First off, thanks again to all of you who wrote and wished Generoso a happy birthday! Last week’s all 1968 show was a tad silly but we had fun doing it and we were glad you liked it as much as you did. We are also happy to announce are very happy to say that our weekly show besides being uploaded to Mixcloud will now also be part of Rasta Radio JA, Barbara Blake Hannah’s radio station based out of Kingston, Jamaica. Every Friday from 2PM-4PM Jamaican time our show will air for the good people of Jamaica. We could not be prouder.
This week’s show began with two sets of rare rare rocksteadys, starting with a tune from a little known group, The Swingers, with a track called “Show It Now” which was released on Prince Buster’s Olive Blossom Label in 1967. We followed that with another rare cut, this time from Coxsone in the same year, 1967, “Have Mercy” from The Jamaican Shadows. Two wonderful tracks that got the ball rolling. After another set of rocksteady, we started our weekly mento set with “How You Come Over,” a tune from the queen of mento, Louise Bennett from her “Jamaican Folk Songs” LP which was released back in 1954. We ended the first hour with a long set of Jamaican rhythm and blues to put you in the mood for our King Pioneer spotlight. A standout duet during that last set of the first hour featured two amazing singers who both visited The Bovine Ska in the past, Owen Gray and Laurel Aitken. They teamed up in 1962 for the Dee’s Label with the boisterous “She’s Gone To Napoli.” After that set, we started our half hour tribute to Theo Beckford’s King Pioneer Label….
Born in Trenchtown, Kingston, Theophilus (Theo) Beckford taught himself how to play piano at the Boys’ Town School, gaining inspiration from Roscoe Gordon and Fats Domino, whose records were extremely popular in 1940s and 1950s Jamaica. With Stanley Motta’s mento recording business (his side project from his photo supply shop), Beckford found a role as a session musician for the MRS label, backing up mento artists such as Lord Composer and the mighty Count Lasher. In 1956, Beckford recorded “Easy Snappin” for Coxone Dodd’s Downbeat soundsystem, during what is believed to be Coxone Dodd’s first studio session at a time in Jamaican music history where 78s were no longer popular and when American R&B was not as accessible in Jamaica. Beckford met Coxone Dodd through Ken Khouri; Beckford would sing for Khouri’s Federal Records, and Coxone Dodd decided to record at Federal Studios. While “Easy Snappin” is often considered and regarded as the first ska track in Jamaica, it contains that signature rollick of Jamaican Rhythm & Blues, so that claim is a little questionable. Regardless of where “Easy Snappin” falls in the transition from R&B and into ska, it was a huge hit for the soundsystem and eventually for Dodd’s Studio One when it was released as a record in 1959. Beckford would continue to record for Dodd and eventually all of the major soundsystem operators: King Edwards, Prince Buster, and Duke Reid. In 1963, after much experience as a session musician, Theo Beckford opened up his own label for greater independence, and that is the King Pioneer label, our label spotlight of tonight. King Pioneer was a full labor of love. Beckford created the name and the label artword, drawing the signature crown himself.
Backing up the the King Pioneer records were the The Theophilus Beckford Orchestra and The King Pioneer All Stars are not 100% clear; as with many house bands, there’s a rotating cast. Some of the members were: Drumbago and Wackie Henry on drums, Lennie ‘Blues’ Gordon on bass, Lloyd ‘Ace’ Richard and Lord Jellicoe on guitar, Val Bennett and John the Baptist on alto sax, Baba Brooks and Raymond Harper on trumpet, Ronald Wilson on trombone, Lester Pegart, Stanley Notice, and Dennis Campbell on tenor sax, and of course, to round out the instrumentalists, Theo himself contributes piano and organ in addition to production.
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Generoso and Lily