Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,
For those who love music like we do, this last week has been a tough one to take. On April 21st, Prince and Lonnie Mack passed away. Two days later Philly soul legend Billy Paul also passed at the age of 82 and a few days before them all, the great vocalist, Lord Tanamo died at the same age of 82 as Billy Paul. A sad week indeed.
Lord Tanamo was born Joseph Abraham Gordon and was raised in Denham Town in Kingston. He began singing mento on the street and then in hotels with Cecil Lawes, a rhumba box player but eventually Tanamo would cut great mentos at Caribou. With ska quickly becoming the island’s national rhythm, Tanamo, along with Doreen Shaffer and Jackie Opel, would eventually become one of the main singers of The Skatalites. In fact it was Tanamo himself who gave the band their name as he would proudly tell me himself whenever we met.
I first met Tanamo back in 1998, when The Allstonians, who did a great job his backing band at the time, graciously brought him down to WMBR where I got a chance to interview him. I would chat with him on a few occasions after that over the years. A great singer and performer. He will be very missed by many.
Before the April 26th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, Melanie Gordon, the daughter of Lord Tanamo, kindly asked me to read the following statement before our tribute on our program:
Speaking on behalf of my family ..we would love to pass our heartfelt appreciation and thanks to you and your listeners for their tributes and kind words. We celebrate with joy, dads music forever.
We honored Lord Tanamo by opening our show with four of our favorite tracks that he sang on. Three amazing skas: You’ll Never Know (caribou-1965) , If You Were Only Mine (caribou-1965) , and Come Down (SEP-1965) and a superb mento, Little Fist (caribou-1955). R.I.P. Tanamo. Thank you for all you did.
Anglo-Indian Charles Ross as a producer in Jamaica, Charley Ross was best known for his rocksteady productions from his Flame label and from the records that were distributed in England on the Blue Cat label, a subsidiary of Trojan. Given Ross’ reach to England, it is no surprise that he would continue to work with labels there, and in 1969, the Sugar label, a subsidiary of Pye Records, the label responsible for releases from Lonnie Donegan, The Kinks, and Petula Clark, opened, and Ross was named as the production director of the label.
Ross would produce the records in Jamaica, and Pye Records would press and distribute the records in the UK and then Bell Records would distribute them in the U.S. For reasons unclear, this deal with Pye somewhat came to a close, and Sugar was then under the supervision and control of Decca. Hoping that Sugar would be Decca’s definitive reggae arm, the label giant became disappointed in the very short lived output of the label, and Sugar’s last record would be released in 1970.
Sadly, that was the last the music world heard from Charley Ross, and it’s such a shame because his productions were recorded exceptionally well. We kicked off this spotlight with the beautiful vocals of Joe White and My Guiding Star from 1969.
Sugar released two full-length LPs in its final year: Claude Sang’s World of Reggae Volume One and Charles Ross Reggae Combo’s World of Reggae Volume Two. The Two Zorro Five tracks that we played on the spotlight before our favorite cut from Sugar were supposed to be released on Sugar toward the end of the label, but given its mysterious termination, the Zorro Five singles were transferred to Decca.
For news on the upcoming spotlights and fun discoveries tied to early Jamaican music, join the group for the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady on Facebook.
Lily and Generoso
Here is our April 26th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady which featured the Lord Tanamo Memorial and spotlight on the Sugar Label: