Ernest Ranglin (JM)
Ernest Ranglin grew up in the small town of Robin’s Hall in the Parish of Manchester, a rural community in the middle of Jamaica. Ernest, taught guitar by two of his uncles, was then influenced by the recordings of the American jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. He moved to Kingston and by the age of 16 was already acknowledged as the rising young talent in the city. He started touring with the Val Bennett Orchestra and then the Eric Deans Orchestra, giving him the hugely beneficial experience of learning how to orchestrate and arrange. His career was transformed by a chance meeting: in 1958 Ranglin was leading his own quintet, playing in hotels – his playing impressed Chris Blackwell, who offered Ernest the chance to make a record, the very first release by Island Records. Ernest then joined bassist Cluett Johnson in the studio group Clue J and His Blues Blasters. This was a very different kind of style to the big bands. Jamaican music was in a state of flux, the traditional mento superseded by a tough urban stance influenced by the pervading sounds of American R&B. Johnson and Ranglin recorded several instrumentals for producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd at Federal. The first of these tunes, ‘Shuffling Bug’, is widely regarded as the first example of ska, the shuffle rhythm which exaggerated the ‘jump beat’ heard on New Orleans’ R&B records of the Fifties. As well as working with Prince Buster and Baba Brooks, Ranglin was also remembered by Chris Blackwell, who had a song he thought could be a pop smash for the young Jamaican singer called Millie. In 1964 Blackwell brought both Millie and Ernest to London; they recorded ‘My Boy Lollipop’, which reached Number Two in the UK chart and went on to become a worldwide hit, the first time ska had infiltrated into the vocabulary of pop music. In his long career Ernest went on to work with acts including the Wailers, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Jimmy Cliff, Monty Alexander, and most recently has returned to his roots in a number of cross-cultural collaborations. He has been awarded Jamaica’s Order of Distinction.