The Skatalites

Wed, 21. 11. 2007 - 19:30
Palac Akropolis

Ska was the first truly Jamaican music that spread all around the world. It
came to prominence during the early and mid-'60s right around the time the
island was granted its independence. Based on R+B, Jazz, Mento, Calypso and
African rhythms, ska ensembles blended electric instrumentation and horns most
popular in jazz (saxophone, trumpet, trombone).

Important ska vocalists included Derrick Morgan, Laurel Aitken, Prince Buster
(himself a sound system owner), Desmond Dekker, Toots & the Maytals, and the
very young Bob Marley and the Wailers. The Skatalites, featuring a number of
virtuosic soloists and led by the mercurial trombonist Don Drummond, were far
and away the top instrumental group, and also served as the house backing band
for Coxsone Dodd's prolific Studio One.


The Skatalites were officially formed in spring 1964, inspired by the early
space shots. Drummer Lloyd Knibb suggested the name Satellites, to which sax
player Tommy McCook replied, "Now, we play ska - the Skatalites." Skatalites
were also the first band to suffer from "supergroup syndrome": there were too
many strong individuals in the setup and the band held their farewell show by
the end of the summer in 1965. During their 14 months existence they recorded
for various producers and labels and worked as backing band for the best artists
of their time: Tthe Maytals, Lord Creator, Wailers featuring still unknown Bob

In 1964, Don Drummond's "Man In The Street" entered the Top 10 in the UK.
Trombonist Drummond was not only the Skatalites busiest composer, but the most
prolific in all of Ska, with at least 200 tunes to his name by 1965. While he
was superb musician, he was seriously troubled my mental instability. On January
1st 1965 he was jailed for the murder of his girlfriend, and later convicted and
remanded to the Bellevue Asylum. But his music survives Skatalites' break-up. In
1967, his Ska-adaption of the theme to the film "The Guns Of Navarone" enters
the UK Top 10.

In the 80's, Ska makes a comeback in England, this time with the 2-tone
movement and bands like Specials and The Madness. In 1983, The Skatalites reform
for a reunion performance at the Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay in July.
Their show was a smashing success and the band played more concerts in Jamaica
while weighing offers to tour abroad. Next year, the Skatalites record their
reunion album, The Return of The Big Guns, the core members of the Skatalites
emigrate and eventually coalesce in the northeast of the United States. They
play their first US concert at The Village Gate. In 1997, the Skatalites release
Ball of Fire with special guest Ernest Ranglin on guitar. In 2002 they make 9
months tour of USA, Europe, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Russia and Japan. In
June 2003, they start another 4 months tour, Respect Festival is one of its
first dates.

Looking back, the band now influenced three major Ska movements, the Jamaican
sound in the sixties to the British Two-Tone movement of the early eighties and
now, they are Godfathers to the American Ska movement called the Third Wave.



  • Kevin Batchelor - trumpet
  • Cedric Brooks - sax
  • Val Douglas - bass
  • Devon James - guitar
  • Monica Johnson - vocals
  • Lloyd Knibb ñ drums
  • Lester Sterling - sax
  • Ken Stewart - keys