$521 on Ebay confirms my suspicion that the swaggering rocksteady tunefulness of 1967’s “Take It Cool” was a breakout moment, artistically speaking, for master percussionist and sometime-vocalist, Noel ‘Scully‘ Simms:
“Take It Cool“
Mr. Foundation (i.e., Noel ‘Zoot‘ Simms) 1967
Would you believe someone paid the staggering sum of $700 at auction two years ago? Ninety dollars is a relative bargain, given that others have paid $108 and $345 dollars in the past for a copy of this 45.
Even more intriguing is the eyebrow-raising claim by Discogs.com that Noel ‘Scully’ Simms is “arguably the first Jamaican artist to release a record single” — without then identifying the title of this historic recording. What gives?
Fortunately, Dave Katz – author of Solid Foundation: An Oral History of Reggae – doesn’t leave us hanging:
As his empire grew, [Ken] Khouri became the figure that sound system proprietors went to for their one-off acetates. He arranged the first Trojan and Hi Lite 78s, featuring vocalist Lord Power and pressed exclusively for Duke Reid’s sound system. As the island’s recording industry blossomed, other sound systems were quick to take advantage, having realised that putting local talent on record was a sure-fire way of garnering exclusive material to impress patrons. The first Jamaican artists to record blues ballads and home-grown R&B were the duo of Noel Bartholomew ‘Zoot’ Simms and Arthur ‘Bunny’ Robinson, known first as Simms & Robinson and later as Bunny & Skully.
“We started off the first recording in Jamaica on soft wax [acetate] for Dada Tewari,” the near-blind Skully wistfully recalls, perched on the kerb outside Kingston’s Sonic Sounds. “We did the first recordings in 1953 at [Motta’s] little demo studio at the corner of Hanover Street and Laws Street: he had a little matches box with quarter-inch tape.”