiences due to lack of subtitling, but the recent restoration by Kino Lorber corrects all of these former shortcomings, so now, we can see Franco Rosso’s masterpiece for all that it was meant to be: an energetic, brutally honest, and again, uncompromised statement by Rosso on the treatment of West Indian immigrants in London during Thatcher-era England. The movie, as seen now in theaters, pulsates with Bovell’s life experiences in sounds now clear, raw performances by the cast that you now fully understand, Stellman’s knowing screenplay, Menges’ daring cinematography, and a narrative that gives empathy to all of us who feel like we’re on the outside looking in, no matter where we are living, regardless of the time. With Babylon getting a long overdue theatrical release in the United States, I am beyond glad that I was able to see the film the way it was meant to be seen and also that I finally have the opportunity with this review to say publicly: Grazie, grazie mille, Mr. Rosso.

A sincere thanks as well to Martin Stellman for his obituary on Franco Rosso that appeared in the January 2nd, 2017 issue of The Guardian.

Review by Generoso Fierro


Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Remembering Nora Dean and JJ Label Spotlight 10-4-16


Rest In Peace Nora Dean

The October 4th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began on a sad note, as  the wonderful singer, Nora Dean,  passed away on Thursday in Connecticut at age 72.  Nora had been living in Connecticut since moving here from New York in 2010.  Nora Dean began her career during the rocksteady era with Coxsone Dodd, recording her first song, Mojo Girl, at Studio One in 1968.   She would achieve larger fame when she recorded the racy reggae cut, Barbwire, for Byron Smith at the Baron’s label in 1969. Dean cut so many tracks that we love, as not only a solo artist, but as a prominent member of The Soulettes and The Ebony Sisters.  Due to Mixcloud policies that prohibit us from playing more than four songs from one artist, our tribute to Nora was contained in eight songs that began our show this week.  We included many wonderful cuts in this memorial and we hope that you appreciate her sweet and expressive voice on these songs.  Rest in peace Nora.

We thought that for our record label spotlight, given that last week, we presented a ska, rhythm & blues, and rocksteady spotlight, we thought that this week, we must have a reggae one! In thinking of reggae, there are many producers whom we love here on the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, and in thinking about which one to feature this week, we arrived at Carl Sir JJ Johnson, a label owner and producer who was exceptionally prolific in the early reggae era. We know a little bit about Sir JJ’s early years. Carl Johnson was the son of Bromley Johnson, the man who created the Magnet Bus Company, which was one of the first bus providers that ran to and from rural Jamaica. Carl Johnson, who would be known as Sir JJ was as business oriented his his father, but he directed his efforts on the music business. Sir JJ first started as a jukebox distributor. Eventually, like other folks involved in the jukebox industry, he decided to open up a record shop, picking 133 Orange Street for his center of business, a prime location because Beverly’s was right next door For his signature label that bore his nickname, Sir JJ recruited outstanding talent. 

The house backing band for the Sir JJ label was Bobby Aitken and his Carib-beats. For the label, the group was called the JJ All Stars, and the members were:  Bobby Aitken, the leader of the group,  on guitar,  Winston Richards AKA Grennan on drums, “Iron Sprat” on bongos, Vincent White on bass, Alphonso Henry on alto sax, Val Bennett on tenor sax, Dave Parks on trombone, Mark Lewis on trumpet, and Bobby Kalphat on keyboards .  Of course, given that we are talking the JJ Label, we had to play “The Selah,” which is one of the most successful Sir JJ tracks, with many versions of the track made in the same year that the original was released.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Linden Pottinger’s Gaydisc Label 9-27-16


Roy Panton and Millie Small on Gaydisc

We started off the September 27th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of dazzling reggae beginning with a version to version produced by one of our favorites. Keith Hudson.   After a fun set of mento, we went into a long ska set beginning with our continued tribute to the late Prince Buster with the cut, Cincinnati Kid from 1965.  The ska set ended with a super rare cut that was also produced by Prince Buster, but performed by Lloyd Barnes in 1964 entitled, Time  Is Hard.  We then went into our spotlight of Lindon Pottinger’s Gaydisc Label.

Before Lindon Pottinger ventured into the music industry, he was an accomplished accountant and businessman. With his wife, Sonia, who would become one of the most distinguished women in the Jamaican music business, Lindon opened up a recording studio in the Pottinger home. This studio served as the center of recording for the SEP and Golden Arrow, and the label of our spotlight tonight: Gaydisc. The label started out in 1962 and was prolific until 1967, so this spotlight will contain ska, ballads, and rocksteady productions from Mr. Pottinger. We’ll start off with Al T. Joe’s “I’m On My Own”

In 1964, Lindon sold the recording equipment in his and Sonia’s home studio to Duke Reid, and in 1965, Lindon and Sonia parted ways.Despite these major changes, Lindon would continue to produce for Gaydisc. And, he would continue to manage his record pressing plant as well.

The Cables…Though the Cables formed in 1962 with Keble Drummond, Vincent Stoddard, and Elbert Stewart, they did not enter the recording studio until 1966. The first producer they visited was Lindon Pottinger, and their first single was “You Lied,” which was backed by Bobby Aitken and his band. You’ll heard The Cables’s debut single, which was released on Gaydisc.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Prince Buster Memorial Part One-Buster’s Ska Productions 9-13-16


Buster’s Group fierce R&B on Wild Bells

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Just a few weeks ago, we memorialized saxophonist Deadly Headley Bennett, who would eventually play a role in Prince Buster’s history, and we’ll get to that in the middle of this program, but sadly, we have done many memorial shows these last few years, but this one has really impacted us in a very personal way.  Generoso has written a comprehensive and personal obituary on Buster which was published on Ink19 this week.

One of our favorite Jamaican artists of all time, Prince Buster, passed away on the morning of September 8th in Miami after complications from heart issues. Prince Buster had a stroke in 2009, but we had not heard anything about his health since then, so the announcement was extremely unexpected, and we’ve spent a lot of time mourning the loss of a music pioneer and a giant persona whose bravado brought even more to the iconic tracks that shaped Jamaican music history

Born as Cecil Bustamante Campbell, Prince Buster grew up with his grandmother in rural Jamaica. Here, he gained an interest in music after singing in churches.  When he was a teenager, he moved to Kingston and lived on Orange Street, and he naturally found an affinity for the sound system culture. Specifically, he spent a lot of time with Tom Wong, who is best known as Tom the Great Sebastian, who ran a sound system out of his shop and in the dancehalls of Kingston.

As the sound system culture further developed, each operator and their set of selectors would compete against each other. The big two were Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat and Duke Reid’s the Trojan, and Prince Buster and his crew aligned himself with Coxsone, who was more of an underdog than Duke Reid. Buster provided Coxone’s dances with security, and eventually, he would become a selector for the Downbeat sound. With this experience, Buster was armed with plenty of knowledge on how to run a sound system, so he went to Tom Wong and asked him for a loan in order to create his own sound, which would become the renowned and popular Voice of the People.

With his sound system up and running, Buster was ready to begin recording his own singles. Before he would ever appear in front of the microphone, Buster produced tracks to be played at his sound system; you will hear a selection of these tracks in this first set in the spotlight. To start this show, we heard from Buster himself. Though he had already established himself as a producer, in 1961, for his own Wildbells label, Buster recorded his very first track as a vocalist, “Little Honey,” which will start off the first of a two week tribute to the mighty Prince Buster, the Voice of the People.

Due to Mixcloud’s policy (you can only play four songs per artist every show), we have primarily structured this show on Prince Buster’s magnificent productions during the Jamaican rhythm and blues and ska eras.  You will hear some of the greatest hits of that time from Derrick Morgan, Eric Monty Morris, Basil Gabbidon and more! Included in this show are segments of Generoso’s 2002 interview with Prince Buster that was conducted a week before Buster was to play a show that Generoso helped produce in Boston that featured Buster, Derrick Morgan, Eric Morris, and Millicent Patsy Todd with the excellent reggae group, The Pressure Cooker backing up the artists.

The interview segments describe in detail, the controversial recording of the Folkes Brothers, “Oh Carolina,” the Black Head Chinaman record war between Buster and Derrick Morgan, and Buster’s duet with the late great singer, Slim Smith.

Here is Part One of our two part Prince Buster Memorial from September 13, 2016:


Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Byron Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label 9-6-16


Keith Lyn on Lee’s Dragon’s Breath


Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Firstly, thank you to everyone how was kind enough to let us know how much they appreciated our Deadly Headly Bennett Memorial show.  Generoso was fortunate enough to have met Deadly back in 1999, when Headley and trombonist, Vin Gordon were performing with Justin Hinds.  Generoso and Headley got a chance to speak that night as Generoso was introducing the show at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island.  All three men were very kind and exceptional musicians.  Thank you and respect to Vin, who is still with us and much respect to Justin and Headley for their kindness and great contribution to Jamaican music.

The September 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with the to sets of rare rocksteady, starting with Stranger and Patsy with a lovely cut they did for Tip Top in 1967, Don’t Want To Be Hurt.  The second set began with The Wrigglers and their song, You Cannot Know, which they recorded for Giant in 1968 and that set ended with the King Of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis and My Time Is The Right Time.  Our weekly mento set featured another cut from our favorite mento, Count Lasher on Stanley Motta’s MRS label, Perfect Love.  We ended the first hour with a set of ska to get you ready for the sounds of the Dragon’s Breath label,    A standout during that ska set was from Joe White, a solo ska from him produced by Prince Buster for the Voice Of The People label in 1964, Nite Club!  That set ended with another Buster production, this time it’s the Maytals and their hit, Domino!  We then went right into our spotlight of the Dragon’s Breath label…

By 1956, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires had established themselves as a professional working band that toured the hotel and nightclub circuit. Before these touring years, the Dragonaires performed mento, but in order to play professionally, like so many other bands, they performed versions of American soul and R&B hits. Within three years, the group decided to take a shot at recording, and in 1959, they visited Edward Seaga at WIRL’s studios to record their first single, “Dumplins.” This single was released on the band’s label, Dragon’s Breath, appropriately named in the tradition of the group’s name and, this is the label of our spotlight tonight, which will exclusively contains Jamaican Rhythm and Blues and Ska. We kicked our label spotlight off with three tracks from the Dragonaires that were produced by Byron Lee himself, starting with “Dumplins,” the group’s recording debut.

Dragon’s Breath was pretty short lived, with releases stopping in 1964. Interestingly, there was a bit of a gap in the label; no recordings were released in 1962. We do not know of the reason, but one could be that the label changed hands because by 1963, Prince Buster was the producer for the label and  from that moment on out, we heard those Buster productions as he took the helm of the music released by Dragon’s Breath, including two from Eric Monty Morris which began the second set of the spotlight.

XO Generoso and Lily

This is the September 6, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady and our spotlight on the Dragon’s Breath label:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Felix “Deadly” Headley Bennett Memorial Show 8-30-16


“Deadly” Headley Bennett UK Unity 

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

It is with great sadness that we must report the passing of legendary saxophonist, Deadly Headley Bennett.

Deadly Headley passed away at his home on August 21st at the age of 85. He had been suffering from back and prostate issues since 2013, and two Sundays ago, he passed away suddenly after being up and about earlier in the day. We will pay tribute to Deadly Headley’s impressively prolific career for the full two hours of this week’s show.  Headley received the Order of Distinction in 2005 for all of his contributions to the progress of Jamaican music, and in this program, you’re going to hear some of the biggest tracks in Jamaican music because Deadly Headley was there for those history changing moments.

Born as Felix Bennett in Kingston, Deadly Headley started his music education at an exceptionally young age, enrolling in the Alpha Boys Catholic school at the age of five. With the education and support of the school’s music program, Deadly Headley emerged from the school ten years later, at the mere age of 15, as an accomplished saxophone player. 

As the fifties arrived, Bennett performed primarily in jazz, and as the sixties arrived, he had established himself as an excellent performer and session musician. Bennett’s recording career had a sudden and surprise beginning. Bennett performed and hung out with Rico, and when Rico was invited to play Coxsone’s sound system, Deadly Headley was part of the horn section. During this performance, Coxsone’s friend spotted him, and suggested that Bennett should be playing for Coxsone’s recordings.

Coxsone invited Bennett to Federal Studios, and Deadly Headley first recorded “Independence Blues” for him, with Lester Sterling also on the recording, which created a battle for solos between Lester and Deadly Headley. “Independence Blues” was cut for Coxsone’s D. Darling label and features the voice and guitar of Basil Gabbidon, and it is the track that would start Bennett’s many decade career in the recording industry. Consequently,  it is the track that will started tonight’s memorial on Deadly Headley Bennett.

In addition to recording in the studio in 1962, Deadly Headley also performed as a member of The Shieks in their performance to welcome Princess Margaret when she visited Jamaica to mark the nation’s independence. It is unclear as to what tracks Deadly Headley would play on for Coxsone in 1962, but his role was certain on recordings for a young producer named Leslie Kong and his Beverley’s label. It is well documented that Headley was a featured player for Leslie Kong, who insisted that Headley play a solo for the more prominent singles to come out on the label during its beginning  We then heard tracks on Beverley’s from not only a young Jimmy Cliff, Derrick Morgan and Eric Morris but also the very first recording of Bob Marley prior to his time with the Wailers.  Four tracks were cut at Beverley’s with Marley from that session with Headley in 1963, including “One Cup of Coffee,” “Do You Still Love Me,” “Terror”, and the track we will played on our tribute, “Judge Not”

In the early 1960s, Deadly Headley would play for a multitude of producers in the ska era and  Bennett would continue to record for Studio One during this time. Included in the tracks recorded for Coxsone Dodd is Wailer Peter Tosh’s “Maga Dog,” which features a wonderful solo from Headley Bennett. That was the track we played next on the show.

In 1966, rocksteady would become the preferred beat of the time, and Deadly Headley would play on some of the era’s finest tracks. Of course, during the rocksteady, the band that was most in demand bore the name of the man who invented the rhythm, Lyn Taitt. We then heard two instrumental tracks that feature Taitt’s guitar and Headley’s beautiful sax sound.

“Satta Massagana” was recorded at 7 am at Coxsone’s studio through Carlton Manning, who arranged for his brother Donald Manning and his group The Abyssinians to record in Coxsone’s studio without his approval or knowledge. “Satta Massagana” was the first recording of the session.   In the short session, three tracks were quickly recorded, and shortly thereafter, “Satta Massagana” became a hit rhythm that would get versions many many times

In 1969, Deadly Headley went to Canada and returned in 1977 and when Headley returned to Jamaica in ‘77, he was in as much demand as ever and performs on some of the most legendary albums of the era.  We went through album after album of his recordings from 1977 to 1979 and selected our favorite performances from Headley from those full length records.

Only one full length album bears Headley’s name in the title as the featured artist…35 Years From Alpha was produced in 1982 by the king of On-U Sound, Adrian Sherwood and featured Headley on alto sax, Bim Sherman on vocals, and fittingly his former horn section partner Rico on trombone. To end this two hour tribute to Headley, we played two selections from that amazing album.

Here is the August 30th, 2016 edition of Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady and our two hour tribute to the late, great Felix “Deadly” Headley Bennett:


Roy Panton and Millie Small on Gaydisc

We started off the September 27th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of dazzling reggae beginning with a version to version produced by one of our favorites. Keith Hudson.   After a fun set of mento, we went into a long ska set beginning with our continued tribute to the late Prince Buster with the cut, Cincinnati Kid from 1965.  The ska set ended with a super rare cut that was also produced by Prince Buster, but performed by Lloyd Barnes in 1964 entitled, Time  Is Hard.  We then went into our spotlight of Lindon Pottinger’s Gaydisc Label.

Before Lindon Pottinger ventured into the music industry, he was an accomplished accountant and businessman. With his wife, Sonia, who would become one of the most distinguished women in the Jamaican music business, Lindon opened up a recording studio in the Pottinger home. This studio served as the center of recording for the SEP and Golden Arrow, and the label of our spotlight tonight: Gaydisc. The label started out in 1962 and was prolific until 1967, so this spotlight will contain ska, ballads, and rocksteady productions from Mr. Pottinger. We’ll start off with Al T. Joe’s “I’m On My Own”

In 1964, Lindon sold the recording equipment in his and Sonia’s home studio to Duke Reid, and in 1965, Lindon and Sonia parted ways.Despite these major changes, Lindon would continue to produce for Gaydisc. And, he would continue to manage his record pressing plant as well.

The Cables…Though the Cables formed in 1962 with Keble Drummond, Vincent Stoddard, and Elbert Stewart, they did not enter the recording studio until 1966. The first producer they visited was Lindon Pottinger, and their first single was “You Lied,” which was backed by Bobby Aitken and his band. You’ll heard The Cables’s debut single, which was released on Gaydisc.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Carlton Bradford’s Triumph Label 8-23-16

Triumph Label B

Triumph All Stars on Triumph, 1968

Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

The August 23rd, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with two sets of ska, including a set of COWBOY-themed ska which was a silly, last minute decision based on us acquiring the Prince Buster’s 1962 single, Cowboy Comes To Town! We love westerns so what can you do?  We ended the two sets of ska with the king of the reggae harmonica, Roy Richards, on Studio One in 1965 with Double Trouble.  Our weekly mento show had a few rare gems this week, including The Dictator With The Jamaican Calypsonians and their 1955 tune for the Kalypso label, Chinese Cricket Match.  We ended the first hour with a long set of rocksteady starting with the seldom heard band, The Jupiters who cut a Judge Dread styled courtroom tune, The Return Of Ezekial  for Joe Gibbs Amalgamated label in 1967.  That set ended with another track from 1967, this time a cover of Maurice Williams doo-wop classic, Stay, this time performed by The Summertaires for the Coxsone label.  We then went into our spotlight of the Triumph Label.

The Triumph label is one of those short lived labels that we are always amazed to dig up! Carlton Bradford was the owner and producer, with releases on Triumph concentrated in rocksteady and early reggae. Bradford was primarily known as a singer; he was a member of The Vibrators and The Soul Cats, both groups that were prolific throughout early Jamaican music.  With Leslie Bailey and Solomon Gayle, Bradford recorded as a vocalist as part of The Vibrators, who started with Justin Yap and his Top Deck label. The trio would record through rocksteady and reggae, serving often as backing vocalists for many labels, including Coxsone and Gay Feet.

With Ewan McDermott and Kevton Williams, Bradford sang as a member of The Soul Cats, who were active in reggae in the late 70s.  The Soul Cats would actually open up the Bradmack label together in America, releasing their own tracks as The Mighty Soul Cats for the label that had its home in New Jersey and was distributed out of the Bronx.For Triumph, we get to hear Bradford focused on rocksteady and early reggae as he got his start as a producer. He attracted quite a lot of talent to Triumph and excellently produced their recordings. Many of Bradford’s productions were picked up by Blue Cat and Pama’s subsidiary Nu Beat in England, but they originated on Triumph. 

Winston Wright was one of the most prolific organists in Jamaican music. As a member of Tommy McCook and the Supersonics and Lynn Taitt and the Jets, he recorded extensively with Duke Reid early in his career. He would see enormous success from his essential part in “Liquidator,” the hit from the Harry J All Stars and would go on to record for the backing bands of some of the biggest labels and producers, including Clancy Eccles, Byron Lee, King Jammy, Alvin Ranglin, and Lee Scratch Perry just to name a few. One of the labels that Winston Wright stopped by was Triumph, and he performed with the Triumph All Stars to cut a track for Bradford.

We hope that you enjoy the August 23rd, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: King Edwards’ Giant Label 8-16-16

giant label A

Roy Panton and Cornell Campbell as The Bellstars

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

A triple version of Delano Stewart’s That’s Life, a pretty 1968 tune for Sonia Pottinger’s High Note is how we commenced the August 16th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady.   We continued the with another set of early reggae that ended with Leonard Wilson’s 1975 track for Mighty Cloud, I Want To Thank You and the version by The Mighty Cloud Band, Thank You Instrumental.  We thought to go with an uptown mento sound for this week’s mento set…Baba Motta’s Jamaica Talk , Tony Johnson and His Carousel Band’s Give Her Banana, and  Clyde Hoyt and George Moxey Quartet’s Montego Calypso.   To end the first hour, a long set of rare ska to get you ready for the ska of King Edward’s Giant Label that ended with The Originators,  Chelip Chelip, which was released on SEP in 1966.  It was then off to the spotlight…

Vincent ‘King Edwards’ began his career as a sound system operator with his brother George. Vincent traveled to America in 1954 and brought back records and the equipment for a sound system. Upon his return to Jamaica, Vincent and George opened up the Rock and Roll soundsystem, but the first dance did not go well, and Vincent and his brother George took some time to improve the soundsystem. Rock and Roll returned to the scene in 1956, and immediately started to be called the Edwards Sound. Shortly thereafter, King was added to the sound system name, emerging as the King Edwards soundsystem. Vincent would get exclusive records from artists in America, specifically Philadelphia where his sister lived and from the south where, giving the King Edwards soundsystem an edge that would append ‘The Giant’ onto the name.

Like many other sound system operators, the Edwards brothers would play primarily American soul and R&B, but as the 60s arrived, they began recording acetates in Jamaica customized for his soundsystem, and that led to a natural transition into recording and releasing records for the public in the early 1960s. There is of course the flagship label that many know of: The King Edwards label, but here on the Bovine Ska, we wanted to spotlight a label that was the other part of the soundsystem name, and that is The Giant label.

Vin and George Edwards were extremely active throughout ska, but the label stopped releasing records as rocksteady and by the early 70s the soundsystem completely closed it doors. A few factors played into this: Vin’s interest shifted toward on politics; he served as a Councillor and then became a member of parliament. He was also getting into horse training, which is something he still does today. George moved to the countryside of Jamaica, away from the city and the music scene. Furthermore, Vin was not a marijuana smoker (nor an alcohol drinker), and after a while the rampant smoking that would occur in the studios made the music business difficult for Vin.

Please let us know if you enjoy the August 16th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: