Alton Ellis The Godfather of Rocksteady

                                                                      

Get Ready To Rock Steady

Many consider Alton the greatest Jamaican singer, and in Jamaica his voice is  even bigger than Bob Marley. Dennis Alcapone had this to say about Alton. “Alton was a bigger artist in Jamaica than Bob Marley. Everybody, even Bob, would love if he could sing like Alton Ellis. All of them would sit back and listen to Alton because Alton was the king.” His soulful voice spanned all genres of Jamaican Music from Ska, to Rocksteady , and Reggae as  Alton helped lay the foundation for Jamaican Music.

Alton Ellis came from Trenchtown, the same part of Kingston that was home to stars like Bob Marley. He and  his younger sister Hortense got their start as kids competing on Kingston talent shows like “Vere John’s Opportunity Hour.” In 1959, as half of the duo Alton & Eddie, he recorded the R&B-style scorcher “Muriel,” which became one of the first hit records for the pioneering local producer Clement Dodd.

Alton had many hits with Coxsone and also Duke Reid like  “Girl I’ve Got A Date,” “I’m Just a Guy” and his 1966 classic “Get Ready Rock Steady,” that ushered in a whole new style of music called Rock Steady. It is said that when the track was recorded Jackie Mitto had to fill in for the regular bass player and since that was not his regular instrument he had trouble keeping up with the fast ska beat, so he elected to slow down the tempo. Alton had several other major successes in 1966, including “Cry Tough” and the smash “Girl I’ve Got a Date,” the latter of which became his biggest hit and signature song.

 

Rock steady had  a mellower, slower more soulful sound that formed the bridge between the hard-driving brass of ska and  reggae. It was perfect for Altons sweet tenor voice.“Alton ruled the rock steady era,” Mr. Alcapone said. But Mr. Ellis’s influence did not stop there.

In 1969 his track “Get Ready Rock Steady” was used for “Wake the Town,” featuring DJ U-Roy which started the DJ revolution with it massive popularity. The instrumental track to Alton’s  composition “Mad Mad” became one of the most covered recordings in reggae history, and his 1967 composition “I’m Still in Love With You” was covered several times, most recently by the dancehall artists Sean Paul and Sasha, reaching No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot Singles chart in 2004.

                                                        

Having been so ripped of by Jamaican producers, Alton moved to Canada then to England where he created his own Alltone label. He was also awarded Jamaica’s Order of Distinction in 1994 and was inducted into the International Reggae and World Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

A real pioneer of Jamaican Music and Hailed as the King Of Rock Steady, Alton may have been eclipsed by Marley and Reggae but to many he is truly greatest singer to come from Jamaica.

 Here is a very rare live clip of Alton Ellis.

  

Justin Hinds Ska Legend

 


Justin Hinds Ska Legend

Justin Hinds was and is considered one of the best singers from the ska era of Jamaican Music. A native of Sheer Town, Justin’s beautiful and unique tenor voice made him the most popular artist in Jamaican in 1963 with his #1 hit for Duke Reid  “Carry Go Bring Come” that is said to have been done in just one take. From 1963 to 1966 Justin and his band the Dominos released a prolific  70 singles that included hits like “King Samuel,” “On The Last Day”, “Jump Out of the Frying Pan,” “The Ark” and “Rub Up Push Up.”

     

 

He continued with hits in the rock steady era and parted with Reid in 1972.  In 1976 he released one of reggae best albums Jezebel produced by Jack Ruby with hits like Natty Take Over, Prophecy and a remake of Carry Go Bring Home.  

                        

He followed that LP with another classic Just In Time in 1978. Nighthawk Records in the US also released a great LP Travel With Love recorded at Tuff Gong Studios in 1984 which featured tracks like Get Ready Rock Steady, Travel With Love, and Weeping Eyes. Justin became less active after 1984 and did not ever leave Jamaica until 1997 to play shows in the US. Here is a very rare clip of Justin performing on that tour. 

 

In 1992 he did return to the studio the last time for the album Know Jah Better but did stay active in with his collaboration with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and Wingless Angels project.  Keith Richards said this about Justin, “ When he comes to mind or when you hear his voice, you get a nice warm glow.  He was always incredibly attuned to what was going on around him,. And the thing I she wasn’t really reggae.  He was more rocksteady or ska – that’s what he was into”.   And in the session with Keith and the Wingless Angles Justin was very into the Nyabinghi sound.  The main purpose for these roots session with Keith was to chill out, drum and smoke ganja Nyabinghi  style.  This years Grammy’s will be the first time a Nyabinghi  album will be up for a Grammy with the Wingless Angles 2 being nominated.

Brian Jobson (bass player and producer on Wingless Angles 2) said this about Justin. ” he was one of a kind, really. And he was the first one from our area, as it were, before Ernie Smith and Bob Marley and Burning Spear Most of the musician before that were from Kingston or lived in Kingston, but he lived in the country and just went to Kingston and did his stuff, and always came back and had his little place in Steer Town. He was like the Don or Godfather of the community there”


Brian’s brother Wayne Jobson said this about Justin, “Basically Justin Hinds was the godfather of Jamaican music- one of the all-time greats.  He helped to invent ska in the early day with Carry Go Bring Come and then later on he helped to develop rock steady with The Higher The Monkey Climbs and then he really helped to bring reggae to the world with the Jezebel album with Jack Ruby, who was Burning Spears producer.”

Justin appears in this great documentary by a student Mark Gorney called Before Reggae Hit The Town. A rare clip is included here.

Justin Hinds passing away quietly at his Jamaican home on March 16, 2005.  He suffered from lung cancer. His music and impact on those that knew him will live on.