With loving tribute to
Chief Musician Rolando Alphonso, O.D. of The Skatalites
(January 12, 1931 to November 20, 1998)
“Some years ago, Louis Armstrong thought that you were the next Lester
In fifty plus years of playin’, you have come into your own.
The world knows that there is only one - Rolando Alphonso....” AB 11-18-98
By request of the Alphonso family and with tears in my eyes, the time has come to inform all that Chief Musician Rolando Alphonso, O.D. of The Skatalites has died at the age of 67 of medical complications due to brain aneurysms.
Roland died peacefully and significantly at the twelfth hour Pacific
on the afternoon of November 20, 1998. Roland, a devotedly religious
man, was born on the twelfth day of January, 1931 (*by religious accords,
twelve is a symbol of completion).
After decades of inspiring generations of fans from around the world (from his Jamaica to the U.K. bluebeat and 2 Tone movements to today’s world ska movement), Roland has lived his life.
His musical genius, passion, and devout sense for musical standard and integrity have contributed to and are encompassed in the longevity and versatility of such Jamaican based music as ska, rocksteady, and reggae. His children wish to remind all that Roland nearly died at the age of forty;
and are blessed that god, his master, granted him an additional twenty-seven years to breathe his passion and gift, his music. His life at this time is complete.
Skatalite Tenor Saxman Rolando Alphonso, O.D. is one of Jamaica’s most
important and celebrated musicians with a career spanning over fifty years-from
his early jazz works in Eric Dean’s Orchestra and with Comedians Bim and
Bam; to his calypso and mento recordings with sound system pioneer Stanley
Motta; to his contributions to the developments of the ska rhythm
(e.g. on the first ska recording Theophilus Beckford’s “Easy Snappin” in 1958; and in the Blues Blasters); to the early developments of Bob Marley’s TheWailers; to his important works with the champion Jamaican music pioneers, The Skatalites,along with his incredible solo endeavors in his The Alley Cats, The Soul Vendors, and other projects. Roland is one of Famed Studio One Producer Coxson Dodd’s earliest session musicians and chief arrangers; and is most famous for his
arrangements of the ska standards,“Phoenix City” and “El Pussy Cat.” Roland (a.k.a. “Mr.Versatile”) played several instruments including tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano saxophones and flute.
Roland has received many important accolades: Roland was “knighted” by the Jamaican overnment with an “Order of Distinction” in 1977 for his important contributions to Jamaican music and culture; inducted into the Reggae Hall of Fame in 1990; given a “key” to the city of Boston in the early 1990s; and nominated for two “Grammy” awards for his work on The Skatalites’ 1994 “Hi Bop Ska” and 1996 “Greetings from Skamania” albums.
On a personal note, years ago Roland performed the song “Marie Elena”
live on “The Ska Parade” Radio Show (featured on the “Step On It...” cd).
Two days ago at Roland’s bedside with his daughter Michele and son Barry,
I was informed of the significance of this performance. Roland rarely performed
this song for the public. This was his wife’s, Hermine’s, favorite song.
The family would like his fans, family, and friends from around the world to not mourn this loss, but rather to celebrate Roland’s gift, his music. There is no greater tribute to Roland than to spin his records, play his music,dance,and to uphold the integrity and high standards of the music.
These were some of the basic elements of Roland’s life. These are the basic tenets of his legacy.
Roland’s family would like to thank the many doctors, nurses, social workers, and assistants at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles (that including Doctors Amor, Mullen, Tabibi, Yu, Chiu, and Dang; Nurses *M.J., *Shirley, *Dana Ueki, Helen, Pixie, and Janet; Respiratory Therapist Collins; *Clinical Partner Patrick Smith; and Social worker Cindy) who provided such outstanding medical care and treatment for Roland.
Roland’s family would like to thank Roland’s friends Bradford
Stein (a.k.a. Tazy Phyllipz; along with his wife Maria) and Albino
Brown of “The Ska Parade”and Joey Altruda of Jump With Joey for coming
to Roland’s bedside with their love and deep respect; and assisting
the family during this rough time. On a personal note, I would like to
recognize Roland’s children, Michele, Barry, and Jr., for their incredible
bravery, strength, and action at Roland’s bedside (e.g. they coordinated
calling Roland’s wife, all his children, and grandchildren from around
the world so that his entire family could say their final words to Roland
via the telephone). Roland very much loved his wife: Hermine
(who he had known his whole life and was married to her for 38 years); his children: Barry, Pauline, Dennis, Noel, Rolando Jr., and Michele; his many grandchildren and one great-grandchild; his bandmates; his friends and fans; and most certainly his music!!!
In kind tribute,
*To pay your respects to Chief Musician Rolando Alphonso, O.D.,
please write to:
the Alphonso family,
103-31 135th St.,
Queens, NY 11419