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Ska's teen star to be honoured tonight ... 'Patsy' Todd recalls good old days

Published:Saturday | July 30, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Derrick Morgan (left) performing alongside Millicent 'Patsy' Todd. - Contributed
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Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

For most of the early 1960s, Millicent 'Patsy' Todd was the teen star of ska. She recorded numerous duets with singers Derrick Morgan and Stranjah Cole.

Tonight, the 67-year-old Todd's contribution to Jamaica's popular music will be recognised during the Tribute To The Greats show at Curphey Place in St Andrew.

Todd's best-known hit with Morgan was Housewife's Choice for producer Leslie Kong.

Her biggest hits with Cole included the uptempo When I Call Your Name and the ballad Give Me The Right, which were done for producer Arthur 'Duke' Reid.

But, by the late 1960s, Todd said she was tired of performing. "I just didn't feel like singing anymore," she told The Gleaner from her Tampa, Florida home.

Since the late 1960s, Todd has lived in the United States. Most of those years were spent in New York City where she worked as a secretary at Lennoxville Hospital in Manhattan.

Her last major performance took place in 2005 at the popular Stars R Us oldies series in Kingston, on which she reunited with Morgan and Cole.

Todd was born in the west Kingston community of Fletcher's Land, the child of a Cuban father and Jamaican mother. She had no recording experience when Morgan approached her to cut Love Not To Brag for Reid in 1959.

At the time, she was 15 years old and a student at the All Saints All-Age School. Her only musical connection: singer Cecil 'Prince Buster' Campbell, was her neighbour.

Three years older, the Clarendon-born Morgan was a rising star. Love Not To Brag did well, but it was Housewife's Choice that scored big and helped establish Kong's Beverley's Records.

Todd went on to even greater acclaim with Cole, who also hailed from west Kingston. They had a magical run, with When I Call Your Name and Give Me The Right taking off on radio and at dances. Todd also recorded as a solo act for producer Sonia Pottinger, and performed with Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in the US.

She was among a handful of female acts who stood out in the ska period.

The biggest was Millie Small, who had an international hit with My Boy Lollipop, and Doreen Schaeffer of the Skatalites.

As the ska craze waned, Todd felt it was time to call it a day.

"We weren't being paid, it was like working for nothing. Artistes were getting something like £5 a side those days," she explained.

Todd has not been given her due as a pioneer, but says she has never felt slighted.

"To be honest, it's not something I ever think about," she said.

Other awardees tonight will be music historian and administrator Herbie Miller; musicians Neville 'Sparrow' Martin, Dwight Pinkney and Larry McDonald; sound-system operator Haldane 'Jimmy Metro' James, and show promoter Charles Simpson.