Drummer Patrick 'JJ' Smith is dead

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Saturday, September 14, 2019

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Patrick “JJ” Smith, drummer for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Swammp Band, died there from cancer on September 10 at age 64, his wife Cathy told the Jamaica Observer.

Smith was also co-founder of Happiness Unlimited, a band that played the Kingston club circuit during the 1970s. He was a cousin of veteran session guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith.

Shortly after moving to Pittsburgh in the early 1980s, Smith co-founded the Swammp Band which became one of the leading reggae acts in the city. In addition to playing at Pittsburgh's top events and venues, they opened for major Jamaican acts who performed there, including Dennis Brown, Shaggy, and Third World.

The band also did solo performances on the United States East Coast and in Midwest states of Ohio and Indiana.

“I used to call him 'The Glue' because he had the link to everyone. Yuh could pick up the phone an' call JJ an' him would help yuh find anyone,” said Delroy “Zap” Clarke, keyboardist for the Swammp Band.

Born in Kingston, Smith formed Happiness Unlimited in the mid-1970s. They were regulars at the Bohemia Club, a popular nightspot in the Half-Way-Tree area, throughout that decade.

A later edition of Happiness Unlimited caught the ears of Stevie Wonder when he visited Jamaica in the 1980s. The singer/songwriter was so impressed by their playing he took them to Los Angeles for recording sessions.

Patrick “JJ” Smith is survived by his wife, five children, four grandchildren and 10 siblings.


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