Mar 9, 2006

Skanks for the Memories

By B.E. Earl

03/09/2006 12:04 PM EST

Howdy kids! One of the great things about getting older (and maybe one of the only great things) is that big ole’ bag of memories that you can dip into every once in a while. You stick your head in, fish around and sometimes you wind up with a great big smile. Other times you wind up embarrassed as all hell, but hopefully the smiles outweigh the frowns when placed upon the scales of life. Wow…that sounded much deeper than I am really capable of. Oh no! Another downer for the memory bag!

Anyway, I happened to see that The Ska-talites are going to be playing a gig in NYC next week with their new lineup. Got me thinking about ska, which was the driving musical force of my life during much of the early and mid 90’s. So I dusted off my pork-pie hat (which I’ve always been too embarrassed to wear out of the house) and kicked it out with some of my old ska recordings the other night, and I discovered something. I really miss The Scofflaws.

The Scofflaws were/are a Long-Island-based ska band that were at the height of their popularity during the mid-90’s before the flood of ska-pop bands began to hit MTV. A part of ska’s “third wave” along with bands like Bim Skala Bim, they were a staple in NYC and Long Island clubs during much of the 90’s. Along with my good friend, I was a semi-regular at their gigs all over the Island. We must have seen them close to 50 times back then.

One fond memory was seeing them at a bar in Farmingdale one weekend. It was the end of their set and they looked to the audience for requests. We shouted out “Paul Getty” (a favorite of mine) to which Richard “Sammy” Brooks, their lead singer/saxophonist, replied “F**k that!” Well, the very next week we went to see them in a bar in Port Jefferson. Brooks stepped up to the mike at the beginning of their second set and said they were going to play “Paul Getty” for those two dudes up front who requested it the previous week. He said he felt bad about telling us off back in Farmingdale. Cool!

So I wound up listening to their CDs over and over again over the next few days. I looked them up on Google and couldn’t find any evidence if they were still performing. I know Buford O’Sullivan is doing his own thing nowadays, but even he said on his website that the common denominator to all the various incarnations of the Scofflaws was Richard Brooks. So maybe Brooks is still out there, skanking his way through gigs just like he did back in the day. I hope so. If anyone has any info, please drop a line in the comment section.

Maybe I’ll go see The Ska-talites next week. They’ve been around in one form or another since the mid-60’s, and they are still skanking. Looks like only Lloyd Knibb and Doreen Shaffer remain from the original band, and I’m surprised even at that. Saw them a few times in NYC a ways back and they were great! Maybe I’ll even wear my unused pork-pie hat. Probably not though. Too bad…it’s a great hat!

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