Don Drummond / March 12, 1932 - May 6, 1969

Despite the unfortunate late portion of Don Drummond's unstable life, he remains a major figure in Jamaican music. A street youth who saw dire poverty early on, the trombonist came out of the Alpha Boys School (home to many great Jamaican artists) and played jazz for several years before helping found the pioneering Skatalites in 1964.

He became one of the most high profile early converts to Rastafarianism, political awareness and all. A man of impressive chops (considered by many to be one of the top trombone players in the world), he was teacher to Rico Rodriguez and Vin Gordon, worked with Bob Marley (he was arranger for tunes such as "Simmer Down"), appeared with jazz artists such as Sarah Vaughn and Dave Brubeck. He was eccentric for sure, never wore shoes and once pissed on the audience at a concert. "Don Cosmic" has been subject to biographies and a ballet!

He started cutting records in '56 in the nascent Kingston studio scene with Clue J's Blues Blasters, among others. He was one of the chief architects of ska and composed hundreds of songs in his short life. He brought all-world chops to '60s Jamaican music and was mentor to several would-be greats. His career was stopped due to some events that I won't discuss here, but conspiracy theories abound.

Here's one of my favorite ska tunes:

Here's one of his most famous tunes (and sampled by Boogie Down Productions on "Edutainment"):


Tagged: Celebrate Icons, Don Drummond, jazz, reggae, ska, Skatalites, soul!, Studio 1, trombone

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