Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare
@ the Indigo 02
29 July 2012
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Ernest Ranglin biography
Ernest Ranglin was born on the 19th of June 1932 and grew up in
the small town of Robin’s Hall in the Parish of Manchester,
a rural community in the middle of Jamaica. Music has always claimed
a special place in the island’s culture and. Ranglin’s
destiny was set from an early age when two of his uncles showed
him the rudiments of playing the, guitar. When they discovered just
how good the boy was, they bought him a ukulele.
Ranglin learned how to play by imitating his uncles, but he was
soon to be influenced by the recordings of the great American jazz
guitarist Charlie Christian. Living in rural Jamaica, however, inhibited
the boy’s ambitions which, even at the age of fourteen, were
focused on music. He then moved to Kingston - the country’s
capital- ostensibly to finish his studies at Bodmin College. Very
high on Ranglin’s agenda was to seriously study the guitar;
something not on the school's priorities.
His lessons came from guitar books and late night sessions watching
the Jamaican dance bands of the time: he was particularly influenced
by Cecil Houdini, a never recorded local musician. By the time he
was sixteen years old, Ranglin was acknowledged as the rising young
talent in the city. In 1948 he joined his first group, the Val Bennett
Orchestra, playing in the local hotels. Such was Ranglin’s
burgeoning reputation that he soon came to the attention of rival
dance bands and, by the early fifties, he was a member of Jamaica’s
best known group, the Eric Deans Orchestra, touring around the Caribbean
and as far north as the Bahamas. It was, however, back in Jamaica
that his career was to be transformed by a chance meeting. In 1958
Ranglin was leading his own quintet, playing the leading hotels
in Kingston and the resorts on the north of the island. One engagement
was at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, a show caught by a young
would be record producer called Chris Blackwell.
Immediately impressed by Ranglin’s extraordinary talents,
Blackwell offered him the chance to make a record. The album featured
a pianist called Lance Heywood on one side with Ernest Ranglin on
the other: it was the very first release by Island Records and the
start of a long association between Ranglin and Blackwell.
By the following year, 1959, Ranglin had joined the bassist Cluett
Johnson in a studio group called Clue J & His Blues Blasters.
This was a very different kind of style to the big bands. Jamaican
music was in a state of flux, the traditional mentor superseded
by a tough urban stance influenced by the pervading sounds of American
R&B. Johnson and Ranglin recorded several instrumentals for
producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Federal - the only
real studio facility on the island. The first of these tunes, Shuffling
Bug, is widely regarded as the first example of ska, the shuffle
rhythm which exaggerated the ‘jump beat’ heard on New
Orleans’ R&B records of the Fifties. Ska became the bedrock
of Jamaican popular music, leading to rock steady, reggae, raga
and all the innovations the island has brought into the global mainstream.
Ranglin’s fluent and versatile guitar style, coupled with
his arrangement skills, meant he was in constant demand right through
the ska era. In addition to his work with Prince Buster and Baba
Brooks, Ranglin was also remembered by Chris Blackwell who, in 1962,
had launched Island Records in Britain. Blackwell had a song he
thought could be a pop smash. He also had a young Jamaican singer
called Millie, who’d previously recorded some sides for Coxsone
Dodd. In 1964 Blackwell brought both Millie and Ranglin to London;
they recorded My Boy Lollipop which, in the spring of that year,
reached number two in the UK chart. It went on to become a worldwide
hit, the first time ska had infiltrated into the vocabulary of pop
music. He made his London live debut in 1964, playing with the house
band at Ronnie Scott’s Club. For nine months Ernest Ranglin
was the featured act at Ronnie Scott’s Club, winning raves
from the British critics and topping the Melody Maker’s annual
jazz poll. By the time he returned to Jamaica, Ernest was on the
verge of international
At home in Kingston, Ranglin worked on a legion of hot records
including the arrangement on the Melodians’ anthem Rivers
Of Babylon and the unforgettable lead guitar on Bob Marley’s
“It Hurts To Be Alon”. In later years, when Marley was
an international star, he called for Ranglin. “Bob offered
me a lifetime job to teach him, and he said whenever he would tour,
he would have me travel with him as his teacher and musical director,”
says Ranglin. The offer was never accepted, however, because
of Ranglin’s other commitments: through the Seventies Ranglin
continued to work as a studio musician and arranger for such top
Jamaican producers as Coxsone Dodd, Lee Perry and Clancy Eccles.
Ranglin was also a member of Jimmy Cliffs group - touring Europe,
the United States and the Far East. In 1973 Ranglin resumed his
jazz career. He was such a smash at the Bill Harris Guitar Festival
that he was invited back in 1974, the same year that he made his
Newport Jazz Festival debut with the Randy Weston Orchestra. He
continued to tour throughout the world, acquiring a stellar list
of fans including Kenny Burrell, Stanley Jordan, Charlie Byrd, Barney
Kessel and Tal Farlow. On a recent occasion while recording in N.Y.
Ernest rang George Benson to find out where he might hire a guitar.
Benson’s response was to lend Ranglin one of his own guitars.
Ranglin enjoyed playing the guitar so much that Benson gave it to
Sly & Robbie’s biography
Sly & Robbie are Jamaica’s most prolific drum and bass
duo: since they started working together in 1975, they have played
on an estimated 50,000 tracks. They have backed and produced virtually
everyone on Jamaica, from Peter Tosh to Sean Paul.
They created their ‘Taxi label’ in 1979 because they
wanted more freedom to experiment do their own thing. Today, Taxi
represents one of the biggest Reggae and Dancehall catalogues in
Jamaica, featuring artists like Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Beenie
Man, Bounty Killer, Chaka Demus & Pliers...
They have introduced so many changes in the Jamaican sound over
the years that, under their influence, Jamaica’s current sounds
have very little in common with those of a few years ago. The Revolution
never ends in Kingston, and Sly & Robbie are at its forefront!
Sly & Robbie have introduced the non Reggae public to their
heavy yet melodic sound by producing international artists like
Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, No Doubt, the Fugees, KRS One,
Material, Sinead O’Connor and countless others.
In 2006, they put out Buju Banton’s highly acclaimed”
Driver A” over their seminal “Unlimited Taxi”
They just released “Livin’ it up,” Horace Andy’s
new album and are completing the production of “Movin On,”
Bitty McLean’s highly anticipated next album.
In 2007 and early 2008, they also remixed singles for Paul McCartney
and Britney Spears while producing Michael Franti’s upcoming
album and continuing to produce young upcoming artists from Kingston’s
seemingly inexhaustible talent pool.