Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sinclair gets another crack at Major League dream

By Tom Hawthorn
The Times Colonist

September 28, 1997

Not so long ago, Steve Sinclair had called it quits, had hung 'em up, had stepped down from the pitcher's mound for good, had seen his childhood dream go to that big bullpen in the sky. He had languished in the Toronto Blue Jays system for five yearsand the closest he got to the bigs was listening to Buck Martinez on TSN. He had had enough and came home to Victoria at age 24 to go to school, to get a job, to become a grownup.
He worked as a doorman at a fancy hotel and, on some summer eves, threw bullets and hit taters against amateurs at the same parks in which he had played as a kid. He decided he still had a love for the game. He also decided his left arm was meant for better things than holding open doors.
So, this spring he returned to the same small Florida town where he had toiled for so long for so little reward, and once again began the climb up baseball's ladder. He ended the season in Syracuse, New York, just one level below the parent club.
Along the way, his fastball picked up some zip. He had been throwing in the 88 to 89 m.p.h. range for years. After taking up weight training, Sinclair was throwing in the 92 to 93 m.p.h. range. It is the difference between a fastball that is ho-hum and one that is a hummer. As they age, ballplayers are expected to add heat to aching muscles, not to their pitches.
"Maybe I'm just a late bloomer," Sinclair says with a laugh.
Sinclair leaves today for Toronto to join Canada's Olympic team, for whom he will pitch in a qualifying tournament in Mexico City. He will then become one of the Boys of Winter, playing for Lara in Venezuela at the suggestion of the Blue Jays.
At spring training, he expects to be battling for a spot in Toronto's bullpen.
At 26, Sinclair is closer than he ever has been to earning the baseball immortality that goes to those who play in the major leagues. "Once you're in Triple A, you're just one phone call away," Sinclair says. "One injury away. One little break."
He got one of those little breaks this summer when the Jays traded relief pitchers Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric to Seattle. The Jays have yet to post a Help Wanted sign for their bullpen, but every vacancy helps. Sinclair is a left-handed relief pitcher, a baseball commodity for which demand never lessens.
First, though, he will get an education in beisbol. He knows little of Venezuela, speaks only "pequito" Spanish - not yet even enough to get himself a cold cerveca after a game - and truly hopes the fans do not carry the same passion for ball that they do for soccer. "All I know is that we're not going out on New Year's Eve," he said. "They shoot their guns off in the air to celebrate, so I guess we'll be staying in and having a party of our own."
Venezuela is a long road trip for someone who first fell in love with ball watching his father, Scott, play for the Seaboard fastpitch team in the 1970s.
"I would go on all their trips with him," he recalled. "I'd have a ball and bat in my hands when I got up from bed and I'd have a ball and bat in my hands when I went back to bed at night."
His first big break came in the minors when Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick came to take a look. Gillick, a former minor leaguer himself, hunched down behind the catcher to get a better look at Sinclair's stuff. Another prospect would have been intimidated by having his future depend on a few tosses. Not Sinclair.
"I was just up there letting loose," he recalls, "letting him know what I had."
His arsenal has improved over the years. Bull sessions in the bullpen with the likes of Frank Viola have taught him that pitching is far more than just rearing back and throwing.
"I've learned that to be successful you have to pitch inside and change your speeds. Once you pitch inside, you widen the plate both inside and outside.
"Most of the time, I lived outside. I had a good sinker and threw outside, outside, outside. At Triple A, you face much better hitters. They can take that pitch the opposite way. But if you can throw consistent strikes inside, then that's going to keep the hitters off balance."
Sinclair's repertoire includes a fastball, a changeup, a curve, and a split-finger fastball that he has yet to refine.
He was 2-5 in Dunedin, allowing 63 hits in 68 1/3 innings, showing good control with 66 strikeouts to go with just 26 walks, three of those intentional.
At Syracuse, he pitched just nine innings over six games, recording a 6.00 earned-run average with no decisions. He had nine strikeouts and three walks.
"I look at my numbers and I go, wow, 6-something, that's not so good. But you only need three or four good innings and that comes way down."
On a recent hot afternoon, Sinclair limbered up on a mound at Lambrick Park, tossing big looping curveballs to a friend, Todd McLaughlin. Sinclair wore a Blue Jays cap and a team windbreaker. In a year's time he could well be throwing curves from the mound at SkyDome.
If so, his name and statistics will be included in the Baseball Encyclopedia, the registrar of baseball immortality that shows that in a century and a half of organized ball, only a single Vancouver Islander, Steve Wilson, a left-handed pitcher, ever made the bigs.
Still, Sinclair's friend had a better reason to cheer for his friend's success. "I want him to make the big bucks," McLoughlin said, "so he can come back home and buy the beer."

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Peter Trower (1930-2017), bard of the British Columbia backwoods

The poet Peter Trower reads from a manuscript.

By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
November 25, 2017

To some poets, a tree is worthy of rhapsody. To Peter Trower, a tree was as likely to crush him as inspire him.

Mr. Trower spent more than two decades working as a logger in the woods, a dangerous place where a moment’s inattention or a comrade’s carelessness could have grave consequence. Far from civilization in isolated logging camps, he endured lonely nights by reading Jack Kerouac, finding in the stream-of-consciousness prose an avenue for expressing his own poetic insights into life in the bush.

He eventually abandoned the forest for an impecunious yet beery life as a writer, producing several collections of poetry and three novels, an output which earned him praise in British Columbia as a bard of the backwoods. He was less celebrated by the Eastern Canadian tastemakers of Canadian literature.

His death at 87 marks the end of an era for worker poets whose sharp eyes and calloused hands conveyed the beauty and horror to be found in the sweaty labour of a resource economy.

He spent decades in caulk boots, a duffle-bag wanderer. He worked as a baker, surveyor, shake-cutter, choker setter, whistle punk, crane operator, and pulp-mill hand. The worst job he had was working the pot-line in a smelter, converting bauxite into aluminum, a cloud of black sputum erupting from his every cough.

In the act of falling a tree he saw an echo of the combat the older members of his crew had witnessed, as he expressed in the poem “Like A War:”

No bombs explode, no khaki regiments tramp
to battle in a coastal logging-camp.
Yet blood can spill upon the forest floor
and logging can be very like a war.

In the big city, many a night (and early morning) was spent with elbows on beer-soaked, terrycloth tabletops at dive bars on Vancouver’s skid row, where poets bellowed their stanzas over the blare of a jukebox and the roar of a night’s revelry. After such training, performing in front of an audience at a reading was a snap, even when burly loggers expected to be averse to verse filled a room.

When not at the microphone, Mr. Trower was a shy man so soft spoken as to mumble. With a fleshy, droop-eyed face and a downturned mouth, he resembled the actor Peter Boyle. He could be disheveled, though a Greek fisherman’s black cap and sunglasses gave him a certain élan.

“He looked like every toothless logger I’d ever met before,” one of his publishers said. “I couldn’t imagine him writing poetry.”

Mr. Trower persisted in large part because his mother had always insisted he would be a writer.

Peter Gerard Tower was born on Aug. 25, 1930, at St Leonards-on-Sea, a tranquil resort town on the English Channel. He was the first of two boys born to Gertrude Eleanor Mary (née Gilman), known before her marriage as Gem for the initials of her given names, and Stephen Herbert Gerard Trower, a test pilot.

His mother was the only daughter of the Acting British Resident to the Selangor Sultanate in Malaya. At first, her parents opposed the proposed union, their objections raised not for displeasure with the prospective groom’s character but rather for the perilous nature of his profession. In the end, the Hon. E.W.F. Gilman escorted the bride on his arm at a wedding at St. Mary’s Church in Kuala Lumpur in which the ceremony was officiated by the Bishop of Singapore.

The newlyweds moved to Calcutta where the groom worked for the Anglo-Indian Air Survey. The teeming city did not win the approval of the new Mrs. Trower, so the couple soon after resettled with the groom’s parents in England. A second son, Christopher, arrived early in 1933.

The pilot, who had retired from the Royal Navy, was commissioned as a flying officer in the Royal Air Force Reserve in 1934. He tested aircraft for the Fairey Aviation Co., a British firm. In 1935, he delivered one of the company’s military planes to Moscow. His grateful Soviet hosts took him to the opera and feted him at banquets, a remarkable honour at a time of famine. The pilot’s less-than-gracious response was to don blue overalls to join his minder, less loyal than his boss’s suspected, in sneaking into an automobile factory. Once inside, they saw workers putting together aircraft. The machine he had flown in was clearly going to be a model for knockoffs.

Later that summer, the pilot demonstrated a Fairey Fantôme, a state-of-the-art biplane, at a competition for flying machines at a military airbase in Belgium. While performing loops and other feats of derring-do from a great height, the sleek aircraft began a nosedive towards the ground from which it would not recover. It was thought the pilot had blacked out. He was 34.

The bereaved family retreated to an estate owned by the boys’ maternal grandparents near the village of Islip in Oxfordshire. Years later, Mr. Trower would remember being indulged, especially at Christmas, a mountain of wrapped gifts a replacement for the ache of the tragic loss of a father.
Peter was sent to a boys-only preparatory school in Oxford known for its “robust informality and relaxed rigor,” a training ground for England’s future elites, including at least two generations of Tolkiens.

The outbreak of war in 1939 heralded an end to young Trower’s pastoral childhood. Family lore has it that Lord Haw-Haw, the traitorous Nazi announcer William Joyce, had identified an oil depot at Islip as a worthy target for an air bombardment during the Battle of Britain. On July 18, 1940, Mrs. Trower and her boys boarded on tourist-class tickets the Canadian Pacific Line steamship Duchess of Bedford, bound for Montreal. They sailed across the dangerous Atlantic without event before joining relatives in Vancouver.

Less than two months later, the widow married Trygve Iversen, a roughhewn wood-pulp engineer, and the boys were once again on the move, this time to Port Mellon, a mill town northwest of Vancouver, where a one-room schoolhouse offered a more rustic education than that on offer in Oxford. The settlement was accessible only by boat or float plane, and had not yet been wired for telephone service. Later, the poet would remember the outpost as a “jerry-built, tarpaper town.” A half-brother, Martin, was born in 1942.

(While she was in hospital to give birth, her husband acceded to her wish to have the interior of the house painted. She returned to find floors of yellow ochre, except in the kitchen, where a battleship grey floor was contrasted by cupboards, walls and a ceiling painted green, all from leftover paint at the mill.)

Mr. Iversen, who was superintendent of the mill, disappeared while on a timber cruise to estimate a stand of forest at the head of Bute Inlet. He was presumed to have fallen into the water and drowned. Not yet 14, Peter Trower had lost a father and a stepfather.

The grieving family spent the next few years shuttling between Gibsons, near Port Mellon, and Vancouver, where Peter attended high school before dropping out to find work in 1948. Mr. Trower followed his younger brother to a logging camp in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now Haida Gwaii).
After three years, he returned to Port Mellon to homestead 60 acres his stepfather had purchased during the Depression. He lived in a stump-house while taking on odd jobs in logging and construction, all the while cutting shakes on the property. He worked in a pulp mill at Woodfibre and spent two years in the aluminum smelter at Kitimat. “Like working in hell,” he once said.

A modest inheritance allowed him to quit the smelter and enrol at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University), where he dabbled as a cartoonist.

Chastened by the superior drafting skills of his younger, less worldly classmates, he dropped out, pursuing instead the dissolute life of a beatnik, “learning what the bottom of life was like.” He discovered after three years that it meant he had no money, so he returned to Gibsons and a life in the woods.

After a slipped choker smashed him in the mouth, knocking out his teeth, Mr. Trower again abandoned logging for work as a surveyor. A first collection, “Moving Through the Mystery,” was published by Talon Books in 1969, though the volume is now treasured more for the psychedelic mandalas drawn by Jack Wise. Even Mr. Trower later dismissed his writing as juvenilia, though he was nearly 40 on publication.

After a young university graduate named Howard White published the first of a proposed series of volumes titled Raincoast Chronicles about life on the West Coast, a chagrined Mr. Trower summoned the publisher to his home to demand to know why he had not been invited to contribute. Mr. White found him in a cabin on his mother’s property. “It had the whiff of the bunkhouse,” Mr. White recalled recently, “the unmistakeable stench of stale beer, old socks, mouldy skin mags.” The poet offered to share his beer, rubbing a thumb on the lip of a soiled glass in a modest swipe at domesticity. The two became friends and Mr. Trower was named associate editor of subsequent editions.

Mr. White’s Harbour Publishing would publish several of Mr. Trower’s dozen poetry collections, including “Between Sky and Splinters” (1974), “The Alders and Others” (1976), and “Bush Poems” (1978). The publisher also released Mr. Trower’s three novels — “Grogan’s Café” (1993), “Dead Man’s Ticket” (1996) and “The Judas Hills” (2000). Other poetry collections were released by such British Columbia publishers as Ekstasis and Reference West. Only two of his works were handled by Eastern houses — “The Slidingback Hills” (Oberon, 1986) and “Ragged Horizons” (McClelland and Stewart, 1978).

A regular habitué of such Vancouver drinking establishments as the Alcazar Hotel and the Railway Club, Mr. Trower was encouraged by such poets as John Newlove, Al Purdy and Patrick Lane. The editor Mac Parry at the lifestyle magazine Vancouver championed his work, introducing the hard-scrabble poet to readers otherwise indulging fantasies about new bathroom fixtures.

The poet was invited to join the magazine staff at post-publication parties. At one of these, the young writer Les Wiseman was introduced to Mr. Trower, who had just been featured on the cover of the Georgia Straight underground newspaper.

“You remind me of this guy, Bukowski, have you ever read him?” the writer asked the poet.

He replied, “I just wrote a poem called ‘Funky Bukowski.’ It’s here in my briefcase. Would you like to read it?”

The poet opened the battered valise unveiling a pair of Y-front, tighty-whitey briefs atop a stack of paper. He fished around beneath the underwear before retrieving a draft manuscript.

The poet was the subject of at least two documentaries — “Between Sky and Splinters” by Mike Poole, and “Peter Trower: The Men There Were Then” by Alan Twigg and Tom Shandel for CBC.
Over the years, Mr. Trower also made an occasional appearance on the police blotter. He forfeited a $100 peace bond and was fined an additional $20, plus his share of $252 in damage, after a handgun was fired during a party in a mill dormitory in 1953. In 1967, he spent a month in jail for marijuana possession after his house in Gibsons was raided by a police drug squad, whose members included the notorious Abe Snidanko (obituary, Aug. 13). He was also fined $1,000.

After the death of his mother from respiratory failure in 1979, Mr. Trower rekindled a romance with the writer Yvonne Klan, whom he had known in high school. She had a salutary effect on the poet, insisting he not visit when drunk. As it turned out, he preferred her company to that of the beer hall, most of the time. He dedicated a volume of tender, unsentimental, lyrical love poems, “A Ship Called Destiny,” to Ms. Klan.

A jazz and blues aficionado, who later became a fan of psychedelia, Mr. Trower maintained an unexpected but steadfast appreciation for the old-time, big-voiced singer Frankie Laine, whose talents were not acknowledged by the poet’s circle.

“I get somewhat put down by the hip purists for this little indulgence but I don’t care,” he wrote to a friend in the 1960s. “Laine keeps me in touch with the mad past which I must mine for all its worth.”

Mr. Trower released his own music and poetry compact disc, “Sidewalks and Sidehills” in 2003.

Honours were late coming to Mr. Trower. (His friend the writer Jim Christy once fashioned a fake trophy for him from typewriter keys and labels from Extra Old Stock beer bottles.) Mr. Trower received the B.C. Gas (now George Woodcock) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, and the Jack Chalmers Poetry Award from the Canadian Authors Association in 2005 for his collection, “Haunted Hills and Hanging Valleys.”

His writing earned Gibsons, a town on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast otherwise known as the setting for television’s “The Beachcombers,” an entry in John Robert Colombo’s encyclopedic “Canadian Literary Landmarks.” Gibsons council repaid the favour last year by voting to name a street in a new subdivision Trower Lane.

Mr. Trower died on Nov. 10 at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver from complications following surgery for a broken hip. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, granting power of attorney to his widowed sister-in-law four years ago. He spent his final years at the Inglewood Care Home in West Vancouver. He was predeceased by his brother in 2006 and his half-brother in 2013, as well as by his long-time companion Yvonne Klan in 2004.

A memorial and celebration is scheduled to be held today at 3 p.m. at his old Vancouver hangout, now known as the Railway Stage and Beer Café. It will not be teetotal.

Mr. Trower was a mentor to street poets, including Evelyn Lau, a drug-addicted, teenaged prostitute whose work deeply impressed the older writer. He put her in touch with the book agent Denise Bukowski, and Ms. Lau’s “Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid” launched a notable literary career.

In a 1994 made-for-television movie based on the memoir, Sandra Oh portrayed the lead role in “The Diary of Evelyn Lau.” Mr. Trower played himself, declaiming poetry while sitting at a table in a bar, a role for which he had a lifetime’s preparation.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's 20 years since Imlach's Old Leafs won the Cup

Leafs captain George Armstrong holds the Stanley Cup for photographers on the ice at the Montreal Forum following Game 6 of the 1967 Stanley Cup finals.
By Tom Hawthorn
The Globe and Mail
May 2, 1987

The year was 1967. Expo had just opened, the summer of love was about to bloom and, to everyone's surprise, the aged Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
Twenty years ago today, coach Punch Imlach led what he called The Old Fellows Athletic Club to what has been Toronto's most recent hockey championship.
Now the heirs to that storied team are trying to rekindle the Leaf's once-proud tradition.
If some of the current Leafs do not appreciate their historic task, they have an excuse. Left winger Wendel Clark was a baby when the Leafs last won the Cup. Rookie forward Vincent Damphousse had not even been born.
For some of the old-timers, it was easier to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs than to watch the current team on television.
"I die with the Leafs," said Allan Stanley, the stay-at-home defenceman who now stays at his resort near Bobcaygeon, Ont. "When I watch, I work just as hard as I did when I was playing the game. I make every move with them. I squeeze by the defencemen, and I hit those forwards. I'm tired when I'm through."
Stanley said he never gets as tired as he was after his team beat their arch rivals the Montreal Canadiens. It was the last of the classic showdowns among the original six teams of the National Hockey League.
The Leafs had had a lousy regular season in 1967, losing 10 games in a row and barely qualifying for the playoffs.
Montreal's victory seemed so certain that the Cup had already been placed on display in Quebec's building at Expo, while Czechoslavakia's pavilion had a magnificent glass sculpture dedicated to Montreal's triumph.
Imlach's warhorses spoiled the celebration.
With Toronto ahead three games to two, they played the sixth game before 15,997 roaring fans at Maple Leaf Gardens. Ron Ellis and Jim Pappin scored for the Leafs in the second period, before Montreal's Dick Duff finally was able to get a shot past Terry Sawchuk in Toronto's goal.
Time and again Sawchuk, 37, frustrated Montreal's attack. "He was hotter than a $3 bill," remembers Gump Worsley, his opposite number in the Montreal cage.
With only 55 seconds left in the game, Montreal coach Toe Blake lifted Worsley for a sixth skater. Imlach sent out his best to take a face-off in the Leafs end. Stanley, 41, beat Montreal's Jean Beliveau to the puck and held onto his rival. Red Kelly, 39, grabbed the disk, promptly throwing it ahead to Bob Pulford, a mere wisp of 31. Pulford caught team captain George Armstrong, 37, on the fly on an open wing. Armstrong popped the puck into the empty net.
"I really credit Imlach with sticking with us old guys," said Armstrong, named Chief Shoot the Puck by an Alberta tribe. "He remained loyal to the old players who had produced for him in the past. But I guess it was his downfall."
The Leafs missed the playoffs the following season, as age, and expansion, took their toll.
But the old squad had one final week-long party of drinking and high jinks that began after the game when Pappin and Mike (Shakey) Walton tossed Imlach into the dressing room showers.
Schools closed early three days later so that school children could attend the ticker-tape parade through downtown Toronto. More than 30,000 fans cheered their favourites riding in open sports cars bearing white pennants on which their names were emblazoned in blue.
The players got gold wrist watches from the city, lifetime passes to the Gardens in the form of a medallion, and a bonus of $5,250 as Cup winners.
At Expo 67, the Cup was moved from the Quebec building to its new home in the Ontario pavilion, where it was guarded by two OPP officers in formal dress. Brian Conacher, a rookie forward with the Leafs, remembers with delight that the Czechs had to turn their trophy around.
Eight of those Leafs — Armstrong, Kelly, Stanley, Johnny Bower, Marcel Pronovost, and Frank Mahovlich, as well as the late Terry Sawchuk and Tim Horton — have been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Armstrong, currently the chief scout for the Quebec Nordiques, said Leaf fans should not fret over the current drought.
"There're 21 teams in the league," he said. "If each of them wins once, it'll take 21 years. So it's not up yet."
Coach Punch Imlach pours champagne into the Stanley Cup in the Leafs dressing room. He'd soon wind up in the showers, fully dressed.

The Maple Leafs victory parade on May 5 rode up Bay Street before stopping at Toronto's modernistic City Hall. Leafs captain George Armstrong shares the trophy with team owner Harold Ballard, who would soon enough bring ruin to the franchise.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lord Tanamo, ska vocalist (1934-2016)

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
May 6, 2016
The singer known as Lord Tanamo shared with audiences around the world the buoyant sounds of ska music born in the shantytowns of his native Jamaica.

As a vocalist with the Skatalites, Lord Tanamo gave voice to a music that would thrust his island homeland to the forefront of popular culture. Although the band's original lineup lasted less than two years, the group's recordings had a profound impact.

Ska melded traditional island music with American blues and jazz, creating a fast-paced, infectious, danceable sound with a steady bass line and an emphasis on the upbeat. It was the sound of poor, black Jamaica and a precursor to reggae. Ska has undergone at least two revivals since the Skatalites broke up in 1965. The surviving members have had several band reunions with Lord Tanamo joining them for tours of Europe, Asia and South America.

The singer had already settled in Canada when hired in 1969 to perform at the Jamaica pavilion in Montreal at the post-Expo exhibition known as Man and His World. Based in Toronto, he performed on occasion in the city even as he returned frequently to his homeland to record.

In 2008, the singer suffered a stroke, which left him unable to speak, a cruel affliction for one whose voice had entertained audiences for so many years. He communicated by batting his eyelashes. He lived in an assisted care facility in Toronto until his death from natural causes on April 15. He was 81.

With a lollipop physique, the singer was neither a crooner nor a belter. Lord Tanamo preferred a relaxed, seemingly carefree vocal styling, capturing in recordings the feel of the easygoing street musician and hotel entertainer he had been as a young man.

The singer was also a noted percussionist for his playing of the rumba box, a bass lamellophone also known as a tinkle box. The instrument provides the heavy bass line typical of Jamaican music and is usually played by sitting atop the box while reaching between the legs to pluck the keys.

In island fashion, he took as his performance name a noble title paired in his case with an exotic locale, Tanamo (pronounced TAH-nah-mo) being a shortened version of Guantanamo, the Cuban city across the Caribbean Sea from Jamaica.

Joseph Abraham Gordon was born on October 2, 1934, in Kingston, Jamaica, to Julia (née Dunkley) and Charles Simeon Gordon, who operated a business in the craft market aimed at tourists. The boy, the youngest of 15 children, remembered first hearing the sound of a rumba box when Cecil Lawes, later known as Count Razza, visited the family home with one. The instrument fascinated him.
“I liked the sound from the first time I heard it,” Lord Tanamo told Tim Perlich of Toronto's Now newspaper in 2002. “Later, when I was a teenager, I began performing on the corner with Cecil and his rumba box. In the day I'd put on torn pants and a straw hat and sing calypso to hustle the tourists, and then at night I'd put on my suit and tie and sing ballads with a band.”

As a young man, Mr. Gordon performed in swanky hotels along the island's north coast — the Royal Caribbean, the Casa Montego and the Casa Blanca. He sang calypso, the Trinidadian style that became a sensation with North American audiences in the early 1950s, and he also sang mento, the unique music of the Jamaican countryside known for witty, sometimes ribald lyrics and an emphasis on the upbeat.

Meanwhile, the Kingston businessman Stanley Motta, a prominent electronics and appliance merchant, launched a domestic recording industry by opening a recording studio and launching his own label, M.R.S., for Motta's Recording Studio. Lord Tanamo had his first hit at age 20 with “Crinoline Incident,” released as a 78 r.p.m. record. Strongly influenced by the stylings of calypso singer Lord Kitchener (a Trinidadian born as Aldwyn Roberts), Lord Tanamo would remain a presence on the Jamaican charts for years to come.

When Louis (Satchmo) Armstrong arrived on the island with his orchestra for an engagement in 1957, he was greeted at the airport by dignitaries, while a band led by Lord Tanamo played calypsos, including a number titled “The Things Satchmo Said,” written by Tanamo for the occasion.
Radio Jamaica regularly played Lord Tanamo's songs, including “Come Down,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Jamaican charts in 1963. His first album, “Come Come Come to Jamaica,” featuring a selection of mento tunes, was released the following year. The singer also performed live in theatres on stage-and-screen cards including dozens of acts, including comics and dancers, as well as movie double bills.

The evolution of the ska genre coincided with the heady days following Jamaican independence in 1962. At the heart of the new sound was a band of crackerjack instrumentalists who had attended the Alpha Boys School. The Skatalites formed in 1964, featuring two tenor saxophones, an alto saxophone, a trombone, a trumpet, an upright bass, drums, piano, guitar and several vocalists, including Lord Tanamo and Doreen Shaffer, though many of their most popular numbers, including “Guns of Navarone,” were primarily instrumental tunes.

Lord Tanamo took credit for coining the band's clever, punning post-Sputnik name, although other members dispute his claim. In any case, the Skatalites quickly became the most popular band on an island filled with terrific musicians. In 1965, the group performed aboard a float in the independence day parade in Kingston, preceded by the Jamaican Agricultural Marketing Corporation and followed by a bevy of beauty queens.

For a time, Lord Tanamo had several songs on the Jamaican charts, both as a solo artist and as a Skatalite vocalist.

One of his more popular songs was “I'm in the Mood for Ska,” a bouncy cover of “I'm in the Mood for Love,” a song first made popular by Louis Armstrong.

After the Skatalites broke up, the Jamaica Tourist Board hired Lord Tanamo as a troubadour promoting island music. In January, 1966, he performed at the Eaton's store in downtown Toronto with a calypso band as part of a promotion for the tourist board and Air Canada. The band, with members wearing torn straw hats and ruffle-sleeved shirts, played in the store throughout the day.
A local woman invited the band to her home in Etobicoke for dinner. When Lord Tanamo telephoned to announce the band was on the way, the call was answered by the woman's daughter. After he hung up, the singer told his bandmates, “I am going to marry this girl.” He married Joan Fletcher in a ceremony in Jamaica that December.

In 1969, the singer and his Calypsonians, including old friend Mr. Lawes on rumba box and Wilbert Stephenson on bamboo saxophone, travelled to Montreal for a four-month gig at the Jamaican pavilion at the successor to the world's fair.

In Toronto, he formed a mento group that became the quartet for the keyboardist Jackie Mittoo, another Skatalite original who had also settled in Canada. The two men also owned and operated the Record Nook with Karl Mullings, a shop which became a popular gathering place for the Caribbean diaspora.

On one of his return trips to Jamaica, Lord Tanamo recorded a reggae cover of “Rainy Night in Georgia,” a plaintive version which spent seven weeks at the top of the Jamaican charts.
On his many forays to his homeland, Lord Tanamo recorded backed by the likes of the famed reggae rhythm duo Sly & Robbie (drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare). In 1979, an album, “Calypso Reggae,” was produced and arranged by Bunny Lee (born Edward O'Sullivan Lee), a prominent figure on the Jamaican music scene.

A revival of ska in Britain in the late 1970s led to a reunion of the Skatalites in 1983. The band played together for the first time in 18 years at the Reggae Sunsplash festival in Montego Bay, where Lord Tanamo delivered “a sensational performance,” according to Jamaica Gleaner newspaper. He joined the Skatalites on several subsequent global tours and sat in with the band for a performance at the Glastonbury Festival in England in 2003.

In 2000, he revisited many of his mento and ska hits on a compact disk titled, “The Best Place in the World,” backed by Dr. Ring-Ding and the Senior Allstars, a German band with which he toured Europe.

At home in Toronto, he performed at such night clubs as the Silver Dollar and the El Mocambo. In 2002, he sang old-time mento tunes and played the rumba box during a Legends of Ska concert at the Palais Royale, which was filmed by Brad Klein for a documentary of the same name released last year.

The singer was honoured at an event called Canada Salutes Icons 2003, in which the calypsonian Jayson (a Juno-winning singer named John Perez) and the singer and dancer Pluggy Satchmo (John Gilbert Peck) were also praised for their cultural contributions. Lord Tanamo had to skip the ceremony as he was touring overseas with the Skatalites. At a London show during the tour, he was urged by bassist Lloyd Brevett to give the crowd “some real old time music.”
Lord Tanamo looked out at a crowded venue filled with young dancers before pronouncing, “Old thing? A new thing this!”

He leaves Joan, his wife of 49 years, from whom he had separated, as well as their two sons and a daughter. He is also survived by two sons and a daughter from a previous relationship with Helena Khouri of Jamaica. He was predeceased by their son, Joseph, who was killed during political strife on the island in 1979. Lord Tanamo is also survived by five siblings and several grandchildren.

A visitor to his room at the assisted-living facility noted a framed invitation to Barack Obama's inauguration on a wall, while his beloved rumba box rested in a place of honour in a corner.

In 1989, his cover of “I'm in the Mood for Love” was licensed for a 30-second British television commercial in which a bored man has an ecstatic reaction after being served chicken coated in Paxo breadcrumbs. The spot thrust Lord Tanamo's 25-year-old recording onto the charts, where it peaked at No. 58, his only hit in the United Kingdom.

Lord Tanamo (fourth from left) with the Skatalites