Photo by Judith Anderson
Every genre of music has certain legends within it that have defined and shaped said genre in ways that live on forever. Whenever one of these legends passes on it’s sometimes a major shock because often times you have forgotten they even existed as their impact began decades before. Lloyd Knibb, who passed away on Thursday May 12th 2011, was the drummer for Ska founding fathers The Skatalites. He began playing with them at their inception back in 1955 when recording studios began to pop up in Kingston, Jamaica and was an active member all the way up to his death last week. Knibb literally developed the famed Ska rhythm. Reggae, Two Tone era Ska, Third Wave Ska, and other splinter Ska genres wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for Lloyd and his bandmates getting together over 55 years ago.
Skatalites’ instrumental recordings are usually what musicologists point to when tracing back the history of ska — and much of that was due to Knibb’s syncopated beats, which were faster than the tempos of the traditional R&B music the band was trying to replicate. In fact, history tells it that the band was really just attempting to recreate American R&B in Jamaica and Knibb — with his jazz and swing band background — jazzed up the tempo unintentionally…at first, anyway. – Spinner
Really really sad news. I have seen the Skatalites a million times over the years and they always maintained the loosest, most genuine old-school sounds in the business. The height of my Ska fandom occurred while I was in high school in the mid-90s and grew in the mid to late 90s when I was living in Boston. Knibb, who spent his later years in Hull Massachusetts, had a son named Dion who played with Boston-area Ska greats Dion Knibb & The Agitators, one of my favorite bands of the era who I have also seen a zillion times. Lloyd may be gone, but his presence will live forever in the genre he helped create.