Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

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“Flaming Rock Steady”: It’s a Scorcher

In 1966 legendary session guitarist, Ernest Ranglin, released a fun and breezy set of instrumentals in Jamaica on the Federal label entitled, A Mod A Mod Ranglin.

The original 12-song LP has since been reissued on CD with six additional tracks – including this one, “Flaming Rock Steady:~

“Flaming Rock Steady”     Ernest Ranglin     1966

Seven years later, Ernest Ranglin would be awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music.~

A Mod A Mod Ranglin - back cover


Ernest Ranglin & the Birth of Ska:

Interview with Peter Simon — from Reggae International (1983)

I was the first person who did ska.  I did it at JBC [Jamaica Broadcasting Co.] studio, and I did for Coxsone [Studio One].  The group was comprised of Roland Alphonso [saxophone], Cluett Johnson on bass, Rico Rodriguez on trombone, Theophilius “Easy Snappin’” Beckford [piano], and some others. Sometimes we were called Clue J and the Blues Blasters and we did about six recordings of instrumentals and those were some of the first ska records.

I always wanted to be versatile, so sometimes I was doing jazz and sometimes I was doing band or dance music.  As a small boy my first influence was Charlie Christian, and this I heard Django Reinhardt years after that.  But the first person who really inspired me was a Jamaican guy named Cecil Houdini.  After I studied from tutor books, I finally end up with him.  To me he was the greatest guitar player who ever lived in this country.  Gradually, I got to play a lot of bebop music and got to listen to a little Fats Domino, Otis Redding, Louis Jordan, those were my favorites, yunno?

Eventually we had the ska era, the rock steady era, I was the musical director at Treasure Isle studio, which was owned by Duke Reid.  I did the first lead guitar on the first reggae record, although we called it raggay then because that was what the rhythm sounded like.  I worked for producers like Lee Perry and Clancy Eccles, and I was the musical director for most of them.  I wrote parts and arranged songs and put the music together.  I arranged Bob Marley‘s first hit, which was called ‘It Hurts To Be Alone.’

Ska’s Birth:  Another View

Excerpt from Reggae Explosion:  The Story of Jamaican Music (2001)

Chris Salewicz & Adrian Boot

One Sunday morning in 1959 bass-player Cluett ‘Clue J’ Johnson and [Ernest] Ranglin were requested by Coxsone Dodd – in a surprisingly formal manner – to meet him at the liquor store he ran in Love Lane. “I need something to get away from this blues,” he told the two master musicians, bemoaning the manner in which Jamaican music was imitating contemporary American black music.

In the store’s backyard they sat down and worked out the recipe for a new sound; they sought a formula for music that was distinctly Jamaican whilst retaining its roots in the R’n’B and popular jazz that beamed down into Jamaica from radio stations in the southern American states. Ska, the music that resulted from that Sunday morning session, was a shuffle boogie rhythm of the type popularised by artists like Louis Jordan and Erskine Hawkins; the unexpected emphasis on the off-beat only emphasised its addictive flavour. An apocryphal explanation explanation of the galloping sound of ska was that this was a replication of the way music on those southern radio stations would fade in and out. Ernest Ranglin, however, has a simpler explanation. “We just wanted it to sound like the theme music from one of those westerns that were on TV all the time in the late 1950s.” The term ‘ska’ was an abbreviation of ‘skavoovee’, a popular catchphrase of the time, a term of approval, for the use of which Clue-J was famous. (Coxsone, for his part addressed almost every man he encountered as ‘Jackson’, for which verbal eccentricity he was at least equally renowned.)


Ernest Ranglin & the Cincinnati–Kingston Connection

Wikipedia’s bio of Hank Penny spotlights his hit song “Bloodshot Eyes” and shows a curious chain of connections that illustrate the direct cultural impact of the sounds coming out of Cincinnati’s King Records studio on people in far-flung places that yet were within reach of radio during its peak period of influence – places such as Kingston, Jamaica and legendary session guitarist, Ernest Ranglin:

Penny’s “Bloodshot Eyes” was also recorded in 1951 by rock and roll singer, Wynonie Harris, who turned it into a major rock hit (King 4461).  Harris was a big influence on Elvis Presley, who did go to see him play and met him in his formative years and recorded Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” after hearing Wynonie Harris’ hit version.  Appreciated by white country music fans and black rock and roll followers alike, “Bloodshot Eyes” became an early landmark in racial integration.  It was much appreciated in the Caribbean, where Wynonie Harris had a large following.  Along with other Wynonie Harris records, it was being played on Jamaican dancehalls as early as 1951.  In 1958 Jamaican mento group, Denzil Laing and the Wrigglers recorded a fine version of it for their Arawak Hotel album featuring jazz guitar great, Ernest Ranglin.

Arawak Hotel LP

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