“We hope you enjoy listening to our music as much as we enjoy performing it for you!”
- TOMMY MCCOOK greeting the audience at every performance of The Skatalites he hosted.
The Skatalites began performing in Jamaica in May 1964. The group was so hot that their first rehearsal became a show. So many people had lined up outside the venue, they decided to just charge admission and let everybody in! They were the top musicians on the island at the time, having come together after playing in different bands and on various recording sessions. These records were made to be played at the many competing sound systems around the island. The band became legendary, backing all the developing artists of the day, such as Toots and The Maytals, Prince Buster and “The Wailing Wailers” featuring Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. These groups were all recording on the new beat called ska, which had an infectious rhythm that was catching on like wildfire. Eventually, the beat slowed down into rocksteady, and then reggae. This wildfire spread unstoppably around the world, developing into a huge musical tree with many stylistic branches, including lovers rock, dub, dancehall/ ragga, ska-punk,, and others. Hugely popular groups, like The Police, The Clash, The Specials, The English Beat, Sublime and No Doubt, all have their roots firmly planted in the music of The Skatalites.
Since reforming after an almost 20 year hiatus in 1983, and beginning regular touring as a unit in 1989, they have not stopped thrilling audiences in every corner of the globe. Even after 48 years, and various lineup changes as members leave one stage for another, the band continues to perform and record new music in the inimitable Jamaican style, like only they can. The road has been long and hard, and sadly, seen most of the original members pass on. Often asked “when will you stop?” and “how do you keep doing it after all these years?”, the answer is simple: never – It’s the love of the music and the way our fans respond that keep us going Forward!
Featuring original alto sax man Lester “Ska” Sterling and vocalist Doreen Shaffer, along with the current lineup of outstanding musicians they have chosen to accompany them, the band proudly presents live the music of Jamaican Ska.
Forever indebted to the inspiration and talent of Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Don Drummond, Jerome “jah jerry” Haynes, Lloyd Knibb, Tommy McCook, Donat “Jackie” Mittoo, John “Dizzy Johnny”Moore, and Lester Sterling, collectively known as The Skatalites.
CURRENT TOURING MEMBERS
» 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
ORIGINAL FOUNDING MEMBERS (1964-1965)
» Tommy McCook – tenor saxophone, flute (1927–1998)
» Roland Alphonso – tenor saxophone (1931-1998)
» Lester Sterling – alto saxophone (B:1936)
» Don Drummond – trombone (1932-1969)
» Johnny “Dizzy” Moore – trumpet (1934-1998)
» Lloyd Brevett – upright bass (B:1931)
» Lloyd Knibb – drums (1931-2011)
» Jerome “Jah Jerry” Haynes – guitar (1921-2007)
» Jackie Mittoo – piano (1948-1990)
Though not official 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.
» Jackie Opel – vocals
» Tony Gregory – vocals
» Doreen Shafer – vocals
» Lord Tanamo – vocals
» Stranger Cole – vocals
» Dennis “Ska” Campbell – tenor saxophone
» Oswald “Baba” Brooks – trumpet
» Frank Anderson - trumpet
» Ernest Ranglin - lead guitar
» Lyn Taitt – rhythm guitar
OTHER FORMER MEMBERS (1983–present)
These musicians played as members of various line-ups of the Skatalites during their reunion period, generally replacing original members who were absent or deceased.
» Mark Berney – trumpet
» Nathan Breedlove – trumpet (1993-1998)
» Cedric “Im” Brooks – tenor saxophone (2000-2002)
» Karl “Cannonball” Bryan – saxophone (2003-2009)
» Calvin “Bubbles” Cameron – trombone (1983-1984)
» Welford “Will” Clark – trombone (1994-2003)
» Vin “Don D. Junior” Gordon – trombone (2003-2009)
» Devon James – guitar (1993-2009)
» Bill Smith – keyboards (1993-1999)
» Ken Stewart – keyboards (2000-2008)