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An elusive photograph of John "Setes" Skomdahl

Reggae - Mylitis

By John Skomdahl Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff Writer

SKIP TO THE BEAT

When I was a teenager, my neighbor Skip, a 40-ish year old bachelor went on a trip to Jamaica. Skip was a cool guy. Even though he was much older than I was, we hung out like friends. Although he was a free wheeling bachelor he watched out for me like a big brother.

Sometime in the early 80's, Skip told me he was packing a dinky knapsack and heading down to Jamaica for a month or so. He said he wanted to explore Jamaica. I had know idea where in heavens name Jamaica was but I knew if Skip was going there, then it must have been an alright place. Off he went.

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Dennis Brown autographed the back of his "More of" LP for me in 1987. This is probably the first Reggae LP that I owned.

Sure enough Skip returned with an extra deep tan, lots of stories and TWO REGGAE albums - Yellowman's "Duppy or Gunman" and Dennis Brown's "More Of…" Skip knew I had a turntable so it was my job to tape them for him. I barely remember taping them, less listening to them.

But what I do remember is Skip loving that Dennis Brown LP - especially the song "Perhaps". He played "Perhaps" so many times that it became stapled to my memory. I thought this guy was nuts for playing one song so many times - but what did I know - I was more into the Los Angeles Dodgers than Dennis Brown.

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Dennis Brown, Los Angeles, CA, circa 1989. Photo by John Skomdahl

Skip told me to hold onto those albums for him. I stuck them away with my 10 or so Rock n' Roll LPs. He never picked up those LPs before he moved out of the neighborhood. Ok, so he got kicked out - something about chasing a prostitute out of his apartment at knifepoint - at 2am - helped spark his eviction. I was asleep, missed the whole thing and Skip was gone.

But those months of constantly hearing Dennis Brown's "Perhaps" (and an occasional Yellowman tune) musta sunk in, because those were the earliest memories I had of (someone loving) Reggae music so intensely. To this day, I think the Skip/Jamaica/Reggae connection was the catalyst that sparked my interest in Reggae. Over 20 years later, I still have those two LPs Skip brought back from Jamaica. Strangely, about 15 years ago I met Dennis Brown and he signed the "More Of" LP.

THEN……. THE REAL "REGGAE BEAT" KICKED IN

Reggae stayed in the back of my mind (and my Federated stereo system) with the help of crossover bands like The English Beat, the Untouchables and UB40.

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The LA Weekly magazine ran this ad promoting KCRW's "Reggae Beat" show. Chuck Foster (left) was Hank Holmes' co-host for the last 7 years of the show. Hank was on the show for its entire 15-year history

As a sophomore in high school, someone told me about a Reggae radio show that played lots of authentic Reggae music. The show was called "The Reggae Beat" and it could be heard every Sunday for 15 years (1979 - 1994, KCRW 89.9 FM - Los Angeles/Santa Monica, California). KCRW's strong signal made it possible to hear the show as far north as Santa Barbara and as far south as San Diego. One of the DJs was Hank Holmes, who was responsible for the name of the show (named after his record mail order business) and some of its best music.

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Flyer for the "Reggae Beat" radio show circa 1990. Despite being extremely popular, the "Reggae Beat" was taken off the air in 1994.

It didn't take long before I knew that this Hank Holmes guy knew what he was doing. As a radio DJ, Hank didn't talk much - which was a nice break - he just let the music speak for itself. Hank featured many styles of Reggae - Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub, DJ, Roots, & Nyahbinghi - and every song was incredible. For years, I taped Hank's segment religiously (Hank co-hosted the show with Roger Steffens) enjoying Reggae artists and songs that I never thought existed. I quickly became amazed with Hank Holmes' ability to pick and mix Reggae music. In my opinion, Hank is the best Reggae radio DJ I've ever heard.

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Flyer for Chuck Foster's "Reggae Central" Radio show. "Reggae Central" has been on the air since 1997.

One day at work, I was playing a tape of one of Hank's sets and this Jamaican guy named Junior walked in. He said he liked Reggae too and that he knew this guy named Chuck Foster. Chuck Foster ran the mixing boards for Hank at KCRW (and sat in for Roger several times a year) and eventually became Hank's full-time co-host from 1987-1994. Junior introduced me to Chuck - who in turn began to teach me about Reggae. Chuck had lots of Reggae music, some of which he bought via Hank's "Reggae Beat" mail order business. After a few months of getting to know Chuck, he kindly took me to meet Hank. Those faithful meetings solidified my interest and knowledge in Reggae music and I've been hooked ever since.

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Cover of Chuck Foster's book, "Roots, Rock, Reggae." The book includes many full length interviews with some of Reggae's best known artists - plus several other informative sections

Although "The Reggae Beat" radio show ended in 1994, Hank has never lost his passion for Reggae music - he just does it in a less public format. Currently, Chuck has a 2 hour Reggae radio show on KPFK called "Reggae Central" (90.7 Los Angeles, California) and has written a book called "Roots, Rock Reggae". Chuck's "Reggae Central" show has been on the air since 1997 and can also be heard via the Internet every Sunday from 4-6pm. Recently, Chuck has started posting his playlists on the KPFK website. The playlists are a great tool to learn more about the endless supply of Reggae artists and songs.

I will always be indebted to Hank Holmes and Chuck Foster. These two guys unselfishly shared their knowledge and taught me nearly everything I know about Reggae. They made me countless tapes, educated me on the different styles of Reggae and clued me into the plethora of producers and record labels. They also shared countless stories about Reggae and Jamaica. Nearly 20 years later, Chuck and Hank still teach me about Reggae music - not to mention other subjects of life.

To Hank and Chuck - Give Thanks and Praise for all you've done for Reggae music. There are many Reggae fans that owe you guys lots of respect and gratitude.