Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Tommy Cowan’s Top Cat Label 11-29-16

A 1971 gem from The Jamaicans on Tommy Cowan’s wonderful Top Cat Label

The November 29th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with a two set ska tribute to the events connected to the Cuban Missile Crisis that took place during October of 1962.  Songs like The Skatalites 1964 cut on C&N, Fidel Castro, Prince Buster’s song, Kennedy, also released in 1964, and the Baba Brooks Band’s Nuclear Weapon.   We then started our mento set with the “king of the bamboo saxophone,”  Sugar Belly and his 1966 tune for Coxsone’s Port-O-Jam, Archie. To get you ready for the reggae of the Top Cat Label, we ended the first hour with a long set of rare reggae especially selected by Lily.

We primarily know Tommy Cowan as a member of The Jamaicans, but he was much more than just a singer. In the mid-sixties, Cowan was a member of The Merricoles. This group would become The Jamaicans, which included Norris Weir, Owen Hylton, Martin Williams, and Tommy Cowan as members. Shortly after their formation, Tha Jamaicans launched to success. “Things You Say You Love” was a popular hit. And then “Ba Ba Boom” was the Festival Song winner of 1967.  As the 70s arrived, Cowan began to set his sights on the business side of music, and as a result, he became a marketing manager for Dynamic Sounds. At the same time, Cowan also focused in on becoming a producer, and he opened up the Top Cat label, which was a subsidiary of Dynamic.  We started this spotlight on the Top Cat label with two tracks from The Jamaicans, Cowan’s own band

The backing band for many Top Cat productions consisted of members of some major groups.  Ian and ‘Monty’ Roger Lewis provided bass and rhythm guitar and would become members of Inner Circle.  Cornell Marshall played drums–he would also contribute to the bands Zap Pow and Tomorrow’s Children.  Ibo Michael Cooper played keyboards and was a member of Third World. Robert Lyn, Noel Skully Simms, and Uziah Sticky Thompson provided additional percussion sounds.  Skully and Sticky contributed to sounds from Soul Syndicate and Tommy McCook & the Supersonics. Robert Lyn contributed to Sound Dimension and The Now Generation.

Ricky Storm is really Errol Kong, nephew of Leslie Kong. As a musician, Ricky Storm was more often known as I Kong, and he was actually a member of The Jamaicans in the pre-recording days; he was not on the group’s hits because he went to tour on the Yarmouth, a tourist liner.   After Top Cat, Cowan went on to open up his own full production company, which he called the Talent Corporation.  Zap Pow, Inner Circle, and Israel Vibration were a few of the artists who would record for the company. Cowan also was the longtime main MC of Reggae Sunsplash and the One Love Peace Concert.  In 1996, Cowan converted from Rastafarianism to Christianity, and, by the late 90s, he and his wife, the singer Carlene Davis, opened up Vessel Ministries, which includes the Glory Music label, which focuses on gospel.

For his contribution to Jamaican music, Cowan received the Order of Distinction in 2007.  Thank you Tommy!

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Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Hector “Bunny” Williams Memorial 11-22-16

Fattie Fattie by The Heptones is just one of the many huge foundation tracks that Bunny would play on in his long career.

The November 22nd, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady is dedicated to Hector “Bunny” Williams.

During this miserable year of 2016, we have lost some of truly great foundation artists in Jamaican music: Vocalist, Nora Dean and producer/artists, Jimmy Riley, Winston Blake and Prince Buster as well as label owner Lloyd A Campbell.  Over the last few months this sad year has intensified with the deaths of legendary instrumentalists; Deadly Headly Bennett, Bobby Ellis, and now the vastly underrated drummer, Hector “Bunny” Williams, who died last Thursday, Nov 17th, 2016 at Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay after being admitted two weeks ago for kidney treatment.  Though Bunny was born in West Kingston, it was Montego Bay where he learned how to play the drums from Skatalites drummer, Lloyd Knibbs.

From a 1998 interview Lloyd tells the story..

“Well, Bunny Williams, I taught him. And when Skatalites band mash-up, and they had Soul Brothers, I was on the ship those time. And I came back and was [at the] Orange Bowl listening to the band. And Bunny saw me come in, and say, ‘bwai breddah Lloyd, me cyaan manage the ska thing. Me can’t manage it.’ So he gave me back the sticks, and I never go back on the ship. I just stay with Soul Brothers.”

The Soul Brothers were the de facto house band of Studio One after the Skatalites dissolved in 1965, and Bunny Williams would be The Soul Brothers first drummer. Bunny would play on many Studio One classics along with former Skatalites: Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Brevett, Rolando Alphonso, and Johnny Moore.  We heard four songs that Bunny would play behind as a member of the Soul Brothers, beginning with “I Stand Predominant” by Bob Marley and The Wailers.   As Lloyd Knibbs states, Bunny was indeed the drummer of The Soul Brothers until Knibbs took over after being on tour.  When rocksteady became the ruling rhythm on the island, Bunny, along with Roland Alphonso, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevett would become an integral members of The Soul Vendors.  We started the next set with two instrumental cuts from The Soul Brothers and then three tunes with The Soul Vendors.

To put together this memorial of Bunny Williams, we relied on the testimonies of the artists including Alton Ellis, Dobby Dobson who worked directly the late drummer to help differentiate the exact tracks that Bunny played on during the Studio One years. We also must thank the great Sly Dunbar of Sly and Robbie who in August of this year ranked his top ten All Time Drum Patterns in the Jamaica Observer, and we have included two of them in this long final set of this memorial program.

In July of this year, Bunny was recognised for his contribution to Jamaican music by the Tribute To The Greats organisation. He welcomed the award, telling the Jamaica Observer that, “We need to highlight more of us who people don’t know.”

Hector ‘Bunny’ Williams is survived by seven children and grandchildren. Rest in peace Bunny.

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Harry Mudie’s Afro Label 11-15-16

This Dennis Walks cut was the inspiration for this label spotlight. Wonderful cut in every way!

We started off the November 15th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady with two sets of reggae, beginning with a gem from Earl Brown from 1973 on Aquarius entitled Suzanne. After a mento set that began with Lower Power’s Mambo La La, we went into a long set of rare rocksteady before delving deeply into Harry Mudie’s Afro Label!

Harry Mudie is a producer here that we have yet to spotlight here on the Bovine Ska, and he is a producer that demands so much attention. Born in Spanish Town, Mudie got his start in the sound system business. He left St. Jago High School early, and as a young man, he opened up the Mudies Hi-Fi system. Upon the success of “Oh Carolina,” Mudie tried to record with Count Ossie, but those tracks did not become as popular as “Oh Carolina.”

Soon after these initial recordings with Count Ossie, Mudie moved to the UK to study photography, and soon, he returned to Jamaica to open up the Scaramouch Garden Amusement Center. Consequently, there are few Mudie productions from approximately 1962 to 1970 because his focus was aimed toward the amusement center. In 1970, Mudie returned to production with a splash, releasing tracks from a session with Jo-Jo Bennett and Mudie’s All Stars that were some of the first reggae tracks to include full string arrangements, which gave rise to the Moodisc label and Mudie’s name as a producer.

As with many producers, Mudie opened up additional imprints, and Afro is one of them.  We found this label during last week’s discovery of Dennis Walks’s “Snowbird,” and we wanted to showcase the label on this week’s Bovine Ska.  Afro has not only Mudie productions but also Bunny Lee productions as well, and throughout all of the releases, you can clearly hear Mudie’s style and taste. In an interview, Dennis Walks said that Mudie was great to work with because he demanded the best of everything, and you can hear that in all of the Afro tracks.

Afro is only one label of Harry Mudie’s labels. The trademark was of course Moodisc but there were other imprints including: Jukebox,  Jungle, HAM Records, Moods International Records.

 

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Roy Robinson’s E&R Label 11-8-16

Top early Jamaican R&B from Kent and Jeanie!

The November 8, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady featured a spotlight midway through the show of Roy Robinson’s E&R Label.

The owner and primary producer of the E&R label was Roy Robinson. Roy Robinson and Winston Delano Stewart, who would later become a member of The Gaylads, recorded a few singles for Coxsone Dodd as Winston & Robbie in 1961.  The duo recorded: “Little Honey” & “Miss Mabel” for Dodd, and shortly thereafter, Robinson founded the E&R label. There is an open question as to the identity of Roy Robinson. On a few resources, Roy Robinson has been listed as one half of Simms & Robinson, the duo that saw success during the rhythm and blues period.  Simms & Robinson, the duo that also featured Noel “Zoot” or “Scully” Simms would later be known as Bunny and Skully. This Robinson has, as a result, also been listed regularly been as Arthur “Bunny” Robinson. Thus, it is unclear if Roy Robinson and Arthur “Bunny” Robinson are the same person. There is no definitive answer, but we do know that Roy Robinson also produced two singles with Eric Monty Morris for a short lived label named CDC.  If any listeners out there have any clues as to who Roy Robinson is, we’d love to hear from you. We’re going to start off the E&R spotlight with three tracks for The Continentals, a group who recorded exclusively for the label, starting with “School Girls.”

The backing band for the E&R label was primarily Hersang & the City Slickers, who were one of the most popular R&B and ska session artists. Herman Sang was originally a member of the Frats Quintet and the Jiving Juniors before he ventured over to Coxsone Dodd.  With Dodd, Sang formed Hersang & the City Slickers in 1958.  The members were: Herman Sang – bandleader & pianist, Arkland Parks – drums, Cluett Johnson – double bass, Don Drummond – trombone, Ernest Ranglin – guitar, Lester Sterling – alto saxophone, Roland Alphonso – tenor saxophone.