Photo: Courtesy of Winston Grennan
Winston Grennan, grew up around musicians his uncles, the Scott family including the well known sax player Ossie Scott kept him interested in making music despite discouragement from his mother.
He came into reggae music in the early sixties. Eventually he started to play drums, and was hired by the bandleader Trenton Spence. At the time he was renting his drum kit, not being happy with this situation Winston took up boxing! After 32 fights undefeated he decided it was time to go back into music.
Bim and Bam the highly popular comedy duo needed a drummer, and so Winston resumed his drumming career. Not long after he ran in Bobby Aitken leader of the Carribeats Band. They began to back up Bim And Bam. Initially Winston played Keyboards in the band. Yet it didn't take Winston long to convince Bobby of his talent behind the drums.
His first recording session as a drummer took place at this time with the Carribeats at Federal studio. Not long he started singing as Winston Richards recording around 15-20 tunes for producers like Mr Pottinger,Duke Reid and Coxsone Dodd.
When Bobby Aitken decided to become more involved with the church, Winston hooked up with All Stars Band. Hux Brown, Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Ronnie Bopp, and Denzil Laing.
It was around 1966/67, and the All Star band quickly became the leading session band in Jamaica working with leading producers of the time like Leslie Kong, Lee Perry, Bunny Lee, Derrick Harriott, Prince Buster, and of course the studio owners like Coxsone,Duke Reid and Randy's.
Winston can be heard playing on all the big hits of the time, from the likes of The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker. By the early seventies his fame was such that when artists like Paul Simon and Roberta Flack came to Jamaica to work, Winston was their chosen drummer.
Feeling that he achieve everything he could in Jamaica, he left for America in 1973. It didn't take him long to find session work, but his most successful work at this time was done with Kid Creole and the Coconuts with whom he toured most of the world.
When reggae started to break internationally he was looking forward to being part of that success, for various reasons that never happened. Yet Winston's contribution to reggae music was immense. Although the mid seventies success of Bob Marley and co is seen as the major breakthrough, the real breakthrough had come five to six year earlier with hits from Desmond
Dekker and Jimmy Cliff. His drumming on the hits of these artists reshaped the sound of reggae at that point. Which other drummers like Sly Dunbar and Santa have added to but have not radically changed. Winston was the true foundation drummer.
Winston Grennan passed away at his home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, from cancer related complications on Oct, 27, 2000. He was 56. The medical fund that was established has become The Winston Grennan Memorial Fund and will be used for arrangements, for continuing to expose his vast musical endeavours, and to assist his wife and his children with their music. Donations can be sent to:
Small Axe sends its sincere condolences to the friends and family of Winston.