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.

  

Joe Higgs, The Father of Reggae

 From my Joe Higgs Tribute Page . Below is a piece by Marcia Higgs and also info. from Wiki.

Who is JOE HIGGS and why was he dubbed

“FATHER OF REGGAE?” 
– Marcia Higgs

According to reggae music history, in the early 1950s through 1960s, when it was virtually impossible for the residents of TRENCH TOWN and other neighboring communities to even be considered for “menial” jobs in Jamaica’s main-stream work force, it was JOE HIGGS that these “other” underprivileged ghetto outcasts would ultimately turn to for musical guidance. Though a youth himself at the time, this self-taught musical prodigy was said to have converted his 19 THIRD STREET, TRENCH TOWN, tenement backyard into a sort of musical training camp, where he would teach his peers some of the lessons
he had learned. These music lessons, or “jam-sessions” as they were commonly called, were often rigorous in voice technique, breath control, harmony structuring, effective song-writing, and of course, learning to play the “box” guitar.


 Joe Higgs (born Joseph Benjamin Higgs, 3 June 1940 – 18 December 1999) was a reggae musician from Jamaica. In the late 1950s and 1960s he was part of the duo Higgs and Wilson together with Roy Wilson. He was a popular artist in Jamaica for four decades and is also known for his work tutoring younger musicians including The Wailers and Jimmy Cliff.

Higgs was instrumental in the foundation of modern Jamaican music, first recording in 1958 for producer and businessman (and later Jamaican Prime Minister) Edward Seaga, both as a solo artist and with Roy Wilson. He is often called the “Godfather of Reggae”. His first release (with Wilson) was “Oh Manny Oh” in 1958, which was one of the first records to be pressed in Jamaica and went on to sell 50,000 copies. Higgs and Wilson also recorded for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The partnership with Wilson dissolved in 1964 when Wilson emigrated to the United States. Higgs then concentrated on a solo career and also worked with Carlos Malcolm and the Afro-Jamaican Rhythms, before joining Lynn Taitt’s The Soul Brothers as lead vocalist.

Higgs mentored young singers in his yard and began working with Bob Marley in 1959. In fact, it was at one of the informal music lessons Joe Higgs held in Trench Town, that Bob and Bunny Livingston met Peter Tosh.[3][4] Marley acknowledged later on that Higgs had been an influential figure for him, while Higgs described their time together: “I am the one who taught the Wailers the craft, who taught them certain voice technique”. It was Higgs who introduced the Wailers to Dodd in 1963 Higgs has also been described as the “Father of Reggae” by Jimmy Cliff. For a while Higgs toured with Cliff, acting as his bandleader as well as writing songs for Cliff including “Dear Mother”, and also performed with The Wailers on their US tour when Bunny Wailer refused to go on the tour in 1973. Higgs wrote “Steppin’ Razor” in 1967 as his entry in the Festival Song Contest, later recorded by Tosh without crediting Higgs. Higgs later won a court case to establish his rights as composer but never received any profits from the song’s success.

Higgs won the Jamaican Tourist Board Song Competition in 1972 with “Invitation to Jamaica”, released as a single on his own Elevation label, and much of his best-known solo work was issued in the 1970s. Singles included “More Slavery” (released on Micron), “Creation” (Ethnic Fight), “Let Us Do Something” (Elevation), and “World Is Upside Down” (Island). His debut album, Life of Contradiction, had been recorded in 1972 for Island Records, but as Island boss Chris Blackwell felt that it would be difficult to market it remained unreleased until 1975, when it was issued by Micron Music and has been described as “a seminally sophisticated work combining reggae, jazz, and rhythm and blues influences to create a new texture that would have a profound effect on the best Jamaican music to follow”.  As well as The Wailers, Higgs also helped several other singers and groups including The Wailing Souls. His second album, Unity Is Power, was released in 1979 and further singles followed on Cliff’s Sunpower label and Bunny Wailer’s Solominic imprint.His 1983 single “So It Go”, with a lyric critical of the Jamaican government of the day was banned from airplay and led to harassment which would eventually lead to Higgs relocating to Los Angeles, where he lived for the rest of his life. Two further albums were released in the 1980s, Triumph (1985) and Family (1988), and in 1990 he recorded Blackman Know Yourself on which he was backed by the Wailers Band, and includes covers of the Marley/Lee Perry songs “Small Axe” and “Sun Is Shining”. In 1995, his final album was issued, Joe and Marcia Together, a collaboration with his daughter.

A majority of Higgs’ songs were connected to his impoverished life in Trenchtown where he grew up. Higgs considered that it was out of the poverty and violence of Kingston’s shantytowns such as Trenchtown and Johnstown that the reggae music had grown. Before reggae hit big on the western music scene with Bob Marley, it was understood as a “ghetto music”. Higgs was the very first artist out the ghetto music scene to have lyrics which primarily dealt with every day troubles. In his own words:

“Music is a matter of struggle. It’s not good that it’s known you’re from Trenchtown. Reggae is a confrontation of sound. Reggae has to have that basic vibrant sound that is to be heard in the ghetto. It’s like playing the drum and bass very loud. Those are the basic sounds. A classical reggae should be accepted in any part of the world. Freedom, that’s what it’s asking for; acceptance, that’s what it needs, and understanding, that’s what reggae’s saying. You have a certain love come from hard struggle, long suffering. Through pain you guard yourself with that hope of freedom, not to give up…””

Higgs died of cancer on 18 December 1999 at Kaiser Hospital in Los Angeles.[2] At the time of his death he was working with Roger Steffens on an official biography, and had been working on a collaboration with Irish artists for the Green on Black album.He was survived by twelve children, including his daughter Marcia, who is a rapper, and son Peter, a studio guitarist.

In 2007, the Joe Higgs Music Awards were established in his honour.

Tons more pictures and live music on my website tribute to Joe Higgs  HERE

 

 

 Here is a  great interview from the Reggae Beat Radio show from KCRW in Santa Monica, CA

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