- Herman Sang -
Often credited as “Hersang,” Herman Sang was the bandleader for the City Slickers,
The Alley Cats, The Hersang Combo.
Herman Sang was a formal member of the Jiving Juniors
(with Derrick Harriott, Claude Sang Jr., Eugene Dwyer, and Maurice Winter).
Herman Sang performed and recorded on piano/keyboards with The Skatalites, The Vagabonds, and worked closely on music recorded by The Blues Blasters. Jamaican born, Herman Sang played and recorded as a pianist and keyboardist during a critical period in the evolution of Jamaican music – The Shuffle Era. Sang then moved into a Golden era of Jamaican Ska music in a position of great prominence. Herman Sang was the bandleader for the City Slickers, The Alley Cats, The Hersang Combo, and was a formal member of the Jiving Juniors (with Derrick Harriott, Claude Sang Jr., Eugene Dwyer, and Maurice Winter). Herman Sang performed and recorded on piano/keyboards with The Skatalites, The Vagabonds (Derrick Harriott & Jimmy James) and spent a short time with Kes Chin and the Souvenirs.
Herman Sang grew up in a musical home with a piano available for practice and a father who played the organ. Herman’s father played piano and sang with a group called “The Frats Quintet” which performed at weddings and other large functions. Sang recalls, “My father is Claudius Archibald Sang, he played organ at The Lincoln Kirk Presbyterian Church for 30 years. My four brothers and I took turns to manually pump church organ in the back as my father played. We went to church for 20 years, each and every Sunday. When I started playing music with the Jiving Juniors, my father never liked that. He called it ‘Boogie Woogie Music.’”
Herman’s brother – Claude Sang Jr., formed a singing duo with Derrick Harriott, called The Jiving Juniors. Claude was a schoolmate of Derrick Harriott at Excelsior College in Jamaica and after the two entered and won the Vere John’s Talent Show at The Palace Theatre in 1957. Claude and Harriott enlisted Herman to play piano on all of their shows and eventually their recordings. Herman Sang comments, “I was still going to school at Kingston College and we would play in Kingston and also outside the area. ‘Claude and Harriott’ composed a song called ‘Lollipop Girl.’ That was a big hit! We went on to be very popular covering songs by The Coasters group. We had big shows where we opened for Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, and James Brown.”
Sang was involved with the right people, in the right place, and at the right time. As an 18 year-old piano player, Sang worked with his close friend and Jamaican music pioneer Coxsone Dodd in the heart of Kingston, Jamaica in the year 1958. Jamaica’s music was vibrating and bubbling in preparation to pour out over the world. Starting in the year 1958, the Shuffle era was a relatively short period of time, but marked a surge forward in formation of music played by Jamaicans, recorded in Jamaican studios, and pressed and sold throughout the world. The rolling Shuffle style was influenced by very specific aspects of American Blues, R&B, and Boogie Woogie recordings. The desired sound included vocals that shouted out and horns plentiful. Shuffle became the inspiration for Ska music and Ska has been revived twice over the decades (now in it’s “third wave”).
Herman Sang was one of the very first musicians to work closely with Coxsone Dodd to audition new talent. It was Sang who selected that initial talent to be recorded for Coxsone at Federal Studios.
“When Coxsone just started, ‘Coxson’ was his first label. He asked me what name I wanted to use. He came up with Hersang and The City Slickers. It was first recorded as a b-side. What happened was these instrumental songs became so popular, the producers then put these same songs onto a-sides because of the demand”
Herman Sang recalls an example of his musical discipline, “On the weekends at home when we would have the piano, my brother Claude and I would practice. I would play the chord section. Whenever I would learn a new chord sequence, I would practice it in all the different keys. By practicing in all the different keys, I could accompany a singer that might want to sing it in “F” because I had practiced it in “F,” “C,” and other various chords.” This discipline became vital as Herman Sang was influential and recorded with many (if not all) the top Jamaican artists in the late 50’s and early 60’s. “I played on well over 100 songs over the years. I started out working with Coxsone Dodd at Federal Recording Studio, then Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), Leslie Kong (Beverley’s), and Lyndon Pottinger of the Tip Top label. For Beverly’s we did Toots and the Maytals, worked with Jimmy Cliff, and recorded Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites.’”
My very first recording was in 1958 with Chris Blackwell of Island Records. He had Owen Gray, Wilfred “Jackie” Edwards and Laurel Aitken. We did “Tell Me Darling” by Jackie Edwards, which was his first big hit and Laurel Aiken did another song at that session which was a hit. I did the Derrick Morgan songs about the feud he had with Prince Buster. I played on both sides of that feud! [laughs] On ‘Blazing Fire,’ we had just bought the first electric piano. This was a Wurlitzer like Ray Charles was playing. It sounded so good – “Blazing fire!” I was really proud of that one!” Herman also played the electric piano with Jimmy’s James and The Vagabonds on the original Jamaican recording of the international hit “Come To Me Softly,” which was a number one song on the Jamaican charts in 1960.
Herman left the music arena in 1963 and began “shift work” and later as a Shift Supervisor for many years at an oil refinery owned by Standard Oil of the West Indies. “When I started work at the refinery I didn’t have time to go to the studios or to see Coxsone Dodd.” With his degree from Kingston College and his science background, Herman Sang was quite successful in his work in oil refineries.
Presently Herman Sang resides in Canada with his wife Bernice and still plays the piano on a daily basis. Herman has two children Natalie and Sean. Natalie has her Nursing Degree and she and her husband Mike have two children. Herman’s son Sean works in the computer field and he lives in Texas with his wife Rayvonne and their five children. Both Sean and Rayvonne are members of the U.S. Airforce Reserves.
Herman Sang performed at the now historical “Legends of Ska” show in Toronto, Canada in 2002. This program was recorded by filmmaker Brad Klein and is now the subject of a full length film titled “Legends of Ska.”
Herman Sang is a member of an elite group of musicians that determined the path Jamaican music and projected it out to the world – Herman Sang is a legend.
Herman Sang - Selected Discography
“Best Twist”/Grandma, Grandpa” – Owen Gray with Herman Sang – Blue Beat 7”
“There’s Always Sunshine”/”You Had It All Wrong” – the Blues Busters with Herman Sang –
Blue Beat 7” (“There’s Always Sunshine” starts off with an intro on the organ
and then an organ solo. I recall Monty Alexander played the organ and I played
the piano on this song.”)
“Hoppin’ Guitar”/”Old McTarvey” – Herman Sang and The City Slickers – All Stars 7”
“Hilly Gully Rock”/”Four Corners of The World” – The Alley Cats with Roland Alphonso
“River Jordan” – Clancy Eccles with Hersang and The City Slickers – produced by Coxsone
“Tell Me Darling” – Wilfred Jackie Edwards with Herman Sang (with guitar solo by
Dennis Sindrey) – Produced by Chris Blackwell
“Freedom” – Clancy Eccles with Herman Sang – Produced by Coxsone Dodd
“Come To Me Softly” – Jimmy James and The Vagabonds (with Herman Sang as a member)
*This is the only Jamaican recording session. All other recordings were done in England/Europe
after Jimmy James and the group relocated)
“Sit and Cry” – Millie Small, Owen Gray, and The City Slickers –
“Best Twist” – Owen Gray with Herman Sang and The City Slickers
“My Happy Home” – Roy Panton, Patsy Todd, and Hersang and His Combo
“Do You Know” – Millie Small, Owen Gray, and The City Slickers
“Sinners Weep” - Owen Gray and The City Slickers –
“Donna” – The Blues Busters with The City Slickers
“Georgie and the Old Shoe” – Theophilus Beckford and The City Slickers (with guitar solo by
“Lonely Boy” – The Charmers with Hersang and The City Slickers
“My Happy Home” – Roy & Patsy with Hersang and his Combo
Blazing Fire – Derrick Morgan (with Herman Sang on Whirlitzer organ into)
Housewife’s Choice – Derrick Morgan (with Herman Sang)
“River of Tears” – Owen Gray (with Herman Sang & Joe Higgs on harmony) –
On LP, Various Artistes - “It’s Shuffle ‘N Ska Time with Lloyd “The Matador” Daley – Jamaican Gold – Portugal – 1994 – Recorded 1960-66.
“Made Up My Mind” - Owen Gray (with Herman Sang & Joe Higgs on harmony) -
On LP, Various Artistes - “It’s Shuffle ‘N Ska Time with Lloyd “The Matador” Daley – Jamaican Gold – Portugal – 1994 – Recorded 1960-66.
*Herman Sang as a member of The Jiving Juniors –
“Lollipop Girl” – produced by Duke Reid
“Over the River”
*Note: This is merely a selected discography. There are many other songs that Herman Sang recorded.
Herman Sang Era - Session Musicians (pre-Skatalites)
“I was fortunate to play with these accomplished musicians. Real legends in Jamaican music.”
Ernest Ranglin - Guitar
Dennis Sindrey - Guitar
Jah Jerry - Guitar
Lloyd Brevett - Bass
Lloyd Mason - Bass
Cluett Johnson - Bass
Roland Alphonso – Tenor Saxophone
Tommy McCook – Tenor Saxophone
Lester Sterling – Alto Saxophone
Carl Bryan – Alto Saxophone
Johnny Moore - Trumpet
Baba Brooks - Trumpet
Arkland “Drumbago” Parkes (first it was Drumbago on drums, then Knibbs) - Drums
Lloyd Knibbs - Drums
Rico Rodriguez – Trombone
Don Drummond – Trombone
Charlie “Organaire” Cameron - Harmonica
Written by Rich Lowe, WRUW FM Radio - (Edited by Herman Sang)
Source: Discussions with Herman Sang over the time period December, 2014- March, 2015
“When Dennis Alcapone just came out in the 1970’s, I dj on the back of “Rivers of Babylon” (“Sounds of Babylon). This guy GG Ranglin, I done about four songs for him (including “Leap year”). There was this song, “Little Boy Blue” (Original by The Maytones, Samuel The First version is “Walking Stick”). I done something with Keith Hudson. It was John Holt just come in the studio and have a bass pattern. Lloyd Bevett was there with his figure bass. John Holt jus’ say, “Boom, boo, boo, boom boom.” Keith Hudson, Hortense Ellis, John Holt, myself and a guy from The Cables, we did that song. It was like a medley. We did four songs in the one riddim. I sung harmony, it call “Popular.” In the 70’s I was in a group called, The Four Harmonics. We did an LP for a guy name Derrick Teywell with about seven songs on it. We didn’t finish it, but I know we released it because this guy went to England and he sell it. We have money to get and when he get back to Jamaica, it was like Chaos to get a little money from it. I say, “To hell with it!” Another guy come in and finish up that LP. When they release the seven inch (the label) was “D. Teywell.” “When Road Vanish” was the name on the LP. It was me, a guy name Eddie Scorcher, and Peter Francis (aka Selvyn Francis). “
Along with Dennis Alcapone, Barrington Samuels, and Wee Wee Cameron, Samuel Phillips (Samuel The First) was a founding member of El Paso Sound System. Samuel worked as the Selector for El Paso Sound and also toasted on the mic. The following is a description of the El Paso selections and Dancehall structure:
“When we start play Friday evening, we don’t stop until Monday night, or Tuesday morning. Dennis and myself – I don’t know if it was nerves thing, but bumps was growing in our hand middle. My head was going some way and a lotta bleaching! Some people call it “set-up.” Maybe shut our eye for a two or three minute get up an’ drink a pot a fish soup, burn a two ziggy, drink two beer, and work again.
Every Friday I look at the top ten selection. Just how they have it in order, I select it in backward order sameway starting at 8:00pm. When I reach the number one, the people already mad because they relate to the (top) three. You have a perfect selection coming up all along! Then after you have that crowd now, we gone into our dubwise selection, You gonna have our entertainers. Man ah come up an’ do what they can do. Trust me, if they start an’ they don’t fit in that riddim or ride that riddim good, we’re gonna stop them an’ somebody else come. We keep a perfect thing going.
Then we have a version one, a version two, and a version three. We don’t have to play a whole lotta record. You can play 50-60 records for the whole night, but it’s just how you catch the people. So you just hold them like that.”
[How come you didn’t continue recording beyond that first group of singles that you recorded with Beverley’s GG Ranglin , and Keith Hudson ?]
“True most of dem promoter guy back home a tief, eh? An’ they always want just for themselves. They never consider the goose that lay the golden egg. Not even think of giving two grain a corn to get back a lickle more energy to do it again. So I just say to hell with this! You have the writing in the bible, which will be my blessing, “A troop shall press upon Gad, but he shall overcome in the last.”
Rich Lowe, June 2014
(Samuel The First Interview conducted 31, May 2014)
Elephant Man’s music is fun. Not only is the music enjoyable to listen to, but Elephant Man himself is enjoying his music. The music is usually not too serious, it has some form of gimmick, and it’s packed with energy. Add a energetic live performance and the formula is complete. As a modern day Dancehall artist, Elephant Man has used this formula to bridge his work from the late 90’s and has made continued to make himself viable.
In the arena of gimmickry, Elephant Man is a force. He walked onto the scene with orange hair alongside Harry Toddler, Nitty Kutchie, Boom Dandimite as The Scare Dem Crew. Elephant developed catch phrases like “Good To Go,” “Shizzle Mi Nizzle,” and was known by the nickname of Energy God. The nickname relates to Elephant’s well known stage performances. In a 2002 interview, Elephant Man comments,
“Mi is a man, so ya see me, ya see energy. Mi nah put on. Is just me dat. From mi a lickle yout it just deh ya in mi. The fans, they give me the name “Energy God.” They see mi climb pon de box, mi go up pon the speaker, mi go up pon the iron, mi jump in a de crowd, mi up pon de wire, up pon de fence. Sugar Minott, and Ken Boothe. Ken Boothe say, “Elephant, you a the ungo dj mi see who used to go like me in my time. Fit and physical.” Tiger and Lieutenant Stitchie used to jump too. We ah the young generation, so we take it pon the next level. It jus’ the vibe of the people, them enjoy themself.”
Elephant can also chat slackness and was involved in a August 2001 SumFest event where the Jamaican government shutdown artists chatting slackness, while the artists were performing on stage. Elephant comments,
“Jamaica the land of bad word y’know. Some people them ah try use we now fe make an example a what dem do wrong. Artists clash. When dem clash, bottle fling, people get lick. Then the promoter turn it over pon we an’ lef we inna everyting. I didn’t make no clash start. I jus’ curse one bad word, yes. Memba, a beer elder there inna a de show. It depends on how I cuss the badword, because I was just expressing my feeling when I was saying that Malcolm shouldn’t dead. Mi just a vex that Malcolm was dead an’ curse the badword. They just come up pon this profanity thing and everybody try to use the entertainer for bad example.”
Elephant has been riding a path of prolific single recordings as well as popular tunes that are related to his slang and various dances that have been created. Some of the specific dance related “Ele” songs include: “Shaka Shaka,” “Limbo,” “Ova Di Wall,” “Wine for Me” etc.
Beenie Man has described his own style as, “I ‘m like water, I can fill any space.” Elephant Man has that same quality with a lot to offer. Elephant has been able to maintain his value for Dancehall fans while making it seem natural and effortless, except when he’s holding a fat girl up in the air and grinding in front of 1,000 Dancehall fans.
Selected Singles Discography:
(Song Title, Record Label, Notes)
1. Bun Bad Mind, Stone Love
2. Jamaica, Stone Love
3. Deh Dem Bad, Renaissance, Distributed by in The Streetz
4. Pakistan, Renaissance, Stepz Riddim
5. Dead Over It, Renaissance
6. Rapid, John John, Jammy's Son, Target diddim
7. The Ride, John John, Chikita Riddim
8. Sorrow To the World, Q45
9. Higher Level, Q45
10. Afraid A We, Q45
11. Over Di Wall, King of Kings
12. Long Story, King of Kings
13. Propella, King of Kings
14. Dirt Bed, Daseca
15. Get On Up, Echo, Christpher "Birch" Production
16. Jamaica, Black Shadow, 2002
17. Do Yuh Thing, In The Music, Distributed by in the Streetz, Party Time Riddim
18. Hypocrites, In the Streetz, Free Up Riddim
19. Waste Man, Big Neck, Dist by Fat Eyes
20. Down, Big Ship, Stephen McGregor, Outbreak Riddim
21. Let Them Drown, Builders
22. Enemy, Fire Ball, 2003, Foot Step Riddim
23. Hands Dem High, Mac Dada, Mac Dada Production
24. Dance, Birch, Christpher "Birch"
25. Wine For Me, VP
26. It In Deh, Black House, Dist by In The Streetz, Middle East Riddim
27. Ghetto Youths, Mentally Disturbed, Prod by Ward 21
28. Somebody, Massive B, Bobby Konders Production
29. Shaka Shaka, Maverick, Prod by Wayne Wonder
30. Gully Creepa, SR, Creepa Riddim
31. Shake Up Yuh Body, Chiney K Riddim, 2007
32. Wine Up Pan me, Daybreak Riddim
33. Gal Wan More, Summer Bubble Riddim
34. Gal Set Away, Global diddim
35. Wild Shot, Greensleeves
36. Ready Fi Di Video, Gully Slime Riddim
37. Limbo, Limbo Riddim
38. Nuh Linga, Look Gal riddim
39. Nah Put Nuh Man, Me Mumma Riddim
41. Put Down The Gun, Statement Riddim
42. How We Do It
43. Man A bad Man
44. There I Go - Reggae Vibes 7", Produced by Jah Mike (Nude Riddim)
45. Father Elephant - Black Chiney Records (Kopa Riddim)
46. Chiney Thing - RMC Promotion (Blank Label)
47. Krazy - Don Corleon, Distributed by in The Streetz
48. Bad Man - Mad House (Fiesta Riddim)
Rich Lowe, June, 2014