The Skatalites Musical Journey

THE Skatalites were formed by Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd in 1964, under the
leadership of Tommy McCook, primarily, as his backing band at Studio

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This arguably, was an amalgamation of Jamaica’s most accomplished
session musicians, who had individually, and in various combinations,
had been behind the catalogue of Dodd, Duke Reid and Prince Buster since
the mid 50s.
It was made up of nine, now very famous, national cultural icons,
including McCook as leader, along with the incomparable Don Drummond,
that brilliant keyboardist and arranger Jackie Mittoo, ‘Dizzy’ Johnny
Moore, ‘Jah Jerry’ Haynes, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Knibb, Lloyd Brevett,
Lester Sterling and lead singer Doreen Schaeffer. Over a period of
approximately 18 months, they backed the live appearances of many
artistes promoted by ‘Coxson’ and other promoters. Four years after the
group split up in 1965, Don Drummond met his untimely death. Between
then and 1983, the other members performed mainly in two succeeding
groups; the Soul Vendors and the SuperSonics. In 1983, at the urging of
Synergy Productions and the prospect of the Skatalites performing live
at Reggae Sunsplash that year, the group reunited.
It wasn’t, however, until 1987 that the Skatalites were first formally
incorporated in Jamaica by ‘Dizzy’ Johnny Moore and Jackie Mittoo. In
1990, the group lost its second member, when the genius Jackie Mittoo
passed on. In 1996, a US-based registration was done with the associated
trade mark being owned by Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett,
Lloyd Knibb and Lester Sterling. Within this period, the Skatalites
recorded three albums for Shanacie Records. Calamity struck again in
1998, when both Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso died. In September
1999, another trade mark registration was done in US, in the name of
Skatalites Inc., listed as a Jamaican corporation, which seem to
represent only the US-based quorum of members that were still alive. In
October of 2000, Ken Stewart, who had previously been employed by Tommy
McCook to replace Jackie Mittoo as keyboardist after he died, became the
manager of the band. By 2004, it seems that there was discord within
the group because when Lloyd Brevett gave the forms for registration of
the trade mark to Lloyd Knibb and Lester Sterling, while they were
travelling on a tour bus in Switzerland, the latter two immediately tore
up the forms. Brevett was not invited to join the group’s tour later
that year. Since then, a persistent attempt to disenfranchise him has
been set in motion by certain parties associated with the group.

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Double tragedy struck when ‘Jah Jerry’ Haynes died in 2007 and ‘Dizzy’
Johnny Moore passed on in 2008, leaving Lloyd Knibb, Lloyd Brevett,
Lester Sterling and original vocalist Doreen Schaeffer, as the only
living members of the original Skatalites. In 2011, this trade mark was
re-applied for with Lloyd Knibb as an individual correspondent, but the
questions remain, whether this was granted before or after his passing,
in that same year, and what about the interest of the estates of all of
the other deceased members, including Lloyd Brevett, who just recently
passed on as well. The veil also needs to be removed from who has been
receiving digital royalties from SoundExchange, on behalf of the
Skatalites; how and to whom it was distributed. Lastly, one significant
piece of musical history, seldom referred to, is the seminal fact that
the Wailers’ early formative career and catalogue under Studio One, was
jointly done with the Skatalites.

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