Shaffer joined the band when it decided to go out on its own as performers. Though largely an instrumental ensemble, the Skatalites wanted to feature singers on a few songs. Shaffer, reached at her home on Long Island, recalls passing the audition held at Dodd’s Studio One but being unable to rehearse with the band.
“They were rehearsing in downtown Kingston. I was in school and it was forbidden for me to go there,” she says.
She jumped right in then with matinee shows the Skatalites played at the Bournemouth Club, a public pool and rec hall.
Shaffer stayed active in ska and Jamaican music after the Skatalites brief initial run and performs today with a couple of European ska bands as well as with the Skatalites. She still commands the spotlight, as heard on “Love Is the Way,” her feature on the new Skatalites album, “Walk With Me,” released this week.
In addition to putting out new music, the Skatalites remain a strong live draw, with its current tour including a stop into the SXSW music conference in Austin, Texas. Shaffer says the younger players in the Skatalites have maintained its authenticity.
“I give them credit for meeting the standard set by the band. The young ones are keeping it going,” Shaffer says. “I’m just grateful there is still such an audience and that people are interested.”
Why the Skatalites endure is no surprise to Brines, who says, “They alone didn’t invent ska, but they are the ones who made it matter.”