The Skatalites...

The early 1960's saw not only the creation of ska as a distinct musical style but also, through the work of those who played and produced ska, its growth and enhancement. In 1962 one of Jamaica's most famous tenor saxophonists, Tommy McCook, returned to live in Jamaica. He quickly took his place as one of the artists integral to the shaping of the musical style.

The Skatalites

McCook was a skilled Jazz musician whose musical ability did much to enhance the growth of ska. Within a year after his return to Jamaica he could be found playing and recording with a group of leading local musicians, perhaps most notable among them being Don Drummond who played trombone. Also involved were Jah Jerry playing guitar, Jackie Mitto on piano, Lloyd Brevett on bass, Lloyd Knibbs on drums, and Roland 'Al' Alphonso who, like McCook, played tenor saxophone. Soon after, 'Dizzy' Johnny Moore was brought into the group to play trumpet.

The group recorded their music at Studio One, and the response was overwhelming. Ska fans hearing their new sound for the first time were left wanting to know who the musicians were. Due to the popular demand they encountered almost immediately, McCook voiced the idea that they should officially form a band, and Brevett asked McCook to lead them. McCook agreed, and one of the most famous and best remembered ska bands, The Skatalites, were formed.

The musical style of the Skatalites was different than what Reid, Dodd, and Clue J & the Blues Blasters had been central in creating. McCook explains:

"The drop, the 2nd and 4th beat where the drum dropped was the key to it. In rhythm and blues it was the same drop, but also the ska was a little faster, and the background was different to r & b. The guitar was playing a different thing and the piano wasn't playing as much r & b just ska-ing strictly and keeping the music lively. It was a foundation really. It was a good vibe, and the singers wanted to show their appreciation of the beat, so we used to fire hard on that beat. When the horns weren't riffing, we would come in on the ska and add more weight to it." - (Tommy McCook)

The Skatalites, though officially separated little more than a year after they first formed, are still known and remembered as one of the most famous Jamaican ska bands, still regrouping to this day to play their distinct sound for modern-day ska fans.