Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 11/25/14: Bunny and Skitter

Bunny and Skitter Chubby Single

Count Ossie Adds Some Furious Drumming To This Bunny and Skitter Classic

As this week’s show aired twenty four hours before Thanksgiving 2014, we just had to start with the only Jamaican track to honor our day of overeating, football, and some thanks, Prince Buster’s sublime mid-tempo ska, Thanksgiving.  A fun cut that was released in Jamaica on the “What a Hard Man Fe Dead” LP in 1967.    We then surrounded that cut with two sets of tantalizing rocksteady, culminating with a Merritone label track from Hopeton Lewis entitled “At The Corner of The Street,” which up until recently was a long forgotten song on tape until the kind folks at Dub Store Records in Japan released it.

Our last set of the first hour featured some splendid ska instrumentals which included “One More Time” from Lloyd Brevett and his Group, released on Lyndon Pottinger’s SEP Label in 1964 and ending with a sensational instrumental from Roland Alphonso recorded for Justin Yap called, “Live Desire.”

For our spotlight this week, we chose the early Jamaican rhythm and blues duo, Bunny and Skitter, who despite recording some fantastic hits during the pre-ska era, also remain quite the enigma as there’s still a little bit of mystery surrounding the identities of Bunny and Skitter.  There is some solid agreement on the identity of Skitter, who was Vernon Allen. There are reports that Bunny was Zoot Simms and other reports that identify him as George Dudley. Though, the exact identity of Bunny is not clear, we do know quite a bit about their discography. Bunny and Skitter recorded their earliest tracks for Coxone’s Worldisc label and after working with Coxone, the duo would work with Prince Buster and Vincent Randy Chin.  It must be said that although they would only do one session with Buster, it would produce a high point for their career in the song called “Chubby.”

When “Chubby” was recorded in 1961, the Rastafarian was still viewed as a cult by proper Jamaican society.  This fact seemed to elude Buster who had always operated with a downtown ethic.  For this recording, Buster brought in the Nyahbingi drumming of Count Ossie and a team of four burro drummers as he had with the Folks Brothers R&B hit, “Oh Carolina” but here Buster removed the R&B elements to produce the first pure example of Nyahbingi drumming ever recorded in Jamaica which also proved a hit for Bunny and Skitter.  Shortly after the success of “Oh Carolina” and “Chubby”, several other Jamaican producers such as Coxsone Dodd and Vincent Chin would turn to Count Ossie for a hit.  With Bunny and Skitter’s voices and the Count Ossie drumming, a musical revolution had begun.

We were delighted to present the spotlight on Bunny and Skitter. Listen to this past week’s show HERE.

The archive will be available until 12/8/2014. Enjoy!

 

 

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 9/10/2014: Remembering Hopeton Lewis

We were very saddened to hear about the passing of legendary vocalist, Hopeton Lewis, on September 4th.  Hopeton had passed away at his home in Brooklyn last Thursday after a long battle with kidney disease.  Hopeton was a guest on the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady back in 2006, a very sweet and reverent man, who had been almost exclusively performing non-secular music for the last thirty years.  When we spoke back then he still had great affection for his earliest cuts for Merritone, Treasure Isle and Dynamic.  There are his landmark tracks such as his first hit, 1966’s “Take It Easy,”  which many people consider the very first rocksteady tune ever recorded, and the track he would record the same year, “Cool Collie,” the very first Jamaican record to openly speak about the positive effect of marijuana.

Hopeton Lewis was born in Kingston and raised in Burnt Savannah, Westmoreland. At the age of 6, he began signing for the Burnt Savannah Holiness Church, which was his starting point for his passion for music. As a young boy, he returned to Kingston to live with his grandparents. At the age of 15, his grandparents passed away, and Hopeton was left on his own to survive in Kingston. As a young man, he quickly entered the music industry in order to fulfill his love for singing and also to try to earn a living.   He began his recording career as a member of the vocal group, The Regals, by cutting a side at Coxsone’s Wincox label.  Not much came of it, so he took his smooth voice and began a solo career at Merritone where he scored a hit with the aforementioned “Take It Easy.” which stayed at the top of the charts for weeks and sold over 10,000 copies!

Take It Easy

Hopeton Lewis’ “Take It Easy” LP on Merritone

After leaving Merritone in 1967, Hopeton had brief stops at “JJ’s” and “Fab” before finding more success with Duke Reid at his Treasure Isle label.   Besides singing backup for many of the Duke’s established artists, his turn at lead vocals there would result in a Festival Song Competition winner with “Boom Shaka-Laka.”  He would move to Byron Lee’s Dynamic label and the hits kept on coming as “Grooving Out On Life,” the title track from his full length LP released in 1973 became a signature song for Hopeton.

On the September 10th edition of the Bovine Ska, we took you on a musical trip through Hopeton’s career and tried to help you get a better picture of his progression as one of the most talented vocalists in Jamaican music history.

Listen to the full spotlight and the show via the WMBR archives here:  LISTEN NOW

This link will be active until 9/23/2014. Enjoy!