November 5, 2008 – Byron Lee was born on June 27, 1935. He was a Jamaican musician and record producer, best known for his work as leader of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. They turned professional in 1956 and went on to become one of Jamaica’s leading ska bands, continuing since and taking in other genres such as calypso, Soca, and Mas.
Byron Lee and the Dragonaires was one of the best known Jamaican bands. Lee played a crucial pioneering role in bringing Jamaican music to the world. Formed in 1956 and playing a big band-ska sound their big break came in the first James Bond film Dr. No, where they appeared as the band in the scene at Pussfeller’s club and played a number of tunes on the soundtrack. They also caused a stir at the New York World’s Fair in 1964.
May 25, 2006 – Desmond Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres on July 16th 1941 in Saint Andrew Parrish, Kingston, Jamaica. Dekker spent his early formative years in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. From a very young age he would regularly attend the local church with his grandmother and aunt. This early religious upbringing as well as Dekker’s enjoyment of singing hymns led to a lifelong religious commitment. Orphaned in his teens following his mother’s death as a result of illness, he moved to the parish of St. Mary and then later to St. Thomas. While at St. Thomas, Dekker embarked on an apprenticeship as a tailor before returning to Kingston, where he secured employment as a welder.
His workplace singing had drawn the attention of his co-workers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in the music industry. In 1961 he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), though neither audition was successful. The young unsigned vocalist then successfully auditioned for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label and was awarded his first recording contract. He auditioned before the stable’s biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man’s potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.
July 17, 2005 – Laurel Aitken/Lorenzo Aitken (the Godfather of Ska) was born in Cuba of mixed Cuban and Jamaican descent on April 22nd 1927. His family settled in Jamaica in 1938 and he went on to become Jamaica’s first real recording star.
His first recordings in the late 1950s were mento tunes such as “Nebuchnezer”, “Sweet Chariot” and “Baba Kill Me Goat”. Progressing to a pre-ska shuffle, his 1958 single “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in My Bones” was one of the first records produced by Chris Blackwell, who founded his Island Records label that year, and the first Jamaican popular music record to be released in the UK.