February 2012 Volume 9

The Travelling Man Passes

Roy Black
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Winston Riley, the singer/producer whose career spanned 50 years, died Thursday January 19, 2012 at the University Hospital of the West Indies. He was 65 years old.

Winston Riley came to prominence as leader of the very popular and successful Jamaican vocal quartet of the 1960's –The Techniques which he formed in 1962. He started out singing with Keith 'Slim' Smith (lead singer), Fredrick Waite and Franklyn White at school concerts at Kingston Senior School where they were students. Riley, although not the lead singer, was always the leader, doing the business arrangements and engagements for the group. After leaving school, the group stayed together and played at places like Chocomo Lawn in West Kingston.

In 1965 Ska singer Stranger Cole introduced Riley and his three friends to record producer Duke Reid where they did their first set of recordings beginning with the ever popular, "Little did you know" and  other hits "When you're wrong" and "I'm in love". The group went through several lineup changes and Riley remained the only member from the original and other subsequent lineups. He sang with Junior Menz and Bruce Ruffin on "Queen Majesty". He sang with Johnny Johnson and Bruce Ruffin on "Travelling Man" which he wrote. Pat Kelly was also a lead singer in "Mood for Love", the redo of the Impressions' "You don't' care for me" and "There comes the time". Brother Robert Kelly fondly recalled when the group used to rehearse at the family Tewari crescent home.  Riley had a hand in writing most of the hits the group did including "Love is not a Gamble "and also did most of the arrangements for the song. With all the changes, Riley claims that the group has never broken up since. In his own words, "I am the sound and the sound is me."

In the 1970's, Riley went more into production with the launch of his Techniques label. He was an instant success with monster international hit "Double Barrell" for Dave Barker and Ansell Collins.  He also teamed with Collins and the Soul Syndicate band to cut the Stalag 'riddim' which spanned some of the biggest dancehall music such as General Echo's "Arlene" and " Ring the Alarm" by Tenor Saw. 

By the early 1980's Riley literally took over the biggest hits of that period including 'Loneliness' by Sanchez; 'Boops' by Super Cat which he co-wrote;  'Hol' a Fresh' by Red Dragon; 'Life goes on,' 'Spanner Banner,' 'Agony,' 'Young and she Green 'and 'Just Friends' by Tony Rebel. In addition, he did  backing vocals on many of his production and occasionally played percussion.

Winston Riley is survived by several children including son Kurt Riley who is a Fortisan and disc jockey of Fame Fm.

KCOB Roy Black is host of the popular vintage music programme on KLAS  " The Saturday Night Alternative". 

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