A key transitional moment in the history of popular music largely went unnoticed when Eric Donaldson took the baton from early rock & roll pioneer, Carl Perkins – writer of “Blue Suede Shoes” – upon the release of his great single from 1972 on the Jaguar label, “Blue Boot”:
“Blue Boot” Eric Donaldson 1972
Eric Donaldson, who has won Jamaica’s famous Festival song competition seven times, (most recently 1997) will be forever linked with his first big win in 1971, “Cherry Oh Baby” – a smash single from his debut album and famously covered later by The Rolling Stones and UB40. With “Blue Boot,” Donaldson was confident of a second straight victory at Festival.
As Eric’s bio on the Trojan Records website points out —
In 1972 Eric and Tommy [Cowan] linked up with Warwick Lynn, who produced “Blue Boot”, in the hope of repeating the singer’s success at the song festival. In an interview in 1974 with Black Music’s, Carl Gayle, Eric stated, “Well I really had a song called ‘Blue Boot’ for the festival. But it was like I just woke up one morning and found myself singing ‘Cherry Oh Baby’.”
Sadly, although the song had all the ingredients for a second victory, Toots & the Maytals entry, “Pomps And Pride”, also produced by Warwick Lynn, won the contest. Eric failed to take the prize that year, but from now on, he would be known as “Mr. Festival”.
Wake the Town and Tell the People
Trojan would also write in the liner notes to its anthology of Festival songs, Baba Boom!:
“Eric Donaldson’s 1972 entry, ‘Blue Boot’, was almost as good [as ‘Pomps and Pride’] and along with its U Roy version, ‘Festival Wise‘, brought the DJ [i.e., “toasting”] phenomenon to the Festival for the first time.”
I found cause to kick myself for not making the connection that Eric is also the distinctive lead voice behind 1968’s great rocksteady single “I Mean It” by The West Indians, backed by Lyn Taitt and his fabulous Jets:
“I Mean It” The West Indians 1968
“Eric embarked on a musical career in 1964 when he recorded acetates for Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Studio One and Duke Reid at Treasure Isle Studios. Following his experience of recording exclusive dub plates for the island’s leading Sound Systems, Eric was inspired to form a vocal group, suitably named the West Indians. He recruited Leslie Burke and Hector Brooks to provide backing harmonies that melodiously punctuated his incredible falsetto. The group initially worked with J.J. Johnson who in 1968 produced their notable hit ‘Right On Time’, alongside ‘Falling In Love’, ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘I Mean It'”.