Skatalites’ Lester Sterling dies
Lester Sterling, an original member of the legendary Skatalites, has died.
A post on the band’s Facebook page confirmed that the saxophonist/trumpeter died on May 16, but no cause of death or where he passed away, was disclosed.
Sterling, who was 87 years old, had been sole survivor of the classic line-up that formed in 1965.
His bandmates included fellow saxophonists Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso, trombonist Don Drummond, trumpeter Johnny “Dizzy” Moore, vocalist Doreen Shaffer, keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, guitarist Jerome “Jah Jerry” Haynes, bassist Lloyd Brevett, and drummer Lloyd Knibb.
“It’s a sad day for all of us with the passing of our legendary founder and original saxophonist Lester “Ska” Sterling. Our heart goes out to the family, the fans and to all who were very close to him. We celebrate his greatness and his contribution of being one of the pioneers of ska and reggae music. He has left a legacy for now and future generations to follow and we will continue to preserve it stage by stage,” read a Facebook statement from The Skatalites.
Records show that The Skatalites lasted just over one year. During that time, they recorded a cache of outstanding songs for rival producers Duke Reid and Clement “Coxson” Dodd including Eastern Standard Time, Freedom Sounds and Ska Ba.
When the band reformed in 1983, Kingston-born Sterling was one of the original members who began a new era of recording and touring.
With his death, only Shaffer of their classic era, survives.
Like McCook, Drummond, Moore, and Knibb, Sterling learned to play music at Alpha Boys’ School in Kingston. After leaving that institution he played in several bands before making his name with The Skatalites.
In 1969 he and singer Stranger Cole had a big hit with Bangarang, produced by Bunny Lee.
Lester Sterling was the older brother of veteran keyboardist Keith Sterling, who recorded and toured for many years with Peter Tosh and bands such as The Upsetters and The Aggrovators.
He was honoured with the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government in 1998 for his contribution to music.