@ Pigeon Island, St. Lucia Jazz Festival
10 May 2009
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Hugh Beresford Hammond is considered Jamaica’s greatest
practicing singer/songwriter. Born in Jamaica’s garden parish
St. Mary, on August 28, 1955 (the ninth of ten children), Hammond
was a precocious child who made regular trips to Kingston to mingle
with the singers who frequented the downtown record shops.
After graduating from high school, Hammond entered several local
talent shows including the Merritone Amateur Talent Contest, where
several reggae stars including vocal trio The Mighty Diamonds, Sugar
Minott and the late Jacob ‘Killer’ Miller also got their
starts. He joined the fusion band Zap Pow as lead singer in 1975
and remained with them for four years recording the albums Zap Pow
(Mango, 1978), and Reggae Rules (Rhino Records, 1980) while simultaneously
pursuing solo projects. But Hammond quickly realised he “couldn’t
serve two masters” and decided to concentrate on his individual
efforts. Hammond’s 1976 solo album “Soul Reggae”
(Aquarius Records) produced by his friend Willie Lindo sold more
than 2,000 copies in Jamaica during the first week of its release.
His subsequent single “One Step Ahead”, still a favourite
among Hammond fans because of his signature impassioned vocals,
held the number one spot on the Jamaican charts for three and a
Despite the popularity of his music, Hammond failed to reap any
financial rewards. Frustrated, he dropped out of the music business,
then regrouped and formed his own record label/production company,
Harmony House, in the early 80s.
Hammond’s Harmony House debut single “Groovy Little
Thing” marked the first time he reaped financial rewards from
his music; a succession of hit singles recorded for various Jamaican
producers followed including 1987’s “What One Dance
Can Do” which entered the national charts in England and elicited
a spate of answer records including Hammond’s own “She
Loves Me Now”. Further acclaim arrived in 1990 when Hammond
joined forces with his good friend Donovan Germain whose Penthouse
Records dominated the Jamaican charts in the early 90s with hits
by Buju Banton, Wayne Wonder and others. Germain asked Hammond to
record vocals over a rhythm track he had; Hammond barely remembered
recording “Tempted to Touch” but the song shot to the
top of reggae charts around the world, as did the ensuing hits “Is
This A Sign”, “Respect To You Baby” and “Feeling
Lonely”, all featured on his Penthouse album “A Love
For the past thirty-five years, despite inevitable career trials
and tribulations, the music of Hugh Beresford Hammond has yet to
In 1994, Hammond signed to Elektra Records. The outstanding “In
Control” album would be released the same year. However, the
single “No Disturb Sign” achieved moderate ‘international
success’ and Hammond was not happy with the support given
by Electra’s publicity / marketing machine.Undeterred, Hammond
continued to release music on his Harmony House label with distribution
through VP Records. He has maintained his hit-making streak well
into the 21st century.
Hammond’s heartfelt delivery reinforces his unique perspective
on romance, detailing everything from the sly antics of the philandering
male on “Double Trouble” (from the Sweetness album)
to championing the overlooked female on “Show It Off”
(Can’t Stop A Man) to celebrating an inevitable relationship
in “They Gonna Talk”, from his 2001 Grammy nominated
album “Music Is Life”.
Beres Hammond was given the honour of closing the 18th annual St.
Lucia Jazz Festival - and for good reason. Hammond is a natural
giving performer. His voice warms the heart; his self-written songs
about love, life and relationships not only make you sit up and
listen - you have to sing-along and dance.
Hammond is clearly not into pomp and ceremony. Comperes do not
need to oversell his recording achievements, or hype up his highly
anticipated performance. Patrons already know what to expect from
him – And from the outset it was clear he was ready to deliver.
Hammond’s band warmed up the stage with a tight reggae groove
before he calmly walked on welcoming patrons with a broad smile.
“You are all my family!” He announced, before launching
into a non stop anthem filled party. “Down By The River”,
“She Loves Me now”, “Wonder what the people say”,
“I Feel Good” to name just a few. There was just no
stopping him as he danced and jumped around the stage with the vigour
of a man half his age. Patrons responded by singing along with him,
holding their partners tight and swaying from side-to-side like
palm trees in the wind.
By the time Hammond had finished his set (nearly two hours later)
most patrons did not have the energy to shout ‘encore’.
Those who did have the energy had lost their voices from singing!