Sunday, July 20, 2008

ROY SHIRLEY 1944 - 2008

It is with great regret that Springline reports the passing of Roy Shirley, the ‘High Priest Of Reggae’.

Born Ainsworth Roy Rushton Shirley in 1944, he made his recording debut in the mid-sixties, cutting ‘Shirley’ for Leslie Kong, before teaming up first with Errol Dunkley and later, Ken Boothe, the latter also joining him in the Leaders, a vocal quartet that also featured Joe White and Chuck Josephs. Early the following year, Shirley founded the Uniques along with Slim Smith and Franklyn White, but the trio proved short-lived and after recording material with Prince Buster and Karl ‘J.J.’ Johnson, the group disbanded.Following the break up of the Uniques, Shirley attended one-off sessions for Blondel Calnek and WIRL Records before cutting what was to be his first major hit, ‘Hold Them’ (aka ‘Feel Good’) for Joe Gibbs. Over the next five years, he recorded for an array of producers as well as founding his own Public Records imprint and was rarely out of the Jamaican charts, his spectacular run of hits only brought to an end by his relocation to Britain around 1973. During this period he had also established a reputation as a stage performer without equal in Jamaica, his live shows becoming celebrated events on the island. Soon after his move to London, Roy opened a record shop in Dalston and over the years that followed remained active musically, recording new material and founding the British Universal Talent Development Association to help develop new young talent worldwide.Truly unique, Roy was not only one of one of the true greats of Jamaican music’s first golden age, but also a gentleman in every sense of the word and he will be sadly missed by all those who knew him, either personally or through his music.
Our deepest sympathies are passed on to his family and friends.

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