Giants Behind the Music: Alvin Ranglin

Alvin Ranglin was born in Eden District, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1942. He began his career in music via his District’s Adventist church choir at a really early age. He learned his trade as a radio/television repairman and started working as a technician by the time he had finished his teenage years– later graduating to repair and servicing of Jukeboxes. During this time his passion for music never waned and by the mid- 1960’s he had built and began operating GG’s Discotheque.

Alvin Ranglin

Around the same time, he opened and begun operating a juke-box sale and repair business in May Pen, Clarendon. He later added record sales and opened additional stores in the town of Old Harbor, Clarendon, Half Way Tree, St Andrew, and later Brooklyn, New York, and London, England. In 1971, he acquired the recording studio and vinyl pressing plant known as Record Specialists at Torrington Bridge in Kingston.
Ranglin began producing records around the same time he opened the May Pen store. First, producing singer Trevor Brown, and later with himself and Vernon Buckley as “Vern & Alvin” and later with Lloyd Flowers as “Flowers & Alvin”. In 1969 he established his first record label – GGs (name after the two Glorias in his life – his sister and his partner at the time)
The label produced several popular records by the duo Vern (Buckley) & Son (Gladstone Grant) – later re-named the Maytones. However, the label’s first real hit was Man from Carolina by his studio band – GG All- Stars. This was followed by several hits by the Maytones including Funny Man and Money Worries (which was included in the movie Rockers soundtrack in 1979). In the 1970’s he added Hit label which produced several hit records by both individual artists and the GGs All-Stars. Among the All-Stars hits were Flight 404, Ganja Plane, and Musical Shot. In addition to the songs mentioned, the Maytones recorded several local hits on the GGs label. Songs included a local version of Greyhound’s Black and White and Madness.
The Maytones

In the mid to late 1970s, GGs and Hit labels became home for many of Jamaica’s fledgling artists who went on to become icons in the reggae music industry. Ranglin produced a string of local and international hits with names like Eric Donaldson, Max Romeo, The Ethiopians, U-Roy, Prince Mohammed (George Nooks), Cynthia Richards, Stanley Beckford and the Turbines, Jah Thomas, Dennis Alcapone, Mike Brooks, Jah Stone, Freddie McKay, and Lone Ranger. Among the tracks that became big hits were Soldering (Beckford -1975), Hallelujah I Love Her So (Prince Mohammed-1974) and Barnabas Collins (Lone Ranger -1979). The later went on to hit the #1 spot on the British Reggae Chart in 1980.
Ranglin added Typhoon label by the late 1970s and the three labels became the home of the now legendary Gregory Isaacs. Isaacs gave Ranglin his biggest hit with Love is Overdue. He continued to work with Isaacs throughout the 1970s and again in 1995 on the album Dreaming and in 2002 on I Found Love. Isaacs attracted several of his friends to the Typhoon label – including Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott and Barrington Levy, for whom Ranglin produced a string of hits.
The labels have not produced any hit singles in recent years, but on my recent tour of the operation, I spoke with a man (affectionately called GG by his friends) who still has the passion for producing great music, and both the studio and pressing plant have been fully upgraded and ready to go.
In recent years Ranglin has branched out and has taken advantage of other business opportunities presented him. These include a Spring Water bottling plant and brand, a Bakery, Supermarket, Ice Factory & distribution. On my visit in August this year, he was close to completion of an assembly-line type bottling plant, capable of turning out between 3,000 and 5,000 bottles of product per day. As the older generation in Jamaica like to say – “Stay tuned, he is not done yet”.

Is It Time to get rid of your Limited Cell Phone Data Plan?

These days it has become extremely difficult to find a Cell Phone company that is not offering an unlimited data plan. Each plan is loaded with all kinds of caveats. For example, Verizon guarantees full-speed 4G LTE for the first 22GB of data each billing period. T-Mobile offers free text and data to its customers who travel in certain international countries. With all this happening around us, why then would anyone still have a limited data plan?
If you are thinking about looking into an unlimited plan, here are two links that can get you started:
https://gizmodo.com/which-unlimited-data-plan-is-the-best-1792476535
https://www.whistleout.com/CellPhones/Guides/The-Best-Unlimited-Data-Plans-Around
If you happen to be one of what I call “Legacy” customers who still has limited data plan, the folks at CNET.com have come up with seven ideas that can help some (especially) IPhone users reduce their data usage.
First, recognize the data consuming apps on your phone and restrict use when not needed.
1. Restrict iTunes and App Store downloads
You can prevent iTunes and the App Store from downloading music, movies, apps, and so on when you are away from a Wi-Fi signal. To do so, go to Settings > iTunes & App Store and toggle off Use Cellular Data. Tap this to prevent iTunes from using your cellular data for automatic downloads.
2. Disable background app refresh. IOS apps can update in the background, grabbing new content as they sit idle so they can show you the latest news when you return to them. Go to Settings > General > Background App Refresh in order to turn this setting off completely. You can also go the a la carte route from the list and choose which apps update in the background. Pick and choose the apps that may use data in the background of your phone, or turn them all off.
3. Find out which apps are using the most data
Go to Settings > Cellular and you can see how much data you’ve used in the current billing period and below that you’ll see a list of your apps. Under each app’s name is the amount of data it has used for the current billing period. You can toggle off any app that you think is eating more than its fair share.
4. Disable Wi-Fi Assist, This may be eating more cellular data than you would like
Wi-Fi Assist is a great feature where your iPhone hands off a weak Wi-Fi signal to your cellular network to prevent pages from loading slowly (or not at all) as it clings to the last remnants of a Wi-Fi signal. If you sit on the edge of a Wi-Fi network at work, say, then your cellular network may be assisting more than you’d like and running up data charges.
5. Download music, don’t stream
Streaming music or podcasts for long stretches when you are away from Wi-Fi can quickly add to your data usage. Most music and podcast apps (like Spotify, and Apple Music) let you restrict streaming to Wi-Fi only, which will then force you into the habit of downloading playlists or podcasts before playing them instead of streaming them over cellular data. Let’s look at Apple Music and Apple’s Podcasts apps as examples.
For Apple Music, go to Settings > Music. In the Streaming & Downloads section, you’ll see two settings if the first one is enabled. The first, Use Cellular Data, lets you disable streaming via a cellular connection entirely. If that’s too drastic a measure for you, then you can leave that setting enabled and turn off High Quality on Cellular to stream songs at a lower bitrate when you aren’t on Wi-Fi.
For the Podcasts app, go to Settings > Podcasts and turn off Cellular Data. You can also enable “Only -Download on Wi-Fi” to prevent podcast downloads from adding to your data usage.
6. Fetch mail less frequently
Check to see how frequently your email account is set to fetch new mail — the less frequently it fetches mail, the less data (and battery) you’ll use. Go to Settings > Mail > Accounts > Fetch New Data. First, make sure Push is turned off if you want to save data and don’t need new emails pushed to you constantly. Next, see what the schedule is for Fetch at the bottom of the screen. If you choose manually, then the Mail app will check for new email only when you open the app. Changing your Fetch schedule will not only save data, it may also save your phone’s battery life.
7. Use Safari’s Reading List
You can queue up articles while you’re using Wi-Fi to read later when you’re on a cellular connection or out of range completely. When you add a page to Safari’s Reading List, Safari downloads it for offline viewing. To add an article to the Reading List, tap the Share button at the center of the bottom navigation bar and then tap Add to Reading List. If you use iCloud, then it will share your Reading List with your other iOS devices, but you can stop it from sharing via a cellular connection by going to Settings > Safari and scrolling down to the bottom and toggling off Use Cellular Data for the Reading List feature.
Let me add an eight way to save data – become really familiar with the services offered (free) by Facebook, Google and other up-starters in the tech industry. They own apps like Messenger, Imo, WhatsApp, etc. that can help save on your phone bill. Also, note that most at home internet/cable providers i.e. Verizon and Xfinity now offer hotspots with free unlimited connections to their customers at locations away from home.

Zumba: Dancing Your Way to a Healthier Body in 2019.

At the beginning of 2017, I joined a new fitness club. One of the things that made this particular fitness club so enticing was the large selection of group fitness classes that they offered (from TRX training, Cardio Interval training, Core Training and also host of Zumba classes).

Zumba Class

As a former personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I was simply amazed at the large selection of classes in comparison to the corporate gym I use to work for and wished more classes like these were available to augment the training program I designed for my former clients.
Prior to joining this new fitness club, I found myself struggling with my weight, which came as a huge disappointment to me and I am sure to those who once looked up to me to as a source of inspiration as they were striving to achieve and/or maintain their own fitness goals. Although I knew my weight gain stemmed from various stress factors in my life (i.e. working full time, going to graduate school, dealing with family matters, purchasing a home, etc.), I still needed to find a way to pull myself out of my slump. So, I began having these internal dialogues with myself in which I reflected on conversations I once had with former clients that helped to motivate them to stay on track. During one of these internal dialogue segments, I remembered how I would stress to my clients the importance of aerobic exercises, as it has consistently been proven to be the most effective way to lose weight. But, unfortunately, when most people hear the word “cardio” or “aerobic exercise”, they cringe; largely because they find cardio to be mundane, boring, and simply not fun. These feelings are usually based on their experience with traditional methods of cardio exercises like, walking or running. Interestingly, I found myself expressing some of these same sentiments. Although I would alternate my cardio between, biking, walking or running (on my cardio days), it still wasn’t stimulating enough and was becoming more of a chore.
As I continued to reflect on the conversations that I had with my former clients, another thing that kept resurfacing in my mind is how I would tell them to choose cardio activities they enjoyed and which doesn’t make them feel as if they are doing work (like going on a natural trail walk, hiking, kayaking, doing yard work or perhaps dancing). Shortly after reflecting on these conversations, a light bulb went on in my head. Why not give Zumba a try? Being a former member of a local Mamba Dance Team and also a former avid Latin dancer, it seemed only natural that I would have considered Zumba classes sooner. However, I confess that I thought it was a fad and also could not comprehend how people could be in a room following the dance lead of one or two individual instead allowing their own creative dance move to flourish within their body in response to the beat of the music.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone in my thinking that Zumba is perhaps a fad. In fact, despite its current popularity The American College of Sports Medicine still dropped Zumba from its 2014 list of Top 20 fitness trends. But does this mean that Zumba is completely fading? Absolutely not! Zumba is very much alive and has a life cycle just like other things. People will explore and embrace different fitness option based on their current lifestyle. Zumba wasn’t for me 10 years ago, but today, it has been a wonderful complement to my fitness goals. And these days, instead of questioning the Zumba format, I now appreciate the fact that because I have so much on my plate, I can get a great workout and don’t have to think about coming up with creative dance moves on my own. I invite you to also consider Zumba as a way to help you meet your personal fitness goals!
More information is available in two articles at:
http://www.health.com/weight-loss/best-exercise-to-lose-weight; and
http://jap.physiology.org/content/113/12/1831#T2
Contributor: Renna Reddick

IKAYA: Writing Her Name across Many Hearts

The reggae music industry is heavily male-dominated.  Throughout the years female artists like Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley and Carline Davis are among the very few that became “household” names.  Today there is a new group of female artists who have kicked the door wide open. Artists like Alaine Laughton –stage name Alaine, Ventrice Morgan – stage name Queen Ifrica, Shauna McKenzie – stage name Etana, Tessanne Chin and Cherine Anderson are writing their own story in reggae music. One such artist that jumps out of the bunch is a singer who I heard for the very first time 2013 when I hosted a Friday afternoon reggae show in Tampa, Florida. Her name is Kadian Blair – sage name Ikaya.

IKAYA
IKAYA

Ikaya stands out among a small group of female reggae artist and song writers who can really sing. Not women who have to purr seductively over highly syncopated tracks and auto tune – as writer Patricia Smith once note – “who writes checks with advance hype that their voices couldn’t possible cash”.   There is no screeching and snarling in her rhythms. There is no over sampling to attempt to hide anything in her voice. What she delivers is what you hear – all natural, all hers. Her songs come from the heart – odes of love and life.
Ikaya was born Kadian Blair in the heart of one Kingston’s “tough zone” called Waterhouse (also the birthplace Jamaica’s multi-Olympic gold medal winner – Shelly Ann Frazer). It is said that her parents (which include the man we call coach – Hugh “Bingy” Blair) loved R & B and classic reggae music. As a result, Ikaya began discovering her talent at the tender age of 4 – while auditioning for her pre-school choir. As a teenager she performed at various small venues and soon ventured out while still in high school with a group called B2K.  In 2001 she was introduced to the popular reggae artist Clifton Bailey – stage name Capleton, aka the Fire Man. She became a background vocalist and later opening act for Capleton – accompanying him on several world-wide tours.  She also had the opportunity to collaborate with him on one of his mega hits – a track call “Fire”.
While some might reference the influence of R & B and Dancehall music on her reggae style as “old school”, I simply call it original. It is original because it was R & B, American Jump Blues and Dancehall music combined with the African Kette drums that gave us reggae. Reggae music has its roots in the original sound system/dancehall culture – the culture of King Edwards the Giant, Duke Reid the Trojan, Count Bells the President and many others.
Today her extended list of hit singles includes enough songs for three albums. Her 2016 “Ugly Girl” and accompanying video had many in and out of the entertainment industry talking. Another 2016 hit “Love Note” is still in regular rotation on kingston12.net, and reggae formatted, digital stations throughout the world.  Other hit single include “My Man” (2015), “Write Your Name” (2010), “Broken Wings” (2013) and “Stuck in the Middle” (2016). Ikaya is a multi-talented artist with talents that include rapping/DJ which she demonstrated on two of her songs “Fly Away” and “Ain’t Giving Up”.

Her debut studio album is now past overdue, but it is in the works. She continues to write songs and record tracks for her first album –slow and deliberate like a painter doing the master piece that he/she knows will define his/her life. The album is not yet titled.  She anticipates that this album will show everyone what many of us already know – that she is a master of her craft. As she explain “All of me, my life, my experiences, love, family, friends and my surroundings. It’s an expression of my versatility compiled on one CD. My greatest joy will be that my fans and friends appreciate and have fun with it!”
Ikaya has been recognized for her early contributions to the reggae music industry with a “Best New Artist”, “Best Music Video and “Female Artists of the Year” awards. She continues to be in demand for the big shows and reggae music festivals as word of her talent gets around. She has performed for Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica), Sting (Jamaica), Jamaica Day (Canada), Reggae and R &B festival (New York) and most recently – the Grace Food & Music Festival (Washington).

Reggae’s Cuban Connection

Jamaica never really developed formal diplomatic relations with Cuba until Michael Manley’s government established diplomatic relations in 1972. That year Manley established multi-level relations with Cuba that included trade, bi-lateral technical assistance, loans and other direct aid. Today, there are many Jamaicans studying in Cuba – particularly in health-related professions, while there are many Cuban doctors and other health professionals working in Jamaica. The Jamaican tourist industry is also another employer of several multi-lingual Cubans.
However, probably because of proximity (90 miles), informal (people to people) relationship has existed between the two countries for close to 100 years. Many Jamaicans (including two of my uncles) moved to Cuba and established residence there as earlier as the 1940s. Similarly, Cubans have been moving to establish residence in Jamaica since the early part of the century. As a result, some of the giants of almost any industry in Jamaica have roots in Cuba. Their contributions to Jamaica’s cultural industries are well documented. The six icons referenced in this article represent a small but significant fraction of the bi-lateral, cultural exchange that has taken place between the two countries over the years. These are Cuban-Jamaican giants that have provided significant input in the shaping and development of Reggae music – Jamaica’s gift to the world.
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Alvin “Seeco” Patterson
(born Francisco Willie) was born in Havana, Cuba on December 30, 1930 to a Jamaican father and Panamanian mother. He immigrated to Jamaica as a young child and lived in the parish of Westmorland. Most Jamaicans know him as the talented percussionist who played with Bob Marley, but for Marley, he was big brother, life teacher and music tutor. Patterson and Marley are said to have “grown immensely close and forged a bond that would last until the end of Marley’s life”.
It was Patterson who encouraged Marley as he began to experiment with singing – sharing the experience he had gained playing percussion with famed calypso artist Lord Flea, and with several other Mento/Calypso bands. It is said that Patterson was the one who took the newly formed Wailers group, consisting of Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Livingston and Beverley Kelso to Coxsone Dodd‘s Studio One for their first audition, in July 1964. The resulting recording session, which took place only after Coxsone’s initial rejection of the Wailers, produced the hit single “Simmer Down” – – the record which launched the Wailers’ career.
Over the years Patterson served in the dual role of percussionist and road manager for the Wailers and (later Bob Marley & the Wailers). It is said that he was the “anchor that kept Marley’s music grounded in tradition”, and although not credited, is said to have contributed lyrics to several of Marley’s songs. Patterson was what Jamaicans call a “loyal soldier” who was part of every Marley performance and recording session. He was with him when he collapsed in Central Park and stayed by his side until death. He continued to play with the Wailers Band after Marley’s death until he suffered a near fatal brain aneurism in 1990. Since then he retreated from the music scene – spending his time at home in Kingston and occasionally appearing as guest percussionist at jam sessions.
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Laurel Aitken
was born Lorenzo Aitken in Cuba (of a Jamaican father and Cuban mother) on April 22, 1927. He moved with his family to Jamaica at the age of eleven (1938). Aitken began his career as a nightclub entertainer and was one of Jamaica’s first recording artists in the 1950s. By 1958 he had racked up a number of mento hits including: Baba Kill Me Goat, Swing Low, Nebuchenezer, More Wisky and Low down Dirty Girl. That year Chris Blackwell ventured into the recording business with Boogie in My Bones and Little Sheila with Aitkin for distribution in the United Kingdom.
In 1960 Aitkin moved to Brixton, England and began recording on the Blue Beat label. During that early sixties he traveled between Jamaica and England, recording for producers in both countries – working with the Skatalites in Jamaica and recording for Pama Records – a label established by Palmer brothers, Harry, Jeff and Carl in England. It was during this period that Aitken earned the title Godfather of Ska. In the late 1970s the multi-talented Aitken recorded a few DJ tracks under the name “King Horror”. In the 1980s Aitken move to Leicester, England where he returned to his “roots” as a nightclub performer. That move coincided with the 2-Tone Ska movement in England and Aitken returned to the British chart with a song call Rudi Got Married. He continued to perform until his death at the age of 78 in 2005. He died from complications of a heart attack.
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Rita Marley
was born Alpharita Constantia Anderson in Santiago, Cuba to Jamaican parents Leroy Anderson and Cynthia Jarrett on July 25, 1946. She was brought to Jamaica shortly thereafter – residing in Kingston. In the 1960s she was introduced to Clement Dodd at Studio One and became lead singer of a group called the Soulettes. This group also included her cousin Constance “Dream” Walker and Marlene “Precious” Gifford. It was during this period that she met and married Bob Marley (February 1966). Her group evolved into Rita Marley & the Soulettes and over the years, included singers like Nora Dean, and made hits like Why Should I and Deh Pon Dem.
At the same time, there was another female group at Studio One called the Gaylettes. This group featured Judy Mowatt (lead), Beryl Lawson and Merle Clemenson. They were known for hit records like Silent River Runs Deep, Like Your World and Son of a Preacher Man. In the early 1970s, Judy joined force with Rita and Marcia Griffiths (of Bob Andy & Marcia fame) to form the I-Threes – Jamaica’s premiere female group of the period. They racked up several chart toppers as a group, but were mostly known as the back-up singers for Bob Marley and the Wailers. Rita was injured in the attack on her husband shortly before the 1976 “Smile Jamaica” concert. She continued her solo career after Bob’s death, topping the Jamaican and international charts with One Draw in the 1980s.
In 1986 she founded the Robert Marley Foundation. She is chair of the Bob Marley Trust and the Bob Marley Group of Companies. Since the late 1980s, her life has take a somewhat different turn – towards a life of philanthropy – and giving back. That life includes adoption of children in Ethiopia (35), educational and feeding projects in Africa – particularly Ghana where she presently resides – music education scholarships and multiple projects aimed at alleviating poverty in targeted countries – by way of the Rita Marley Foundation. Her children – Sharon, Cedella, Ziggy and Stephen continue to provide their imprint on reggae music, sports, fashion and other aspects of Jamaican and international life. Two other children – Stephanie and Serita are lending their talents in Rita’s philanthropic efforts.
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Rico Rodriquez
was born Emmanuel Rodriquez on October 17, 1934 in Havana, Cuba. He moved with his family to Jamaica at a very early age and settled in Kingston. He attended Alpha Boys School – a trade and training school founded and run in Kingston run by the Roman Catholic Church in the late 19th century. The school was established in 1880 as a “school for wayward boys”, and became renowned for both the discipline it instilled in its pupils and the outstanding musical education it provided its students. It was here that he met his mentor and teacher – the legendary Jamaican trombonist Don Drummond who was also an older student at the school.
He joined Count Ossie’s band in the late 1950s and played trombone on several recordings during that period. He left Jamaica for England in 1962 where he played with and led several Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae bands – included The Specials, Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and his own band – Rico and the Rudies. His recordings included Man from Wareika, A Message to You, Rudy and the album – Roots to the Bone.
Rico was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for a life of services to music in July 2007. In October 2012 he was awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in recognition of his contribution to Jamaican music. He still lives in the United Kingdom and performs occasionally at music festivals.
Roland Alfanso was born Ronaldo Alphonso in Havana, Cuba on January 12 1931 from a Cuban father and Jamaican mother. He moved to Jamaica with his mother at the age of two. He began studying the Saxophone at the “Stony Hill Industrial School” at a very early age. In 1948 he left school to join the “Eric Deans” orchestra and later played with several bands on the hotel circuit. Alfanso became a member of Stanley Motta’s session musicians in 1952. Four years later he began recording for Clement “Coxsone” Dodds’s Studio One. In 1958 he joined Bim & Bam’s touring comedy act. The following year he joined one the more popular Jamaican bands at the time – Clue J & His Blues Busters, while simultaneously leading recording session musicians for both Studio One and Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle recordings.
By 1960, Alphonso had become the primary “go to, get it done” session leader for several early sound system operator/producers – including Duke Reid, Prince Lloyd “the Matador” Daley, Clement Dodd and King Edwards “the Giant”. He played virtually all the saxophone instruments – alto sax, tenor sax, baritone sax and flute. During that period he played with several emerging bands including The Alley Cats, the City Slickers, Aubrey Adams Orchestra and the Drew Droppers. In 1962 he left Jamaica for “greener pastures” in the hotel industry in Nassau, Bahamas.
He returned less than a year later to take up the leadership of the newly formed Studio One Orchestra. This band was later rebranded as the Skatallites – a band that has hardly received the credit it truly deserved for building the foundation of Jamaican music. The band included some of the architects of the Jamaican music industry – namely Tommy McCook (died in 1998), Roland Alphonso (died in 1998), Lloyd Brevett (died in 2012), Lloyd Knibbs (died in 2011), Don Drummond (died in 1969), Jah Jerry Haynes (died in 2007), Jackie Mittoo (died in 1990), “Dizzie” Johnny More (died in 2008) and Barbadian singer, Jackie Opel (died in 1970).
The Skatalites recorded their first LP Ska Authentic at Studio One in 1964. They toured Jamaica as the creators of Ska. Among their producers were Coxsone Dodd, Duke Reid, Prince Buster, Vincent “King” Edwards, Justin “Phillip” Yap, Leslie Kong, Lindon Pottinger, Sonia Pottinger and Vincent “Randy” Chin. The Skatalites led sessions with all Jamaica’s top artists of the period – including several young talents that went on to become superstars – such as Delroy Wilson, Desmond Dekker, The Wailers, Toots and the Maytals and Lee “Scratch” Perry. The Skatellites played their last show as a band in Kingston in August 1965. The music they made during the period they were together continued to top the charts in Jamaica and the United Kingdom long after the disbanded. In 1967, their Ska adaptation of the theme from the film – The Guns of Navarone entered the UK top 40 chart.
The band dispersed and evolved into two super-groups – Rolando Alphonso and the Soul Brothers (later rebranded Soul Vendors) and Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. Alphanso suffered a stroke in 1972 at the early age of 41 and decided to migrate to the United States later that year in order to have closer access to medical treatment. However, he returned to Jamaica to record on a regular basis. He kept up this pace throughout the 1980s and 1990s. During this period he also performed live with reggae band – Jah Malla on the reggae music circuit in New York. In 1977, the Jamaican government honored him with the title of Order of Distinction.
In 1983 he rejoined a re-structured Skatallites for several tours and recording sessions until November 2, 1998 when he suffered an aneurism while performing with the band at the Key Club in Hollywood, California. He died at the Cedras-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA eighteen days later.
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Tommy McCook
was born in Havana, Cuba to Jamaican parents on March 3, 1927. He was brought to Jamaica by his parents in 1933. He began playing the tenor saxophone as a student at Alpha Boys School in Kingston. He eventually left school at age 14 to joined the Eric Deans orchestra and later with Roy Coburn orchestra, emerging as a highly skilled jazz player. Between the late ’40s and early ’50s, he also frequently collaborated with Count Ossie, lending his talents alongside those of the Rastafarian hand drummers and chanting vocalists who comprised Ossie’s group.
In 1954, after an overseas engagement with Dean’s Orchestra (in the Bahamas), he decided to stay in south Florida – Miami. It was here that he became exposed to American Jazz legends like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Upon his return to Jamaica in 1962, he was approached by several producers to record Jazz. This led to his first Jamaican recording session (for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd) titled Jazz Jamaica. Later that year he recorded a Ska version of Ernest Gold’s Exodus. He went on to become a leader of the legendary Skatalites where he was among the most innovative and influential Jamaican musicians of his generation, a prime catalyst behind the evolution and international popularity of ska and reggae music.
After the Skatalites disbanded, McCook founded the Supersonics. This band was soon installed as the house band at Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio and became one of the the most sought-after studio unit of the rock-steady era – appearing on classic hits from artists including Alton Ellis, Justin Hinds, and the Techniques.
Tommy McCook remained a fixture of the Jamaican session circuit throughout the years that followed, while simultaneously issuing a number of solo albums for producer Bunny Lee. Among them 1974’s Cookin, 1975’s Brass Rockers, and 1977’s Hot Lava. for producer Glen Brown. In 1976 McCook also issued a blank-labeled LP generally referred to as Horny Dub, and two years later he teamed with trumpeter Bobby Ellis for Blazing Horns.
In 1983 he re-formed the Skatalites nearly two decades after their initial breakup. He relocated them to the U.S. in 1985. A few months later they released their comeback album, Return of the Big Guns. A series of new releases from the Skatalites followed. Their work during this period led to a pair of Grammy nominations. In 1994 they launched their first world tour, which included appearances as part of the Skavoovee U.S.A. tour, a package that included their descendants British Ska band the Specials, the Selecter, and the Toasters. McCook died quietly at his home in Atlanta, GA, on May 5, 1998 at the age of 71.