Jamaican Music

The Top Rock Steady Groups and Their Hits Songs

The Heptone
Written by Stan Evan Smith

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, Jackie Mittoo and Lyn Taitt, in particular are credited with the creation the classic 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 Melodians– Brent Dowe, Tony Brevette, and Trevor McNaughton. Their catalogue of 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”, “Everybody Bawling”, “Swing and Dine”, “Sweet Sensation”, “Rivers of Babylon”, and “You Have Caught Me”,
  2. The Wailers-Bob Mary, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Brathwaite, Beverly Green and Cherry Kelso. Their catalogue of hit songs included: the Jamaican chart topper “Simmer Down” “Nice Time”, “Dancing Shoes”,” Love and Affection” “Lonesome Feeling”, “It Hurts to Be Alone”, “Rude Boy Ska”- “I’m Still Waiting”, “Put It On” “Rude Boy” “Hypocrites”, “One Love” and “Bend Down Low”
  3. The Heptones-Leroy Sibbles, Earl Morgan and Barry Llewelyn the most successful rocksteady group from Studio One. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Sweet Talking”, “Love Won’t Come Easy”, “Pretty Looks Isn’t All”, “Party Time”, “Fattie Fattie”, “Sea of Love”, “I Hold the Handle”, “Equal Rights”, “My Baby Is Gone”, “Party Time” ,”Sea of Love” and “Sweet Talking’
  4. The Paragons-John Holt, Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett. Their catalogue of 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”, “Riding High on a Windy Day”, “When the Lights Are Low”, and “”I Want to Go Back”
  5. The Techniques– Winston Riley, Slim Smith, Franklyn White, Pat Kelly and Frederick Waite.: Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Little Did You Know”, w/ Slim Smith “You Don’t Care”, w/Pat Kelly) “Queen Majesty”, w/Winston Riley, “I Wish It Would Rain”, w/Pat Kelly, “It’s you I Love”, and “Love Is Not a Gamble” and “Traveling Man.”
  6. Toots & the Maytals-Fredrick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias. Their catalogue of hit songs included : “Bam Bam”, “54-46 That’s My Number”, “Pomps and Pride”, “Pressure Drop”; Never You Change”, “Sweet and Dandy” (1969), and “Monkey Man”,
  7. Desmond Dekker @ the Aces– Desmond Dekker, Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Israelites”(1968), “007 (Shanty Town)” (1967), “A It Mek” (1968)”Rude Boy Train”, “Unity” 1968 “Music like Dirt (Intensified ’68)” and “Sabotage”1(968)
  8. The Clarendonians– Fitzroy “Ernest” Wilson and Peter Austin. Their catalogue of 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.”
  9. The Ethiopians– Leonard Dillon, Neville Duncan, Wally Booker and Harold Bishop. They spearhead the transition between Ska and Rocksteady. one of Jamaica music most influential vocal groups. 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.”
  10. The Uniques– (1967-1969) Roy Shirley, Slim Smith, Jimmy Riley, Lloyd Charmers. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Girls like Dirt” (1967), “Watch This Sound”, w/ Slim Smith “My Conversation”, “For What It’s Worth”, “Lesson (Story) Of Love” ,“The Beatitude”” and “Girls Like Dirt”
  11. The Kingstonians– “Jackie” Bernard, Lloyd “Footy” Bernard, and Lloyd Kerr. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Singer Man”, (later covered by Three Dog Night and UB40), “Sufferer” and “Whiney Whiney.”
  12. The Jamaicans– Tommy Cowan, Norris Weir, Martin Williams, and Derrick Brown. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Things You Say You Love”, 1967 ‘”Ba Ba Boom”, 1967 and “Gun Fever.’’
  13. The Tennors– George “Clive” Murphy and Maurice “Professor” Johnson. Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Ride Me Donkey”, “Pressure and Slide” (1967) and “Hopeful Village”.
  14. Alton Ellis & the Flames– Leslie Ellis, David “Baby G” Gordon and Winston Jarrett. Their catalogue of 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’ and ‘Oo ee Baby’

Honorary Mention:

  1. The Cables– Keeble Drummond, Elbert Stewart (baritone) and Vince Stoddart. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Baby, Baby Why” and “What Kind of World.”
  2. Judy Mowatt and the Gaylettes– Judy Mowatt, Beryl Lawson, Merle Clemenson. ‘Their catalogue of hit songs included: “We Shall Sing”, “I like Your World’’ “Silent River Runs Deep” ‘Groovin’, “Here Comes That Feeling” and “Son of a Preacher Man”
  3. The Silvertones– Carl Grant, Delroy Denton and Keith Coley. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “In the Midnight Hour”, (19 ’67) “True Confession”, “Cool Down”, “Old Man River”, “Slow & Easy” (“Guns Fever”) “Tear Drops Will Fall”.[ Gayfeet and “It’s Real, “Rejoice Jah Jah Children”, Silver Bullets album, (Lee ‘Uppsetter’ Perry)
  4. 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.”
  5. The Three Tops– Dion (or Dionne) Cameron, Orville (or possibly Oswald) Robinson, and Joe Riley. Their catalogue of hit songs included: ‘Do it Right’ and ‘It Is Raining’(1967)
  6. The Conquerors-Clifton “Skibo” Harding, Aston Campbell. Their catalogue of hit songs included: “Won’t You Come Home Now’’, “I Fall in Love” and “Lonely Street.”
  7. The Pioneers– Sydney and Jackie Robinson. Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Longshot” , “Jackpot”, “Catch the Beat”, “Pan Yu Machete”, “Long Shot”, “Long Shot (Kick De Bucket)” and “Samfie Man.”
  8. Gaylads– Harris “B.B.” Seaton, Winston Delano Stewart and Maurice Roberts. Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Simple Way of Living”, “Love Me With All Your Heart”, “Walk the Proud Land”, “The Soul Beat”, “I Am Free”, “You’re Leaving Now”Joy in the Morning”, “Tears from My Eyes” Lady in the Red Dress”, “Stop Making Love”, “You Should Never Do That”, and “Don’t Say No”, “There’s a Fire”, “Africa (We Want To Go),” “Red Rose,” (Studio One), “It’s Hard To Confess,” “Over the Rainbow’s End“(Gayfeet) and “My Jamaican Girl” (

The Sensations: (Jimmy Riley, Cornel Campbell, Buster Riley and Aaron “Bobby” Davis) Their catalogue of hit songs included;  ”Every Day Is Just A Holiday”, “ The Last Time’,I’ll Never Fall in Again”, “Those Guys”, “Lonely Lover”, “Love Not to Brag”

Rita Marley & the Soulettes Marlene Gifford, Cecile Campbell, Constantine ‘Vision’ Walker, Nora Dean, Hortense Lewis Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Why Should I” “Bring It Up” (you’re) My Desire”, and  “A Deh Pon Dem”   

Carlton and the Shoes – (Carlton Manning, Donald Manning, Lynford Manning & Alexander Henry. Their catalogue of hit songs included; “Love me Forever” Studio One

About the author

Stan Evan Smith

Senior Editor and North East Media Coordinator for Jamaicans.com