Alton Nehemiah Ellis, Jamaican singer-songwriter, Died at 70

  Music, Writers

Dead, Alton Nehemiah Ellis on the 10th of October 2008 at the age of 70, he was a Jamaican singer-songwriter.

Born Alton Nehemiah Ellis on the 1st of September 1938 in Trenchtown, Kingston, Jamaica, Ellis was raised within a musical family and learned to play the piano at a young age.

He attended Ebeneezer and Boys’ Town schools, where he excelled in both music and sport.

By the mid-1960s, ska was moving on and the beat was slowing down to rocksteady and becoming associated with the violent rude boy subculture in Jamaican dancehalls.

The 1959, the R&B song “Muriel,” which Ellis recorded as part of the duo Alton & Eddie and with producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, topped the Jamaican charts.

Ellis was working as a construction worker at the time.

Due to the success of “Muriel,” he became a constant presence on Jamaica’s music charts throughout the 1960s and early ’70s.

Many artists made records referring to the rude boys, including Ellis, although his records were consistently anti-rudie, including “Don’t Trouble People”, “Dance Crasher”, and “Cry Tough”.

Releasing records under the name Alton Ellis and The Flames (the varying line-up of which included his brother Leslie Ellis, David “Baby G” Gordon and Winston Jarrett); the group had hits with “Girl I’ve Got a Date” and “Cry Tough”.

The release of “Rock Steady” (1967) backed by Tommy McCook and the Supersonics, the first song to refer to the name of the new genre, heralded the new direction Jamaican popular music was taking.

Ellis continued to have hits for Treasure Isle; working with artists such as Lloyd Charmers, Phyllis Dillon and The Heptones. His Mr Soul of Jamaica album (with Tommy McCook and the Supersonics) is regarded as one of the definitive rocksteady albums.

Ellis toured the United Kingdom in the 1967 with Ken Boothe and Studio One session band the Soul Vendors and on his return to Jamaica he worked with Dodd, recording the tracks that would be released as his debut album Alton Ellis Sings Rock & Soul.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Ellis recorded for some of Jamaica’s top producers including Bunny Lee, Keith Hudson, and Herman Chin Loy.

He also began to produce his own records, including “My Time Is The Right Time” (1968) and “The Message”.

Although based in the UK since then, he made notable recordings in Jamaica for Sonia Pottinger during the late 1970s and the album Many Moods of Alton Ellis, released by Earl Morgan of the Heptones in 1980.

Sporadic recordings continued for UK-based concerns such as Fashion Records and Jamaican producers such as King Jammy, while the series of annual Rock Steady Revues he presented in London were always eagerly anticipated, as were his live appearances in general.

In 1970, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the International Reggae and World Music Awards.

In 1994, he received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government, in recognition of his contribution to the island’s popular culture.