Sat | Sep 18, 2021

Startime still standing strong

Published:Tuesday | June 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMRoy Black
Ken Boothe
The King of ska, Derrick Morgan
Lloyd Parkes
Gem Myers

The long-running Heineken Startime series of stage shows, now known as Startime, has built a reputation for itself that is unmatched anywhere in Jamaica's music business.

It has the distinction of being the catalyst in the resurgence, worldwide, of Jamaica's foundation music - ska, rocksteady and reggae, and is Jamaica's longest-running concert series with some 145 staging during an illustrious 29-year history.

Fans will again be in for a treat, come July 8, when celebrated American soul legends, The Manhattans, featuring Gerald Alston and his band, grace the stage at the National Arena in Kingston.

Sharing the stage with them, in what is expected to be a mouth-watering affair, will be the King of Ska - Derrick Morgan; Mr Rocksteady - Ken Boothe; foundation DJ - Dennis Alcapone, who all but took U-Roy's crown; songbird Gem Myers, and Lloyd Parks and We The People band.


Massive following


Entering the business in 1988 as The Heineken Startime Show, with Heineken Beer being the main sponsor, the show began as a small after-work jam at The Old Spanish Town Bar at the now defunct Oceana Hotel. It outgrew several venues, resulting in it skipping from place to place in order to accommodate the massive following.

The first set of shows, beginning on June 30, 1988, featured one artiste per show, each month, with Gregory Isaacs, Cynthia Schloss, Bob Andy, Hopeton Lewis and surprise guest Pat Kelly, Ken Boothe, The Heptones and Delroy Wilson in that order, unleashing a seven-month blitz, ending in December, that left fans asking for more.

From that small start as a monthly event, the show was forced to take a break, owing to the closure of the hotel in 1993. It triumphantly returned in 1995 at Club Mirage in the Sovereign Centre. Two stagings there, and the crowd again forced its removal to Peppers at Upper Waterloo Road.

As the support base grew, the show made yet another move in 1997 to the Countryside Club, along Eastwood Park Road, and then to the original Mas Camp at Oxford Road, where it nestled until it ended its first run in 2006. Since then, two shows were held in 2013 and two in 2016.


Jamaican vintage music


There have also been successful stagings in other parishes, while a European tour gave overseas fans a taste of live Jamaican vintage music.

Other artistes like John Holt, Alton Ellis, The Melodians, Phyllis Dillon, Leroy Sibbles, Errol Dunkley, Johnny Clarke, Horace Andy, The Mighty Diamonds, Ernie Smith, U-Roy, Frankie Paul and a host of others have the Startime series to thank for their second wave of popularity, while the consistently high quality of the shows has made it one of the most significant contributors to the preservation of Jamaica's musical heritage.

The many awards the show has received over the years include Show of the Year on several occasions; several Binns and Rockers Awards, the CVM Television Award, and the Martin's International and Red Stripe Awards, while the directors/organisers - Michael Barnett and Keith Brown - have been awarded Promoters of the Year on several occasions, in addition to being decorated with the KSAC's Gold Medal for their work in preserving Jamaica's musical heritage.