Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Solving the Sheila Rickards mystery

In the heart of Kensington Market on Thursday April 4, Double Double Land (209 Augusta) will host the launch party for the much anticipated Jamaican Fruit of African Roots by Sheila Rickards, the first release on Shella Records. The limited edition vinyl 10" EP is the culmination of a 10 year search for the mysterious vocalist by Shella label founder Chris Flanagan after discovering her music in a rural thrift store in Canada.

The intriguingly off-key vocal track to King Tubby's heavyweight "Goldfinger" dub was previously known primarily to collectors of obscure reggae and deep-digging Canuck DJs who've happened upon the War Zone compilation LP (left) assembled for sale in the mid 70s by Monica's Records on Eglinton West in Toronto.

Carefully remastered and reissued on high quality vinyl, the newly packaged 10" includes two additional vintage dub instrumentals, an a capella version and full liner notes. You can order a copy of the Jamaican Fruit of African Roots 10" directly from Shella Records (see links below).

Even though the 10" EP might seem a bit pricey at $20 USD plus shipping, don't sleep on this one. With celebrity UK broadcaster Gilles Peterson already hyping it  like a new Galliano joint on Brownswood, the entire pressing run may sell out before word spreads to dealers that there's also a documentary film in the works.

Our man Flanagan discusses the origins and progress of his epic fact-finding quest following the clip...

"Jamaican Fruit of African Roots is the lost vocal cut to one of King Tubby's most dramatic and devastating dubs from the 1970s. It was never released in Jamaica, but housed on an obscure compilation released only in Toronto in tiny quantities in the mid 70s.
This reissue – if you can call it that – is the culmination of a 10 year obsession to try and find out more about the song's enigmatic singer Sheila Rickards. It all started in a musty Canadian thrift store with the discovery of an incredible 10-cent record credited to "Shella Record".
The singer's voice was unlike anything I had ever heard in Reggae before and sparked an international quest to find the lost siren. Beginning in Toronto where the record was pressed by local label Monica's in the mid 70s, I quizzed producers, collectors and reggae artists, all of whom were as mystified as I was.
Traveling to Jamaica, I tracked down legendary producer Bunny " Striker" Lee who recorded the song in 1975 with a full line up of Aggrovators, some of the most talented musicians who ever worked on the island including Robbie Shakespeare, Carlton "Santa" Davis, Earl "Chinna" Smith, Tommy McCook, Vin Gordon, Bobby Ellis, Ansel Collins and others. -
Bunny revealed that Shella Record was in fact Sheila Rickards, a Greenwich Farm Jazz singer from the Mento era who began performing as a child with artists like Lennie Hibbert and Carlos Malcolm.
He had not seen her since she vanished in 1975 after they worked on this song at Harry Js and later voiced the track at King Tubby's infamous Drumillie Ave studio. -
Despite tracking down many of the musicians who played on the song, Jamaican Jazz artists from the era and even Sheila's family, Sheila's whereabouts remained a mystery.
Hearing rumours of her relocation to Los Angeles or New York, I headed to the States desperate to find out what happened to this remarkable diva. Each clue proved to be a red herring  leading to a dead end. Now working with a private detective (and part-time ghost hunter) I hope to have more answers soon. The search has been filmed from the outset and will culminate in the documentary film Shella Record, A Reggae Mystery."

Chris Flanagan,
Shella Records
Toronto -
There will be a sneak preview of Flanagan's upcoming film documenting his search for Sheila Rickards at the Shella Records Launch Party on Thursday (April 4) at Double Double Land starting at 7:30 pm. Expect a suitably tough selection of vintage reggae jams provided by the Pressure Drop Crew, DJ Earl Grey and guests.

Shella Records site
Shella Launch Party FB page

No comments:

Post a Comment