Emmanuel “Rico” Rodriguez
born17 October 1934
died 4 September 2015),
also known as simply Rico, Reco or El Reco, was a Cuban-born Jamaican ska and reggae trombonist. He recorded with many producers, including Karl Pitterson, Prince Buster, and Lloyd “Matador” Daley. He was known as one of the first and most distinguished ska artists, and from the early 1960s performed and recorded in Britain, with the Specials, Jools Holland, Paul Young, and others.
Rodriguez was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved with his family to Jamaica at an early age. He grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, and was taught to play the trombone by his slightly older schoolmate Don Drummond at the Alpha Boys School.In the 1950s, Rodriguez became a Rastafarian and was closely associated musically to the rasta drummer Count Ossie.In 1961 Rodriguez moved to the UK and started to play in reggae bands.In 1976 he recorded the album Man from Wareika under a contract with Island Records.In the late 1970s, with the arrival of the 2 Tone genre, he played with ska revival bands such as the Specials including their single “A Message to You, Rudy”.
Rodriguez formed the group Rico and the Rudies and recorded the albums Blow Your Horn and Brixton Cat. In 1995 Island Records released the album Roots to the Bone, an updated version of Rodriguez’s earlier work Man from Wareika. From 1996, among other engagements, he played with Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and also performed at various ska festivals throughout Europe with his own band. He retired from performing with Jools Holland in 2012.
He was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) at Buckingham Palace on 12 July 2007, for services to music. In October 2012 he was awarded the Silver Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in recognition of his contribution to Jamaican music.
On 4 September 2015, following a short illness in a London hospital, Rodriguez died aged 80.
Rico Rodriquez, who belonged to the golden age of Jamaican ‘hornsmen’, died in London Friday at age 80. Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that the influential trombonist died in hospital but did not give a cause of death.
Like saxophonists Tommy McCook and Lester Sterling and fellow trombonist Don Drummond, all members of the Skatalites, the Cuba-born Rodriquez learned music at the Alpha Boys School in Kingston.
Strongly influenced by the enigmatic Drummond and master drummer Count Ossie (of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari), Rodriquez is best known for the 1977 album, Man From Wareika, a jazz/roots-reggae fusion piece that is rated among Jamaican music’s seminal works.
Distributed by venerable jazz label Blue Note, it is Rodriquez’ signature. Man From Wareika includes the songs Africa and Lumumba; the latter is a moving tribute to Patrice Lumumba, slain president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Rodriquez moved to the United Kingdom in the early 1960s. Over the years, he developed a cult following among white youth in the Skinhead and Mod movements who appreciated his mastery of ska and jazz.
In the 1970s, he was befriended by The Specials, a British 2 Tone band with whom he recorded several songs including A Message to you, Rudy, a big hit for them in 1979.
For his impact on the British music scene, Rodriquez was awarded an MBE for services to music in 2007.
In 2012, the Institute of Jamaica awarded him a Silver Musgrave Medal for his contribution to the development of Jamaican music. He was unable to attend the ceremony at the organisation’s East Street headquarters in Kingston, due to ill health.