Roland Alphonso the tenor saxophone player who was one of the true Kings of Ska, passed away on the afternoon of 20 November 1998. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.
A leading player with the Skatalites who made so many great 60's Ska records. He recorded with producers, Clement 'Coxone' Dodd, Duke Reid, Justin Yap, Victor Chin, Leslie Kong, and lead the Soul Brothers into Rock Steady for Coxone Dodd. Headed the tour of 1967 with the Soul Vendors to Britain, which took us all by storm. Who can still remember buying "Phoenix City" on Doctor Bird records and dancing to the the brass filled beat?
Roland was born on January 12 1931, learned that he had a gift for music at an early age, unlike Tommy McCook, Lester Stirling, Don Drummond and Johnny Moore who attended the Alpha Boys School, Roland attended the Stony Hill Industrial School, in Kingston, Jamaica. Firstly he was introduced to trumpet for his music lessons, but later his Mum bought him a saxophone when he was 15 years old. She was unaware how that this single act was to dominate her son's future life. During the fifties he joined the Colony Club Orchestra, lead by band leader Eric Deans. Later he formed his own band called the Upsetters and the Alley Cats. With others he played music of the day, boogie blues and jazz at Dodds studio at Federal. Jackie Mittoo, Lloyd Knibb and Moore talked to him about forming a new band, whilst a band made up of Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond together with base player Lloyd Brevett were looking for a leader. Finally in June 1964 Tommy McCook took up the challenge and the Skatalites were formed. The rest is musical history, his inspiration for the sound of Ska can be heard played by many other new young bands throughout the world. Roland can be heard on his many many recordings with the Skatalites, his own solo recordings some of brilliance like " El Pussy Cat" and "James Bond". Our fond memories left to those that had the privilege of seeing him play live, the warmth of his sound and sweet tone. He was a king size figure in my teens and stretched out my youth, his music will play on.
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