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Alton Ellis


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Kingston, Jamaica

Alton Ellis (1938-2008) was a musician best known as the innovator of rocksteady music. He began recording in the late 1950s and continued until his death in 2008, but he reached his period of greatest popularity in the late 1960s.

Ellis was born in Trenchtown, a poor area of Kingston, Jamaica, and learned to play the piano at a young age. In his teens, Alton and Eddie Perkins formed Alton & Eddie, and began recording for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, scoring a hit in 1958 with “Muriel”.

Ellis launched his solo career after Perkins left for the United States around 1965. He moved to Treasure Isle and began recording with the back-up trio The Flames. His first hit for Treasure Isle was “Dance Crasher”, a plea for peace, and he followed it up with “Get Ready - Rock Steady”, perhaps the first rocksteady recording. The song was apparently recorded with keyboardist Jackie Mittoo playing the bass guitar part because the bassist did not show up; Mittoo could not keep up with the ska beat, and the tempo was slowed down to accommodate him. This allowed for a choppier rhythm that led Ellis to expand his vocal range.

Ellis’ most well-known song is probably “Girl, I’ve Got A Date”, or “I’m Still In Love With You”, a song that has been versioned many times by artists such as Sean Paul, Althea & Donna (As ‘Uptown Top Ranking’).

In 2006, Ellis was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards (IRAWMA), Hall Of Fame.


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