Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Byron Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label 9-6-16


Keith Lyn on Lee’s Dragon’s Breath Label

Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

Firstly, thank you to everyone how was kind enough to let us know how much they appreciated our Deadly Headly Bennett Memorial show.  Generoso was fortunate enough to have met Deadly back in 1999, when Headley and trombonist, Vin Gordon were performing with Justin Hinds.  Generoso and Headley got a chance to speak that night as Generoso was introducing the show at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island.  All three men were very kind and exceptional musicians.  Thank you and respect to Vin, who is still with us and much respect to Justin and Headley for their kindness and great contribution to Jamaican music.

The September 6th, 2016 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady began with the to sets of rare rocksteady, starting with Stranger and Patsy with a lovely cut they did for Tip Top in 1967, Don’t Want To Be Hurt.  The second set began with The Wrigglers and their song, You Cannot Know, which they recorded for Giant in 1968 and that set ended with the King Of Rocksteady, Alton Ellis and My Time Is The Right Time.  Our weekly mento set featured another cut from our favorite mento, Count Lasher on Stanley Motta’s MRS label, Perfect Love.  We ended the first hour with a set of ska to get you ready for the sounds of the Dragon’s Breath label,    A standout during that ska set was from Joe White, a solo ska from him produced by Prince Buster for the Voice Of The People label in 1964, Nite Club!  That set ended with another Buster production, this time it’s the Maytals and their hit, Domino!  We then went right into our spotlight of the Dragon’s Breath label…

By 1956, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires had established themselves as a professional working band that toured the hotel and nightclub circuit. Before these touring years, the Dragonaires performed mento, but in order to play professionally, like so many other bands, they performed versions of American soul and R&B hits. Within three years, the group decided to take a shot at recording, and in 1959, they visited Edward Seaga at WIRL’s studios to record their first single, “Dumplins.” This single was released on the band’s label, Dragon’s Breath, appropriately named in the tradition of the group’s name and, this is the label of our spotlight tonight, which will exclusively contains Jamaican Rhythm and Blues and Ska. We kicked our label spotlight off with three tracks from the Dragonaires that were produced by Byron Lee himself, starting with “Dumplins,” the group’s recording debut.

Dragon’s Breath was pretty short lived, with releases stopping in 1964. Interestingly, there was a bit of a gap in the label; no recordings were released in 1962. We do not know of the reason, but one could be that the label changed hands because by 1963, Prince Buster was the producer for the label and  from that moment on out, we heard those Buster productions as he took the helm of the music released by Dragon’s Breath, including two from Eric Monty Morris which began the second set of the spotlight.

XO Generoso and Lily

This is the September 6, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady and our spotlight on the Dragon’s Breath label:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Ken Khouri’s Kentone Label 11-10-15

Kentone A

A Top Instrumental By Byron On Kentone


Welcome Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

After two weeks where Lily and I covered both Comikaze and the amazing films of AFI Fest for Forces of Geek, we had a blast playing programming tunes we love on the radio show!  Thanks for listening in…If you missed it, check out the November 10th Bovine Ska and Rocksteady on Mixcloud!

We started this week off with a massive version to version to version to version excursion that we always send out to our dear departed friend Magnus.  We versioned the 1971 hit by Count Prince Miller, “Mule Train” with covers from Roland Alphonso, Dennis Alcapone, and Derrick Morgan!  Our second set began with The Bassies on Studio One in 1969 with “Things A Come Up To Bump” and the version, on Coxsone in 1969, “More Scorcha” from Count Machuki and Sound Dimension.  We then gave you our weekly mento set and to get you ready for the Kentone Label spotlight, we began a long set of rare ska with the Federal Singers and their 1965 cut for Khouri’s Federal label, “My Love.”  We ended that ska set with Bongo Man Byfield doing a borderline nonsensical cover of Sam Cooke’s pop hit “History” that he called “Bongo Man” which was good fun.  We then immediately went into the Kentone spotlight…

Kentone comes from a major lineage in Jamaican music history. Owned by Ken Khouri, it is an example of Khouri’s own evolution of the record industry in Jamaica. 
Born in Kingston, Khouri’s father owned dry goods and furniture shops in Kingston. A family friend also owned a dry goods store, and, after the sons inherited the shop, Ken would work for them. This family owned jukeboxes that were placed across Jamaica, igniting Ken’s interesting in the record business. Consequently, when he found a disc recorder in Miami, he purchased it and brought it back to Jamaica and started to record mento. With the recorder, Khouri would send tapes to London, and they would send back 78s. After working with this method for some time, Khouri realized that it would be helpful to have his own pressing plant, so he purchased the equipment from California and setup a recording studio and pressing plant to his studio, Records Limited, in the late 40s. And with this record pressing plant and recording studio in place, he started Time Records, his first label that was distributed by Alec Durie’s Times Variety Store.

By the mid 50s, Khouri created Pioneer Company, which pressed Jamaican recordings and distributed foreign records as well. When the Pioneer Company moved to the Industrial Estate at Marcus Garvey Drive in the late 50s, Pioneer became a subsidiary of the mighty Federal Records. At Federal Records, plenty of the major soundsystem operators and producers used the studio to record tracks for their labels. Khouri also used his studio for his own record label, Kentone, where Byron Lee and the Dragonaires produced many recordings and also served as the house backing band. We kicked off the spotlight with one of the earliest Kentone releases from The Techniques, “No One,” which was originally recorded for Curtis Mayfield for Columbia Records and only released in the UK. It is unclear if the Kentone release is a Jamaican distribution of that Columbia track, or if The Techniques re-recorded the track for Khouri. A clue could be that the Byron Lee and the Dragonaires were listed as the backing band on the Kentone release, but the answer is not clear.  

As stated earlier,  many of the Kentone releases featured Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.  Circa 1963-1965, the members were Ken Lazarus on Guitar, Byron Lee on Bass, Tommy Ismay on Saxophone, Chester Power on Trumpet, Barry Lloyd on Drums, Victor Chung on Bongos and Percussion, Carl Brady on Bongos and Percussion, Leslie Butler on Organ, Vernon Muller on Trombone, Frank Anderson on Trumpet.

Again, can hear our full show from November 10, 2015 HERE. Subscribe to our show on Mixcloud, it’s FREE and you’ll get an email every Tuesday when our new show goes up.

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Generoso and Lily