Lloyd Charmers has died.
Just before the ending of 2012, we have to witness the passing away of another great reggae figure, vocalist/musician/arranger/producer Lloyd Charmers. The latter, born Lloyd Tyrell, 1938, Kingston, Jamaica, died on Thursday 27th December after suffering a massive heart attack in London, England.
In 1962 Lloyd Charmers entered the Vere Johns Talent Hour with Roy Willis as one half of a duo, the Charmers. They started recording after Alton Ellis had taught them harmonies and encouraged them to do recording sessions. Like many others they did their first sessions at Studio One, where Coxsone Dodd produced songs like "Splish Splash", "Crying Over You", and "Jeanie Girl". However the duo had their biggest hit with Prince Buster, who produced the single "Time After Time". By the end of the 1960s the partnership dissolved and Lloyd Charmers, who also had a minor solo hit in 1964 with "Loneliest Boy In Town", joined forces with Slim Smith and Jimmy Riley. The trio, collectively known as the Uniques, scored an instant hit with "Watch This Sound". In 1969 they released the "Absolutely The Uniques", including the classic "My Conversation" and a cover version of Curtis Mayfield's "Gyspy Woman". The group stayed together for a year before disbanding to concentrate on solo careers.
Lloyd Charmers' 1970 released albums "Reggae Charm" and "Reggae Is Tight" included tracks recorded during his time with the Uniques. During this prolific period he also released work using his real name, notably x-rated tracks such as "Bang Bang LuLu" and "Birth Control". In 1972 he released the album "Censored" (credited to Lloydie & TheLowbites), which saw him continue in the style of the aforementioned tunes. After the limited pressing release in Jamaica of "Too Hot To Handle", he became part of the Messengers, whose line-up included Ken Boothe, BB Seaton, and Busty Brown. The group is best remembered for their hit "Crowded City", which was an early plea for the environment.
In the early 1970s Lloyd Charmers also started to work as a producer and launched his Splash label. He was noted for his sophisticated arrangenments, which tended to incorporate strong elements from current Philadelphia soul styles. Lloyd Charmers, whose production work also appeared on the Soul Beat and Wild Flower labels, always managed to bring out the best in the artists and musicians (Mikey Chung and his Now Generation band) with whom he worked. Excellent vocal and instrumental records also appeared under the name of the Conscious Minds, which involved variations of ken Boothe, BB Seaton and Lloyd Charmers himself.
As a producer Lloyd Charmers scaled the heights of commercial success with Ken Boothe. Local hits like "I Have Sinned" ensured the singer a massive female following, and his Trojan album "Black, Gold & Green" was a massive UK seller. Ken Boothe consolidated his position with the UK chart-topping "Everything I Own" (and the album of the same name). Although producer and singer followed up this success with the similarly well-crafted and soulful "Let's Get It On" set, further gain was thwarted by the collapse of the UK licensee, Trojan Records.
Retrospectively it's obvious that the versatile and extremely gifted Lloyd Charmers has indeed had many sides in his long career, ranging from falsetto-voiced singer to soulful organist, from prolific producer and songwriter to purveyor of some of the bluest material to come out of Jamaica in the pre-dancehall era. But despite this all he remains one of the most undervalued reggae figures in the history of Jamaica's popular music.
Sources: The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae & The Rough Guide To Reggae.