Thursday, December 20th: JACKIE MITTOO
Jackie Mittoo was a Jamaican organ, piano and keyboard player, songwriter and musical director.
He is among the true legends of reggae – a founding member of the Skatalites and an extraordinarily prolific songwriter.
He was perhaps most influential as a mentor to countless younger performers, primarily through his work as the musical director at the famed Studio One.
Born Donat Roy Mittoo in Browns Town, Jamaica on March 3, 1948, he began playing keyboards at the age of four. He frequently skipped school to play with the house band at nearby Federal Studios, where he was recruited for recording sessions when the scheduled pianist failed to appear on time.
When Studio One in Kingston opened in 1963, Mittoo was tapped to serve as musical director; in the years to follow he played on virtually every disc the studio produced, arranging much of the material and helping develop new songs until they were sufficiently polished to meet his standards.
Mittoo relocated from Jamaica to Toronto, Ontario in 1968, one of many reggae performers who found a home among the clubs in the city. In 1989, Mittoo joined the reunited Skatalites, but health problems soon forced him to bow out; he died of cancer on December 16, 1990.