Fuller Up, The Dead Musician Directory
 Rolando Alphonso
 Brain AneurysmNovem. 20, 1998
Age 67

        Rolando played his final show at The Key Club in Hollywood  
        California. He was stricken onstage when a blood vessel burst 
        in his neck just after he completed a solo. He was hospitalized  
        at The Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles where he  
        passed away on November 20.

        Everyone at Moon Ska passes along their sincerest condolences to the Alphonso family. 

      -- For those of you who are not aware that Roland had been ill, 
      here is the essential story. The following comes from the 
      November 9th issue of Pollstar..."Saxophonist Roland Alphonso, 
      67 of the Skatalites suffered a seizure on stage during a 
      November 2nd concert at the Key Club in West Hollywood. 

      The seminal ska band was near the beginning of its set when 
      Alphonso collapsed. The show was stopped for nearly an hour 
      while paramedics tended to the saxophonist. 

      After Alphonso was taken to Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, 
      the band resumed the show. 

      Agent Rick Bonde of the Tahoe Agency told Pollstar that doctors  
      discovered a burst blood vessel in Alphonso's neck. 

      Bonde said doctors expect a complete recovery. However, the  
      band will continue its tour without him. 'I think if it were up to 
      him, he would have gotten back up and performed that night,'  
      Bonde said. 'That's the thing about The Skatalites. Those guys 
      are all getting old but...they're going to play until they drop. It's  
      just amazing." 

      Bonde said Alphonso has suffered two strokes and a massive  
      heart attack, but never let his conditions stop him from going 
      back out on the road. 

      'Unfortunately, he's going to miss one of their homecoming gigs 
      in Jamaica,' Bonde said. 'He's going to be really missed there.' 

      Bonde said when Skatalites member Tommy McCook passed 
      away a few months ago, the Prime Minister of Jamaica flew his 
      body down to the island for a state funeral. 'They're state heroes 
      in Jamaica.' He also said in the ska world, Alphonso is the 
      idol of all of the young players, adding that witnessing Alphonso's 
      collapse on stage was one of the most intense experiences in 
      his music industry career. 'It was very scary,' he said.  ~Compiled by Steve Shafer

                       Skatalites' Roland Alphonso Dies at Age 67 

                   Roland Alphonso,  who collapsed onstage at the Skatalites' Key 
                   Club show in West Hollywood on Nov. 2 (allstar, Nov. 3), died 
                   shortly after noonon Friday (Nov. 20) at Los Angeles' Cedars- 
                   Sinai Medical Center of complications from brain aneurysms.  

                          The 67-year-old tenor saxophonist is the 
                       second founding member of the ska legends to 
                       pass away this year. Fellow saxophonist Tommy 
                       McCook, who had not toured with the band in 
                       recent years, died on May 5 (allstar, May 7) 
                       after a long illness.  

                          Alphonso had apparently been making 
                       progress after his collapse, but relapsed into a 
                       coma on Tuesday (Nov. 17). His family flew 
                       from New York on Wednesday to be with him. 
                       Alphonso, born on Jan. 12, 1931, nearly died in 
                       1971 from a similar incident.  

                          In addition to his work with the Skatalites, 
                       Alphonso is known for his session work with 
                       Bob Marley and the Wailers and Studio One 
                       producer Coxson Dodd, and solo work with the 
                       Alley Cats, the Soul Vendors, and others. Prior 
                       to helping pioneer ska's sound and rhythm in the 
                       late 1950s, he enjoyed a career as a jazz 
                       musician, playing with Eric Dean's Orchestra 
                       among others.  

                          He has also played with many American ska 
                       bands, including Let's Go Bowling and Bim Skala 
                       Bim. He is one of a select group of musicians 
                       (which also includes Dodd, Marley, McCook, 
                       and late Skatalite Don Drummond) to be named 
                       into the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican 
                       government -- an honor which he received in 

                          Alphonso was nominated for two Grammys 
                       with the Skatalites, for 1994's Hi Bop Ska and 
                       1996's Greetings from Skamania. He was 
                       inducted into the Reggae Hall of Fame in 1990, 
                       and was given the Key to the City of Boston in 
                       the early 1990s.  

                          Arrangements are not yet complete, but a wake 
                       will take place Friday (Nov. 27) in New York, 
                       with a funeral the following day. Alphonso will 
                       likely also be given a state funeral in Jamaica. The 
                       Skatalites' other current sax player, Lester 
                       Sterling, will play at the funeral on Saturday 
                       (Nov. 28). Coxson Dodd will also be paying 

                          Ska fans can pay their respects by writing to 
                       Alphonso's family at 103-31 135th St., Queens, 
                       N.Y., 11419. A Roland Alphonso tribute Web 
                       page has been set up. Fans can also view 
                       excerpts of the transcript of Alphonso's oldest 
                       son Barry's interview on Orange County ska 
                       radio show The Ska Parade, recorded shortly 
                       after Alphonso's death, on the show's Web site.  


      November 20, 1998 

      -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 Young.  
      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 The Wailing 
      Wailers;  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 government 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 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, 

      Albino Brown



                    Ska was Jamaica's first indigenous creation, a compelling mix of fast R&B, 
                    Rastafarian African rhythms, and Afro-Cuban percussion highlight. This  
                   double-time delight ruled Jamaica from 1962 to 1966, and none played it  
                   more convincingly than its creators, The Skatalites. 
      Led by a mentally disturbed world-class trombonist named Don Drummond,  
      the Skatalites were composed of the top instrumentalists on the island at the 
      time: Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, and "Ska" Campbell on tenor sax; 
      Lester Stering on alto; Karl Bryan on baritone; "Dizzy Johnny" Moore and 
      Baba Brooks on trumpet; Lloyd Brevett on  bass; Lloyd Knibbs on drums; 
      Jackie Mittoo on piano; and Lyn Tait and Jah Jerry  on guitar. This is a roster 
      of Jamaica's musical gods, the foundation of all that would come out of this  
      tiny land of two million people to influence the entire world of music for the  
      next 30 years. Rock-steady, reggae, rockers, dub -- all are merely tempo 
      reworkings of the skipping ska beat. 
                  It is remarkable, then, to note that The Skatalites existed for a mere 14 months. 
                 As 1965 dawned, Drummond murdered his wife, and was put away in "de 
                 Bellevue" mental hospital, where he died a couple years later. The band then 
                 broke up into several different lineups, most notably Tommy McCook and the 
                 Supersonics, and the Soul Brothers. Their rhythm slowed in 1966 to the 
                 rock-steady, a twin result of Drummond's loss and a torpid steamy summer during 
                 which people no longer wanted to dance as frenetically as they had before. But 
                 ska underwent period revivals, most notably among British skinheads in the late 
                 '60s; Northern British two-tone skanksters in 1980; and massive movements in the 
                 '80s in places as far afield as Brussels, Tokyo, and California. Today, ska has 
                 achieved a permanent place in the world's beats, as alive, fresh and exciting as 
                 rock & roll. Yet even now no interpretation sounds more compelling than the 
                 original Studio One recordings made by its masters, The Skatalites. ~ Roger 
                 Steffens, All-Music Guide