Part 15 – Roots – The Birth Of Jamaican Music (NEW)
You will know that Bob Marley said, to know the branches you have to know the roots.
To be honest I knew this quote since 30 years but anyway didn´t knew much about the roots of Jamaican Music. What I knew was, that before reggae there was rocksteady and before rocksteady was ska. What I also knew was, that ska started in 1963, rocksteady in 1966 and reggae in 1968 to become prominent in 1969. When I read about Jamaican Music having begun in 1960 same as most of you probably I wasn´t even able to tell what kind of music was recorded in these first 3 years before ska. Even more I had hardly any idea what artists were the first to become prominent in Jamaica and how all this music business had started. Out of lack of understanding I thought, when so many reggae artists are now gone since long then probably all the musicians of these first years are probably all gone and nothing real would be findable about these early days.
What a big mistake.
Still some of the men who helped starting Jamaican Music are alive and well and are ready to tell this story. Because of their hard work the music of the small caribbean island Jamaica was and is so good that it conquered the whole world. Without them Jamaican Music would not have become what it is now. I think we can even go that far that without them we would not have listened any Jamaican Music. All the joy, pride, love and consciousness we have gained from Jamaican Music would not have been. So time is more as overdue to mention their names and tell some of their stories.
Jamaica at the time was a part of the British Commonwealth. Most Jamaicans were poor people. If a Jamaican thought about a safe income for their family and maybe a carreer, like it is common thinking today, then he should have gone to London, UK and try to get a good job, earn money and live. After 50 years we would not have a word about someone like this.
In total contrast some men rejected that perspective and stayed in Jamaica and put time, energy and risk into a business that was just starting and of which nobody knew to where it would lead. They sacrified carreer and safety for music. They are heroes. I bow down and say a big big “Thank YOU!”
Keith Scott is the man I want to mention here at first. Not only but sure also because I enjoy the privilege to talk to him each sunday since more as a year and because he allows me to call him a good friend. Keith Scott worked in 1960 for Tropical Records Company and from February 1961 until 1968 at Federal Records and from 1966-68 he also was co-owner of Merritone Records. He is one of a handful of survivors of the very first days of Jamaican Music. While some producers who are now famous owned the studios and labels and made the general decision what to release Keith Scott oversaw the whole production process, supervised the sound engineers, and checked the pressed vinyls so that we can say that he was the key figure responsible for the fact that the earliest Jamaican Music do sound so good as it is. He was in the studio. He met all the early artists. He was there and gives us informations as a trustworthy eye-witness of all this. Thousands of records went at first through his hands before they came to us much later. He is a very special wide-hearted man.
The Caribs are to mention next. The Caribs were the first studio band in Jamaica playing for Ken Khouri at Federal Studio. And their story is a typical “Jamaican” story that is also teaching us a good thing for our life today. In fact drummer Lowell Morris, guitar player Dennis Sindry, pianist Peter Stoddard and sound engineer Graeme Goodall were all born Australians. They had visited Jamaica back in 1958 to play a gig at Glas Bucket in Kingston and then decided to stay in Jamaica for most of their lives. Grame Goodall helped Stanley Motta to built the very first Jamaican studio and then worked for Ken Khouri. Lowell Morris now lives in Australia and Dennis Sindry lives in Florida, USA. Four Australians in fact are the obstetrics of Jamaican Music. This historic fact is a perfect example for the national motto of Jamaica: “Out of many, one.” If we would acknowledge how much of our lives is what it is because in history some people from foreign countries helped us, this world would be a better place.
Higgs & Wilson is the duo I like to focus your attention on. Joseph “Joe” Higgs and Neville “Roy Wilson” Williams recorded the very first native number 1 hit in Jamaica, “Manny Oh”, back in 1960. Together they recorded 30 tracks of which none has been officially re-released until now. They ruled the dances in the first years of Jamaican Music. They were the top stars in Jamaica before The Wailers took over that place in summer 1963. In fact Joe Higgs was the teacher to Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and many more. They all looked at Higgs & Wilson and wanted to be as big as they were before them. It is my privilege that both Roy Wilson and Marcia Higgs for the Higgs family trust me to prepare for you the first anthology of the music of Higgs & Wilson for you. Soon to come here as high quality downloads complete with a booklet telling all the musicians involved like The Skatalites, Don Drummond, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso and of course The Caribs just to mention a few. Watch out for this. This is where all the Jamaican Music started. And even after 50 years this music grooves!