Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Lord Tanamo Memorial And A Sugar Label Spotlight 4-26-16


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1970 Classic From Richard Ace On Sugar

Howdy Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners,

For those who love music like we do, this last week has been a tough one to take.  On April 21st, Prince and Lonnie Mack passed away.  Two days later Philly soul legend Billy Paul also passed at the age of 82 and a few days before them all, the great vocalist, Lord Tanamo died at the same age of 82 as Billy Paul.  A sad week indeed.

Lord Tanamo was born Joseph Abraham Gordon and was raised in Denham Town in Kingston. He began singing mento on the street and then in hotels with Cecil Lawes, a rhumba box player but eventually Tanamo would cut great mentos at Caribou. With ska quickly becoming the island’s national rhythm, Tanamo, along with Doreen Shaffer and Jackie Opel, would eventually become one of the main singers of The Skatalites.  In fact it was Tanamo himself who gave the band their name as he would proudly tell me himself whenever we met.

I first met Tanamo back in 1998, when The Allstonians, who did a great job his backing band at the time, graciously brought him down to WMBR where I got a chance to interview him.  I would chat with him on a few occasions after that over the years.  A great singer and performer. He will be very missed by many.  

Before the April 26th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, Melanie Gordon, the daughter of Lord Tanamo, kindly asked me to read the following statement before our tribute on our program:

Speaking on behalf of my family ..we would love to pass our heartfelt appreciation and thanks to you and your listeners for their tributes and kind words.  We celebrate with joy, dads music forever.

We honored Lord Tanamo by opening our show with four of our favorite tracks that he sang on. Three amazing skas:  You’ll Never Know (caribou-1965) , If You Were Only Mine (caribou-1965) , and Come Down (SEP-1965) and a superb mento, Little Fist (caribou-1955).  R.I.P. Tanamo.  Thank you for all you did.

Anglo-Indian Charles Ross as a producer in Jamaica, Charley Ross was best known for his rocksteady productions from his Flame label and from the records that were distributed in England on the Blue Cat label, a subsidiary of Trojan. Given Ross’ reach to England, it is no surprise that he would continue to work with labels there, and in 1969, the Sugar label, a subsidiary of Pye Records, the label responsible for releases from Lonnie Donegan, The Kinks, and Petula Clark, opened, and Ross was named as the production director of the label.

Ross would produce the records in Jamaica, and Pye Records would press and distribute the records in the UK and then Bell Records would distribute them in the U.S. For reasons unclear, this deal with Pye somewhat came to a close, and Sugar was then under the supervision and control of Decca. Hoping that Sugar would be Decca’s definitive reggae arm, the label giant became disappointed in the very short lived output of the label, and Sugar’s last record would be released in 1970.  

Sadly, that was the last the music world heard from Charley Ross, and it’s such a shame because his productions were recorded exceptionally well. We kicked off this spotlight with the beautiful vocals of Joe White and My Guiding Star from 1969.

Sugar released two full-length LPs in its final year: Claude Sang’s World of Reggae Volume One and Charles Ross Reggae Combo’s World of Reggae Volume Two.  The Two  Zorro Five tracks that we played on the spotlight before our favorite cut from Sugar were supposed to be released on Sugar toward the end of the label, but given its mysterious termination, the Zorro Five singles were transferred to Decca.

For news on the upcoming spotlights and fun discoveries tied to early Jamaican music, join the group for the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady on Facebook.

Lily and Generoso

Here is our April 26th, 2016 Bovine Ska and Rocksteady which featured the Lord Tanamo Memorial and spotlight on the Sugar Label:

Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady: Jamaican Halloween Reggae And Ska 10-27-15

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Halloween Without King Horror? Never!


Happy Halloween Bovine Ska and Rocksteady Listeners!

Truthfully, back in 1996 when I put together my first Jamaican Halloween radio show at WMBR, I couldn’t find more than a couple of sets  spooky reggae and ska from 1955 to 1975 but year by year just like the lost souls rising from the beyond, we have found a coven of rare Jamaican cuts to make a two hour show of eerie sounding reggae, ska, mento, and rocksteady happen!  This year’s show was a blast as we mixed those cuts that feature horrifying screams, corpses rising out of graves, and heavy rhythms with some haunting sounds of our own, and Lily’s explanations of the different types of undead apparitions which was pretty mind-blowing!   In years past we always did a half-hour spotlight of the enigmatic vocalist known as King Horror but being that Mixcloud does not allow so many tracks glued together from one artist, we played a greater variety of Halloween reggae and ska than ever before!

Of course, we did start the show with King Horror with what could be the most bizarre organ intro of any track we will play this evening…The Joe Mansano produced 1969 classic, “Dracula Prince Of Darkness!”  In fact, the first set of four songs was a tribute to the former Vlad The Impaler and his urban counterpart, Blacula!  We followed  King Horror with a creepy one from the Crystal label house band, The Crystalites with “Blacula” from 1973, The Vulcans 1973 cut for Trojan, “Dracula,” and The Upsetters ending that set with their homage to our fanged friend, “Dracula” from 1970.  We had a mento set that began with an appropriate selection from Chin’s Calypso Sextet, “Woman Ghost Fool Man” and ending with the classic “Zombie Jamboree” performed by Lord Jellicoe in 1966.  We ended the first hour with a ska set that included such holiday wonders as Byron Lee and The Dragonaires “Frankenstein Ska” from 1964, and our favorite dark ska cut, Lloyd Clarke’s “Living Among The Dead” which Lloyd recorded in 1964 at Federal.

The second hour featured a six reggae tribute to satan with a highlight being “Dr. Satan’s Echo Chamber” by Rupie Edwards from 1974, and a nine song version to version laden set of “duppy” (Jamaican for ghost) including four versions of Bob Marley and The Wailers Duppy Conqueror performed by The Wailers, Dennis Alcapone, and The Joe Gibbs All Stars.

You can hear our full show from October 27th, 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.

Happy Halloween!!! Please help us and spread the word and repost if you liked the show! Repost anywhere you see fit.

Join the group for the radio show on Facebook.

Generoso and Lily

Bovine Ska and Rocksteady 6/23/15: The Torpedo Label

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A fine cut on Briscoe’s Torpedo Label


So, after last week’s misfire with Mixcloud (it sadly seems that the limit for tracks from a single artist is four) we decided to turn our attention this week to the thunderous and at times daffy early reggae sounds of England’s Torpedo Label.  That of course started at the midway point of the podcast.  We began the show with two sumptuous sets of rocksteady, beginning with a rare cut from Merritone that you must hear called “Fountain Bliss.”  After a mento set that featured a Lord Fly composition called “Mabel.”  After a long a frenzied ska set, we went right into our spotlight of the Torpedo Label.

Lambert Briscoe ran the Hot Rod sound system in Brixton, and from the popularity of his soundsystem, emerged the Torpedo record label, which was founded by Briscoe and Eddy Grant, yes the same Eddy Grant of The Equals and eventually Electric Avenue fame. Torpedo was founded in 1970 and was short lived; it folded in the same year but was eventually revived for a stint 1974. As a result of this, we will split this spotlight according to the birth year and the rebirth year of Torpedo, beginning with the very first single released on the label, Pussy Got Nine Life by the Hot Rod All Stars, the Torpedo label’s house band, consisting of Ardley White, Danny Smith, Earl Dunn, and Sonny Binns. Originally known as The Rudies, they were renamed after Lambert Briscoe’s soundsystem as the Hot Rod All Stars, and somewhere between the transformation from The Rudies to the Hot Rod All Stars, the group also spurred off and developed into The Cimarons, who would become the pre-eminent backing band for the English reggae scene. In addition to Lambert Briscoe himself, Larry Lawrence also produced for the Torpedo label, most notably, he was the producer of Errol English’s cover of The Small Faces, Sha La La La Lee.
With 1970 marking the height of the skinhead reggae movement, characterized by a fast, danceable rhythm, the English market was dominated by Trojan and Pama, two heavyweights that had many subsidiary arms and stables with major artists, making it difficult for a small label like Torpedo to survive past its first year, which it unfortunately did not. Then, by 1973, the skinhead reggae of the previous years began to lose traction, signed especially by the folding of reggae specialized music shops. But as the late 60s/early 70s fast reggae left the spotlight in 1973, roots reggae with its markedly slower skank took its place, particularly due to the release of Bob Marley’s To Catch a Fire. Consequently, with this resurged interest in reggae, Eddy Grant opened up the Torpedo label again in 1974, but now focused the releases on more of a roots reggae sound. We kicked off the highlights from the Torpedo revival with Johnny Jonas’s Happy Birthday, a track produced by Eddy Grant himself.

Check out the full 6-23-15 Generoso and Lily’s Bovine Ska and Rocksteady podcast on Mixcloud HERE!

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