HISTORY OF SWINGIN' STARS
The Swingin Stars, Dominica's oldest band who started as the Swinging Teens of the Dominica Grammar School in 1959 celebrate 43 years of playing music in 2002. The Swinging Teens comprised of the Letang brothers,Norman and Esmond of Virgin Lane,Jim and Newton Garraway of Portsmouth,the Martin brothers,Eddie and Atherton of Jewel Street,Bingsworth Casimir of Cork Street,the Didier brothers of Turkey Lane(Michael Didier was the founding leader/manager) and the Severin(Ron & Clem) brothers of King George V Street,reminiscent of the Dutchy Brothers of Trinidad.Meanwhile some of the brothers were dedicated members of the Music Lovers Band,a band that had played in ceremonial parades. It was at that time led by Mr. Cecil Bellot who was also instrumental in guiding the development of both bands.
In the 1960's the Swinging Stars Orchestra(as they were called then)emerged as one of the top party bands in the Caribbean, with their leading guitarist,the late Eddie Martin compared to Trinidad's Joey Lewis as one of the best in the Caribbean. The band was also mistaken for other bands like the Dutchy Brothers and Cyril Diaz and the March of Dimes Band from Trinidad. Sadly we lost Eddie and the leader of the rival band,(George James)the GJ Orchestra, in the 1963 Carnival fire. The late Eddie was immediately replaced by his younger brother Julie Martin who developed considerable energy in the band with Bingsworth Casimir on trumpet. The late trumpeter, Cuthbert Phillip and saxophonist Handel Christian are also missed. Present Manager Norman Letang on sax,Esmond Letang and later Curtis Henry on drums,Atherton Martin and James Gregoire on organ, and Herrie Etienne and Urban Martin on bass provided a measure of authentic rhythmical calypso music.
In 1967 Swingin' Stars recorded their first single, 'Party', an instrumental version of a calypso made by The Mighty Sparrow. On the flip side was an impressive 'Tomcat Mambo' which was originally done by Cuba's Perez Prado.
Swingin Stars recorded its first album In Orbit in Trinidad in 1969 under its Stardom label,that included songs like 'Pointe Michel girls','San Francisco' and 'She gives me love'.A month later, two more albums,Higher and Higher and Splash Down which were mixed in stereo were released in Barbados.Among the songs on the album, were 'Sorry Susan',and a local calypso medley called 'Localypso'.They went on to record more albums in the 1970's and '80's.They began touring North America, beginning in 1970 and frequently took part in the Caribana parades in Toronto, held on a Saturday prior to the first Monday of August.In September 1972 Swingin Stars participated in their first Labor Day parade on Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn,NY.
Their 1986 album,Sweet Dominica, introduced a young keyboard player, Irvine Phillip who now is a major force behind WCK, another top band in Dominica.Cleve Jean-Jacques, now known as calypsonian,"De Hurricane" was the lead guitarist of the Swingin' Stars Orchestra, that year.Cleve had played with the band since they had recorded the "NATIONAL DREAD ANTHEM" album in the early 1980's.
They have been a popular back up band for local calypsonians in Dominica, particularly in the Carnival season.However the real genius behind the scenes is Marcel "Malayway" Cruickshank, the mixing and recording engineer who is also a musician. Marcel had played drums for another band, "De Boyz an Dem" and also for "Swingin' Stars". Marcel's brother, the late Oliver Cruickshank was the drummer for "Exile One",another dynamic Dominica band.
Over the years musicians came in and left the group for overseas or joined other bands. Some musicians from other bands even played or recorded with the band. Among them were guitarist-Patrick Pemberton,guitarist-Everton Ducreay,trumpeter-Kremlin Fingal,keyboardists Armstrong Jones and Roy Shillingford, trombone player-Norman Dorival,trumpeter-Bentley James,guitarist-Fred Nicholas to name a few. The Stardom Calypso Tent is a 'must visit' for every carnival tourist.
The CD , "Return to Orbit" and current Cds "StarsPon De Version","Hands Up" and "Jam Tyme"all commemorate the glorious dance days of "The Swingin' Stars Orchestra".
|Peter Letang||........||Keyboard,Drum Programming|
|Chester(Daddy Chess)Letang||........||Lead/Backup Vocals|
|Natalie (Flava) Marshall||........||Lead/Backup Vocals|
|Jason (Froggy) Joseph||........||Drums|
|Backup vocals||........||Amelia Williams,Daniele Martin,de Hunter|
|Norman Dorival||........||Back up trombone/trumpet|
|Marcel Cruickshank||........||Recording,Mixing and Programming Engineer|
|*Peter is Norman Letang's son and also plays sax,"Daddy" Chess is Esmond Letang's Son|
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