Lloyd Knibb OD was born on March 8, 1931 in Kingston, Jamaica. Growing up on Bond Street, close to where a local band rehearsed, he made his own drum kit from a wooden box and paint cans to practice the sounds that he had heard.
Like a lot of musicians in the 1940′s, he honed his craft in Jazz bands. His first professional engagement was with the Val Bennett band, with whom he played for six years. He also played with Count Ossie’s group, adding Burru and Nyabinghi style drumming to his repertoire. He also regularly accompanied Rastafarian leader Sam Brown at meetings. It was with Eric Dean’s band where he gained the technical skills to play so many styles though. Dean’s set list included the big band music of Glenn Miller as well as the popular dances of the day: rumba, Cha-cha and bolero, and his tenure in the band coincided with future major figures in Ska such as Tommy McCook, Baba Brooks, and Lloyd Brevett.
Knibb’s technical proficiency and wide knowledge of styles soon led to him being featured on the recordings of Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Sonia Pottinger and Duke Reid, playing an instrumental part in the development of ska.
Knibb gained his widest audience, however, as the drummer for The Skatalites. They recorded for the Treasure Isle (Duke Reid), Studio One (Clement Dodd) and Top Hat (Phillip Yap) labels, releasing ska music in the 1960s to an audience that responded to a rhythm that was uniquely Jamaican. Knibb, along with the other original Skatalites members, reformed to play the Reggae Sunsplash concert in Montego Bay, Jamaica in July 1983. The success of the reunion led to the reformation of The Skatalites as a full-time touring band, of which he remained until his death on May 12 2011. He played his last show in Peru on April 23, 2011 just a few weeks before his death.
In his later years, Knibb resided in Hull, Massachusetts with his long time friend and fellow musician, John, and his wife, Adele. His son Dion plays in the Boston-based ska band Dion Knibb & The Agitators.
Knibb’s contribution to Jamaican music was recognized by the Prime Minister’s Award, the Order of Distinction (Officer Class), the Silver Musgrave Medal, and induction into the Jamaican Music Hall of Fame.