Jamaican Music

The Most Successful Top 15 Rock Steady Vocal Groups

Written by Stan Evan Smith
The Gaylads - Jamaican Rock Steady Group

The Gaylads – Jamaican Rock Steady Group

The Rock Steady music genre served as the bridge between Ska and Reggae. It evolved in 1966, and peaked by late 1968, despite the fact that many rock steady songs were released after 1968.  Musically, the instrumentalists of Jamaica, Tommy McCook and “Lyn” Taitt, in particular are credited with the creation the Rock Steady rhythm. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics were the resident recording band at Treasure Isle Records, the label most associated with Rock Steady. The song which telegraphed the change from Ska is, “I’ve Got To Go Back Home” by Bob Andy, which was recorded at Studio One in July 1966.

1. The Gaylads

Harrison ‘Bibi’ Seaton, Winston Delano Stewart and Maurice Roberts. Their hit songs included “Hard to Confess”, “Lady in the Red Dress”, “Stop Making Love”, “You Should Never Do That”, “There’s a Fire:, “Joy In The Morning”; “Red Rose, and “My Jamaican Girl.”

2. The Melodians

Brent Dowe, Tony Brevette, and Trevor McNaughton. Their hit ,songs included; “Last Train To Expo 67”, “You Don’t Need Me”, “Come On Little Girl” “You Will Never Get Away”, “It Comes and Goes”, “Swing and Dine”, “Sweet Sensation”, “Rivers of Babylon”, and “You Have Caught Me”,

3. The Wailers

Bob Mary, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Brathwaite, Beverly Green and Cherry Kelso. Their hit songs included: the Jamaican chart topper “Simmer Down” “Nice Time”, “Lonesome Feeling”, “It Hurts to Be Alone”, “I’m Still Waiting”, “Put It On” and “Rude Boy”

4. The Heptones

Leroy Sibbles, Earl Morgan and Barry Llewelyn the most successful rocksteady group from Studio One. Their hit songs included: “Sweet Talking”, “Love Won’t Come Easy”, “Pretty Looks Isn’t All”, “Party Time”, “Fattie Fattie”, “Sea of Love” and “I Hold the Handle.”

5. The Paragons

John Holt, Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett. Their hit songs included: “Wear You To The Ball”, “Tide is High”, “On The Beach’’, “Happy Go Lucky Girl”, “Only A Smile’’, “The Same Song’, ’”My Best Girl’’, “Memories by The Score.”

6. The Techniques

Winston Riley, Slim Smith, Franklyn White, Pat Kelly and Frederick Waite. Their hit songs included: “Little Did You Know”, “You Don’t Care”, “Queen Majesty”, “I Wish It Would Rain”, “It’s You I Love”, and “Love Is Not a Gamble” and “Traveling Man.”

7. Toots & the Maytals

Fredrick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias. Their hit songs included: “Bam Bam”, “54-46 That’s My Number”, “Monkey Man”, and “Pomps and Pride”.

8. Desmond Dekker & the Aces

Desmond Dekker, Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard. Their hit songs included: “Israelites”, “007 (Shanty Town)”, “It Mek”, “Rude Boy Train”, “Music like Dirt (Intensified ’68)” and “Sabotage.”

9. The Clarendonians

Fitzroy “Ernest” Wilson and Peter Austin. Their hit songs included: “Rudie Gone a Jail”, “Sho Be Do Be”, “Rudie Bam Bam”, “You Can’t Be Happy”, and “Darling Forever” and “I am Sorry.”

10. The Ethiopians

Leonard Dillon, Neville Duncan, Wally Booker and Harold Bishop. In 1963 is one of Jamaica music most influential vocal groups. They spearhead the transition between Ska and Rocksteady. Their breakthrough international hit single “Train to Skaville” entered the U.K. Top 40 in 1967. Their other hits include three classics; “Everything crash”, “Bad to worse” and “Owner fi di yard” “Owe Me No Pay Me.” “No Baptism,” and, the percussion-driven “The Whip.”

11. The Uniques

Roy Shirley, Slim Smith, Jimmy Riley, Lloyd Charmers. Their hit songs included: “Girls like Dirt”, “Watch This Sound”, “My Conversation”, and “For What It’s Worth.”

12. The Kingstonians

“Jackie” Bernard, Lloyd “Footy” Bernard, and Lloyd Kerr. Their hit songs included: “Singer Man”, (later covered by Three Dog Night and UB40), “Sufferer” and “Whiney Whiney.”

13. The Jamaicans

Tommy Cowan, Norris Weir, Martin Williams, and Derrick Brown. Their hit songs included: “Things You Say You Love”, ‘”Ba Ba Boom”, and “Gun Fever.’’

14. The Tennors

George “Clive” Murphy and Maurice “Professor” Johnson. “Ride Me Donkey”, “Pressure and Slide” and “Hopeful Village”.

15. Alton Ellis & the Flames

Leslie Ellis, David “Baby G” Gordon and Winston Jarrett. Their hit songs included: “Don’t Trouble People”, “Dance Crasher”, and “Cry Tough”, “Girl I’ve Got a Date”, “Rock Steady”, “Ain’t That Lovin You”, and “Why Birds Follow Spring’ ,‘Oo ee Baby’

Honorary Mention:

16. The Cables

Keeble Drummond, Elbert Stewart (baritone) and Vince Stoddart. They had two major hit songs: “Baby Why” and “What Kind of World.”

17. Judy Mowatt and the Gaylettes

Judy Mowatt, Beryl Lawson, Merle Clemenson. ‘Their hit songs included: “We Shall Sing”, “I like Your World’’ “Silent River Runs Deep” and “Son of a Preacher Man”

18. The Silvertones

Carl Grant and Keith Coley Their hit songs included: “in the Midnight Hour”, “True Confession”, “Cool Down”, “Old Man River”, “Slow & Easy” and “It’s Real,

19. The Eternals

Cornel Campbell, Ken Pryce and Errol Wisdom. This group produced two of the biggest and most enduring Classics in Jamaicans music: “Stars” and “Queen of the minstrels.”

20. The Three Tops

Dion (or Dionne) Cameron, Orville (or possibly Oswald) Robinson, and Joe Riley. They two major hit songs: ‘Do it Right’ and It Is Raining’

21. The Conquerors

Clifton “Skibo” Harding, Aston Campbell. Their hit songs included: “Wont You Come Home Now’’, “I Fall In Love” and “Lonely Street.”

22. The Pioneers

Sydney and Jackie Robinson, “Longshot” , “Jackpot”, “Catch the Beat”, and “Pan Yu Machete”, “Long Shot”, “Long Shot (Kick De Bucket)” and “Samfie Man”,

About the author

Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com

  • Derek Mullings

    Nice. The tunes mum and dad used to play.