Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 11/5/14: Girl Group Extraordinaire “The Gaylettes”

gayletts son of a preacher man

The Gaylettes do Dusty Springfield proud.

This week we started off with two sets of fun Jamaican ska, beginning with a cut, recently unearthed by Lily from The Sensations, called “Juvenile Delinquent,” which was released on Treasure Isle in 1966. We then we ended that two set ska start of the show with “Sun Rises In The East” by Dotty and Bonny, also on Treasure Isle, this time from 1963. We ended the first hour of the show with a set of rocksteady, culminating with the king of the reggae harmonica, Roy Richards, and a tune he cut for Bongo Man in 1966, “Rub A Dub.”

We started the second hour with a spotlight, selected by Lily, on the Gaylettes.

The Gaylettes were originally Judy Mowatt, Merle Clemenson, and Dawn Hanchard.  As a trio, the girls first recorded as a group for Linford Pottinger’s Gaydisc label. However, after their earliest tracks did not lead to great popularity, Judy Mowatt returned to dancing, which was actually her original desired career path, and The Gaylettes went on hiatus. While dancing with a group in Kingston and selling products for the Colgate-Palmolive Company to survive, Judy met Beryl Lawson. While rehearsing a dance routine at the Baby Grand Club, Judy and Beryl began to sing together, and upon realizing their ability to harmonize together, Judy called over Merle Clemenson, forming a trio that would become the next incarnation of The Gaylettes. Good reputations for the girls formed as they performed together, and eventually the trio caught the attention of Lynford Anderson, an engineer and record mastering supervisor for WIRL in 1967. Anderson connected The Gaylettes to Lee Scratch Perry, who was at the time a freelance producer/engineer after his departure from Joe Gibbs’ stable. After hearing the girls perform, Lee Perry invited them to sing backup on “How Come.”  Perry would continue to work with the Gaylettes while they recorded at WIRL. We played one of their only other WIRL tracks next, this time its a one that was not so dirty. After this last of the WIRL tracks, we then played The Gaylettes recordings for Merritone while they were under contract with Federal Records, where they would record their first big hit, “Silent River Runs Deep,” a track written by Henry Buckley.

With Anderson as a major supporter of the Gaylettes, The group would continue to work with Lynford Anderson throughout 1969, seeing great success with spectacular covers of everyone ranging from Dusty Springfield to O.V. Wright. By 1969, they were the most popular female group in Jamaica, but at toward the end of the year, the Gaylettes broke up when Beryl and Merle immigrated to America. The Gaylettes were still under contract with Federal, so Judy went under another name and sang some solo tracks. Mowatt eventually became an “I-Three”  along with Rita Marley, and Marcia Griffiths who would sing backup for Bob Marley throughout the 1970s.

After a really lovely spotlight of one of the few prominent girl groups to come out of Jamaica in the 1960s,  we ended the show with a long intense set of early reggae which featured a gem from Roman Stewart called “Fire At Your Heel” which came out on Sun Shot in 1975.

Listen to the this 11/5/14 edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady HERE.

Enjoy! The archive will be available until 11/18/2014.


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!