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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