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  • Brittany Jackson

The Alpha Male of Ska

Best wishes to Mr Lester Sterling as he celebrates his birthday on January 31.

Jamaica’s very own “Mr Versatile” is an accomplished musician recognized for his contributions to Jamaican music. Born on January 31, 1936, Lester “Ska” Sterling is a well-known saxophonist whose music journey, along with three of his brothers: Gladstone (saxophonist), Keith (pianist), and Roy (trumpeter), began in the 1940s at the Alpha Boys School.

During Sterling’s 10-year tenure at the school, he became a member of the Alpha Boys Band that was led by Reuben Delgado. Thereafter, he went on to join the Stanley Headlam’s Band as a second trumpeter. Although starting his music career on the trumpet, Sterling developed a passion for the alto saxophone, a passion inspired by his brother, Gladstone, and later, jazz musician Charlie Parker. As a young up and coming musician, Sterling entered the popular Kingston talent show Vere Johns Opportunity Hour and stunned the crowd by making it to the Grand Final at the Majestic Theatre and taking home the title. He later took the world by storm playing for the Skatalites - a ska band that included four Alpha alumni among its founding members - and later with Byron Lee & the Dragonnaires.

Sterling became increasingly popular as a front and in 1967 his tune “Pupa Lick'' hit the charts and spun to #1 in Jamaica. “Bangarang” soon followed and breezed to #1 in 1969. He continued to produce great music as ska transitioned to reggae with tracks like "Spoogy '', "Reggae In The Wind", and “Reggae on Broadway.”

Mr Sterling received the Order of Distinction in 1998 for his invaluable contribution to the Jamaican musical landscape. His achievements include a Pioneer’s Award for his contributions to music since 1963 from the USA chapter of the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artist & Affiliates.


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