The Jamaicans’ Martin Williams is dead
Tribute To The Greats 2017 recipient Martin Williams (left), founding member of The Jamaicans performs, with former group member Tommy Cowan. (Photo: Jerry Small)

Martin Williams, a member of 1967 Festival Song Contest winners The Jamaicans, died May 24 in New York City at age 85. His wife, Jean Williams, said he passed away at the Montefiore Hospital in The Bronx.

Williams was a founding member of the group which was initially known as The Mericoles. The original lineup formed in 1964 and comprised Errol Kong (later known as I Kong), Norris Weir and Keith Brown; Tommy Cowan joined later.

Prior to The Mericoles/The Jamaicans, the Matthews Lane-raised Williams performed in the duo Martin and Derrick. Their songs included Times Are Going.

His biggest success came with The Melodians which recorded mainly for producer Arthur “Duke” Reid’s Treasure Isle label. Their hits came on rock steady songs like Things You Say You Love and Ba Ba Boom. The latter won the second Festival Song Contest and remains one of that competition’s popular winners.

Weir died in 2018 in Florida at age 72.

The Jamaicans split up in 1972, though Kong (who left in 1967), Weir and Cowan maintained visible roles in the music business as artistes or producers.

Martin Williams migrated to the United States five years ago. He is survived by Jean, his wife of 61 years, seven children, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Martin Williams (second right) in 1964 with The Merricoles (from left) Jerry Brown, Norris Weir, Tommy Cowan and Errol Kong (far right).
Howard Campbell

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