Born: July 18, 1944
Kingston | Jamaica
Died: July, 2008
Roy Shirley also known as King Roy Shirley and The High Priest was a Jamaican singer whose career spanned the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras, and whose “Hold Them” is regarded by some as the first ever rocksteady song. Roy began singing in talent contests in the late 1950s. Encouraged by fellow artist Jimmy Cliff, who introduced him
on stage during one of his first performances, Roy turned professional
in his teens. His early recordings for producer Simeon L Smith remain unreleased, but his debut, the ballad Shirley (1965) was a local ska hit. Roy then formed the Leaders vocal group with Ken Boothe, Joe White and Chuck Josephs before joining the first incarnation of the Uniques with Slim Smith and Franklyn White, recording for Sir JJ label and Caltone.
Based in England from 1973, in recent years he set up British Universal Talent Development Association, to support disaffected youth. He continued to perform in Jamaica and north America, and his last show took place at the Sierra Nevada world music festival in June. Roy Shirley died of a heart attack at his home in Thamesmead, London in July 2008, aged 63.