Roy Ellis AKA Mr Symarip
A Legend of Skinhead Reggae
When the teenage Roy Ellis set sail for a new life in the United Kingdom in 1959. He had no idea what to expect, his mother had left a few months previously, and made a home for her children to join her.
On arrival Roy settled in South London with many other Jamaican immigrants, and found it to be bleak and aggressive. Rife with racism and fear from the local people. Roy began his love of music, in church, like many other black people of the era.
“ I really started my music career in London in 1962, As a young man with full blooded music in me, not only I wanted to sing, but also wanted to play an instrument too. So I took up the Trombone. At the same time getting a few lesson from one of the masters Rico Rodriguez, In this time he just got to England, from there onI choose music as my career, singing and playing, and so it all started to where I am today.”
Reggae was finding its feet in the UK and artists were active and playing. Roy got together with some friends and set up his band, The Bees in 1964, and started to perform in small clubs around London. The Jamaican community being quite small at the time, gathered around its own culture and Reggae music. Roys band were discovered by Legendary Laurel Aitkin, who was leading the way in British/Jamaican Reggae in the early part of the 1960’s
The Bees breakthrough came with the chance to play backing band for Laurel Aitkin, who encouraged and helped this young band to climb the ladder, working as producer and promoter for his fellow Reggae musicians.
The new Reggae sound was picking up a large following from fellow council estate kids, who had created their own subculture, a fragment of the Mod culture, which came to be known as Skinheads. A mixture of white working class English kids, who loved the new sounds coming into their own area.
Although Roy, at first found it hard to find new friends, with strong racial barriers to cross. He was readily accepted within the Skinhead culture, partly because of his love of music, but mainly because he was a very good amateur boxer. Inter youth cult fighting was a big part of British youth culture during the 60’s. With the Mods and Rockers clashes on South Coast towns hitting the headlines in 1967.
“I got into the mods scene with the other english teenager who was already in it, So at last they accept me,
But why did they accept me? because I was a very good Amature boxer from Jamaica, And that`s how I got in to the mods and skinheads scene on till this day.
Someone is got to build the bridges so that we all can cross over doesn`t matter what colour we are.”
“I have very fond memories of Brighton, my mates and me would ride our scooters down from London every Friday night, go dancing in the clubs, kick some Rockers arses, well not me, I was always the guy making the others laugh, but you know, all the teenage things that people do”
With the hunger for new music in the boom years of British music, Reggae found its home and quickly swept the dance halls and charts, with people like Prince Buster, Desmond Decker, Laural Aitkin leading the way. With Infectious Rock Steady rythms.
Record labels, such as Trojan, Blue beat, Island were doing very well in the UK.
“ Actually I haven`t done any recording in Jamaica, As I said it all started in England,But as singing and playing in a band called The Bees in 1964. We got the luck to be discovered by the one and only late Laurel Aitken who had us as his backing band,and also as our producer, and a promoter. We were touring the UK with him.
Then we got the chance to back Prince Buster, The Ethiopians, Maytals, Earol Dickson, The Pioneers, Millie Small, Owen Gray, Jackie Edwards and Desmond Dekker. Then in 1967 we met Eddy Grant, he wrote our first two hits Train tour to Rainbow city, and All Change On The Bakerloo line.
Then in 1969 I wrote Skinhead Moonstomp and Skinhead Girl, and also we recorded the Symarip debut album, Skinhead Moonstomp that went to way up in the hit chart. then it all started
Symarip, Skinhead Moonstomp album stormed the charts, which created a boom in the Skinhead Youth cult. The Vietnam war was in full swing. The hippy era began, which took the middle class mods into psychodelia and then flower power. The street kids went the other way into Skinhead working class fashion
A huge show was arranged for Wembley Stadium in 1970, which packed. One half white skinheads, the other half, Jamaicans.
“ Wembley was one of the biggest hightlights of my life, to see this unity of fans, black and white dancing to my songs”
But with the rise of violence associated, the start of football hooligans, it became impossible for Symarip to play anywhere, the press were hyping the violence as a modern menace.
“We were sent to Europe, to pioneer Reggae on the Continent. A completely new sound for them. I Moved to Switzerland, met a lovely lady who became my wife, where I still live”
In 1979 2tone bands like the Specials and Madness paid us the honour of covering some of my songs, which opened it up to a new audience and decade.
Since I`m back in 2005 a lot of great things been happening for me, I`ve been travelling the world knowing the different Countrys, meeting different people, making new friends and new fans, I got the chance to put out two albums, three singles,
Coming out in April my new single with my new video, a lots concerts, lots of media connections etc. It`s been all good for me, could be better, but I`m happy with what I`ve got.
Roy Ellis AKA Mr Symarip will be performing a very special live appearance on June the 9th. The event is titled ‘ The Great Skinhead Reunion’ To celebrate Roys life, The music and youth culture he Pioneered, which has spread the world, from its beginnings in London and Brighton to modern day Indonesia and Columbia. Everybody is welcome, young and old. You don’t have to wear Doc martens or be an active skinhead
GREAT SKINHEAD REUNION ACCOMODATION. i have found 2 more guest houses which are a stones throw from the venue. the first one is £65 per person for the entire weekend including friday and saturday night. there are 20 beds available for our event, so if you would like a full weekend wristband with a room , the total cost per person is £80 (nothing more to pay, this is NOT per night) The second one is double twin room. £70 per night (per room), Family room £75, this option includes breakfast, so add £15 per person for your weekend wristband per person. please contact me asap. as once these rooms are gone i will try and find some more, but dont leave it too late. for this deal please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
BUY TICKETS HERE
Skinhead Reunion Ticket Price £15.00 Adults