Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/24/14: The Passing of Tito Simon

R.I.P. Tito Simon

The last few weeks have been hard for lovers of Jamaican music as Hopeton Lewis and Jackie Bernard have both left this earth.  It brings us great sadness to bring the news that another reggae star has died, as Tito Simon passed away on Saturday Sept 20th, 2014 in Jamaica from a sudden heart attack. Born as Keith Foster in St. Mary Jamaica in 1948, Tito would record ska, soul, and reggae recordings during his career. He recorded and wrote under a ton of aliases including Sugar Simone, Lance Hannibal, and also under his birth name. However, he was most commonly known and referred to as Tito Simon.

In 1961, Tito moved to England and began his recording career in 1964 with Dandy Livingstone as the duo Sugar ‘N’ Dandy. Together, the two would record ska tracks with the Carnival label. There has been a rumor over the years that Sugar ‘N’ Dandy was actually just Dandy Livingstone recording solo and having his voice doubled to appear as a duo, as duos were very popular at that time in Jamaican music. What we can say is at the time of Tito’s passing Dandy took to social media to express his sadness for the loss of his “singing partner, ” Sugar Simone, aka Tito Simon.

To answer the rumor of “Was there vocal doubling on Sugar N’ Dandy tracks?”  We received this message from Dandy Livingstone himself a few weeks after the show that finally answers the question:

“Hi Generoso,Tito Simon and I only did one session together. The songs were….. “Only Heaven Knows” and “Let’s Ska.”The late Roy Smith and I did two sessions. Those dates produced three songs…….1.One Man Went to Mow 2.Time and Tide 3.I’m Not Crying Now…….The remainder were doubled by me. Nuff greetings from Jamdown”

After Sugar ‘N’ Dandy, the two parted ways for solo careers, and Tito took a two-year break from recording. In 1967, he returned to the music industry, singing very briefly with the Jetliners, who only have one single to be found. As for his return as a solo artist, in the same year, Tito began recording great soul tracks, which were released on Sue Records. After the solo soul tracks, Tito took another two year break from recording. When he returned to the music industry this time, he began recording in yet another style, reggae, which is what he is best known for.

During the show we played Tito’s reggae recordings for the Dr. Bird and Upfront labels, starting with Tell Me, released on Dr. Bird in 1969. In1972, Tito returned to Jamaica and worked with Clancy Eccles. With Clancy, he would record some of his most popular tracks. We’ll first hear Easy Come Easy Go off of the Just LP released on Horse in England in 1973

On September 24th, we did a full retrospective of Tito’s career, from those early recordings as Sugar ‘N” Dandy through his soul music period and his subsequent triumphs in reggae. R.I.P. Tito.

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here: LISTEN HERE

This link will be active until 10/6/2014.

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/17/14: Honoring Jackie Bernard of The Kingstonians

R.I.P. Jackie Bernard

We are again saddened by the passing of another Jamaican legend, Jackie Bernard, the lead singer and founder of the seminal vocal group, The Kingstonians.  Jackie had fallen on hard times over the last decade and according to Jackie’s sister, Monica Bernard-Kelly, Jackie passed away from a pneumonia at the Kingston Public Hospital on Sept 14th.   Rafael Ruiz, a Spaniard living in Jamaica, began a foundation in January of 2014 for Jackie, who had been diagnosed with diabetes and was struggling to afford medication and treatment to battle his disease and Jackie was living in an unfurnished one room house in Maxfield, Kingston. The foundation was able to help improve his living conditions and help him get better medical attention, and for that we are grateful and send much respect to everyone involved in the Jackie Bernard Foundation.

The Kingstonians were founded in 1966 by Jackie Bernard and his brother Footy, along with their friend Lloyd Kerr, who originally recorded under the name, The Apostles, for Derrick Harriot’s Move and Groove Label, but that was short lived.  As the Kingstonians, they saw early success at JJ Johnson’s JJ label, but would continue to record for other producers as well, including Coxone Dodd, Leslie Kong, and again with Derrick Harriott.  With Harriot, they released a compilation of singles in 1970 under the album titled, Sufferer, which was the record that heightened the success of the trio. Sufferer gained much popularity in England, where it was released and distributed by the Trojan label.  After finding success with Derrick Harriot, they would return to JJ, who was also having great success with another stellar vocal group, The Ethiopians.  Over the next ten years of the 70s, Jackie Bernard would record as both a solo artist and with his fellow Kingstonians for his own Stun King label, where he would arrange and produce his own work with the writing support of his brother Footy.

On the September 17th edition of the Bovine Ska, we presented Jackie’s best work with the Kingstonians, along with his impressive solo releases to help give you an understanding of the immense talent that Jackie was.  R.I.P. Jackie.

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here:   LISTEN HERE

This link will be active until 9/30/2014.

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/10/2014: Remembering Hopeton Lewis

We were very saddened to hear about the passing of legendary vocalist, Hopeton Lewis, on September 4th.  Hopeton had passed away at his home in Brooklyn last Thursday after a long battle with kidney disease.  Hopeton was a guest on the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady back in 2006, a very sweet and reverent man, who had been almost exclusively performing non-secular music for the last thirty years.  When we spoke back then he still had great affection for his earliest cuts for Merritone, Treasure Isle and Dynamic.  There are his landmark tracks such as his first hit, 1966’s “Take It Easy,”  which many people consider the very first rocksteady tune ever recorded, and the track he would record the same year, “Cool Collie,” the very first Jamaican record to openly speak about the positive effect of marijuana.

Hopeton Lewis was born in Kingston and raised in Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland. At the age of 6, he began signing for the Burnt Savannah Holiness Church, which was his starting point for his passion for music. As a young boy, he returned to Kingston to live with his grandparents. At the age of 15, his grandparents passed away, and Hopeton was left on his own to survive in Kingston. As a young man, he quickly entered the music industry in order to fulfill his love for singing and also to try to earn a living.   He began his recording career as a member of the vocal group, The Regals, by cutting a side at Coxsone’s Wincox label.  Not much came of it, so he took his smooth voice and began a solo career at Merritone where he scored a hit with the aforementioned “Take It Easy.” which stayed at the top of the charts for weeks and sold over 10,000 copies!

Take It Easy

Hopeton Lewis’ “Take It Easy” LP on Merritone

After leaving Merritone in 1967, Hopeton had brief stops at “JJ’s” and “Fab” before finding more success with Duke Reid at his Treasure Isle label.   Besides singing backup for many of the Duke’s established artists, his turn at lead vocals there would result in a Festival Song Competition winner with “Boom Shaka-Laka.”  He would move to Byron Lee’s Dynamic label and the hits kept on coming as “Grooving Out On Life,” the title track from his full length LP released in 1973 became a signature song for Hopeton.

On the September 10th edition of the Bovine Ska, we took you on a musical trip through Hopeton’s career and tried to help you get a better picture of his progression as one of the most talented vocalists in Jamaican music history.

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here:  LISTEN NOW

This link will be active until 9/23/2014. Enjoy!

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/3/2014: The West Indians

We had a lot of fun putting together with last week’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady because we were armed at the beginning with a great 7″ from Lloyd Charmers on the Green Door label from 1973 entitled, “Save the People.” We followed up that track with another seven tasty early reggae recordings from 1969-1975, including great ones from from the magnificent Scotty and the triumphant King Stitt.

For the spotlight of the September 20th edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, we featured the rocksteady and reggae recordings from the beautiful trio known as The West Indians.

Strange Whispering on the Camel label - 1969

Strange Whispering on the Camel label – 1969

The West Indians were Leslie Burke, Hector Brooks, and Eric Donaldson. Not too much is known about Leslie Burke or Hector Brooks, but we do know a bit about Eric Donaldson. Born in 1947 in St. Catherine, Eric Donaldson originally recorded for Coxone, but, as with many other artists, Coxone decided not to release any of his recordings. After this first stint at a solo career, he joined Burke and Brooks to record as The West Indians. During their career together, The West Indians scored a minor hit in 1968 with, “Right On Time.”

Then, in 1971 Eric Donaldson released, “Cherry Oh Baby,” which won the festival song competition that year, launching his solo career. Consequently, The West Indians would exist as a vocal group for another year until 1972, when they parted ways. The West Indians best recordings happened with JJ Johnson and Lee Scratch Perry, and the spotlight began with two of their rocksteady tracks released on President in 1967.

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here: LISTEN NOW

This link will be active until 9/16/2014. Enjoy!




Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 8/27/14: Spotlight on the SEP Label

This August 27th, 2014 edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady radio show on WMBR featured a two hour retrospective on Lindon Pottinger’s SEP Label, so you know what that means…Yes, two hours of classic skaand rocksteady produced by Pottinger from 1963 to 1967.

“Ska Is Here To Stay” by Karl Bryan from 1963

SEP Label

Years before entering the music industry, Sonia Durrant and Lindon Pottinger had experience with accounting.  After their marriage, the two began to open businesses together in Jamaica, ranging from a bicycle store to a shop that sold Sonia’s homemade patties.  However, their business focus shifted in 1961 when Lindon began producing records, and as his career progressed, he eventually established Golden Arrow, Gaydisc, and the label that is the focus of our spotlight tonight, SEP, the record label bearing Sonia’s initials. Upon the creation of the record labels, Lindon also opened a recording studio in the Pottinger home. This would be the first recording studio to be opened and owned by an Afro-Jamaican. The records from the Pottinger’s labels sold at the Tip Top record shop on Orange Street, which increased their presence on the growing music center in Kingston.

This show focuses just on the SEP releases, featuring tracks from all SEP artists including Roy and Millie, Lord Tanamo, and Winston Samuels.

Here is a link to hear this radio show from the WMBR Archive.  The link to this show will be active until September 10th, 2014.  LISTEN NOW