One of the great unsung heroes of Jamaican music, Tommy McCook, died of pneumonia two months ago. His influence on the development of what we know as reggae was as profound as many a more celebrated and well known performer and, in many ways, he was the archetypal "back room boy" whose foundation work aided and abetted the careers of many lesser talented stars while his own contributions remained unrecognised except by the cognoscenti.

His musical career begun like so many others, at the infamous Alpha Catholic School For Boys where he learned tenor saxophone, flute and music theory. He was a fine jazz musician who not only played with the dance bands of Eric Deans and Ray Coburn but also developed a deep love for the Rastafarian music of Count Ossie as a frequent visitor to grounations at Ossie's camp. He worked in the Bahamas throughout the late fifties in a dance band but returned to Jamaica in 1962 where he became involved in the development of ska and helped to form the legendary Skatalites in 1963. Their knowledge and shared background of jazz, R&B and Jamaican musical forms irrevocably altered the nature of Jamaican music, the effects of which are still being felt in current chart music. The Skatalites disbanded in 1965 and Tommy McCook formed the Supersonics who became Duke Reid's house band at Treasure Isle Studio on Bond Street where their mastery of that most potent and influential music - rocksteady - established Duke Reid's supremacy until the end of the decade.

His career as a session musician continued up until the very end and he worked with every top producer and artist to ever record in Kingston. Flip over your favourite albums of the sixties and the seventies and it's odds on that Tommy McCook played on it somewhere ! His solo releases were few and far between unfortunately, but his work as a session musician was prolific in the extreme.

There follows a brief run down on some of the still available highlights of his sterling career. Tommy McCook will be sadly missed !

Source: "Dub Vendor Newsletter" July 1998.
Picture: taken from " The Guiness Who's Who Of Reggae".

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