Winston Grennan
The Music
The Man
The Message

Contact Us

The Music


   Winston Grennan’s approach to rhythm helped inaugurate the slow groove of Jamaican rock-steady in the mid-1960s, when he was the leading drummer in the island's top session bands. He continued to back every noteworthy artist in Jamaica, in the early reggae period, including Bob Marley, and trained a number of other notable drummers before leaving the island in 1972. Since then he has pursued a more diverse career in the U.S. that has included stints with Paul Simon and Dizzy Gillespie.

   In his native Jamaica, Winston Grennan holds legendary status, though his long absence from Kingston's recording scene has meant he does not always get a mention. But as a premier exponent of the rock-steady idiom and creator of the one-drop beat, Grennan is among Jamaica's original master drummers, one who has created a unique playing style and made important contributions to the island's popular music.



"Winston, our love is with you. You will always be in our hearts and in our minds."



Winston Grennan (sometimes credited as Winston Richards) has played on so many albums and tracks, both in Jamaica and the US, he does not remember all of them. He never kept a record of this information, but if one listens well, or one has a trained musical ear, one can hear his signature very easily. His style of kick-snare (with the heavy foot), signature rolls, complex rim-shot back beats (which he patented) and cymbal crashes and rides, especially on ska, rock steady and reggae, are very different from any other drummer. Often, producers would try and subdue Winston's style so he sounded more like their "regular" band member, but the trained ear can still tell it is Winston Grennan.

Other drummers tried to copy his style, but could never quite “get it” the same. Any time they got even close, Winston would come up with something new and different. A good example is the "flyers" beat, which he originated in Jamaica. It was first recorded with artists like Carl Dawkins singing 'Baby I Love You', Pokey from the Melodians singing the song 'Build Me Up With Faith', 'Grooving Out of Life' by Hopeton Lewis, and another track (he can't remember the artist) called 'Copacetic'. These were all hit songs in Jamaica in the late 60's. That same beat was later turned into disco in the 70's, after several New York artists heard Winston playing at the now legendary Michels.

Many drummers falsely wish to claim their responsibility for the 'one drop'. Certainly the drummers on the studio scene in that era all made their own contribution to the music that we now know as reggae. The fact is that many producers resisted as Winston tried to notch down the tempo of the rock-steady beat, in pursuit of his own style, and also to fit the lyrics and melody of the songs better as the instrumentation for each cut was developed in studio sessions. 

Anyone who was there in those sessions will clearly give credit to these producers singers and players- Bunny Lee, Bobby Aitken, Lloyd Charmers (who insisted that they try this new beat), Winston Riley, and to Winston Grennan the drummer for developing that slower beat and the shift in emphasis to the three. Other producers and artists realized that the beat was quickly becoming popular and began making their own recordings with this one-drop beat, often recruiting Winston to play on their tracks. When asked what was the first definitive one-drop track, Winston cites 'Rivers of Babylon' by the Melodians. A vinyl record exists of the development of the one-drop beat, and Winston Grennan can be found playing on all the very early tracks of reggae music, even where others were later mistakenly credited.

Winston at the Club Haunt, Ithaca NY - 1997

Granpa Winnie play good like a Rasterman should !

[Winston Grennan] [The Music] [The Man] [The Message]