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Baba Brooks

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b. Oswald Brooks, c.1935, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies. When there was a shortage of R&B sounds coming from the USA in the late 50s, the sound system men enrolled the services of musicians who would record their own tunes. Many of these recordings were jazz-orientated and featured a horn section to complement the shuffling beat. Baba Brooks played trumpet and in the early 60s had his own band, whose recordings included the celebratory ‘Independence Ska’, commemorating Jamaica’s freedom from colonialism in 1962. Both ‘Bus Strike’ and ‘Musical Workshop’ were hits in 1964. His band was also noted for its rendition of ‘Distant Drums’, which had the distinction of being the debut release for Philip and Justin Yap’s newly formed Top Deck label. As well as providing backing on a number of early ska hits, including ‘Run Joe’ with Stranger Cole and ‘Penny Reel’ with Eric Morris, the band released the classic ‘Guns Fever’, recorded at Studio One in Brentford Road in 1965. His 1966 instrumental hit ‘King Size’ appeared to be a ska interpretation of ‘Makin’ Whoopee’ and originally surfaced as the b-side to the Saints’ ‘Brown Eyes’. In 1967 he returned to the frantic pace of his 1965 hit with ‘One Eyed Giant’, which featured a ‘chika chika’ vocal sound and on which each player performed a jazzy solo. Other hits included ‘Teenage Ska’, ‘River To The Bank’ and ‘Ball Of Fire’. His recording of ‘Chang Kai Check’ provided the foundation of many reggae hits. His band continued to play on sessions until the early 70s.

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