Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Rupie Edward’s Opportunity Label 3-8-16

Opportunity Label A

Hot Reggae Cut From Joe White On Opportunity

Hello Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

We started off the March 8th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of uplifiting ska to counterbalance the reggae heavy OPPORTUNITY LABEL spotlight that starts midway through the program.  We kicked off the ska with a rollicking Derrick Morgan cut from 1965 which was released in England on Blue Beat entitled, Baby Face.  A mento set followed the opening two sets of ska and had as part of it one of our favorite golden age mentos, Chamboline by Lord Power.  We ended the first hour of the show with a set of early 1970s reggae to put you in the mood for the reggae of the Opportunity Label beginning with Errol Dunley’s 1973 track for the African Museum Label, Movie Star. We then went into the Opportunity Label spotlight…

Here on the Bovine Ska, we adore Rupie Edwards. We underscored his well known Success label a few months ago, and on one of our search excursions, we saw the sweet label art of Opportunity, and we knew we had to spotlight this label, which has some excellent Rupie reggae on it.

Born in Goshen, St Ann’s Parish but raised in St. Catherine, Rupie Edwards had a very early start in music. As a child, Rupie learned about music in school by his teacher’s lessons where she would tap a melody and the class would have to recognize it. By the age of 7, Rupie had a band with his classmates. As his bandmates played tin cans, drums, and comb kazoos, Rupie played the bamboo pipe, and at the age of 13, he moved to Kingston with his mother, arriving to a growing, thriving music scene.

After attending Kingston Senior School for two years, Rupie focused on his music career at the young age of 15, first recording for Simeon Smith and his Hi-Lite label. The tracks did not take off his recording career, so Rupie pragmatically became a mechanic who repaired cars, and one of his jobs included Coxsone Dodd’s own Buick.

During his time as a mechanic, Rupie did not give up music. He recorded with the Virtues, receiving his first production credit in 1966 for their track, “Burning Love,” but by 1968, the group split up. That same year, Rupie was able to open up his Success record store, where he hired Bob Andy to run the store, since Rupie still needed to be a mechanic for a bit in order to finance the shop. But ultimately, the music industry always beckoned him, and Rupie took the record shop as his full time job, focusing on his work as a producer and record label owner, releasing his productions on both Success and our label of tonight, Opportunity.  

Gregory Isaacs introduced Errol Dunkley to Rupie Edwards, and we are thankful for that because Dunkley’s tracks for Rupie are just too good.

In his excellent biography, Some People Rupie hypothesizes that his own fascination with versions may have come from the fact that when he was a child, he learned God Save Our Gracious King and sang it in school. Then, when King George passed and Queen Elizabeth took over, the children all had to sing God Save Our Gracious Queen, giving Rupie a primer on how to change parts of songs while keeping the same melody, a technique he would most certainly utilize for his excellent versions on Opportunity.

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

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Winston Blake Memorial 3-1-16

Winston Blake B

R.I.P. Winston Blake

Welcome Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

On the March 1st, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady we shared the sad news of the passing of Winston, “Merritone” Blake. Winston passed away on Saturday morning at the University Hospital of the West Indies at the age of 75.  We send much respect and many many condolences to our dearest friend Barbara and the entire Blake family. The Merritone legacy is an enormous one, and we would like to dedicate this entire show to Winston Blake’s impact through his work bringing Jamaican music to the world.

Born in Morrant Bay, in the St. Thomas parish, Winston Blake grew up with music constantly in his life. In the Blake family home, there was always a gramophone and music to listen to, and this was one of the early catalysts that would lead to the Merritone sound system, one of the longest to exist in Jamaica.

The Merritone sound has always been a family business. The Mighty Merritone sound system opened up in St. Thomas, the first in the parish, in 1950 by Winston’s father, Val. The soundsystem idea emerged as the Blake brothers, Trevor, Winston, Tyrone, and Monte, would frequently visit a chinese restaurant at the bus stop on their way home from Kingston, where the owner, a Mr. Chin, played records on his Skyrocket sound system; the sounds and setup here inspired the brothers to propose the idea to their father, who was a civil servant, in order to improve the family’s finances. After some consideration, their father returned from a trip abroad with a Philips 21 amplifier, two speakers, and Garrard turntables to get the system setup as Winston and his brothers made connections on how to source records. Six years after the beginning of the soundsystem, Val passed away, and Winston and Trevor took over it full time, eventually moving the Merritone sound to Kingston in 1962.

In Kingston, the Merritone soundsystem rose in ranks, becoming a favorite at the Copacabana, The Wheel, Sombrero Club, and the Glass Bucket. During this time, Winston Blake caught the eyes of Federal Records, and the sons of Ken Khouri, Paul and Richard, opened up a subsidiary named Merritone to produce original records that had a label name that people would associate with the vibrant and popular sounds of the Merritone soundsystem. Winston did not produce records for this label, but the decision of the Khouris to name the label after the Blake family’s sound is an enormous testament to the impact of Winston and Merritone music.

We began this memorial show, with the substantial ska and rocksteady that was produced for the Merritone record label.

One of my favorite stories about the rise of an artist in Jamaica is that on Don Henry Buckley, who got his start at Merritone. During the daytime, Buckley was a police officer and was the conductor for the Jamaica Constabulary band. At night, Buckley would write, sing, and record for the Merritone label. Buckley wrote the Gaylettes’ “Silent River Runs Deep” and “Emergency Call.” In the spirit of collaboration, like many label’s artists, the musicians on the Merritone label would also sing on other artists’ tracks. Consequently, you’ll hear Judy Mowatt’s Gaylettes provide backup vocals on Buckley’s recordings.

By the late 60s, Winston began recording for Rupie Edwards’ and Harry J’s labels. As a recording artist, he was recording DJ tracks, and occasionally, he was known here as The Blake Boy.  During the soundsystem days, the Merritone team initially got the records from American R&B in three ways:

  1. From sellers who would hang outside of whorehouses to sell records
  2. From people who traveled to America to do farm work and would bring records back
  3. When radio stations in Tennessee were later re-broadcasted in Jamaica, the late night shows played ads for record shops in the state that offered fixed price bulk record deals where they would send a set of records for a price

By the 1970s, the market and popularity for American records had definitely dried up, and like many other operators, Winston began to produce his own records, which was an absolutely sensible direction because by this point, the Merritone soundsystem had been in existence for two decades, and Winston had been holding talent shows to discover new talent.  One of the talents Winston discovered with the VIP Talent Series was Cynthia Schloss. The tracks you heard were from the Ready & Waiting record, which Blake arranged and produced, and he definitely spared no expense in the backing band for this album. The band included: Cedric Brooks and Tommy McCook on horns; Val Douglas on bass; and the great Marcia Griffiths providing backing vocals.

Winston was not only responsible for the Merritone sound system and label, which brought music to people since the 1950s to today, he was also responsible for fostering community up until today. He was the creator of the Merritone and Family Fun Day which was held in Connecticut for the last 15 years before moving to Long Island last year. He also created the Merritone Family Reunion & Homecoming Event, which celebrates its 26th anniversary this year, to bring together all who hold the Merritone sound near and dear to them.

In the 1970s, Winston opened the Turntable Club on Red Hills Road in Kingston. This would be the epicenter of nightlife in Kingston, and in the tradition of the original Mighty Merritone sound system, the Turntable Club allowed all people, regardless of socioeconomic status, to listen to the best artists and selectors in the city. As a result, everyone stopped by the Turntable Club, including the Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, and King Tubby.

For his contributions to the Jamaican music and entertainment industry, Winston received the Order of Distinction in 1998. In 2012, he received a proclamation from the office of Yvette Clarke, 11th Congressional District, New York for his contributions to music.

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 Winston Blake Memorial Program from March 1st, 2016

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Jimmy Riley’s PEE Label 2-16-16

Pee Label B

A Killer Reggae Cut from Dave Barker on PEE!

Welcome Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

After a bit of hospital interruptis on Generoso’s part, we were extremely happy to present this Bovine Ska and Rocksteady on February 16, 2016 with it’s tribute to Jimmy Riley, a few weeks before he passed away on his PEE Label.  That was midway through the show as we began with two sets of fierce ska, beginning with a rarely heard gem from one of our favorite singers, Justin Hinds And The Dominoes entitled Look Into That which was released on Treasure Isle in 1965.

Jimmy Riley was a member of Sensations, Uniques, PEE is one of many labels the Riley formed. Born in Kingston, Jimmy Riley attended Kingston Senior High School with Slim Smith. As Slim began to see success with The Techniques, Riley hoped to sing with them, but he unfortunately did not get into the group. As a result of this, Riley formed The Sensations with some great voices: Cornell Campbell, Aaron Davis, and Buster Riley. However, Riley eventually did get to sing with Slim Smith, not as a member as the Techniques but as a member of the second incarnation of the Uniques that included Jackie Parris and Lloyd Charmers as members.

Eventually, the Uniques disbanded and although Riley would record as a soloist, he also gave production a shot, creating the Yes and Full Moon labels as well as the PEE label, the subject of our spotlight tonight. From phenomenal instrumentals to his own recordings, the PEE label showed Riley’s talent as a producer. We are really excited to present this one to you, and started with “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” from his own group, The Sensations.

The PEE label is an interesting one. The name is a bit of an odd choice, but what is even more mysterious is the caduceus stamped in large format on the label. As the symbol of Hermes, the messenger in Greek mythology, the caduceus is an interesting choice for a label cover. If anyone out there has any further information on how the PEE label came to be, we would definitely love to hear from you.

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 the Feb 16th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady