Brenda Holloway Was Motown's First West Coast Artist; Tomorrow She Plays With the Gaylads
American soul music and Jamaican reggae are closer kin than you might think. "Basically every '60s ska and reggae band refers to Curtis Mayfield as one of their biggest influences," says Mark Morales, a concert promoter and DJ based out of Los Angeles. Tomorrow, Morales' Hot Shot Sounds will host a double bill featuring Jamaica's legendary Gaylads and Brenda Holloway, the first West Coast Motown star, at the Echoplex. Holloway will be backed by a band comprised of Hepcat, Aggrolites, Police and Thieves and Sand Dollar Sound members.
The cover of Brenda Holloway's 1965 single
The Gaylads' frontman Harris "B.B." Seaton is a towering figure in the world of Jamaican music, despite the fact that he remains a fairly obscure figure internationally. "This is a little country that's created this music that's influenced the world," says Morales. "B.B. was a producer, musician and screener. He screened Bob Marley before he got his start." Thus, The Gaylads are not only important as a pioneering rocksteady band, but also in shaping the entire course of Jamaican music for the last 50 years.
Still, the roots of Jamaican music lie a bit further north than Kingston. "Most Jamaican music was influenced by American soul music," says Morales, "The Motown stars, these guys really look up to them. About 90 percent of ska and reggae records from the 1960s are either adapted or directly copied from a soul record."
If Los Angeles reggae aficionados are abuzz over the first Gaylads show in 40 years, The Gaylads are doubtless excited to be sharing a bill with Brenda Holloway. Holloway, the first Motown recording star to hail from the West Coast, was touted as the next Mary Wells. However, her career didn't last long. She recorded for about four years before retiring from the music business.
"I wasn't happy at Motown as their first West Coast artist," says the 65-year-old singer says over the phone, explaining, "I never got the opportunity to record as much as I wanted. I never had the opportunity to be with the writers and sit down with them. I was hot headed and young and I just left."