Entertainment

Gladstone Anderson: Key player in rocksteady’s genesis

UNSUNG

Howard Campbell

Friday, June 01, 2012    

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In commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country’s culture. This week we feature singer Gladstone Anderson.

THE Jets were arguably Jamaica's hottest band in 1966 when they checked into Federal Records for what turned out to be a historic session with singer Hopeton Lewis.

The song was Take It Easy and keyboardist Gladstone 'Gladdy' Anderson was behind the groove of what many say is the first rocksteady song.

Anderson is one of Jamaican popular music's unheralded heroes. He started his career with producer Duke Reid in the late 1950s when boogie woogie was still hot on the local scene, but really established himself as a go-to session player throughout the 1960s.

As a member of various bands including the Jets, All Stars, Supersonics and the Dynamites, Anderson played on some of the biggest ska and rocksteady songs. He also influenced several younger keyboardist/organists such as Winston Wright and Ansell Collins.

In a 2002 interview with the Jamaica Observer, the Jets founder and leader Lynn Taitt recalled Anderson's significant role on Take It Easy.

"I told 'Gladdy to slow the tempo and that's how Take It Easy and rocksteady came about. Rocksteady is really slow ska," Lynn said.

Anderson first learned the musical ropes from his uncle Aubrey Adams, a respected organist who was also part of the Duke Reid studio system.

Though he played on several ska hits, Anderson really made his name in the rocksteady era, working on songs like Alton Ellis' Girl I've Got a Date for Reid; Roy Shirley's Hold Them which was produced by Joe Gibbs, and You're Gonna Need Me, another Gibbs production sung by a teenaged Errol Dunkley.

Jackie Jackson played alongside Anderson in the Supersonics and the Dynamites. In an interview with American author David Katz for his Lee 'Scratch' Perry biography, People Funny Boy, Jackson commented on Anderson's prowess as an arranger.

"When the singer comes to sing a song we would say, 'go over to the piano, go over to Gladdy'. Nine times out of 10, Gladdy is always the first one to catch a song."

Now 78, Gladstone Anderson will finally get some official recognition for his contribution to Jamaican popular music. He is one of the honorees at the Tribute To The Greats show, scheduled for July 28 at Curphey Place in St Andrew.

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