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Mento to Ska to Roots Reggae with Bob Marley to Dub and DJ - The Reggae


Foundations of Reggae Music
(click here for an Index of the Story and Artists of Reggae Music)
Mento to Ska to Roots Reggae with Bob Marley to Dub and DJ - The Reggae Go to Part Two or Part Three
Much of this "history" is included in the notes for "This is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975" - a four CD set that provides a great musical overview of the genre - the selections and sound quality are excellent through out - a vital Ras John Reggae12.com Pick! 

Part One:  DAY-O!  

Part Two of REGGAE: The Story of Jamaican Music continues in the next section.

Maya Angelou - Miss Calypso AlbumCalypso Mania
Nineteen-fifty-seven.  The United States was in the grip of Calypsomania. and some were even going so far as. to predict that the calypso would soon eclipse Rock n’ Roll.  Before it all blew over, Robert Mitchum, Maya Angelou the Norman Luboff Choir, and many others had made Calypso albums. Calypso, of course, was Trinidadian, but the two big Calypso era hits, "Banana Boat Song” and "Jamaican Farewell," were Jamaican; so Calypso was reckoned to come from Jamaica.  
As the craze subsided, a Billboard magazine reporter sniffed out a free vacation and went to Kingston to see what the Jamaicans liked.  To his surprise, it was rare R&B; not Calypso. "Local observers,” he wrote, "note that the local musical product is developing into a hybrid in which the strongest elements are calypso and rock & roll.”  Understandably, the writer missed the pan-African underground springing up in Kingston’s slums, but ten years later pan-Africanism would merge with American R&B and Caribbean music in those same back alleys to forever change global music.

Geoffrey Holder's Caribbean Calypso FestivalAround 1960, Ska evolved from Jamaican R&B. The Billboard article mentioned that Fats Domino was the most in demand artist on the island, so it was probably no coincidence that Ska arrived on the heels of three influential American releases: Fats Domino's "Be My Guest" (1959), Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City" (also 1959), and Rosco Gordon's "Surely I Love You" (1960). All three worked the offbeat for all it was worth. Bill Black's Combo figured some­where in the equation, too. Black's greasy instrumental hits featured a hugely upfront four-to-the-bar beat, and sold so well in Jamaica that he toured there - to the surprise of many who found out that he was white.

Jamaican Reggae and Ska Sound Systems


Jamaica, British West Indies - a wonderful travel destination!

 It's axiomatic that there are no facts in Jamaica , only opinions, so no one knows what "Ska" means and no one agrees on what was the first Ska record. But around 1960, Jamaican drummers began hitting the second and fourth beats in unison with the piano and guitar, while the bass played walking quarter-notes. That was Ska. Local musicians called it "Upside-down R&B." It had an under­ground following in England, but not in the United States. One giant Ska hit, Millie's "My Boy Lollipop," rode into the charts on the back of the British Invasion, and when it exited, Ska exited along with it.

Jamaica - Home of Reggae Music

Bob Marley take Jamaican Culture to the World


Jamaica - REGGAE Music Capital of the World

'Whatever was happening in Jamaica didn't go away when Millie hit the remainder bins. The local industry was building inexorably. The 1951 Billboard article mentioned that there was just one record press on the island (not one pressing plant, but one press) although local entrepreneur Ken Khouri claimed to have two presses running by 1954· Around 1957; Khouri built a studio, and Dada Tawari opened the Caribbean Record Company with mastering facilities. From that point, the Jamaican industry was self-sufficient, albeit geared toward faux calypso LP’s for tourists.   

"Alongside the tiny manufacturing industry, there were open-air deejays known as sound systems.  “A cliff face of speaker boxes, each big enough to raise a family in, powered by amplification of intercontinental capability," is the way journalist Lloyd Bradley described them. There was life-and-death competition among the system operators to source the rarest American R&B and the best technology.

The systems were essential to the dissemination of music because the island’s two radio stations, RJR (launched in 1950 as a branch of British Rediffusion) and the government's JBC (which started in 1959), played it as safe as the BBC mothership; The payoff for the sound system operators, came in prestige and drink sales. Three sound system men ruled the early Sixties: Duke Reid, Clement "Coxsone" Dodd, and Prince Buster.  Both Reid and Dodd began operating from family liquor stores. The idea of producing records occurred first to Reid, who cut some instrumentals at Khouri's studio circa 1957. Around the same time, Dodd realized that Jamaicans didn't like rock 'n' roll, and began recording the kind of R&B that the Americans were no longer producing. In 1958, Chris Blackwell launched R&B Records (the precursor of Island ) and future Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga launched WIRL (West Indies Records Ltd.).



Go on to Part Two:  Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae

  Box Set Charts Reggae History

Listen to this story... 

All Things Considered, January 5, 2005 · Tom Terrell has a review of a new boxed set of reggae music that spans 1960-1975. The four CDs include music from top artists such as The Wailers and Jimmy Cliff, and lesser-known singers from reggae's early beginnings.


Ras John's Reggae12.com Marley Story Part One  

Ras John's Reggae12.com Marley Story Part Two   

Ras John's Reggae12.com Bob Marley Feature - R&R Hall of Fame 

Ras John's Reggae12.com Marley Feature Part Four (Roger Steffens Chronology) 

Ras John's Reggae12.com Bob Marley & The Wailers Tour Dates 

Ras John's Reggae12.com  Perry Henzel's Interview with Bob  

Ras John's Reggae12.com   Bob Marley - LEGEND LIVE  

Ras John's Reggae12.com  A Trip to Nine Mile:  May He Rest In Peace

Ras John's Reggae12.com  Drummie Zeb Feature 

Ras John's Reggae12.com  Junior Murvin Feature

Ras John's Reggae12.com  The Boy From Nine Mile 





return to top  
Part One of A History of Reggae Music from "This is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975"  
Go to Part Two or Part Three

Editorial Reviews
Reggae's golden age was as bright as the following years have been dim for the once glorious genre. Indeed, it's the work of the pioneers of the '60s and '70s that, more than ever, defines reggae decades after the heydays of Marley, Toots, and Tosh. This four-disc, chronologically arranged box set (in contrast with 2001's similarly expansive but more wide-ranging Reggae Box) maintains its focus on the first decade and a half of reggae and its antecedents, allowing the compilers to delve deeper into the great one-offs that played a vital role in shaping the classic sound. Yes, like countless reggae compilations before it, this Trojan set features "Israelites," "Pressure Drop," "Rivers of Babylon," "Trenchtown Rock," and "Marcus Garvey." In addition to those indisputable touchstones, however, This is Reggae Music generously and expertly plunges into a remarkable archive to highlight the less-celebrated likes of Bongo Man Byfield, the Uniques, and Ken Parker. Colin Escott's pithy but erudite history and track-by-track summary further flesh out this exemplary package. --Steven Stolder

Mento to Ska to Roots Reggae with Bob Marley to Dub and DJ - The Reggae

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