Peter Austin of The Clarendonians has died at age 78

by Jul 25, 2023News

Peter Austin of The Clarendonians has died at age 78

The reggae community, which has suffered a number of losses recently, was thrown into even more mourning on July 21 with the death of Peter Austin of The Clarendonians.

Austin and Ernest Wilson were founders of that duo which had a string of hit songs during the ska era of the 1960s. He died at his home in Kingston at age 78.

His daughter, Georgia Austin, said he did shows in Mexico and California recently and was in fairly good health. Austin would have turned 79 in August.

Wilson, one of the great reggae singers, died in November, 2021 at age 69.

They hailed from Clarendon, a sugar-belt parish in central Jamaica that also produced Freddie McGregor, who briefly sang with The Clarendonians at Studio One where they had their greatest success.

Other reggae trailblazers such as Toots Hibbert, Millie Small, and Derrick Morgan are from Clarendon.

Under the guidance of producer Clement “Coxson” Dodd, The Clarendonians rode the charts with songs like a cover of The Beatles’ “You Won’t See Me,” “Rudie Bam Bam,” “Shoo Be Do Be,” and “You Can’t be Happy.”

Austin and Wilson reunited during the 1990s, when there was a ska/rock steady revival in Jamaica. That resurgence came through shows like Heineken Startime which was founded and organised by Michael Barnett.

He remembers Austin as “a very knowledgeable person about the beginnings of Jamaican music (mento and ska), and always willing to share his knowledge.”

According to Barnett, “Most of the exponents he knew them personally, and he was always approachable to begin any type of music conversation; which is all I usually spoke with him about.”

“He was a very reliable, and a serious professional when it came to bookings and performances, and was always on time for his events. I worked with him for over 35 years and never had a problem or issue, which is an excellent track record.”

While at Studio One, Peter Austin also sang a handful of duets with Rita Anderson, later Rita Marley. He recorded sporadically after leaving The Clarendonians.

His death adds to the gloom that has hit reggae this year. Lord Creator, Lester Sterling of The Skatalites, Claudette Kemp (manager of Capleton), and London-based singer and producer Nereus Joseph have also died in recent months.


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