b. Jerome Hines/Haynes
August 11, 1921
d. August 13, 2007
Jerome Hines/Haynes, or Jah Jerry as he came to be known, died in Kingston on August 13, 2007, two days after his 86th birthday.
The vintage Jah Jerry sound was on a Hofner hollow-body, a thick chordal strumming that kept the ska beat. The classic Skatalites line-up usually listed him as the guitarist, though others often times recorded with the Skatalites as well. In his later years he proved too frail to tour with the re-grouped Skatalites, something you get the sense he was a bit sad about.
I'd originally hoped to talk to Prince Buster about Jah Jerry, but the first superstar of ska is currently on tour in Europe. Lloyd 'Matador' Daley did have a few reminiscences about Jerry, whom he described as a happy guy and "genuine rasta." Matador did do a few tunes in that era, and we've included one for you here that features Jah Jerry. But mostly Matador had a soundsystem he was busy running (and quite successfully too), and once Buster went into music production, the two of them had a good, working relationship, with Buster giving Matador lots of dub plate exclusives.
And so Matador, who had a car at age 17, would do Buster the favor of going to pick Jah Jerry up for recording sessions. You'd find Jah Jerry in the area known as "Ghost Town," sort of at the top of Trenchtown. Burned into Matador's memory is his venturing over a tiny little bridge ('if you fall into the gully, you never can come back') and finding Jerry and some other rastas with 'several kerosenes of food' on the other side, hidden in a yard.
My own memories of Jah Jerry actually end up paralleling the Matador's experience somewhat. Led by Alpha Boys' School bandmaster Sparrow Martin, we drove to pick up Jerry, still in that same basic area. Jerry finally emerged from a hidden home and walked slowly, gingerly to our Alpha van. Greetings all around, and off to Buster's we went, in the hope of softening our initial meeting with the great man via the delivery to him of his old friend, Jah Jerry. Matador reckons Jerry played on 70 percentof Buster's ska tunes, and that's a lot of cuts. One thing that's for certain, Buster couldn't get mad at our impromptu visit, not with Jah Jerry there. And as the hours wore on and Buster regaled us with this and that story from the past, he'd repeatedly interrupt himself and look at Jerry before going "Jah Jerry now!" and then set in to his impersonation of Jerry hitting those thumbed chord riffs on that Hofner of his.
Laughs and smiles all around. Jah Jerry was a Rasta and those in Jamaican culture who feared Rastas as "black heart" men had obviously never had dealings with Jah Jerry. A truly gentle and pleasant man, he told me that he enjoyed watching the youths play dominoes, and so off he'd wander sometimes, coming back late in the day. I used to call the house and no one would quite know where he'd gone. Sometimes he'd walk up to Studio One and just hang around, talking with King Stitt or the other old timers.
In a clip from the Deep Roots documentary series, Jah Jerry is interviewed during the early 80's and asked to comment on the sounds of the day. To Jerry's ears, those days of early dancehall were not really a reflection of the Jamaica he grew up in. The calypso/mento and rhythm and blues of his formative years had receded in many ways. But to his credit, he offers a gently reflective tone regarding the current music, saying "we have to accept it, [for] it is ours."
Jah Jerry's Hofner guitar was purchased in 2000 by the Experience Music Project in Seattle in connection with its Island Revolution exhibit. I worked on that exhibit and can admit these days to mixed feelings about all the items currently languishing in the vaults there. But it's at least in a secure place, saved for history, the future.
Thank you, Jerry.
-- Courtesy (Mark Williams, DC Soundclash) --
Guitarist pioneer of Jamaican ska
Guitarist Jerome "Jah Jerry" Haynes, who has died aged 86 following a brief illness, was a founding member of the Skatalites, the most important set of session musicians in Jamaica during the late 1950s and early 1960s. As leading exponents of ska, the island's first indigenous form of semi-electric popular music, they were central to the development of the country's cultural identity before and after independence in 1962. Jerry's rapid rhythm chords, strummed in a choppy manner, his thumb on a battered acoustic to emphasise the second and fourth beats of every measure, defined its rhythm.
Known as "Jah Jerry" because of his Rastafarianism, Jerry spent much of his life in Jones Town, a west Kingston ghetto that borders Trench Town, from which many of Jamaica's best-known artists emerged. In 1948, having tried to teach himself the rudiments of music on his father's guitar, he sought the tutelage of Ernest Ranglin, one of the island's most gifted players.
In the mid-1950s, he joined saxophonist Val Bennett's jazz band before playing in bands active on the hotel circuit frequented by tourists and upper-class Jamaicans. Eventually, he joined forces with drummer Arkland "Drumbago" Parks at a time when various Kingston businessmen and sound-system personnel began recording local players. Jerry's first recording session, arranged by Drumbago, yielded Count Boysie's Special, made specially for Count Boysie the Monarch, a sound system based at West Street, Kingston, but the song was retained as a demonstration acetate and never publicly released.
By 1959, partly through his connection with Drumbago, Jerry became associated with Prince Buster, a sound-system operator and aspiring vocalist about to enter record production himself; at Buster's first recording session, he is said to have told Jerry to "change gear", resulting in Jerry's trademark rhythmic strumming, as heard on landmarks such as Derrick Morgan's Shake a Leg, Buster's own They've Got to Go and the Folkes Brothers' hugely popular Oh Carolina. Producer Leslie Kong also made use of Jerry's talents on early hits by Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker (obituary, May 27 2006).
In 1961, Jerry was contracted exclusively to Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, founder of the Studio One group of labels and recording facility, though he continued moonlighting for other producers. He played on the first session arranged by Vincent "Randy" Chin and on rivals such as Duke Reid, King Edwards the Giant and Lyndon Pottinger. After the break-up of the Skatalites, he remained largely absent from the scene until 1981, when he was featured on trombonist Rico Rodriguez's That Man Is Forward album. Two years later, the reformed Skatalites played at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Jamaica; its led to US dates and the Return of the Big Guns album (1984).
Jerry left the Skatalites in 1986 to live in relative anonymity in Jones Town.
Jerome 'Jah Jerry' Haynes, guitarist, born August 11 1921; died August 13 2007
-- Courtesy (Dave Katz, The Guardian UK) --