LAUREL  “LORENZO ANTONIO”   AITKEN

22.04.1927 – 17.07.05

Laurel Aitken è una leggenda vivente per quanto concerne la musica giamaicana. Il musicista cubano, che nel 1938 emigrò con i suoi genitori in Jamaica (quando aveva 11 anni), presto si trovò coinvolto nella scena musicale locale cantando calypso per i turisti, esibendosi nei vari contest a Kingston. Già negli anni ’40 inizia a cantare canzoni di Nat King Cole/Luis Jordan dimostrando da subito grandi doti interpretative.  E facendosi notare per il suo stile, una sorta di r’n’b giamaicano. Fra i suoi primi successi nati all’ombra dello shuffle e boogie giamaicano, ricordiamo “Boogie Rock”, probabilmente il primo disco di produzione giamaicana che sia entrato nella classifica dell’isola. Grazie a questa insperata hit inizia la storia dell’etichetta discografica inglese Blue Beat, e di quello stile, che non a caso prese il nome di bluebeat.

17 Luglio 2005

E’ veramente un gran brutto periodo per i cantanti reggae e ska e con le lacrime agli occhi che mi tocca darvi l’annuncio della morte, all’eta di 78 anni, del Padrino dello Ska e amico Lorenzo Antonio, alias Laurel Aitken.
Autore di alcuni dei più celebri e divertenti “inni dello ska” tra cui “Sally Brown”, “Rudi Got Married”, “Zion City”, “Bartender”, “Mad About You”, di alcuni dei più potenti early reggae della storia del genere tra cui “Jesse James”, “Skinhead Train”, Woppy King”, “Landlords & Tenants” e “Pussy Price”, nonché di alcune delle più belle canzoni sentimentali che la musica giamaicana abbia mai espresso “It’s Too Late” e “Who’s Taking You Home”, Lorenzo Antonio, come amava farsi chiamare quando veniva a suonare in Spagna ed in Italia, si è spento il 17 luglio all’ospedale di Leicester (città in cui risiedeva da sempre) nel suo letto tra le braccia dell’amata moglie Sandra, verso le 4 della notte scorsa e non ha sofferto.

Da quasi 2 anni, a causa di una grave infezione polmonare, Aitken, noto anche come “the Highpriest of Reggae”, era uscito forzatamente dalle scene calcate ininterrottamente per più di 60 anni in migliaia e migliaia di concerti sempre e soltanto affollatissimi. Aveva però recuperato in salute tanto da essere in grado di venire in Italia lo scorso Inverno per registrare alcuni brani con la ska band italiana, i ferraresi Cookoomackastick.

Laurel Aitken, nella sua lunga carriera è stato autore, arrangiatore e produttore, di un quantitativo di musica impressionante. Pianista, chitarrista, cantante, percussionista, poliglotta (parlava lo spagnolo, il francese, l’italiano e l’inglese), Aitken nonostante la nomea “restrittiva” di Godfather of Ska acquisita per essere stato il primo ad entrare nella classifica giamaicana al primo posto nel 1959 (col singolo “Little Sheila”/”Boogie in My Bones”) ha cantato e scritto di tutto, in generi differenti: Soul, R&B, Gospel, Calypso/mento, Reggae, Jazz, Funk, facendolo sempre, anche in tarda età, con un trasporto ed una passione entusiasmante. Le caratteristiche della sua vastissima opera sono allegria, divertimento, ritmi irresistibili, testi gioiosi e la sua caldissima ed immediatamente riconoscibile voce.

La musica di Aitken ha anche un’altra caratteristica, è contagiosa. Fin dal primo ascolto.
Leggendari gli album “Ska With Laurel” del 1965, “High Priest Of Reggae” del 1969 e quelli frutto di collaborazioni più recenti con i giapponesi Ska Flames (“Damn Good”) 1995, con gli spagnoli Skarlatines “En Espanol” 1999 e con i tedeschi CJC “Jamboree” 2000. Tra le raccolte più belle vanno segnalate senz’altro Woppy King, the early reggae years 1968/1969 Vol.1 e  1997 e la stupefacente “The Pioneer Of Jamaican Music” del 1999 che contiene prevalentemente R&B, Calypso, Mento e Bossa Nova dal 1957 al 1965.

Nonostante fosse il più anziano interprete vivente del primo genere musicale veramente autoctono della Giamaica, ovvero lo Ska e sia stata la personalità in assoluto più rilevante del primo reggae inglese, i media hanno perso l’occasione di valorizzarne l’immagine e tributargli i dovuti onori.
Lui non li ha mai cercati né reclamati, consapevole com’era di essere già una vera e propria leggenda per centinaia di migliaia di fan in tutto il mondo e dai quali non verrà mai dimenticato.
Le sue prime apparizioni le fà al Glass Bucket Club e il locale grazie al talento e alla forte personalità on stage riscuote sempre sold-out. Nel 1958, più precisamente, fa la sua prima apparizione nelle classifiche locali giamaicane arrivando al primo posto con il singolo dal titolo “Little Sheila” e successivamente con “Boogie In My Bones” prodotto dalla giovane etichetta “Island Records” di proprietà dell’inglese Chris Blackwell. Da sottolineare il fatto importante che questi due 45 giri furono i primi ad essere registrati da Laurel, perché fino al 1957 aveva registrato sul vecchio formato a 78 giri, che per gli amanti discografici vanno sempre a ruba tra tutti i collezionisti storici.

“Little Sheila” è per ben 11 settimane al numero 1 della classifiche giamaicane, un record per un esordiente all’epoca. Nel ’60 lascia la Jamaica come uno dei più famosi artisti del Paese per emigrare in Inghilterra dove incide centinaia di canzoni tra cui “Mary Lee” per l’appena nata Melodisc Records e “Boogie Rock” che è il primo singolo dell’ormai nota Blue Beat Records.

La Island Records e il grande lavoro di Chris Blackwell cerca di esportare il sound della giamaica in Europa, specialmente in Inghilterra dove “il padrino” riscuote da subito enorme successo. Noncurante del cielo grigio e del tempo diciamo “molto poco giamaicano” Laurel sente sua questa sua patria e cerca di portare, grazie all’aiuto degli immigrati dei sobborghi di Brixton, il suo verbo e la sua musica.

Oltre ai lavori appena citati, Laurel, durante tutti gli anni ’60 lavora con un’innumerevole varietà di etichette discografiche importando nel Regno Unito dello ska, del rocksteady e del buonissimo reggae. Ma Aitken non si limita ad essere uno degli artisti giamaicani più di successo di questo periodo, bensì inizia a lavorare come produttore artistico per la Pama Records e per le sue etichette satelliti. Durante tutti gli anni ’70 continua incessantemente il suo lavoro, grazie alla nascita della 2Tone Records di Jerry Dammers che rilancia la musica Ska un po’ in tutto il Vecchio Continente. Nel 1980 la sua “Rudy Got Married” entra nella classifica top 60 ed inspiegabilmente questa è l’unica apparizione di Laurel nelle Top Charts britanniche. Con il termine dell’era 2Tone, sembra svanire anche l’interesse per Aitken ma fortunatamente, incide un disco con i POTATO 5 (una delle band più note del tempo) che lo riporta prepotentemente sulla scena europea. La sua simpatia e energia contaminò proprio tutti e David Bowie lo volle nel suo film “Absolute Beginners” per un cameo. Negli anni ’90 con il suo grande amico Prince Buster poi ha continuato a influenzare innumerevoli band ed è grazie a lui se oggi balliamo e ci divertiamo a show di band come Toasters, Ska Flames, Specials.

La grave malattia non gli ha più permesso di calcare i palchi però quello che ci ha regalato è qualcosa di così grande che solo chi sente questa musica dentro di sé può capire…GRAZIE LAUREL!!

 

Discografia Ufficiale

1957:
Stanley Motta Productions

  • Roll Jordan Roll
    released on 78rpm-side: MRS
    by Stanley Motta’s Carribean Recording Company
  • I Met A Senorita
    released 78rpm-side: MRS
    Laurel Aitken remembers his recording debut at Motta’s studio: “The first recording that I did, I did it for myself, that was a song called “I Met A Senorita“.

Dada Tawari Productions

  • They Got It
    released on 78rpm: Caribou 158 /Jamaica
    at the Carribean Recording Company, Kingston; prod. by Dada Tawari.
  • Ghana Independence
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou
    by Dada Tewari
    Nebuchanezer
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 197-A /Jamaica; Kalypso XX 15-A /UK, 1959
    Prod. by Dada Tuari
  • Sweet Chariot
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 197-B /Jamaica; Kalypso XX 15-B /UK, 1959
  • Aitken’s Boogie
    released on: Caribou CRC 218-A /JA; Kalypso XX 16-A, 1959
    by Dada Tawari
    Cherrie
    released on: Caribou CRC 218-B /JA; Kalypso XX 16-B
    Prod. by Dada Tuari
  • Mama Cita
    released on unknown 78 rpm in Jamaica

 

1958:
Dada Tewari Productions

  • Calypso Rock’n’Roll
    released on 78rpm: Caribou CRC 159-A /Jamaica
  • Nightfall In Zion
    released on 78rpm: Caribou CRC 159-B /Jamaica
  • One Night In Mexico
    released on unknown 78 rpm in Jamaica

 

1959:
Chris Blackwell Productions

  • Boogie In My Bones
    released on 7″-side: R & B GRC 5935-A /Ja, 1959; 7″: Starlite ST 011-A /UK, 1960;
    7″: Kalypso XX 18 /UK, ca. 1960
    Prod: Chris Blackwell
    Little Sheila
    released on: 7″: R & B GRC 5935-B /Ja, 1959; 7″-side: Starlite ST 011-B /UK, 1960; 7″-side: Kalypso XX 18 /UK, ca. 1960
    Prod: Chris Blackwell
    Release date by Turner/Schoenfeld 2002 (p. 6) is 1960.
  • Honey Girl
    released on 7″-side: R & B GRC 6012-A /Jamaica; 7″-side: Starlite ST 014-A /UK, 1960
    re-issued on: V.A.: Trojan Jamaican R&B Box Set (3CD: Trojan), 2002
  • Drinkin’ Whiskey
    released on 7″-side: R & B GRO 6012-B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Starlite ST 014-B /UK, 1960
    re-issued on: V.A.: Trojan Jamaican R&B Box Set (3CD: Trojan), 2002
    “this [is] almost straight R&B with twangy guitar and erratic drums.” (Castle Music)

Ruddy Abrahams/Dada Tewari Productions

  • Rege Dege Ding
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 198 /Jamaica
  • Wall Of Jericho
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 198 /Jamaica
  • & His Calypso Band: The Cuckoo
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 215 /Jamaica
  • & His Calypso Band: Te-La-La
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 220 /Jamaica
  • Rock Santa Rock
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 216-A /Jamaica
  • Wayward Traveller
    released on 78 rpm: Caribou CRC 216-B /Jamaica
  • Come Back Jennie
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat CRC 290-A /Jamaica
  • I’m Crying Over You
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat CRC 290-B /Jamaica
  • Boogie Rock
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat CRC 291-B /JA; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 001-A /UK, 1960
    Recorded with the Boogie Cats and prod. by Ruddy Abrahams
    Tribute To Collie Smith
    released on 7″-side: RCA CRC 297-A /Jamaica; 7″-side: Kalypso XX 19-A /UK
  • Baba Kill Me Goat
    Released on 7″-side: RCA CRC 297-B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Kalypso XX 19-B /UK
    Recorded with the Boogie Cats and prod. by Ruddy Abrahams
    Mas Charley
    by Dada Tuari
    released on 7″-side: Caribou /Jamaica
  • & Boogie Cats: Edmarine
    by Dada Tuari (or Ruddy Abrahams)
    released on 7″-side: RCA K08W 0067-1
  • & Boogie Cats: A Whole Lot Of Rock
    by Dada Tuari (or Ruddy Abrahams)
    released on 7″-side: RCA K08W 0068-1

 

1958 – 1960:

Leslie Kong-Produktionen:

  • Remember My Darling
  • The Saint
  • I Shall Remove
  • What A Wheeping
  • In My Soul

 

1960:
Dada Tewari Productions

  • Lonesome Lover
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat DA 3084 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Melodisc M 1570-A /UK
  • Marylee
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat DA 3085 /Jamaica; 7″-side: melodisc M 1570-B /UK
  • Heavenly Angel
    released on 7″-side: Downbeat CRC 291-A /Jamaica; Blue Beat BB 001-B /UK
  • Jeannie’s Back
    released on 7″-side: Regal RG 002 /Jamaica; released on 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 010-A /UK

Duke Reid Productions

  • Judgement Day
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s RR 150 /Jamaica
    released as: Laurel Aitken, Ken Richards & His Harmonisers: Judgement Day b/w Yea Yea Baby (7″: Blue Beat BB 14 /UK)
  • Yea Yea Baby
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica
    released as: Laurel Aitken, Ken Richards & His Harmonisers: Judgement Day b/w Yea Yea Baby (7″: Blue Beat BB 14 /UK)
  • Low Down Dirty Girl
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s RR 148 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Duke DK 1002-A /UK
  • Railroad Track
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 022-A /UK
  • Tell Me Darling
    released<on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 022-B /UK
  • More Whisky
    released as: Laurel Aitken: More Whisky b/w Lloyd Clarke: Parapinto Boogie
    (7″: Blue Beat BB 025 /UK, 1961)

Various Producers:

If It’s Money You Need
Prod. by Regal, rec. in UK
released as Laurel Aitken: Jeannie Is Back b/w If It’s Money You Need (7″: Blue Beat BB 10 /UK)

 

 

1961:
C.S. Dodd (?) Productions:

  • Mash Potato Boogie
    Produced by C.S. Dodd (credit on the BB release)
    Turner/Schoenfeld 2003, p. 8, give production credits to Laurel Aitken
    released as: 7″-side: Starline DA 3153 /JA;
    released on: Laurel Aitken The Blue Beats: Bar Tender b/w Mash Potato Boogie (7″: Blue Beat BB 40 /UK)
  • Bar Tender
    Produced by C.S. Dodd (credit on the BB release); released as: 7″-side: Starline DA 3150 /JA
    released on: Laurel Aitken The Blue Beats: Bar Tender b/w Mash Potato Boogie (7″: Blue Beat BB 40 /UK)

Duke Reid Productions:

  • Mighty Redeemer
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 070-A /UK
    produced in ca. 1960
  • Please Don’t Leave Me
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 070-B /UK

Edward Seaga Productions:

  • Stars Were Made
    released on 7″-side: Wirl ZSP 51215-1A /Jamaica; 7″-side: Starlite ST 034-A /UK
  • Love Me Baby
    released on 7″-side: Wirl ZSP 51216-1A /Jamaica; 7″-side: Starlite ST 034-B /UK

Melodisc / Laurel Aitken Productions:

  • Nursery Rhyme Boogie
    by Melodisc (Turner/Schoenfeld 2003, p.6)
    released as: 7″-side: Starline 3170 /JA
    released on: Laurel Aitken & The Blue Beats: Nursery Rhyme Boogie b/w Bouncing Woman (7″: Blue Beat BB 52 /UK)
  • Bouncing Woman
    by Melodisc (Turner/Schoenfeld 2003, p.6)
    released as: 7″-side: Starline DA 3149 /JA
    released on: Laurel Aitken & The Blue Beats: Nursery Rhyme Boogie b/w Bouncing Woman (7″: Blue Beat BB 52 /UK)

 

1962:

  • Back To New Orleans
    by Laurel Aitken (Turner/Schoenfeld 2002, p. 6)
    released as: 7″-side: Starline DA 3155-2 /Ja
    released on: Laurel Aitken The Blue Beats: Brother David b/w Back To New Orleans (7″: Blue Beat BB 84 /UK, 1962)
  • Brother David
    by Laurel Aitken (Turner/Schoenfeld 2002, p. 6), Melodisc Production
    released on: 7″-side: Starline DA 3172 /JA;
    released on: Laurel Aitken The Blue Beats: Brother David b/w Back To New Orleans (7″: Blue Beat BB 84 /UK, 1962)
  • Lucille
    released on 7″-side: Starline /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 109-A /UK
  • I Love You More Every Day
    Melodisc Production
    released on 7″-side: Starline /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 109-B /UK
  • Sixty Days And Sixty Nights
    Melodisc Production
    released on: Laurel Aitken / Les Dawson Combo: Sixty Days And Sixty Nights b/w Going To Kansas City (7″: Blue Beat BB 120 /UK, 1962)
  • Going To Kansas City
    Melodisc Production
    released on: Laurel Aitken / Les Dawson Combo: Sixty Days And Sixty Nights b/w Going To Kansas City (7″: Blue Beat BB 120 /UK, 1962)
  • Weary Wanderer
    by Duke Reid
    released as 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica;
    released on: Laurel Aitken: Weary Wanderer b/w The Bandits: Jenny Jenny (7″: Blue Beat BB 142 /UK, ca. 1962)
  • The Bandits, feat. Laurel Aitken: Jenny Jenny
    by Duke Reid
    released as 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica;
    released on: 7″: BB 142 Laurel Aitken: Weary Wanderer b/w The Bandits: Jenny Jenny (7″: Blue Beat BB 142 /UK, ca. 1962)
    re-released on Laurel Aitken: Godfather Of Ska (The Legendary Godfather Of Ska Volume 3: 1963-1966) (CD: Grover GRO 039 /D; CD: Gaz’s Rockin’ CD GAZ /UK)

Various Producers

  • & Hyacinth: Mabel
    Melodisc Production
    released on 7″-side: Starline BB 3151 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Dice CC 01-A /UK
  • & Hyacinth: You Got Me Rocking
    Melodisc Production
    released on 7″-side: Starline DA 3152 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Dice CC 01-B /UK

 

1963:
Duke Reid Productions

  • Zion (Laurel Aitken /Ruddy & Sketto with Rico’s Group: Zion)
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 164-A /UK
  • Swing Low Sweet Chariot
    released on 7″-side: Duke Reid’s /Jamaica; Blue Beat BB 164-B /UK
  • Daniel Saw The Stone
    This is one of the most beautiful songs I know, mainly an instrumental lead by Rico Rodriguez on trombone. Laurel Aitken remains in the background. One of my all time greatest! It must have been recorded before 1962 (when Rico left Jamaica).
    released as 7″-side: Duke Reid’s
    released on: Laurel Aitken: Little Girl b/w Daniel Saw The Stone (7″: Blue Beat BB 194 /UK)

Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Bouncing Woman
    by Laurel Aitken
    released on 7″-side: Starline BB 3360 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 052-A /UK)
    Little Girl
    Melodisc Production
     Sweet Jamaica
    released on 7″-side: Starline BB 3340 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Dice CC 13-A /UK
    She’s Gone To Napoli
    Melodisc Production

Leslie Kong Productions

  • Don’t Play With Fire
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2389 /Jamaica
  • I Shall Remove
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Island WI 092-A /UK
  • We Got To Move
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2404 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Island WI 092-B /UK
  • What A Weeping
    released as 7″-side: Beverley’s /Jamaica
    released on: Laurel Aitken: What A Weeping b/w Zion City Wall (7″: Island WI 095 /UK)
  • Zion City Wall
    released as 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2390 /Jamaica
    released on: Laurel Aitken: What A Weeping b/w Zion City Wall (7″: Island WI 095 /UK)
  • In My Soul
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s /Jamaica; 7″-side: Island WI 099-A /UK
  • One More River To Cross
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2348 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Island WI 099-B /UK
  • & Cynthia: Remember Me Darling
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2424 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Black Swan WI 401-A /UK
  • Lion Of Judah
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2347 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Black Swan WI 401-B /UK
  • The Saint
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2346 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Black Swan WI 411-A /UK
  • Go Gal Go
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2400 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Black Swan WI 411-B /UK

King Edwards Productions

  • Mary
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards FE 2285 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 012-A /UK
  • Hometown
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 012-B /UK
  • Bad Minded Woman

released as 7″-side: Rio R-13-A /UK

  • Life
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 13-B /UK
  • Sunshine
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 015-B /UK
  • Devil Or Angel
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 17-A /UK
  • Fire
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 17-B /UK
  • Freedom Train
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 18-A /UK
  • Perfect Peace
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 18-B /UK

 

 

1964:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Yes indeed
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 167-A /UK
  • You Can’t Stop Me
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 167-B /UK
  • Pack Up Your Bundle
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 170-A /UK
  • Let My People Go
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 170-B /UK
  • Bachelor Life
    released on 7″-side: R & B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 171-A /UK
  • You Was Up
    released on 7″-side: R & B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 171-B /UK
  • This Great Day
    Melodisc Production
    released on: Laurel Aitken: This Great Day b/w I May Never See My Baby (7″: Blue Beat BB 249 /UK, 1964)
  • I May Never See My Baby
    Melodisc Production
    released on: Laurel Aitken: This Great Day b/w I May Never See My Baby (7″: Blue Beat BB 249 /UK, 1964)
  • Jamaica
    released on 7″-side: Starline BB 3892 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Dice CC 28-A /UK
  • I Don’t Want No More
    released on 7″-side: Starline BB 3895 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Dice CC 28-B /UK
  • West Indian Cricket Test
    released on JNAC JN 2-A /UK
  • Three Cheers For Worrell
    released on JNAC JN 2-B /UK

King Edwards Productions

  • Rock Of Ages
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 035-A /UK
  • The Mule
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 035-B /UK
  • Bagaboo (Bug-A-Boo)
    released on 7″-side: Giant DEV JN 3-A /Jamaica
    released on 7″-side: Giant FG 772-B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 036-A /UK
  • You Left Me Standing
    released on 7″-side: Giant BB 3941 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 036-B /UK
  • John Saw Them Coming
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 037-A /UK
  • Jericho
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; released on 7″-side: Rio R 037-B /UK
  • I Remember
    released on 7″-side: Giant DEV JN 3-B /Jamaica
    released on 7″-side: Giant FG 772-A /Jamaica
  • Boss K
    released on 7″-side: Giant /Jamaica
    (Turner/Schoenfeld 2002, p. 6: no Matrix #, no year of release, no producer)
  • Darlin Darling
    released on 7″-side: Giant /Jamaica
    (Turner/Schoenfeld 2002, p. 7: no Matrix #, no year of release)
  • Mary Don’t You Weep
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 053-A /UK
  • I Believe
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 053-B /UK
  • Mary Lou
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 054-A /UK
  • Jump & Shout
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 054-B /UK
  • One More Time
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 056-A /UK
  • Ring Don’t Mean A Thing
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 056-B /UK
  • We Shall Overcome
    released on 7″-side: Dice CC 31-A /UK 1964
    You Left Me Standing
    released on 7″-side: Dice CC 31-B /UK   1964
  • Don’t Stay Out Late
    released on 7″-side: Columbia Blue Beat DB 7280 /UK

 

 

1965:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • & Little Norma: Ten Commandments Of Woman
    released on 7″-side: Dice CC 26-A /UK

King Edwards Productions

  • Come And Let Us Go
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 060-A /UK
  • Seven Lonely Nights
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 060-B /UK
  • Indeed I Love You
    released on 7″-side: Giant WIRL R-65-A WI /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 065-A /UK
  • I Can’t Stand It
    released on 7″-side: Giant RIO 54-B /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 065-B /UK
  • How Can I Forget You
    released on 7″-side: Venus /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R-91-A /UK
  • I’ve Been Weeping & Crying
    released on 7″-side: Venus /Jamaica; released on 7″-side: Rio R 091-B /UK
  • Baby Don’t Do It
    released on 7″-side: Rio R 092-A /UK
  • That Girl
    released on 7″-side: Rio R 092-B /UK
  • We Shall Overcome
    released on 7″-side: Giant BB 3920 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 097-A /UK
  • Walk The Street Of Glory
    released on 7″-side: Giant Wirl GE 1041 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rio R 097-B /UK
  • Clap Your Hands
    released on 7″-side: Rio R 099-A /UK
  • Revival
    released on 7″-side: Rio R 099-B /UK
  • Ska With Laurel (LP: Rio /UK)

    1964 – 1966:

  • Adam & Eve
  • Leave Me Standing
  • We Shall Overcome

 

1966:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Jumbee Jamboree
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 232-A /UK
  • Looking For My Baby
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 232-B /UK
  • Propaganda
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 236-A /UK
  • Shake
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 236-B /UK
  • Green Banana
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 239-A /UK
  • Darling
    released on 7″-side: Ska Beat JB 239-B /UK
  • Clementine
    released on 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 340-A /UK
  • Bongo Jerk
    released on 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 340-B /UK
  • Shame & Scandal
    released on 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 369-A /UK
  • Coconut Woman
    released on 7″-side: Blue Beat BB 369-B /UK
  • Never You Hurt
    released on 7″-side: Fab FAB 005-A /UK
  • I Need You Baby
    released on 7″-side: Fab FAB 005-B /UK

 

  • Don’t Break Your Promise
    released on 7″-side: Jacon /Jamaica; 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 101-A /UK
  • Last Night
    released on 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 101-B /UK
  • Voodoo Woman
    released on 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 106-A /UK
  • Bewildered & Blue
    released on 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 106-B /UK

 

 

1967:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Rocksteady
    released on 7″-side: Columbia Blue Beat DB 102-A /UK
  • Blowing In The Wind
    released on 7″-side: Columbia Blue Beat DB 102-B /UK
  • I’m Still In Love With You Girl
    released on 7″-side: Columbia Blue Beat DB 106-A /UK
  • Blue Rhythm
    released on 7″-side: Columbia Blue Beat DB 106-B /UK

 

  • & Carols: Sweet Precious Love
    released on 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 111-A /UK
  • & Carols: I Want To Love You Forever
    released on 7″-side: Rainbow RAI 111-B /UK

 

 

1969:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Woppy King
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 024-A /UK
  • Suffering Still
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 025-A /UK
  • Reggae ’69
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 025-B /UK
  • Haile Selassie
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 032-A /UK
  • & Girlie: Blues Dance
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 032-B /UK
  • & Girlie: Lawd Doctor
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 033-A /UK
  • & Girlie: Big Fight In Hell Stadium
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 033-B /UK
  • Run Powell Run
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 035-A /UK
  • Save The Last Dance
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 039-A /UK
  • Walk Right Back
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 039-B /UK
  • Don’t Be Cruel
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 040-A /UK
  • John B
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 040-B /UK
  • Shoo Be Do
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 043-A /UK
  • Babylon Gone
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 043-B /UK
  • Everybody Suffering
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 044-B /UK
  • Jesse James
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 045-A /UK
  • Freedom
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 045-B /UK
  • Skinhead Train
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 047-A /UK
  • Moon Rock
    released on 7″-side: Bamboo BAM 16-A /UK
  • Cut Up Munno
    released on 7″-side: Bamboo BAM 16-B /UK
  • Donkey Man
    released on 7″-side: blank FRR 7715 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Unity UN 506-B /UK
  • Pussy Got 13 Life
    released on 7″-side: Ackee ACK 104-A /UK
  • Single Man
    released on 7″-side: Ackee ACK 104-B /UK
  • Sin Pon You
    released on 7″-side: Ackee ACK 106-A /UK
  • Every Night
    released on 7″-side: Ackee ACK 106-B /UK
  • Stupid Married Man
    released on 7″-side: Bullet BU 400-B /UK
  • The High Priest Of Reggae (LP: Nu Beat/Pama /UK)
    possibly released in 1970
  • Scandal In A Brixton Market (w/ Girlie & Rico Rodriguez) (LP: Pama /UK)

 

Leslie Kong Productions

  • Fire In Mi Wire
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 7766 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1187-A /UK

Various Producers

  • Soul
    produced by Bunny Lee
    released on 7″-side: Unity/Carifta FBL 7689 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 024-B /UK
  • Pussy Price
    by Roy Shirley
    released on 7″-side: Pigeon Dyna RS 840-1 /Jamaica
  • Pussy Price
    by Bunny Lee
    released on 7″-side: BL pre Dyna BL 815 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 046-A /UK
  • Give Me Back Mi Dollar
    by Roy Shirley
    released on 7″-side: Rude Records Dyna RS 846 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 046-B /UK
  • Classics: Souls Of Africa (Laurel Aitken) (7″ /UK)
  • Tiger: Guilty (7″ /UK)
  • Woppi King
  • Skinhead Train
  • Rise & Fall
  • prod > Rico: A Message To You (7″-side: NuBeat)

 

  • Lee
    released on: Doctor Bird DB 1160-A /UK
  • Birmingham Girl
    released on: Doctor Bird DB 1160-B /UK
  • Quando Quando
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1187-B

 

 

1970:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Mr Popcorn
    released on 7″-side: New Beat pre NB 048-A1 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 048-A /UK
  • I’ve Got Your Love
    released on 7″-side: Unity pre NB 049-A1 /Jamaica; released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 049-A
  • & Girlie: Scandal In Brixton Market
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 050-A /UK
  • & Girlie: Soul Jerker
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 050-B /UK
  • I’ll Never Love Any Girl
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 056-A /UK
  • The Best I Can
    released on: 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 056-B /UK
    re-released on: 7″-side: New Beat NB 078-B /UK, 1971
  • Reggae Popcorn
    released on 7″-side: blank /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 057-A /UK
  • Take Me Back
    released on 7″-side: blank /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 057-B /UK
  • Reggae Popcorn
    released on 7″-side: Jackpot JP 716-B /UK
  • Baby I Need Your Loving
    released on: 7″-side: Disney TSL LC 1148-A /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 063-A /UK
  • Think It Over
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 063-B /UK
    There is a Bunny Lee-produced track of the same title.
  • Sex Machine
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 065-A /UK
  • Since You Left
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 065-B /UK
  • Why Can’t I Touch You
    released on 7″-side: Pama Supreme PS 300-A /UK
  • Can’t Turn Your Back On Me
    released on 7″-side: Pama Supreme PS 300-B /UK
  • Pachanga
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 072-A /UK
  • Rice & Peas
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1190-B /UK

Various/Unknown producers

  • Popcorn
    Prod. by Lee Perry
    released on 7″-side: LP pre Dyna LP 1444 /Jamaica
    see also Laurel Aitken’s UK-production of the same title
  • Landlords & Tennants
    by Bunny Lee
    released on 7″-side: Pama pre Dyna BL 1600-II /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 44-A /UK
  • Nobody But You
    by Bunny Lee /KG (?)
    released on 7″-side: blank DSR BL/KG 3800-… /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 54-A /UK
  • Baby Please Don’t Go
    by Bunny Lee
    released on 7″-side: BL pre Dyna BL 3801-1-0 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 54-B /UK
  • Think It Over
    by Bunny Lee
    released<on 7″-side: Unity /Carifta FBL 7688 /Jamaica; 7″-side: Unity UN 002-A /UK
    see also Laurel Aitken’s UK-production of the same title
  • Mary’s Boy Child
    by R. Edwards
    released on 7″-side: Pama PM 818-A /UK
  • La la Means I Love You
    by Leslie Kong
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 7765 /Jamaica; released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1161-A /UK
  • Reggae Prayer
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1196-A /UK
  • Deliverance Will Come
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1196-B /UK
  • Rise And Fall
    by Carl Johnson
    released on 7″-side: Sir JJ /Jamaica; 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1197-A /UK
  • If You’re Not Black
    released on 7″-side: Sir JJ /Jamaica; 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1197-B /UK
  • Heile Heile (The Lion)
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1202-A /UK
  • Carolina
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1203-A /UK
  • Kingston Town
    released on 7″-side: Doctor Bird DB 1203-B /UK

 

 

1971:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • True Love
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 078-A /UK
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 089-A /UK
  • El Paso
    released on 7″-side: Nu Beat NB 089-B /UK

Various/Unknown Producers

  • If It’s Hell Below
    released on 7″-side: Black Swan BW 1408-A /UK
  • Just A Little Bit Of Loving
    released on 7″-side: Black Swan BW 1408-B /UK
  • It’s Too Late
    released on 7″-side: Jackpot /Jamaica; 7″-side: Trojan TR 7826-A /UK
  • Slow Rock
    released on 7″-side: Trojan TR 7826-B /UK
  • Two In One
    released on 7″-side: Big Shot BI 582-A /UK

 

 

1972:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Africa Arise (7″-side: Camel CA 090-A /UK)

Various Producers

  • Dancing With My Baby
    by Bush Prod.
    released on 7″-side: Big Shot BI 595-A /UK
  • Do The Bogaloo
    by Bush Prod.
    released on 7″-side: Big Shot BI 595-B /UK
  • Take Me In Your Arms
    by Bush
    released on 7″-side: Big Shot BI 605-A /UK
  • Two Timing Woman
    released on 7″-side: Big Shot BI 605-B /UK
  • I Remember
    by Sonja Pottinger
    released on 7″-side:  SEP pre SEP 1153 /Jamaica
  • Little Girl
    by Sonja Pottinger
    released on 7″-side: SEP pre SEP 1154 /Jamaica

 

  • Come Back To My Lonely World
    released on 7″-side: Columbia DB 8914 /UK
  • Pretty Face
    released on 7″-side: Columbia DB 8914 /UK

1973:

  • For Ever & Ever
    released on 7″-side: Dip

 

 

1974:

  • Goodbye My Love
    unknown producer
    released on 7″-side: Dip DL 5013-B

 

 

1975:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Fatry Bum Bum
    released on 7″-side: Punch PH 121-A /UK
  • Fatry Bum Bum Gone To Jail
    released on 7″-side: Horse HOSS 111 /UK
    re-issued on 7″-side: Trojan TRO 9005-B /UK, 1977
  • Delilah
    unknown prod.
    released on 7″-side: Eagle EAG 23 /UK
  • La Vie en Rose
    released on 7″-side: Camel CA 2007-A /UK
  • Spanish Eyes
    released on 7″-side: Camel CA 2007-B /UK

 

 

1976:
Laurel Aitken Productions

  • Indeed I Love You
    released on 7″-side: Lucky (as Lucky ??) LY 6036 /UK

 

1978:

  • Hoochie Coochie Man
    : Sunbeam
    released on 7″-side: Ultra-12 PFU 2005-A /UK; or: Ultra PFU 2005 /UK
  • Sexy Boogie
    : Sunbeam
    released on 7″-side: Ultra-12 PFU 2005-B /UK

 

1980:

1987:   Potato 5: Potato 5 Meet Laurel Aitken (LP: Gaz´s /UK)

 

 

1988:
Compilations

  • Early Days Of Blue Beat, Ska And Reaggae (LP: Bold Reprise /UK)

 

1989:
Compilations

  • It’s Too Late (LP: Unicorn /UK)
  • Rise And Fall (LP: Unicorn /UK)
    reissued in 2001 on CD (Grover /D)
  • Sally Brown (LP: Unicorn /UK)
  • Live At Gaz’s Rocking Blues London (Video /UK)

 

1992:

  • Bartender
    by Laurel Aitken
    released on 7″-side: Sunbeam SB 002-A
  • I Love You Yes I Do
    by Laurel Aitken
    released on 7″-side: Sunbeam SB 002-A /UK

 

 

1995:

 

 

1996:
Compilations

  • The Blue Beat Years (CD /US)

 

 

1997:

  • Laurel Aitken & Freetown: Rudy Girl (S.Burke)
    on: V.A.: Ska Island, CD: Island

 

 

1998:
Compilations

The Pama Years (The Godfather Of Ska Vol. 1) (CD: Grover)

 

 

2000:
Compilations

 

 

2001:
Compilations

  • Laurel Aitken: Rise And Fall (The Godfather Of Ska Vol. 4) (CD: Grover)

 

 

2002:
Compilations

  • Rudi Got Married (The Godfather Of Ska Vol. 5) (CD: Grover /D)

 

2004:

  • Live At Club Ska (CD: Trojan)

    Rico. “Live January 2002 ‘Godfather Of Ska’  with his old friend Rico Rodriguez in Club Ska in London,

 

 

Unknown year:

  • & Martin Dawes Band: Merenguito
    released on 78 rpm: Pep PEP 101 / PASS 111 /Jamaica
  • & Martin Dawes Band: Lady From Trinidad
    released on 78 rpm: Pep PEP 101 / PASS 112 /Jamaica
  • Glory Hallelujah
    by Lesie Kong
    released on: LK pre 45 0 10294
  • Holy Spirit
    by Leslie Kong
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s FLK 2403 /Jamaica, released ca. 1963/64 (?)
  • Madame Serase
    by King Edwards
    released on 7″-side: King Edwards Wirl GE 1042 /Jamaica
  • River Jordan
    by Leslie Kong
    released on 7″-side: Beverley’s /Jamaica
  • Saturday Night
    by L. Campbell
    released on 7″-side: Spider Man /Jamaica

 

 

 

  1. 1927 in Cuba

 

1927 – 1948:

Laurel Aitken spent most of his childhood in Cuba. At the age of eleven, in 1938, he moved with his family from Cuba to Kingston, Jamaica. “‘My dad is Jamaican, my mom is Cuban,’ he explains, ‘and my dad has just wanted to go back home.'” (Katz 2003, p. 13) Laurel’s younger brother Bobby Aitken (now known as Rev. Robert Simmonds), who started around 1960 with the Caribbeats and became a sought after drummer in the rock steady era, told Katz (2003, p. 68) a slightly different story: he said that both parents were Jamaicans, went on a honeymoon to Cuba and stayed there until ca. 1939. His parents, Bobby reports, died one after the other around 1940/1941, what means that Laurel lost his family when he was 14.

 

1949 – 1962:

However the family situation might have been, Laurel already sang for a long time and sometime he started to earn his living with making music. We don’t know how he learned to play piano and where he trained his voice and taste.

But: “By 1952 Aitken was a popular figure on talent shows. ‘I used to sing from [when I was] a little boy in Cuba, and when I came to Jamaica there was nothing like ska. You had to sing jazz and calypso, which come from Trinidad. I sang “Blue Moon“, “Embraceable You“, and I won three big contests in Kingston with “Pennies From Heaven“. At the time I used to work with the Jamaican Tourist Board, welcoming people with a bib broad hat at the wharf when the ships come in, singing calypsos: “Welcome to Jamaica“, “Jamaica Farewell“, “Coconut Woman“, and they fling money and give me.'” (Katz 2003, p. 13/14)

Shallit later used the knowledge of and his access to this music and in 1959 he started to release “almost fifty different titles on 45 rpm singles (plus one EP)” on his Kalypso label for the London/UK market. They “include the first known recordings of future stars Laurel Aitken and Lord Tanamo …” (cf. Barrow/Dalton 1997, p. 8)

Laurel Aitken remembers his recording debut at Motta’s studio: “The first recording that I did, I did it for myself, that was a song called “I Met A Senorita“. I used my own money and got my own musicians – nobody that’s living now. The saxophonist [went by] the name of “Number One” – he was well known in those days. Then I did a merengue, “Merenguita“, and it was released by a man that had a record shop on King Street, by the name of Mr. De Pass.” (Katz 2003, p. 14)

“After establishing a residency at the Colony Club in Half Way Tree, Aitken recorded further material. His first substantial hit was released by Dada Tewari [often written Tuari, b], another early entrepreneur …” (Katz 2003, p. 14) Katz quotes Aitken who described the meeting with Tewari: “V-Rocket used to be a top sound, he heard me doing some rehearsal and said, “I’ll take you to see Dada”. I did quite a lot [of songs], but the biggest one I did for him was “Roll Jordan Roll“, my first big hit in Jamaica.” (Katz 2003, p. 14)

“It is said, that much locally created non-calypso music at first remained exclusive to the sound system, and was not presed for general release. The turning point seems to have been 1957, when Caribou [Ken Khouri’s label linked with Federal, braunov] released “Aitken’s Boogie“. The song was a local variant of the type of rhythm and blues that originated in New Orleans – black American music with a pronounced, shuffling beat – and was the template for much of what would follow.” (Katz 2003, p. 17)

During this time the owner of Melodisc Records, Emil Shalit had collected his first experience with releasing Jamaican music in the UK (e.g. Louise Bennett: “Linstead Market“; Leslie ‘Jiver’ Hutchinson: “Bongo Man“, made in 1951). In the early 1950s Melodisc handled the pressing of Stanley Motta’s calypso recordings on 10” 78s for release in Jamaica on the MRS (Motta’s Recording Studio) label.

Shalit’s Kalypso label released with cat.-no. XX 16 in late 1959 or early 1960 “Aitken’s Boogie” in the UK, which “pointed the way forward. … this was the first Jamaican R&B music to see issue in Britain.” (Koningh/ 2003, p. 22)

Laurel Aitken’s next big thing was recorded in 1958 by Chris Blackwell and called “Boogie In My Bones“. The song was the first hit for Blackwell’s label. “It entered the JBC chart in October 1959 and stayed at number one for thirteen weeks. ‘Chris came to see me one day, he say, “You been doing quite a few things recently and I like them, I’ve got to do something with you,” and i say, “Quite possible,” Aitken recalls. ‘When Chris came the second time, we went to a bar with a piano and i played him a few of the things That I have written. He said, “I’ve got a a band I would like you to meet.” They was five white guys – I think they were Canadian. We went to JBC with a friend of mine, [saxophonist] Carol McLaughlin, and I did “Boogie in My Bones” and “Little Sheila”.’ ” (Katz 2003, p. 20/21)

“Aitken quickly tried to reproduce the formule with “Boogie Rock“, one of a handful of tunes cut with a group dubbed the Boogie Cats for aspiring producer Ruddy Abrahams, whose Downbeat label releases were pressed by Tewari’s Carribean Recording Company; other numbers included “I’m Crying Over You“, and the mento-styled “Baba Kill Me Goat“. (Katz 2003, p. 21)

As early as in 1957 Laurel Aitken started to play music with so called “conscience” content or biblical lyrics and using burru drumming to underline the song’s messages. “Ghana Independence” and “Nebuchanezer” have been released around 1957 on Caribou 78s and made “use of African percussion techniques” long before “Oh Carolina” hit the charts. Barrow and Dalton see the source for those biblical themes  not in the Rastafarian movement but in the strong influence of revivalist churches in Jamaica. “…the man who would later become a skinhead favourite in the UK, Laurel Aitken, was responsible not only for popular tunes about alcohol and women, but for such gospel-influenced items as “Zion“, “Judgement Day” (both Duke Reid’s), “What A Weeping” (Beverley’s) and “Brother David” (Starline).” (Barrow/Dalton 1997, p. 24)

Aitken left Jamaica at the age of 33 in 1960 to find out his opportunities in England. And he was involved in the early development of Blue Beat, featuring on BB 001 in the same year, and releasing 16 more titles on the label during it’s early days.

Later he went on recording for Columbia (and Columbia Blue Beat), Rio and many more labels.

 

1963 – 1970

Aitken developed his position as one of the key artists developing Jamaican music in the UK and profiled hinself as one of the main producers.

During 1963 and 1965 Rio released many sides by Laurel Aitken, most of which had been produced by King Edwards. The London recordings were produced at Advision in Denmark Street as Denzil Dennis remembers (Koningh 2003, p. 55). “Later I went over with him [Graeme Goodall] to his studio in Fulham Road with Laurel Aitken and recorded the Fire In My Wire album. Graeme Goodall made some good sounds …” (p. 56)

In 1967 he produced UK reggae band The Bees. Montgomery ‘Monty’ Neysmith remembers: “Siggy Jackson was our manager, but he didn’t produce any of our recordings – Laurel Aitken actually did the producing and, in fact, he was the one who got us signed to EMI, when we were the Bees. He didn’t have a deal with them himself, but he got us on the label. It was really great of him.” (Koningh 2003, p. 39) The group became Laurel’s backing band for recordings with Graeme Goodall for Trojan/Doctor Bird. (p. 40/44)

Denzil Dennis said remembering the same period: “In 1968 Dandy, myself and Laurel Aitken – whereever we heard a good group, our idea was to take them into the studio.” (Koningh 2003, p. 17) The Cimarons came to the attention of Aitken after returning from a successful West African tour in 1968. “… the now confident band were quickly hot property on the session scene, often recording under various aliases as ‘The So-and-so All Stars'”, writed Koningh (2003, p.45). “They were soon doing work for Pama via Laurel Aitken …”

“It was when rocksteady was changing into ‘reggae’ at the end of the 1960s that Laurel Aitken began producing himself and others for the Palmer Brothers-owned Crab and NuBeat/New Beat concerns … His audience then widened to take in the white skinheads. Records like “Woppi King“, “Jesse James“, “Haile Selassie” (one of the very few Rasta-slanted records to find favour with the skins) and “Pussy Price Gone Up” stand among the more enduring UK-productions of the period – in part because they employed the slower rhythms emerging from Jamaica itself. Aitken also made a couple of credible deejay records as Tiger not to be confused with the ragga star) and produced other performers over similar rhythms, including Winston Groovy (“Island In The Sun“) and the Classics (“History Of Arica“). (Barrow/Dalton 1997, p. 328) Koningh (2003, p. 79) describes Nu Beat in 1969 as a label that “has become something of a Laurel Aitken speciality outlet, and hits for him … followed. Laurel in fact recorded and produced his records himself and licensed them to Pama (a standard arrangement he adopted with other UK issuing companies) and retains all the issuing rights to this day.”

Koningh remarks a change in the relationship with Dandy who was engaged by Trojan/B&W Records. In 1969 it seems to become more a competition than friendship and he point out a 7″-flipside on Unity (UN 506) called “Donkey Man“, “which could be about Dandy (‘you copy the donkey’) and his relationship with Rita King of R&B Discs (it refers to ‘the lady from Stamford Hill’ taking him in). Clearly there was some animosity between the two men, and lyrically this is a fascinating tune. Each to their own, of corse, …” (Koningh 2003, p. 82)

Again we find some confusion with names. Aitken produced more and more sides for “his” Nu Beat label; uncertain seems to be if it’s always another artist than Laurel himself. For Winston Groovy who was “apparently discovered [by Laurel Aitken] in the West Midlands” (Koningh 2003, p. 90) things are clear, but Tiger is for Barrows Laurel under pseudonym, for Koningh he’s somebody else; On King Horror Koningh writes: “Horror was actually Laurel on some sides but not others (it largely depended on which company he was leasing the material to and who was around in the studio at the time).” (p. 90) Recordings for Groovy and King Horror were also released on Trojan’s Jackpot and Grape labels.

“As the reggae era dawned, the UK’s cosmopolitan nightclub scene cross-pooluted musical styles. James Brown’s “Popcon” was a smash hit and forward-thinking producers quickly pulled the vibe into a reggae rhythm, in particular Laurel Aitken who had a hit with “Mr. Popcorn” and then “Reggae Popcorn“, using The Cimarons as his funky reggae band.”

“After 1969 and the change of the labels title to Newbeat, Laurel started singing more ballad-style material in a commercial vein. After his “Mr. Popcorn” and “Reggae Popcorn” came out, subsequent releases like “Baby I Need Your Loving” (NB 063) and “Let Your True Love Begin” (NB 078) were not so eagerly bought by the skinheads. However, his “Nobody But Me”, tracked away on the flip side of the so-so “Baby Please Don’t Go” (NB 054) is a cracker and was the original cut to Tiger’s “Guilty” (Camel CA 70).”

 

1971 – 1978:

Reggae developed from skinhead music to roots and Laurel Aitken, now in his mid 40s, seems to have lost a bit the ground. But this is not the whole truth. Koningh (2003) documented his work and development in this period:

“After 1971 and the decline of the skinheads, Laurel’s ‘boss reggae’ sounds pretty much fell out of favour — t.b.c.

 

1979 – 1993:

The “2nd and 3rd ska waves” have been going and Laurel was one of the old figures still swimming among the youth.

In 1980 he had a memorable hit with “Rudie Got Married” shortly after The Specials’ success with their “Message” to the rudies. Both tracks get their credibility by Rico Rodriguez’ trombone.

 

1994 until now:

Ska and Jamaican music found their place in the global music scene. All over the world people enjoyed the music. It makes no wonder, that a label in Germany (Grover) started to re-release Laurel’s hits in a series of compilation albums. Already in his 70s, he continued to play club dates until ca. 2002 when he started to have more and more health problems.

A news on Dec. 17, 2003 reads as follows:

 

Laurel Aitken Seriously Ill
Laurel Aitken, the “Godfather of Ska,” is currently being treated for double pneumonia at a hospital in Leicester, England. Word from the family is that his condition is serious and they do not expect Aitken, 78, to be able to perform or sing again. There will be a benefit and tribute show for Laurel and his family on January 3rd at Club Ska in the UK, featuring Pat Kelly, Intensified, and other bands. This show was originally scheduled with Laurel Aitken headlining to promote his new CD on Trojan Records, Laurel Aitken, Live at Club Ska.