You have several artists in Jamaican music that never got the true recognition they were due, even though they had a few hit songs during a short period it didn't make them a mainstay in the business, but the material itself certainly suggested something else - such as Delano Stewart, a foundation member of the mighty Gaylads trio. Even if we're talking a vocal group - also a self-contained band at one stage - The Gaylads were, more or less, the brainchild of Harris 'BB' Seaton (himself one of the most gifted songwriters in the music), and not of his then partners Maurice Roberts and Winston Delano Stewart, the latter who penned such 'evergreen' songs as 'Joy In The Morning' among others. But it is arguably Delano who was the most talented singer of the three of them, not the least shown on his sole album, cut for Sonia Pottinger in 1969 entitled 'Stay A Little Bit Longer', where his songwriting ability came into full bloom as well. It is truly a magnificent collection of songs, some of them has become enduring classics in Jamaican music and redone over and over through the years. To reel them off, would these song titles be familiar to you: 'Let's Have Some Fun', 'Stay A Little Bit Longer', 'Rock With Me Baby' (aka 'Dance With Me') and, perhaps, the biggest of them all, 'That's Life'? I believe they would, if not done in original form by the master himself, then most likely by singers such as Linval Thompson, Ronnie Davis or Johnny Clarke. I'm pretty sure producer Bunny Lee had a soft spot for Delano once upon a time, this was apparent especially in the seventies, and it is understandable; Delano was and is a rare gem, hence all those recuts by some of Lee's protegés at the time. Unfortunately, Delano had left the island and migrated to the United States at the height of his Jamaican popularity in 1969 and made only sporadic recordings thereafter which, naturally, was an unfortunate waste of an unusual talent. Seldom has his story been told, and so it was about time to put the spotlight on - in my opinion at least - one of the overlooked giants of the music. Delano is a delightful, humble, jovial and down-to-earth type of individual and it was a real pleasure to get some insights of his story and way too short a career. I hooked up with him in the Bronx, New York, in January 2004. Thanks to Winston, BB Seaton, Bob Schoenfeld, Tim P, Tony Rounce, and Steve Barrow.

Q: Let's go back first of all to where you were born and grew up and how the singing started, how you seriously got into music in the fifties?

A: Oh, OK. Yes, it started when I was in school, I was like twelve or something like that, and I went on theVere John Opportunity Hour. It used to be a show in the western part of Kingston. They search for talent, you could go and they have a competition, y'know. So, I went there once and I remember singing a successful song at that first try (chuckles). And then you go on and on (laughs)! They make you continue until you go to the final. But, y'know, the beginning too I just did it like... just for kids, like. We all gathered, just kids from school, some would go dancing and all that. Then I met this guy Richard Ace at one talent show. I think it was at two theatres then, one was on the east side, that was I think in the late fifties - no, early sixties, it was just about the sixties, and then he was forming a group. I was just aged like fourteen, and he formed a group with Boris Gardiner and Dennis Moss.

Q: Was that the Rhythm Aces?

A: Rhythm Aces, yes. Yeah, I was in that group but it was only for a short time I was there and the group lasted. We made a couple of songs like 'A Thousand Teardrops', 'Christmas', couple more. Yeah. And then the group break up somewhat.

Q: What was the reason?

A: The breaking up? Well, my terms of it is that African brother Dennis - Dennis Moss, he moved (laughs)! He just left, he just quit the group for some reason, odd reason, and that just dismantled everything. Yeah (laughs)! Then BB (Harris 'Bibby' Seaton, aka 'Horace') was living in the mid east area where Boris was living, I spoke with him occasionally and we saw (each other), that's when I met BB and he... I don't think he had graduated, but he was coming out of college. But he was just idle, just living there and not doing anything (laughs)! But then we started to sing a little bit, did some kind of rehearsing together, and that's how the Gaylads had started. He introduced me to Maurice (Roberts), who lived not too far from where he was, and that's where the Gaylads started, that's in the early sixties, and...

BB Seaton (Studio One pic).

Boris Gardiner.

Q: But what about your early days, before we move into the Gaylads, the neighborhood you were brought up in, and so on? What was the surroundings?

A: Oh, I was in Kingston and...

Q: When were you born, was it January 1940 (as stated in a liner note a few years back)?

A: '47, and in Western Kingston. And there they call it Whitfield Town, it just borders from Trench Town, they were figuring if it was like the same neighborhood (chuckles). You know? Yeah. And I was relatively poor, but we were...

Q: It was a large family?

A: We had a family of five, mother and father. My sisters and brothers we all grow up as five children.

Q: What did your parents work with?

A: My father he was a driver of some sort for the KECB (?) in Jamaica, and my mother was a housewife, they are both deceased by now. But then my second sister she was the one who went farther with education. All of my sisters and my brothers they all went on to high school, college of some sorts. I'm the only one who didn't go on through I... was kept up with entertainment, I guess. Then I was on the North Coast, when I worked with the Rhythm Aces I was on the north coast, and worked with...

Q: You worked in Montego Bay?

A: Yeah, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, mainly in Ocho Rios we were. And I'm trying to remember if it was Howard Butler...? This is way back then (laughs)! Howard Butler, and there was this next kid, there's quite a few entertainers - Tony Gregory, and there's other people, but I just can't remember names as such. One guy who used to sing like Fanso Diamond, as kids we were all there, you see, in the entertainment field or whatever they would call it (laughs)!

Q: The Rhythm Aces was like your first real experience with a group, nothing before that?

A: Yeah, yeah. But I knew Jackie Edwards even before then, he was the one that had faith in...

Q: He was from Whitfield Town too?

A: Yeah, as far as... yeah, he was from the same neighborhood. His father was a tailor, and I happened to be learning (chuckles) the trade as tailor from his father, that's how I met him. And then he became quite a star.

Q: When could this have been, mid fifties or so? Must have been something like that, because Jackie was one of the first recording artists on the island, so somewhere around the mid fifties I suppose.

A: Yeah, it was like in the late fifties, yeah. Right, late fifties.

Q: And it was him and Owen Gray, Alton (Ellis), Skully & Bunny, Lascelles Perkins, Theophilius Beckford and Derrick at that time?

A: And Derrick Morgan and... trying to get back into remembering some of those (laughs)! But there was one guy, he was one of the first real recording stars.

Q: You mean Laurel Aitken?

A: Ahh! Laurel, that's it. That's the name, yeah. He was one of the first recording artists.

Q: Yeah. He had a stroke, recently (and has since passed earlier this year).

A: Yeah, yeah. But Wilfred (Jackie) was one of the first ones who got back from the States, y'know (laughs), we tried to... OK, tried a song or so. Then, like I said, I went on to where I met BB and we would be writing, BB and...

Q: This is after the Rhythm Aces now, you still played with them?

A: Yeah, after the Rhythm Aces. It wasn't quite a long trip with the Rhythm Aces, I guess this is coming right into the sixties. Rhythm Aces had lasted like maybe two or so years and...

Q: But Rhythm Aces didn't play ska, you played more of a variety, Rhythm & Blues, ballads, and so on.

A: No, no. Yeah. More like a ballad, yeah. It wasn't no original, nutten of our own until we do 'A Thousand Teardrops' and 'Christmas' songs, yeah. It was all like that back then - ballads. You know, Boris was the (laughs) - it was then the music was just starting to develop, because that's when I met BB and, y'know, right then it was in the ska era, with Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan.

Prince Buster.

Derrick Morgan.

Q: So ska came around the time you started, or was it there already? Or was the boogie or Rhythm & Blues still ruling the dancehalls?

A: No, no. It was just about in, started to come about then, the era. And Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan they was on top of it, really. But I think it was Richard Ace who introduced me to Coxson, Mr Dodd. BB and myself we were both singing, just me and him, we were doing harmonies together. BB sang solo on some of the songs (laughs) and we worked together some of the time.

Q: But Coxson encouraged you both to sing not only together but solo as well, at that time, right?

A: Yeah, yeah. It was some sort of way to (laughs) making some more money to whatever you can. It was quite a - I can't find the right word to say, but it was like a hustling. Yes, so whatever amount you could do of work in that day and you get an amount for that work, so... you know? Yeah.

Q: What else did the Rhythm Aces record by the way, other than the two songs mentioned? Because you went to Chris Blackwell at one point - any recordings that came out of this? It was those two?

A: Yeah, with the Rhythm Aces? There were these two widely played music ('A Thousand Teardrops' and 'Christmas Song'), yeah. Chris Blackwell did those two.

Q: And he released them both in England and Jamaica.

A: Yeah, but (chuckles) being as a kid... I saw him once after the group broke up and he had some statements that we get, a penny off of each record, or whatever, and he never fulfilled the payment. So I said to him that the money for our work wasn't actually laid up. Because (chuckles) I couldn't get a lawyer to talk with him, I never spoke with him after then, y'know what I mean? But this was back in the sixties, late sixties, I think.

Q: Did the Rhythm Aces continue for a while after you left?

A: No, no. Boris went on solo. Richard Ace, he became more musically inclined on guitar and piano.

The Skatalites

Q: Doing more session work in other words.

A: Yeah, yeah. And Dennis, I didn't see Dennis anymore, he... oh, my gosh! He just wrap up! No, yeah, I saw him once. I was going to MoBay on the train once and I saw him get on the train one stop, so way down in the country, in the rural parts of the country, he said he was doing some odd things (chuckles). This t'ing was true, he had taken one of the stools, he could've taken my stool instead of (laughs)...

Q: (Laughs)

A: You know? It's things that happen, it's just one of them t'ings that happen. He was saying that he landed a trade as his father, like his grandfather. But some t'ings was kinda happening to Dennis that I can't even elaborate (?) about, y'know. But he was the one that start the group Rhythm Aces and they break up through his disappearance, y'know.

Q: And then you and BB recorded as the Diamond Twins?

A: Right, right!

Q: As Winston & Bibby too?

A: Yes. And then after that Maurice was in the group, so we became a trio.

Q: Wasn't there a solo recording you did before that called 'But I Do' for Studio One?

A: Yeah, I sang over that song, that was one of my early songs. And it was a couple more songs as doing that. I did one song amongst these, the Lord Creator song 'Evening News'.

Q: Yeah, sure. Classic.

A: There was quite a few songs. I can't recall them (laughs)! Thru I never kept it on record what I did, even the work with Gaylads that I've done, I can't... These songs maybe never get published, or get on a limited label, like, and even then we did some songs for Federal.

Q: Even under contract to Coxson? I assume this was after you split from Studio One, or you sang under a different name?

A: Yeah, after Coxson I don't know, it was West Indies, not Federal. West Indies Records, their studio.

Q: WIRL, West Indies Recording Limited, right.

A: I don't know... if it's 'WIRL', but it was West Indies then.

Q: I think it was Edward Seaga who owned that, one of the main owners anyway.

A: Maybe. Now I'm not sure (laughs)! But we did some more and it never got released, there was some original work and we never hear anything about it. Yeah, I did quite some work for him, maybe BB would have known thru he keep up more with what was happening. So when I left I left the business and I just kinda drop it all off. When I came here - I think it was in '76 - I put out ('Spinning Wheel') like I was telling you earlier, it was just me bribing around and it did pretty well. I can't guess the name of the man or who it was - he's from England, but we traded tapes and that's a next thing (chuckles); I never get by my money or account of what happened to it in England. But the song was 'Spinning Wheel' that I put out in the seventies, y'know.

The Gaylads

Q: Yes, we're coming to that later. Who came up with the name 'The Gaylads', was that after you and BB met Maurice?

A: Yeah, yeah. BB comes up to - I wanted it to remain 'The Diamonds', he wanted 'The Gaylads' (chuckles)! Maybe he was a very persistent guy then, so... You know, that's how it initially went, the Gaylads. But it was another thing with the group by pickin' (on me) sometime after - they said like 'Hey!', is like I was kinda lazy sometime (laughs), or whatever. But I don't think that was the account of me being locked up basically about the whole thing, it's just I couldn't put a pinpoint down what was happening, I just think I wasn't still - nothing wasn't still fairly, y'know what I'm trying to say? So I was kinda reluctant in most of the work. So while we were in Coxson's studio, BB used to go there every day, every day - and Maurice, and I was just (chuckles) passing thru whenever I hear we got some recordings to do. Because then I come that day, but the other work that has to be done, like backing-up parties and all that, I didn't think that's for me (laughs)! So I didn't do much.

Q: You just didn't participate as much as was required?

A: No, I did, but...

Q: At least not on a regular basis like the other two?

A: No, through to the money wasn't right, mixed in with all that. But I did work, I did work most of the songs in them days.

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