Arts, Culture & Media

Jamaica's ska and reggae guitarist Ernest Ranglin continues to innovate, even at 82

Updated:

Ranglin_feature.jpg

Credit: Marco Werman

Eighty-two year-old guitarist Ernest Ranglin

If you know the classic Jamaican pop tune "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie Small, then you've heard the guitar of 82-year-old Ernest Ranglin.

Player utilities

(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

From his early days as a jazz guitarist, Ranglin became one of Jamaica's key innovators of ska and played with reggae stars like Bob Marley. 

He got his start as a member of the house band at the Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation. He was both an arranger and guitarist. Ranglin says the JBC stopped using a house band sometime in the early 1960s.

From there, he went on to land a gig as a regular session man at the famous Studio One recording house in Kingston. That's where he helped create ska and played reggae with Marley, Jimmy Cliff and The Skatalites. He says there have been so many artists he "can't even remember names."

Ranglin is so versatile, he's played jazz, be-bop, rock steady and mento. He says he just plays "what is necessary to do at that moment" — then ticks off even more genres: "African, calypso or Latin."

Ranglin recently performed one of his new tunes for us. The song was "Follow On." Tony Mindel joined in on rhythm guitar, while Jonathan Korty played the melodica.

He's also adding a new album to his discography. It's a great summertime jam called Bless Up. It shows how, even at 82, Ranglin continues to innovate.

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Millie Small.

Comments