Annotation for Derrick Morgan SKA! Volume 1 on Reggae Retro of Britain. A December 2003 release on CD and colored vinyl.

1. Greatest Thing (I’m A Blackhead Again) – Derrick Morgan w/ Desmond Dekker – 2:27
2. Ain’t That A Shame – Derrick Morgan – 2:40
3. I Wish I Were An Apple (Ska) – Derrick Morgan & Patsy Todd – 2:31
4. Cherry Home – Derrick Morgan – 2:32
5. Joybells – Derrick Morgan – 2:18
6. Let The Good Times Roll – Derrick Morgan & Patsy Todd – 2:06
7. National Dance – Derrick Morgan & Patsy Todd – 2:30
8. Going Down To Canaan – Derrick Morgan & Denzil Dennis – 2:50
9. Celebration Jamaica (Gather Together) – Derrick Morgan & The Blues Blenders – 3:00
10. Softhand – Derrick Morgan & The Blues Blenders – 2:34
11. Let Me Go – Derrick Morgan – 2:00
12. I’m Indebted (Loving Baby) – Derrick Morgan – 2:56
13. Please Don’t Talk About Me – Derrick Morgan & Eric “Monty” Morris – 2:27
14. Oh Shirley – Derrick Morgan & Patsy Todd – 2:25
15. Wallflower (Two Of A Kind) – Derrick Morgan & Naomi Phillips – 2:32
16. Little Black Girl (Little Brown Girl) – Derrick Morgan & Patsy Todd – 2:36

Derrick Morgan was born on March 27, 1940 in the Stewarton district of the Parish of Clarendon. Specifically, in the village of Mocho, pronounced “Mo-ko”. Mocho is also known as the home of “Shepherd Beng”, protagonist in Prince Buster’s song of the same title. Derrick was sent from country to the city of Kingston at the age of three due to his night blindness. He first resided with his mother at Orange Lane. That’s just off Orange Street, which would be known as “Beat Street” by the end of Derrick’s teenage years.

It was a victory at Vere Johns Opportunity Hour at the Palace theater which propelled Morgan into his music career. The year was 1957. “Not sure about June, but I remember it was a Monday because it was a double bill”, says the man himself, who won by crooning “Long Tall Sally” in his persona as Jamaica’s “Likkle Richard”.

Morgan’s first recordings were done for Duke Reid in 1959, but because those were exclusively played on Reid’s sound system, the first songs of his which were released to the public were produced by Simeon L. Smith. In 1960. Co-written and sung as duets, “Now We Know” and “Nights Are Lonely”, introduced key spar Eric “Monty” Morris.

In 1961, not long after Derrick had assisted Prince Buster in completing his first recording session, he was approached at his home by James Chambers. Chambers explained that he had been sent to see Derrick by the Kong Brothers in order to secure approval of “Dearest Beverley”, a song he’d written specially for the Kong’s. As Derrick tells it, “Jimmy Cliff came to my yard and say he have a song called Dearest Beverley, and say he want to record it for Beverley’s. But at the time Beverley’s never do recording before. I know Beverley’s shop was just a restaurant on the corner of North Street and Orange Street. He say that they asking me to listen to his song and if it sound good, he should bring me to them. I listen Jimmy’s song and say well this is a ballad, I don’t think they would like ballad, ‘cos it’s not ballad doing it now. We are doing ska music.

He say he have a title called Hurricane Hattie, and he start singing it to me. Well I like it, and I say “well then, we can arrange up this”. So Jimmy take me to meet Leslie Kong. When I reach there Leslie ask me, “how did Jimmy sound?” I said “very good.” Him said “do we have any musician who could do some recording?” Well, I introduce Drumbago to him, and the all stars, and we go down to Greenwich Farm, place called Blissett, Mr. Blissett home, to do some rehearsal with Jimmy and myself. I didn’t have a song ready for Leslie at that session, because really I never have him in mind, but we went to the studio, and while we were at the studio with Jimmy Cliff recording Hurricane Hattie, there I met Owen. I said to Owen if him want to sing a song for this company and him say “yeah”. Me say “well, his name is Leslie Kong”. Owen come in with a tune name My Darling Patricia, and then him start saying bwoy, him is the best, nothing can’t beat him. So right there, I start to write a song. I write a song called “be still I’m your superior”. Direct to Owen Gray’s head, I made that song. I recorded it that day, and I have one more in my bag that’s called “Sunday, Monday” which is “She’s Gone”, and I decide to record those two songs for Les, and there Les started.” “The first Beverley’s session was just myself, Jimmy Cliff and Owen Gray”, Morgan declared emphatically, before continuing.

“Now, part of the reason why I leave Prince, Prince used to pay ten pound per song, Duke Reid pay ten pounds per song, well, Leslie was paying twenty pounds per song. So I started recording for Leslie.” Soon it was clear that Morgan was the island’s premier hitmaker, as his songs occupied seven out of the top ten chart slots. “It was on both RJR and JBC’s charts that I had seven out of ten but they were in different order on each chart”, he explained. “It was from late 1961 into 1962. The songs were “Be Still” and “Sunday Monday” which were number one and two alternately. “In My Heart” which I did for Lloyd Bell. “The Hop” and “Feel So Fine” with Patsy, “Meekly Wait” which is with Yvonne and I think “Miss Lulu” or maybe it was “I Care”.”

The 16 tracks collected on this set span the breadth of the Ska era in Jamaica, from 1961 to early 1966.

A trumpet fanfare heralds “Greatest Thing (I’m A Blackhead Again)”, which proclaims Derrick Morgan’s delight at returning to, “the man who granted me fame.” That’s Leslie Kong, proprietor of Beverley’s Records. Morgan confirmed that he’s speaking directly to Prince Buster as he sings, “I know how glad you feel when you caught me into your trap, but you can see I’m a blackhead again, the blazing fire will never stop burn.” The song was recorded in 1963, soon after Derrick returned from his six month trip to England with Buster. “Greatest Thing was the first tune I did for Beverley’s after I returned. I didn’t cut again, or do anything for Buster, after the two tunes we cut in England.”

Prior to the trip, Leslie Kong had sponsored two “Derrick Morgan Farewell Shows”. In February at The Capri Theatre in May Pen, Clarendon and the other in Montego Bay. Teenager Robert Marley was on both bills, amongst John Holt, Frank Cosmo, Pluggy & Beryl, Roy Panton and others. Derrick affirmed the trumpet solo on “Greatest Thing” is by Oswald “Baba” Brooks, the tenor saxophone solo is by Stanley “Ribbs” Notice and the backing vocal is by Desmond “Dekker” Dacres.

“Ain’t That A Shame” is a forceful and fast Ska, recorded for Beverley’s, according to Derrick. “Either or either, do or die, love me or leave me”, Morgan beseeches before reminding that no matter, “I’ll be living just around the corner from you.” That’s Dennis “Ska” Campbell honking out the pace on tenor saxophone with his trademark style, while Herman Marquis contributes the distinctly off the pace alto sax solo.

“I Wish I Were An Apple” (Ska version), is the second recording of this Morgan penned song. The first is a Boogie Shuffle arrangement featuring Patsy Todd and Derrick. This one is a rollicking Ska duet, propelled by Lloyd Knibb on drums and Lloyd Brevett on bass. Trombonist Don Drummond solos with abandon and his exuberant playing dominates the brass section. Naomi Phillips accompanies Derrick on vocals, and both versions are Reid productions.

“Cherry Home” was penned quickly by Morgan, who states that it, “never really have nothing behind it. It’s like I just waving a girl off.” The trumpet solo is by Raymond Harper.

“Joybells” was recorded on August 30, 1962 for Duke Reid. Raymond Harper takes the first solo on trumpet and Rolando Alphonso the second, on tenor saxophone.

“Let The Good Times Roll” covers the classic original by Shirley (Goodman) and (Leonard) Lee. This version was recorded in 1961 for Duke Reid.

Shirley and Lee performed in Jamaica at least twice. In 1963, The Jamaican Gleaner newspaper reported in a photo caption that the duo were, “on a tour of Jamaica, giving concerts in various towns on the island”. The photo of Shirley, “living it up at a rum punch party at the Skyline Club”, can also be seen in the Jamaican magazine Vintage Boss, issue #7, November 2002.

The tenor sax solo is by Rolando Alphonso.

“Let’s Do The National Dance” was co-written by Millicent “Patsy” Todd. A vigorous workout which announces, “whether you call it Ska in Jamaica or Bluebeat in London town, let’s get together and do the national dance”. The alto saxophone solo is by Felix “Deadly” Headley Bennett. This was confirmed by Lester Sterling, whom is sometimes credited for solos that are actually the work of Bennett. As Sterling reminds, “it was Headley’s solo on “Forward March” that first cause Buster to call Derrick Morgan a “Blackhead Chinaman’, because Headley a copy my solo from “They Got To Come”.”

Denzil Dennis wrote “Going Down To Canaan”, according to Morgan. “That was done with my good friend Denzil Dennis. It was his song really and I was only helping out Denzil”. It was recorded on September 7, 1962, and first released on the Duke Reid’s label.

The trumpet solo is by Baba Brooks.

SIDE B

On both Dodd productions, “Celebration Jamaica” AKA “Gather Together” and “Soft Hand”, Morgan is accompanied by a vocal trio called The Blues Blenders. Queried about the obscure group, Morgan replied, “The Blues Blenders were three great singers and I really enjoyed working with them. We only record for Dodd. Bill, Jill and Kenneth Rose. Bill was treble, Jill was baritone and Ken was high tenor. I tried a group with them for a while. Jill really holds baritone. Him and Bill are in Canada now. Rose was robbed and then went off his head and died.” That tragic incident happened in Jamaica, according to Derrick, relating that Rose passed away in 1979.

“Celebration” is a passionate statement of support for the then 4 year old nation of Jamaica. While it may sound like a natural for the annual Jamaica Song Festival, Morgan said that was not his intention when it was conceived, and that it wasn’t entered.

“Let Me Go” is a fast Ska paced by Lloyd Knibb on drums. To the tune of a spiritual, Morgan’s lyrics complain, “Girl can’t wash, girl can’t cook, all she do is fe read storybooks, she just can’t sew, she only pick her toe”. A Duke Reid production issued originally on Treasure Isle 7″ 45.

The alto saxophone solo is by “Deadly” Headley Bennett and the band is led by Oswald “Baba” Brooks.

The piano that accompanies Morgan’s, “I’m Indebted”, is by the leader of the group, Hersang and the City Slickers, according to Derrick. “That’s Herman Sang on piano on that”, he recalls. A Beverley’s production.

The alto saxophone solo is by “Deadly” Headley Bennett.

Morgan recorded at least four duets with Eric “Monty” Morris. “Don’t Talk About Me” is one of two done for Beverley’s in 1962. Derrick credits Morris with the composition. Guitar is by Jerome “Jah Jerry” Haynes.

The alto saxophone solo is by “Deadly” Headley Bennett.

Derrick has titled more than a few songs with a woman’s name. In fact, I’ve recounted a baker’s dozen to the venerable singer. “Oh Shirley”, a Duke Reid production, features the vocal accompaniment of Patsy Todd and Ernest Ranglin on guitar.

Rolando Alphonso solos on tenor saxophone, according to Derrick.

“Wallflower” was written by Naomi Phillips, according to Morgan. Phillips cut “Open The Door” and “You Are Mine” for Duke Reid as a duet with Clive Wilson and she was recently featured in Jamaica’s Vintage Boss magazine. Phillips is active and performed on July 15 2003 in Kingston at the launching of the Jamaican Association of Vintage Artists, JAVA. JAVA headquarters are at 11a Osbourne Road in Kingston and the membership includes artists and music industry personnel drawn from all levels.

The tenor saxophone solo is by Sammy Ismay.

“Little Brown Girl” was co-written with Patsy and cut in 1963. Trumpet solo is by Baba Brooks. It’s one of the final recordings made by Jamaica’s answer to Shirley and Lee. As Derrick relates, “We last performed onstage together in 1963 on Christmas. We sang at the Regal, the Carib, the Palace and the Ward Theatres on that day!” A fitting finale to a brief but intense partnership. Although the two were just friends, the public perception that they were “together” became a strain that contributed to their going separate ways. Derrick points out that, “People used to think we were a couple. Strangers calling my wife Patsy and her husband Derrick and more.”

The two made many great records, the vast majority of which have been lost to time. However, since their performance in July 2002 at the Legends of Ska concerts in Toronto, word has spread and demand has been rekindled. There have now been Derrick and Patsy reunion shows in Dedham, Massachusetts and in Kingston, Jamaica. With more reissues of their work on the way, the clamoring for concert dates in Europe and Japan is sure to grow!

–Brian Keyo, October 2003

Thanks to Lester Sterling, Colby Graham, David Rodigan, Dave Chapple, John Mason and Derrick Morgan.