Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Vintage Voices | Lynn Taitt, Lord Creator great voices from distant shores

Published:Sunday | May 26, 2019 | 12:19 AMRoy Black
Trinidadian balladeer Lord Creator (top pic) had the crowds (bottom) rocking to his unique blend of ska, calypso and rhythm and blues last Thursday night's Heineken Startime show at Peppers. Creator was presented with a plaque celebrating his over 30 years of contribution to music.

The contribution to Jamaica made by entertainers whose origins lie outside of our shores is not well documented in Jamaica’s music history. Jamaica’s rich musical heritage, however, owes a lot to these aliens. Two of the earliest to have made lasting contributions were Trinidadians Lynn Taitt and Kenrick Patrick, better known as Lord Creator. Taitt was an extremely talented guitarist with immeasurable guitar skills, which he used to great advantage in helping to create the Jamaican rock steady beat.

Renowned record producer Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee, who worked very close to Taitt during the rock steady era of the mid-late 1960s, was full of praise for the maestro as I spoke to him from his Meadowbrook Estate residence in 2007: “Lynn Taitt played the greatest rock steady tunes ever. He is the man who bring in the rock steady beat. He was so versatile that his first tune wasn’t even rock steady. It was a slow piece named Every Night by Joe White, in which he played a Hawaiian-style guitar. All of my rock steady tunes, which were big hits, including Music Field by Roy Shirley and Let Me Go Girl by Slim Smith, when I started over 40 years ago, were arranged and backed by Lynn Taitt’s band – The Jets,” Lee said.

Lynn Taitt was so versatile that he had all of five guitar-playing styles, sometimes employing as many as three in one recording. He could ‘pick’ along with the bass man as he demonstrates in the Paragon’s Happy Go Lucky Girl, and he could play lead, rhythm, ska riffs, and his unique Hawaiian style as he demonstrates in the ballad Brown Eyes.

Success

According to Bunny Lee, Taitt was brought to Jamaica by Bryon Lee in the 1960s to work for him as a keyboard player but later switched to the guitar. Taitt has the distinction of, arguably, creating the first recording with an authentic rock steady beat – Take It Easy by Hopeton Lewis in late 1966. He also had a hand in Bob Marley and the Wailers’ first self-produced recording, Bend Down Low. His role as anchor man for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle Records and Ken Khouri’s Federal Records was crucial to the success of almost every tune that poured out of those entities.

Recording artiste, record producer and businessman Derrick Harriott also added his voice to the many accolades showered on Taitt. With stellar hits Solomon, Walk The Streets, Been So Long, and Do I Worry for him, and Keith and Tex’s Tonight and Stop That Train numbered among the many Derrick Harriott-produced hits orchestrated and backed by Taitt, the businessman was sure that Taitt was special: “Why we think so highly of Lynn Taitt is because his guitar played a big part in the rock steady era. He helped to make the rock steady the greatest beat in Jamaica’s popular music. Whenever Taitt played on a record, you can just feel that it is going to be a hit because he always seems to be playing the right phrases,” Harriott reasoned in a 2010 interview I had with him.

Lord Creator was, perhaps, the best known ‘foreigner’ to have made a lasting impact on Jamaica’s popular music during its embryonic stage, albeit fortuitously. Also from Trinidad, Creator was very important to Jamaica’s Independence celebrations when his recording – Independent Jamaica, a calypso-flavoured piece – not only rose to number one on the charts, but became more like an anthem for the Independence celebrations.

Creator was passing through Jamaica on a Caribbean tour with a group of musicians in January 1962 when he was intercepted at an east Kingston nightclub by businessman and record producer Randy Chin, who asked him to write a song about Jamaica’s Independence. Creator explained that “when I performed at the Havana Nightclub for the first time, in the audience there was a guy named Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin. He came there with a Gleaner reporter named Raymond Sharpe, no doubt to cover the event. When they heard me perform, making up songs impromptu, they thought I could make a song in virtually no time. So they came backstage, and Randy asked me to make a song about Jamaica’s Independence, which was due on August 6. Sharpe provided me with a Gleaner article, outlining Jamaica’s build-up to Independence, and from that, I got an idea of what I should write about. In less than half an hour, the song was ready,” Creator said. The singer suddenly fell in love with the island’s beauty, its music, and its women and eventually found himself stuck and forced to make Jamaica his home.

Creator and Taitt are just two of many from distant shores who have made valuable contributions to the island’s music in its embryonic stage. Others who come readily to mind are Lord Laro from Trinidad; Jackie Opel from Barbados; Laurel Aitken, Rita Marley, Roland Alphonso, and Tommy McCook from Cuba; Carlos Malcolm from Panama and members of The Caribs Band from Australia.