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Vagabond's Jimmy James to be honoured

Published:Wednesday | May 26, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Michael James, better known as Jimmy James of The Vagabonds fame, is among five persons to be honoured by King Omar Promotions' Tribute To The Greats show, which is scheduled for July 31 at the Curphey Place in St Andrew.

James and his band were a popular attraction on the Kingston live show circuit during the early 1960s, before moving to Britain where they rubbed shoulders with some of that country's biggest acts, such as the Rolling Stones and The Who.

Singer Tony Gregory, singer/keyboardist Herman Sang of the Jiving Juniors, dance promoter Neville 'Lager' Reid and sound system veteran Gladstone 'Gladdy' Parker are the other honourees.

James, now 68, lives in Britain where he is still active on the oldies circuit, particularly in London where there is a colony of Jamaican musicians from the 1960s.

popularity in britain

With James handling lead vocals, The Vagabonds recorded mainly at Studio One for producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd. Some of their Studio One work, like the song, I Don't Wanna Cry, has recently appeared on compilation albums in Europe.

James and The Vagabonds moved to London in 1964 and signed to Pye Records, which was then home to a rising British singer named Rod Stewart. The group became so popular in Britain that they performed as opening act for Stewart, the Rolling Stones and The Who.

The Vagabonds had a minor hit song in Britain in 1968, with a cover of Neil Diamond's Red Red Wine. Their last hit, I'll Go Where Your Music Takes Me, came in 1976.

Bassist Phil Chen, a former guitarist with The Vagabonds, went on to play bass with Stewart for several years. He played on the singer's massive 1978 disco hit, Do Ya Think I'm Sexy.

Tribute To The Greats has been held annually since 1998 by Kingsley Goodison, popularly known in local music circles as King Omar. It has honoured pioneers of Jamaican popular music, including Dodd, Edward Seaga, keyboardist Theophilus Beckford, musician/producer Byron Lee, singer/producer Prince Buster and singer Jackie Opel.