The golden Clarendonians for Startime

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Friday, July 12, 2013

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JAMAICA was approaching its first anniversary as an independent nation in 1963 when Peter Austin and Ernest Wilson went to Federal Records and cut A Day Will Come.

Produced by Leslie Kong, the song marked the professional debut of The Clarendonians, who became one of the ska era's top performers.

Austin and Wilson celebrate their 50th anniversary as The Clarendonians tomorrow. They will perform on the Startime show at Liguanea Club in New Kingston.

Both men are from the town of Hayes in the parish of Clarendon. The senior member by six years, Austin, 68, credits mutual respect for their endurance.

"We still get on...him always call mi 'Cry' 'cause I sing with a lotta emotion," says Austin, who rates the throaty Wilson as "one of Jamaica's best singers".

Typical of the Jamaican artiste in the 1960s, The Clarendonians recorded for various producers including Kong, Prince Buster and Clement Dodd. Their greatest triumphs came with Dodd's Studio One label. You Can't Keep a Good Man Down, Shoo Be Doo, Rude Bwoy Gone a Jail (written by Austin) and a cover of The Beatles' You Won't See Me were some of the songs that established them.

Those hits were popular in local dancehalls and Britain, where there was a growing Jamaican community. The Clarendonians' days as hitmakers were numbered by the late 1960s and Austin had had enough of Studio One. He recorded as a solo act, mainly for producer Ken Lack, but also worked with the Shell Company for 20 years as an aviation supervisor at the Norman Manley International Airport. Wilson had a solid solo career, making the charts with the Harold Butler-penned ballad Let Love Be and the militant I Know Myself for Channel One.

The Clarendonians made a comeback during the 1990s ska/rock steady revival. Like many of their contemporaries, the duo have not benefited financially from their hits, but Austin says that has never stopped them from performing.

"We've done other things but we will always be The Clarendonians. After all these years we still love doing the songs."

John Holt, Leroy Sibbles, Ernie Smith, Karen Smith, U Roy, and The Tamlins are also on the J Wray and Nephew-sponsored Startime.

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