The Skatalites are a Jamaican music group that played a major role in popularising ska, the first truly Jamaican music created by fusing boogie-woogie blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, mento, calypso, and African rhythms. They recorded many of their best known songs, including Guns of Navarone, in the period between 1964 and 1965, as well as played on records by Prince Buster and many other Jamaican artists.
The founding members of the group were Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb, Lester Sterling, Don Drummond, Jerome “Jah Jerry” Haynes, Jackie Mittoo, Johnny Moore and Jackie Opel.
Trombonist Drummond's composition, Man In The Street, entered the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. He was not only the Skatalites' busiest composer, but was the most prolific in all of Ska, with at least 200 tunes to his name by 1965.
On January 1, 1965, Drummond was jailed for the murder of his girlfriend, Anita 'Marguerita' Mahfood, and in August that year, the Skatalites played their last show. The break-up resulted in the formation of two supergroups, Jackie Mitto and the Soul Brothers (later the Soul Vendors and finally Sound Dimension) and Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. Drummond died in the Bellevue Asylum on May 6, 1969 at age 37.
In June 1983, the Skatalites reformed for a reunion performance at the Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay in July. Between 1985 and 1988, the core members of the Skatalites emigrated, and eventually coalesced in the northeast of the United States. They played their first U.S. concert at "The Village Gate", and did their first U.S. tour in January, 1990. The Skatalites continued touring the U.S., and did their first tour of Europe in 1992.
In January 1996, the Skatalites was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of "Best Reggae Album" for their 1995 Shanachie release, Hi Bop Ska. They were again nominated for a Grammy Award in the same category for their 1996 Shanachie release, Greetings From Skamania, in January 1997.
The Skatalites began their first World Tour in February 2002, covering the United States, Europe, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Russia, and Japan, which lasted nine months.
On 8 February 2012 the band announced a new single and album due out in 2012 as well as a new US tour starting in Texas and heading to New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Oregan, California, Washington and then Canada. These dates follow 4 dates they announced in January for the North East. The new album will be titled "All Roads" and will feature the last recordings of founding member Lloyd Knibb.
Original 1960s lineup
Tommy McCook - tenor saxophone, flute
Roland Alphonso - tenor saxophone
Lester Sterling - alto saxophone
Don Drummond - trombone
Johnny "Dizzy" Moore - trumpet
Lloyd Brevett - upright bass
Lloyd Knibbs - drums
Jerome "Jah Jerry" Haynes - guitar
Jackie Mittoo - piano
Jackie Opel - vocals
Though not official band members, these musicians worked with the Skatalites extensively during the 1964-1965 period in the recording studio, or in the case of the vocalists, at live shows. Doreen Shaeffer later joined the group full-time when they reunited.
Tony Gregory - vocals
Doreen Shaeffer - vocals
Lord Tanamo - vocals
Dennis "Ska" Campbell - tenor saxophone
Oswald "Baba" Brooks - trumpet
Frank Anderson - trumpet
Ernest Ranglin - lead guitar
Lyn Taitt - rhythm guitar
Lester Sterling - alto saxophone
Doreen Shaffer - vocals
Azemobo "Zem" Audu - tenor saxophone
Andrae Murchison - trombone
Kevin Batchelor - trumpet
Val Douglas - bass guitar
Natty Frenchy - guitar
Cameron Greenlee - keyboards
Trevor "Sparrow" Thompson - drums
Other former band members
These musicians played in various lineups of the Skatalites during their reunion period (1983–present), generally replacing original members who were absent or deceased.
Mark Berney - trumpet
Nathan Breedlove - trumpet (1993–1998)
Cedric "Im" Brooks - tenor saxophone (2000–2002,2007-2010)
Karl "Cannonball" Bryan - saxophone (2003–2009)
Calvin "Bubbles" Cameron - trombone (1983–1984)
Welford "Will" Clark - trombone (1994–2003)
Vin "Don D. Junior" Gordon - trombone (2003–2008)
Devon James - guitar (1987–2009)
Bill Smith - keyboards (1993–1999)
Ken Stewart - keyboards (1988-1990,1998-2009) (also serves as the band's manager)
Clark Gayton - Trombone (1989–1994)
Cary Brown - keyboards (1990-1995)
Louis Bonilla - trombone