Tommy McCook Memorial









Tommy McCook Memorial

The Skatalites

Ska Flag

The Wetlands 5/31/98

After three decades of ska music, one of the creators of ska has left the scene.  Tommy McCook passed away on May 4th, 1998.  A legendary ska tenor sax player and the leader of The Skatalites; the legendary band that was such an integral part of the evolution of ska music.

To help his family with the funeral and medical costs a few of his friends came together to play a benefit show.  The bands that played were Dion Knibb & The Agitators, The Bluebeats, The NY Ska-Jazz Ensemble, The Toasters, and The Skatalites.

The Skatalites have been playing for the last several years with out their front-man.  Back problems prevented Tommy from touring with them.  I think the last time I saw a Skatalites show with Tommy was back in the October of 1996 at the Knitting Factory.  That was a great show, I still remember almost the whole show.  That night I bear hugged Roland Alphonso.

All the bands were great.  I have not seen The Bluebeats, NYC Ska-Jazz Ensemble, or The Toasters in a couple years.  I take back any of the bad things I have said about The Toasters in the past.  They are pretty good.  I heard Simmer Down three times – Dion Knibb & The Agitators, The Bluebeats,  and The Skatalites played it.  I never knew that Tommy McCook played on that song.  It was Bob Marley’s third song and his first hit.

Roland Alphonso didn’t come out until the third song of The Skatalites set!  At first I did not think he was going to play at all.  I guess that the rivalry Roland and Tommy had between them was greater than Tommy’s death.  This show was a send off for Tommy and kind of like a wake for all of us who came out.  I am sure Roland was making a point about the relationship between him and Tommy by coming out late.  I lost some respect for Roland today.  If you cannot put rivalry behind you when a man dies what does that say about you as a person?

Sudden Death Publications (c) 2003