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Rico Rodriguez

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 4 months ago

Rico Rodriguez

 

 

1940 - 1954:

Rico attended the Alpha Boys School in Kingston where he learned to play trombone. His tutor was another pupil of that school, two years older than Rico, the now legendary Don Drummond. Many of the other important musicians from the early days of Jamaican recorded music have been his school mates. Classical music was in the center of his timetable at this school.

 

His school education was followed by an apprenticeship as a mechanic during 1952 to 1954.

 

First professional experience: 1954 - 1961

 

From 1954 to 1957 Rico continued his musical education at Stoney Hill Music School. During these years his musical influences were the two jazz trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding who released several common albums in those years.

 

Rico had his first studio engagements, among them (we think it was in 1956) Rico participated as a member of Clue J. And His Blues Blasters in C.S. Dodd's very first session to record "Easy Snappin'" with Theo Beckford.

 

During 1957 and 1958 Rico was playing three months with Eric Deans Band, replacing Don Drummond (mostly in Latin and Cuban styles). He won at Vere John's Opportunity Hour and thus built a name in the local music scene. Life was hard and it doesn't wonder that Rico lived from hand to mouth. He had to play for food with the fishermen on the beach near Kingston. In Rico's words: "Because you were poor and had to eat, you stay down where the fishermen draw their nets, so you'd have food every day. Fishermen always give you fish, they like to hear you playing." (from an interview in 1973, quoted by Cane-Honeysett, 1995)

 

He spent much time in Count Ossie's rasta community in Wareika Hills near Kingston. Percussionist and burru drummer Ossie teached Rico another side of music – Sheet music at school, jazz on the streets and African vibes over there in the hills -. Rico remembered his experience: "They're more developed, mentally and musically, than the average musician. When you play with them you can really explore. Most of what I know I learned from playing with them." (Williams 1981)

 

Prince Buster with Rico, early 60s

 

While he lived in the Rasta camp with Count Ossie in Wareika Hills, he worked at a barber's shop in Kingston.

 

While the Jamaican recording industry changed and grew rapidly in the field of self-produced popular dance music, Rico got more and more involved as a sought-after session man. He went on recording with various session groups, namely Clue J & The Blues Blasters, Count Ossie's Group, Smith All Stars, Drumbago And His Orchestra and for all the important producers - Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, Vincent Chin, Lloyd Daley - and as Rico's Group or All Stars for Prince Buster. Duke Reid (producing classics like Derrick Morgan's "Lover Boy") and Vincent Chin (Randy's) engaged him for their very first recordings. While Rico helped at Randy's, Chin produced Rico's first sides under his own name: "Rico Special" and later "Rico Farewell", the second as his goodbye to Jamaica and shortly after released in the UK by the young Island Records label.

 

At the end of 1961, at the age of 29, Rico emigrated to England.

 

Establishing in the London music scene: 1962 - 1969

 

Thanks to the imported Jamaican music on records Rico's name was already known within the immigrant community in London when he arrived. Thus it was no problem to start recording for the same people: Importers like Emil Shallit, Siggy Jackson (Melodisc/Blue Beat) and others started to produce records in London. Rico's first sessions were done already in 1962 by Planetone; at the same time he played the London club scene, for six month with Georgie Fame's Blue Flames.

 

Clement Dodd remembered in an interview from 1994 that it was Rico who inspired the Beatles to let their hair grow. It is said, that the foursome attended a lot of West Indian parties where Rico played because "he really kicked up a storm". (Hardbeatnews, 2004)

 

More and more singers came from Jamaica to London, composed a tour band and recorded in London studios. For instrumentalsts like Rico this meant work and it's no surprise, that he can be heard on many records, e.g. on tracks by Prince Buster, one of the best tracks was "Barrister Pardon".

 

Finally, in 1969 two LPs had been released with Rico as the featured artist: Reco in Reggaeland (on Pama), Blow Your Horn (Trojan) and another one with him as mayor soloist Brixton Cat, credited to Joe's All Stars and released by Trojan.

 

Despite of being active in the music scene money was never enough. Occasional jobs and assembly-line working were necessary to earn a living.

 

 

Consolidation and a true milestone: 1970 - 1977

Jamaican music had changed from ska to rock steady to reggae. Rico Rodriguez joined a group which is completely unknown today but was described by him as one of the most talented reggae bands in the UK: The Undivided lived as a backing band for Jamaican reggae artists touring the UK.

 

When Island Records re-entered the reggae market Rico came onto the list of session musicians for the fast growing enterprise. His first sessions took place in 1975 and were released as Toots' Reggae Got Soul and Jim Capaldi's (non-reggae album) Short Cut Draw Blood.

 

In the Island studios Rico met a man named Dick Cuthell, with whom he went together for a good seven years. Cuthell, an engineer on Island's paylist, recorded a demo for Rico which opened the way to Rico's first trip to Jamaica in 15 years and the seminal recording of Man From Wareika with some of the best Jamaican studio musicians; the release follows in 1977.

 

 

International success with 2-Tone and withdrawal: 1978-1988

 

With an critically acclaimed sols album Rico was engaged as a support act for Bob Marley & The Wailers on his 1978 tour in Europe. Rico had a chance to play in front of audiences and to build his reputation towards the European public. Island prepared a new album for Rico, but tried to direct him towards a more easy listening style. Some 12" single had been released which were planned to become the core of this new album. Already given a catalogue number it was never released.

 

Meanwhile Rico had received a phone call by a certain Jerry Dammers, who looked for Rico to play with his band, The Specials a remake of "Rudi A Message To You". The song was already recorded in two version by Rico, one for Dandy (Livingston) in 1967 and one credited to Rico himself from 1969. After the success of the Special's music Rico (and Dick Cuthell) became associated members of the group, participating in their touring and recording activities. Rico played on the groundbreaking albums Specials and More Specials, he contributed to The Selecter's debut.

 

"Despite the exposure he'd been given by working with The Specials, Island surprisingly did not renew his contract when it expired in January 1980, leaving him free to record for 2 Tone. They did make a half-hearted attempt to get The Specials to back Rico on a live take of "Guns Of Navarone" to be released on Island, but nothing came of it and so that it was." (George Marshall, 1990, p. 65)

 

In 1980 Rico was going to release his first single "Sea Cruise" on the 2 Tone label. He toured with The Specials but left for Jamaica accompanied by Dick Cuthell where he was in the studio to record for his next LP That Man Is Forward. Later in 1980 Rico toured with his own band and on Dec. 21 he joined the Police in their concert for "So Lonely".

 

In 1981 he played another great solo on the Specials' last single "Ghost Town" maybe the best single of the 1980s and surely the best horn solo in pop history.

 

Ian Dury made him public to his audience while singing "... listening to Rico..." in his hit "Reasons To Be Cheerful, Pt.III)". All these activities made him a central part of the 2 Tone story: he represented the Jamaican roots within The Specials' and the other group's music and made his instrument and his style attractive to the pop music market. Many engagements followed by artists such as Paul Young, Joan Armatrading, John Martyn and the big names in reggae: Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mickey Dread, Burning Spear, The Congos a.o.

 

Finally Rico had enough and left the "stage" to live in Wareika Hills until 1988.

 

Come-back to Europe and cooperating all over the world: since 1988

 

Early in 1988 Rico was searched after by some musicians from Switzerland who couldn't accept that Rico was lost for the music world. Finally he went to Switzerland and worked with the Heart Beat Band and Fizzé.

 

Thus he came back to London and started to work with Jazz Jamaica, later with his own band, recording in Europe and in Japan. Many sessions for various artists and groups followed: from old 2 Tone collegues (Suggs, Selecter) to 3rd wave ska (Trojans, Freetown) to more adventurous projects (Peeni Waali) and to recording partnerships in various countries all over the world.

 

From 1996 on Rico had a permanent engagement with Jools Holland, he recorded new CDs, partly with old material, played regularly in Europe, South America (Argentina) and in Japan and supported several young bands.

 

In 2004 Trojan Records released a 2CD box to commemorate Rico's 70th birthday on Oct. 17: Trombone Man uncovers some gems never reissued before. New albums appear in 2006: Japa Rico (after Jama Rico in 1982) and Wareika Vibes

 

 

Source: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=269836798&blogID=323495957

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