Alton Ellis was undoubtedly one of Jamaica’s finest singers, and he pioneered the rocksteady movement which preceded reggae music. Just as there are events and major concerts which commemorate the life of outstanding artistes like Bob Marley, Dennis Brown and Peter Tosh, Ellis’ family would love to see ‘The Godfather of Rocksteady’ receive such glory.
“Even though we tour around the world and sing his (Alton) songs, there’s no event like this to honour him.”— Christopher Ellis, one of Alton’s sons
Fresh off the stage at the recently held Dennis Brown Tribute Concert, Christopher Ellis, one of Alton’s sons and a singer in his own right, said an event of that nature is well under way.
“Me and my family are in talks now because there is nothing for dad like this. Even though we tour around the world and sing his songs, there’s no event like this to honour him,” he told BUZZ.
“It’s sad to say, but in a way, I feel like he’s almost forgotten, in a sense. He was earlier than Dennis Brown, he was a founder, so I feel like he has been left behind, but that’s up to us as a family to maintain that thing and keep something like this, but smaller though and make it grow so people can know who Alton Ellis is.”
The United Kingdom-based singer is cousin to comedians Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis and Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis, with whom he is orchestrating the event.
“We’re in talks now to make something happen. Hopefully, that’ll be by the end of the year.”
Alton Ellis formed part of the musically rich roster of Trench Town, Kingston, and started his career in the late 50s as one-half of the duo Alton & Eddy with singer Eddy Parkins.
They were among the first to experiment with Jamaican rhythm and blues, evident on the recording Muriel for producer Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd.
After Parkins migrated to The States, Ellis held a nine-to-five job while trying his luck with other groups like The Flames, with which he recorded rocksteady tracks Girl I’ve Got A Date and Cry Tough. But the dulcet vocalist was far from living the Hollywood dream and still found himself in his shack in Trench Town, forcing him to migrate to the United Kingdom for a better life. By the 90s, a revival of the ska and rocksteady wave in Jamaica provided more opportunities for Ellis.
The I’m Still in Love With You singer died from cancer in London in 2008.
As Christopher works to preserve his dad’s legacy, he is also focused on building his own, especially in Jamaica.
“I have some shows back in the UK next month, but I’m coming back to Jamaica straight after,” he said. “It’s important for me to get the approval of the Jamaican people, so I wanna do that and be here and make my music big over here.”
His songs include the Damian Marley-produced Still Go A Dance, Only Want You Naked and Better Than Love.