Laurel Aitken

(1925—2005) singer, songwriter, and record producer

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b. Oliver Stephens, 22 April 1927, Cuba, d. 17 July 2005, Leicester, England. Of mixed Cuban and Jamaican descent, Laurel, with his five brothers (including the veteran guitarist Bobby Aitken) and sisters, settled in his father’s homeland, Jamaica, in 1938. In the 40s he earned a living singing calypso for the Jamaican Tourist Board, as visitors alighted at Kingston Harbour. By the age of 15 Aitken, like many of the early Jamaican R&B and ska singers, including Owen Gray and Jackie Edwards, entered Vere John’s Opportunity Hour, an amateur talent contest held on Friday nights at Kingston’s Ambassador Theatre. He won the show for several weeks running, and his success there led to his establishment as one of the island’s most popular club entertainers. His first sessions were for Stanley Motta’s Caribbean Recording Company, where he recorded some calypso songs, the spiritual ‘Roll Jordan Roll’ and ‘Boogie Rock’. The latter was one of the first ever Jamaican R&B/shuffle recordings. In 1958 he recorded ‘Little Sheila’/‘Boogie In My Bones’, one of the first records produced by future Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, using a Jamaican saxophonist and a white Canadian backing band. It emerged on Blackwell’s R&B label (where it spent over 12 months in the Jamaican chart), and in the UK on Starlite and, some years later, Island.


From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.

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Works by Laurel Aitken

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