Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Rico Rodriguez remembered in London

Published:Friday | September 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMGeorge Ruddock
Emmanuel ‘Rico’ Rodriguez (right) being presented with the Musgrave Medal by High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet

Well-known Jamaican trombonist Emmanuel 'Rico' Rodriguez, who played with Jamaican and UK ska bands The Skatalites and The Specials, respectively, passed away in London on Thursday, September 3, after a short illness. He was 80 years old.

Members of the UK ska and reggae music fraternity came together last Sunday in Kingston, New Malden, Surrey, to hold a special Nine Night tribute concert in Rodriguez's memory. Among the performers were Winston Reedy, Johnny Orlando, Little Roy, Dennis Alcapone and AJ Franklyn, along with The Freetown and Alpha Boys' School All Stars bands. Rico's niece, Gail Edmunds, did a special tribute song in his memory. Host for the evening was music producer Black Steel.

Rodriguez was born in Cuba and grew up in Jamaica before moving to England in the 1960s. He first played with the Skatalites when he replaced Don Drummond as the band's trombonist, following Drummond's untimely death. When he moved to England, Rodriguez played with The Specials on songs such as the 1979 hit A Message to You Rudy. His famous solo hit was Let George Do It.

lengthy career

As well as playing with The Specials, Rodriguez performed as a solo artiste recording albums including Man from Wareika, Blow Your Horn and Brixton Cat with his band Rico and the Rudies. He worked with many different musicians and producers during a lengthy career, including Prince Buster, Karl Pitterson and Jools Holland, playing in his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.

The United Kingdom honoured Rodriguez with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2007 for services to music, while the Institute of Jamaica honoured his contribution with the Musgrave Medal in 2012. The medal was presented to Rodriguez in London by Jamaica's High Commissioner in London, Aloun Assamba, in March 2013.

Many tributes have been paid to Rodriguez since his passing.

Among those lauding him was another Jamaican entertainer, Count Prince Miller, who said, "I am completely saddened by his passing, as I went to see Rico in the hospital on the morning before he died. I have never met a more humble person than Rico. We worked together with Bob Marley and the Wailers on their first European tour in the '70s, Rico and his band had opened for the Wailers and I was the emcee and we spent a lot of time together and I realised what a great Jamaican he was. He will be missed in the music fraternity, but also as a great human being."

great musical legacy

One of Rico's band members, Ferdinand Ralph Dixon (also known as 'Baby Satch'), who played percussion with Rico and the Rudies, said "Rico and I go back a long way, from Jamaica when we used to swim at Mineral Bath and performed together on the Vere John's show in Kingston. That musical vibration continued when we both moved to England in the early '60s and worked together on many bands to keep the musical flame burning. He has left a great musical legacy for all to enjoy."

Neville Staple of The Specials, who knew Rodriguez for more than 40 years, said the trombonist played many genres of music, from ska and reggae to jazz. "My wife, Sandra, and I were by his bedside when he passed away, so we were the last persons with him and it was as if he was waiting for us to say goodbye. He will be sadly missed," Staple said.