Original member of The Wailers Beverley Kelso to be honored at Westchester Reggae Festival

Original member of The Wailers, Beverley Kelso.  Andrea Bullens
Original member of The Wailers, Beverley Kelso.
Andrea Bullens

Andrea Bullens, the Jamaican-born founder and producer of the Westchester Reggae Festival, says her group will honor Beverly Kelso, one of the original members of The Wailers, during the Westchester Reggae Festival on Sunday, May 29, at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York.

Bullens, who lives in Westchester, said Kelso will be honored with a United States Congressional Proclamation from Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, who represents the 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

Performers at the concert, dubbed “Legends in Concert,” will include Studio One veterans Marcia Griffiths, Leroy Sibbles and Johnny Orbourne, with back-up by Derrick Barnett and the Statement Band.

“Prior to his death last year, some music fans incorrectly thought reggae legend Bunny Wailer was the only living, founding member of the Wailers, which included Reggae King Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite and backup singer Cherry Smith,” Bullens told Caribbean Life on Monday.

“In 1963, at the age of 14 years old, Bob Marley had asked Beverley Kelso’s mother to let her be a part of the Wailers,” she added.

In a 2009 interview with Caribbean Lifestyle TV (CLM TV) in New York, Kelso shared: “He (Bob Marley) introduced himself to me as Lester. “I have vivid memories of our long walks and conversations on our way to and from the studio to home.

“I was very young at the time, and he was protective as a big brother would be,” she said. “I consider myself privileged to have known him before he became the King of Reggae.”

Bullens said Kelso sang on over two dozen tracks, including “It Hurts To Be Alone” and “Lonesome Feeling.”

She left the group in 1965 and migrated to the US in 1979, where she currently lives.

Reggae historian Roger Steffens – in a 2017 speech, delivered at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. about his book “So Much Things to Say: The Oral History of Bob Marley” – spoke about Kelso, The Wailers and their first recording session at Coxone Dodd’s Studio One in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.

“The night before the first recording session, they got a woman who had been singing in a local talent contest named Beverly Kelso,” Steffens said. “She became a Wailer.

“The next morning, according to several people, they went to Studio One and recorded ‘Simmer Down,’ the Wailers first record,” he added.

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