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  • Brittany Jackson


Pop quiz! Do you know these Alpha past students?

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Alpha Boys School had a rich history of nurturing musicians from the 1890s into the 2000s. As members of touring and studio bands and also as solo artists, Alpha alumni have established themselves as pioneers in reggae, jazz, ska, dancehall, and rocksteady. Here, Alpha Boys School Radio is pleased to recognize five Alpha alumni, in no particular order, who have contributed to some of the most important milestones in Jamaican culture.


Bob Marley was just 16 when he recorded his first single, "Judge Not", for Leslie Kong's Beverley's Records under the name Robert Marley & Beverley's All-Stars. Featured on the track was then 31-year old Alpha past student and saxophonist Felix 'Deadly Headley' Bennett. The late Deadly Headley, one of Jamaica's top woodwind players ever, was a star in the making himself and received the Order of Distinction from the Jamaican government in 2005 for his contributions to the music.

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1960. OWEN GRAY.

Alpha past student Owen Gray is one of Jamaica's first stars. His catalog spans the R&B, ska, rocksteady, and reggae eras. A sought after vocalist, he was one of the first singers recorded by Chris Blackwell when the legendary record excutive was starting his career. Recorded in 1960, "Darling Patricia" single was the first record ever to be released by Island Records.

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"Green Island" cut in 1965 at the legendary Studio One, was a song by the first Jamaican ska supergroup, The Skatalites. The Skatalities, founded in part by four Alpha past students, Don Drummond - trombone, Tommy McCook - tenor saxophone, Lester Sterling - alto saxophone, Johnny Moore - trumpet, are credited with popularizing ska music. The song was composed by and features Don Drummond.


When the Reggae Grammy debuted in 1985, Alpha alum Winston 'Yellowman' Foster was one of the first four nominations ever with the album 'King Yellowman' (alongside Jimmy Cliff – "Reggae Night", Steel Pulse - "Steppin' Out" and Peter Tosh – Captured Live"). "Reggae Calypso", track number eights, showcases his witty and over the top style. In 1998, Yellowman received his second nomination for Best Reggae Album, this time for 'Freedom of Speech'.


Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Reece's debut album for the Blue Note label, Blues in Trinity, is a considered a classic hard bop record. Consisting of sessions recorded in 1958 with British musicians Tubby Hayes (tenor saxophone) and Terry Shannon (piano), American stars Donald Byrd (trumpet) and Art Taylor (drums), and Canadian bassist Lloyd Thompson, the established Dizzy as a premier jaszz musician of his time. Indeed, he is the first and only Jamaican-born jazz musician to have had a contract with Blue Note Records with whom he released four feature projects.

Jamaica Nice. is a proud supporter of Alpha Boys School Radio and the Alpha School of Music. Part proceeds from the sale of every Jamaica Nice. top and accessory supports the community. Jamaica Nice. funds music scholarships for tertiary students, workshops and educational experiences for Jamaicans at the high school and college level, teaching residencies for foreign music educators at schools in Jamaica and international exchanges for students and teachers. Click for our latest activities. 


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