Though I wasn’t to know it at the time, Jackie Mittoo was partly responsible for my love of all things reggae, ska and dub.
With the association between punk and reggae back in the mid-Seventies, combined with the release of Bob Marley‘s ‘Exodus’ album, my interest was piqued. The John Peel radio show here in UK, partially satisfied this new thirst for new sounds, but by regularly playing out ska tunes from the previous decade, he led me deeper and deeper into a whole new musical world.
I bought ‘Exodus’ (on cassette) as I’m sure many other punks did but it wasn’t until the two ‘Intensified’ compilations were released in 1979 / 1980 that I totally bought into the ska culture.
Recorded at various points between 1962 and 1967, these albums were produced with a group of studio session musicians providing the backing. From these players would emerge The Skatalites whose sound was supplemented by the piano / keyboards of … Jackie Mittoo.
Donat Roy Mittoo (Jackie) was born in in Brown’s Town, Jamaica in 1948 and died tragically young in Toronto, Canada, forty-two years later. But, boy, did he pack a lot into such a short life!
Initially taught piano by his grandmother, Jackie started playing professionally at age thirteen, having moved to Kingston. It was there he joined the Rivals, playing organ, but soon switched to the Sheiks, one of Jamaica’s most popular club bands, where he would meet up with future fellow Skatalites, Lloyd Knib an Johnny Moore.
Two years later (1963) when Clement (Coxsone) Dodd opened his famous Studio One, Jackie was invited to act as talent scout and session arranger. He worked closely with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry on Coxone Dodd’s productions, while sitting in on piano for The Skatalites.
It was the on the Hammond organ though that Jackie would really make his name. When the Skatalites broke up following trombonist Don Drummond’s incarceration for the murder of his girlfriend in 1965, Mittoo formed The Soul Brothers with Roland Alphonso, Johnny Moore and Lloyd Brevett. They became the backing band for all Studio One’s rocksteady recordings.
In 1968, he formed the Jackie Mittoo Trio, with The Hepones‘ Leroy Sibbles on bass. Jackie, with his experience of arranging, would write the bass lines, pioneering a new style of bass laden reggae.
He moved to Toronto for several years, working for Summer Records and launching a side career in Easy Listening recordings. However, He would regularly return to Jamaica where he’ d record for Coxone Dodd.
In the mid-Seventies, he also worked with the producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee. By now, recording technology had come on leaps and bounds and so Jackie was able to re-record many tracks in the new ‘rockers’ style. The likes of drummer Sly Dunbar, bassist Robbie Shakespeare , pianist Ansel Collins and several others joined in the reworkings to produce the landmark ‘Jackie Mittoo Showcase’ album, from which the accompanying tracks are taken.
In addition to his own recordings, Jackie takes credit for writing hits for Alton Ellis, Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor amongst others. In 1970, his ‘Peanie Wallie‘ was versioned by The Wailers, becoming the hit ‘Duppy Conqueror.’ He would also work closely with Sugar Minot and UB40 from the UK.
Throughout his time at Studio One, Mittoo recorded literally thousands of songs for so many of the artists whose talents he nurtured and coached to great success.
Thirty-one years on from his passing, his style and influence still echoes in all aspects of modern day reggae, ska and dub.
(Jackie worked with way too many musicians to list here!!)
|Working with so many artists, Jackie Mittoo has over two hundred, 7″ singles listed on Discogs.|
Regards albums, I have listed only those released during Jackie’s lifetime.
|In London||LP||Coxone Records||1967|
|Evening Time||LP||Coxone Records||1968||Recorded with his band The Soul Vendors also credited.|
|Keep On Dancing||LP||Coxone Records||1969|
|Macka Fat||LP||Coxone Records||1969|
|Reggae Magic||LP||Studio One||1972|
|Let’s Put It All Together||LP||United Artists Records||1975|
|The Keyboard King||LP||Third World||1976|
|Hot Blood||LP||Third World||1977|
|Show Case Volume 3||LP||Jackpot||1977|
|The Money Makers||LP||Jackie Mittoo Music Production||1978|
In Cold Blood
|Jackie Mittoo||LP||United Artist Records||1978|
|Stepping Tiger||LP||Rite Sound Inc.||1979|