Toppa Top 10: Reggae’s Greatest Bassists

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June 11, 2014

6. Jackie Jackson


Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle studio was the epicenter of the rocksteady sound, and the majority of the records cut there share a very important asset: bassist Jackie Jackson. The Kingston native began his musical career as a pianist; after hearing Lloyd Brevett rehearsing one day, however, he decided to try upright bass—in his words, “the piano has 88 keys and I only have 10 fingers.”

He quickly put those four strings to work, joining Tommy McCook’s Supersonics, the house band at Treasure Isle. The band’s first recording, Alton Ellis’ “Girl I’ve Got a Date” is often cited as the first rocksteady recording—certainly, its success around Jamaica helped put the genre on the map. The Paragons, The Techniques, The Melodians—Jackson backed just about all of rocksteady’s key vocal groups, laying down the melodic, but rocksteady lines that would set the tone for reggae. As far as reggae proper, that too is a sound he would actively define as a member of Toots and the Maytals (with whom he continues to record and tour to this day), playing on records including 1969’s “Pressure Drop.”