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The late Jerome Haynes, O. D. , better known as Jah Jerry was a pioneer musician who helped create Jamaica’s first indigenous music.....Ska. He was a legendary guitarist whose career spanned 50 years. He was a founding member of the immortal Skatalites Band. His untimely passing on August 13, 2007, in Jamaica where he lived most of his life, was a great loss to the music world.
Jah Jerry was born in Admiral Town, Kingston on May 5, 1927. He learned to play guitar by his blind father in the 1940’s. His father enjoyed playing guitar for recreational purposes, mainly alone and by himself in his yard. During the 1940’s, he and his father met Earnest Ranglin who provided guitar lessons to both of them. These sessions prepared Jah Jerry for playing in organized music and bands.
By 1949, He was playing with the Jocelyn Trott Orchestra in hotels around Montego Bay for tourists. In the 1950’s, he freelanced with several other bands, prominently, the Val Bennett’s Jazz band and joined the Arkland “Drumbago” Park studio band. He eventually made his first recording at Federal Studios with the Drumbago All Stars in the late 1950’s. . He cut an instrumental track called “Count Boysie Special” for Count Boysie sound system. In 1959, he played on Prince Buster’s first recording, Little Honey.
Jah Jerry participated in many sessions with Prince Buster as part of the Buster’s All Stars band. He worked with every record producers during his time such as Clement Dodd, Duke Reid, Prince Buster, Beverly, Bunny Lee, Lyndon Pottinger, King Edwards, J.J. Johnson and Joe Gibbs. He was one of first musicians to record with these producers as well as played on debut songs for many famous artists. These artists included Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, Delroy Wilson, Toots and the Maytals, Millie Smalls, Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole, Justin Hinds and the Dominos and Alton Ellis.
In 1962, he played on the Wailers first recording featuring a young Bob Marley for Beverly’s record, a song called “Judge Not”, and two years later, in 1964, he played on their biggest hit …Simmer Down.. for Studio One as a member of the Skatalites. The song sold an astounding 70,000 copies in Jamaica with a population of less than a million people at that time. His guitar work on the song was awesome.
Jah Jerry recorded hundreds of songs and worked with the cream of Jamaican musicians and producers He played on many number #1 hits in Jamaica. These songs included: Oh Carolina, Simmer Down, Carry Go Bring Come, One Love, Blazing Fire, Rough and Tough, When You Call My Name, Guns of Navarone, Freedom Sound, Be Still, Humpty Dumpty, Wash, Wash, Man in the Street, Lee Harvey Oswald, Black Star liners, just to name a few. Also, He was the guitarist on the Jamaican Independent song in 1962, Forward March.
In the year 2000, Jah Jerry received the Lifetime Achievement Award along with other members of the Skatalites for their contribution to Jamaican music from former Prime Minister P.J Patterson at King House. In addition, He was one of the first twelve inductees as a member of the Skatalites in the Jamaica Music Hall of Fame sponsored by the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates in 2008.
Experts noted that his style of guitar playing was part of what defined the Ska sound of Reggae, with chord changes unlike anything else heard at the time. Jah Jerry added jazz chords to the music and shifted chords repeatedly. His trade-mark rhythmic strum combined elements of Jazz and Calypso with Mento. He played on Shake a Leg by Derrick Morgan and They Got to Come by Prince Buster, the singles on which rhythm & blues, Jazz, mento, shuffle and boogie coalesced into Ska.
In summary, Jah Jerry was a pivotal figure in the development of Jamaican music, and his contribution to the culture had been significant. As a guitarist, he probably played on the most number # 1 and classic songs in Jamaica. He was a humble and caring person who left a rich legacy. He was married to Mary Haynes and had seven children and eleven grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren. He loved his family and people in general but tended to shy away from the spotlight. He was not only a great musician but also a wonderful human being.