ONE of the understated pioneers of Jamaican music, Lascelles Perkins turned 90 on October 13. The milestone was celebrated on the Kingston home of veteran session guitarist, Earl “Chinna” Smith.
Carl Finlay, an Irish musicologist who’s writing a book concerning the legendary Studio One label, said Perkins doesn’t get the acclaim like his contemporaries from the Nineteen Forties and Fifties.
“Any man that reaches 90 years old deserves some kind of acknowledgement. While you discuss foundation artistes, Lascelles is the definition of a foundation artiste,” said Finlay. “Some would say [Clement] Coxson Dodd and Studio One built up reggae music. Well, Lascelles Perkins was there on the very first recording session Coxson Dodd ever made, and the primary set of singles Coxson Dodd ever released was Lascelles Perkins.”
Dodd’s initial sessions took place in 1956 at Federal Records in Kingston. The boogie woogie songs Perkins did for his fledgling label were No More Running Around and Moonlight Cha Cha.
The Trench Town-born Perkins got into music shortly after leaving the Alpha Boys Home [(now Alpha Insitute) where his schoolmates included trombonist Don Drummond and saxophonist Lester Sterling, future members of The Skatalites.
Perkins told the Jamaica Observer, “It feels great to be 90. Wi give thanks for each yr; yuh have yuh likkle aches an’ pains but wi give thanks all di same.”
The eldest of seven children for his parents, Perkins said they were concerned that he was becoming wayward and that resulted in him being sent to Alpha, which was an establishment for troubled boys. After leaving Alpha he entered talent contests as a singer, the best-known being the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour.
Along with recording “countless songs” for Dodd, including The Mighty Organ and No Man is an Island (later made famous by Dennis Brown), Perkins worked in north coast hotels and on tourist ships which sailed to The Bahamas and Miami.
Perkins also performed with and recorded for bandleader Carlos Malcolm throughout the Nineteen Sixties. He continued to record into his 70s, cutting an album of Studio One covers for Dodd that was released in 2015.
Considered one of Lascelles Perkins’ sons was the deejay Lee Van Cleef.