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Ernest Ranglin Biography


Home > Music > R > Ranglin, Ernest > Biography


Born: 1932/06/19
Birth Place: Manchester, Jamaica
Genres: Ska, Reggae, Jazz


Ernest Ranglin was born on June 19, 1932, in Manchester, Jamaica and is a guitarist, composer, and a pioneering force behind the rise of Caribbean music. Best known for his session work at the famed Studio One, Ranglin helped give birth to the ska genre in the late 1950s. Ranglin is also known for experimenting with his musical sound to incorporate other styles of music, such as jazz, mento, and reggae into his own unique brand of music. Throughout Ranglin's career he has performed with artists such as Theophilus Beckford, Jimmy Cliff, Monty Alexander, Prince Buster, The Skatalites, Bob Marley and Eric Dean's Orchestra. As a child, Ranglin was influenced by two uncles who played guitar and ukulele. After watching them play, he practiced on their instruments, determined to master them. Pretty soon Ranglin was able to stand in for his uncles at gigs, and recording sessions, when they failed to turn up. His uncles were so impressed with their nephews ability and dedication that they gane him his first musical instrument for his seventh birthday. Ranglin went on to build his own guitar using a sardine can and wires, before progressing to a real one. Ranglin moved with his family to Kingston, and while still in his teens, he began performing live, locally and in the Bahamas, often with the young Monty Alexander.

At age fifteen, Ranglin joined the Val Bennett band, which lead to playing with the Eric Deans band and Count Boysie. During the early 1950s, Ranglin became a proficient jazz guitarist and toured overseas. Ranglin was productive during this period recorded numerous albums, in addition to appearing on compilation albums, such as 1958's album by Denzil Laing and the Wrigglers, “At the Arawak Hotel,” which featured Ranglin's early, outstanding jazz guitar playing. Ranglin was signed to Blackwell's R&B label in the late 1950s; a live collaborative album between Ranglin and Bermudian pianist Lance Hayward was among the first recordings released by Blackwell. Around 1956, Ranglin had also joined Cluett Johnson's studio band Clue J and the Blues Blasters, recording several tracks for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, including Theophilus Beckford's hits "Easy Snapping" and "Jack and Jill Shuffle." In 1964, Ranglin played guitar on singer Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop," the first Jamaican song to achieve international success. Ranglin recorded two jazz albums in the mid-1960s for the Merritone record label - “Wranglin” (1964) and “Reflections” (1965), while still working for Duke Reid as a musical director at the Treasure Isle recording studio.

Ranglin's fan base began to swell internationally in 1964 when he traveled to London, England to perform at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. He became the venue's resident guitarist for nine months, backing numerous guest artists and appearing in a recording of a Sonny Stitt/Dick Morrissey jam session in 1966. Ranglin also made several solo records for Island Records, as well as collaborating with Prince Buster, doing session work, arranging songs, and playing guitar leads in the Wailers' "It Hurts to Be Alone.” Ranglin was in high demand as a studio musician and arranger during the late 60s and throughout the 70s, working with top Jamaican producers such as Dodd, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Clancy Eccles. He also toured with Jimmy Cliff in the 1970s and teamed up with his friend Monty Alexander to record Latin-Caribbean infused jazz for Pablo Records. 1973 saw Ranglin win an award for 'Order of Distinction' from the Jamaican Government for his contributions to music.

Ranglin spent his latter years in Florida, where he performed at jazz festivals and continued to record occasionally. He signed to Chris Blackwell's newly-formed Palm Pictures label to issue 1998's “In Search of the Lost Riddim,” followed by the albums, “E.B. @ Noon” and “Modern Answers to Old Problems.” That same year, Ranglin performed with Spearhead for the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody. Ranglin released “Grooving” in 2001 and a year later he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the University of the West Indies for his outstanding contribution to the development of music in Jamaica. In 2006 saw Ranglin as the subject of a documentary covering his career: “Roots Of Reggae: The Ernest Ranglin Story,” and two years later in 2008 he was inducted into the Jamaican Music Hall of Fame by the Jamaica Association of Vintage Artistes and Affiliates. Ranglin's fusion of jazz and reggae left am imprint on his nephew, Gary Crosby, who formed the group Jazz Jamaica in 1991 and plays in the same vein as his legendary uncle.