JOHN Holt’s Memories By the Score is one of bassist Jackie Jackson’s all-time favourites. Therefore, he feels it is quite a fitting tribute to be playing it at the singer’s funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral on North Street in Kingston this morning.
“I played on the original recording. In fact, I played on all the Paragons hits,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Jackson said he will performing with his wife, Karen Smith, and Lloyd Parks’ band.
Written by Holt, Howard Barrett and Tyrone Evans [The Paragons], Memories By The Score was recorded in the rocksteady era of the late 1960s for producer Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label.
Jackson, 67, was part of Reid’s formidable session band — Tommy McCook and the Supersonics. That team comprised Gladdy Anderson on keyboards, Lynn Taitt and Hux Brown on guitars, and Lloyd Knibb/Paul Douglas on drums. In addition to the Paragons, the band also provided hitmakers including Alton Ellis and Phyllis Dillon, as well as groups The Jamaicans, The Melodians and The Techniques.
The bassist remembers the first meeting the Greenwich Town-born Holt on a Sunday afternoon nearly half-a-century ago.
“John was in his Afro and wearing pointed shoes. He had replaced Bob Andy in the Paragons. They had come to record Wear You To The Ball,” Jackson recalled.
What happened next, according to Jackson, was amazing.
“They [The Paragons] start rehearsing and we were in awe of John’s voice. He was singing effortlessly. That day, we recorded Wear You To The Ball, Happy Go Lucky Girl, and On The Beach… Hits after hits,” he said.
“I said to myself, ‘this group would go far’. And so said, so done,” he continued.
The Paragons dominated the local charts and the rocksteady era with a trove of hit songs including Ali Baba, Tonight and I See Your Face.
Holt went solo, after Evans and Barrett migrated to the United States in 1970. This, Jackson feels, made him come to prominence.
“John came looking for me, and asked me to play on his solo album 1,000 Volts of Holt. We recorded it in two days,” said Jackson.
That 1974 set, produced by Englishman Tony Ashfield, introduced Holt to a new United Kingdom fan base. The set comprised covers of Americans Sammy Davis’s signature Mr Bojangles, Diana Ross’s Touch Me in the Morning and Stoned out of my Mind by the Chi Lites.
Jackson said that set earned him and ‘Supersonics’ a successful eight-week gig in England with Holt.
“When John started a song, you couldn’t hear what he was saying as the people singing in the audience would drown out his voice,” he recalled.
Jackson said Holt was happy for the UK break.
“That’s my fondest memory of John. He was so happy. I remember we were in Piccadilly Circus [in London] and were walking back to our hotel. John said ‘Bwoy, me never know say this day woulda come so quickly. Two weeks ago, we were in Jamaica, and look weh we deh now,” Jackson recalled.
Holt last performed in the UK in August. The 69-year-old passed away in Wellington Hospital in London on October 20. He had been diagnosed with colon cancer in June.
Interment is scheduled in the Dovecot Memorial Park in St Catherine.
With Holt’s vast catalogue, Jackson said his memory will live on.
“John is The Voice. He left us a legacy,” he said.