Ska originated in Jamaica in the 1950's, where American R&B artists like Fats Domino and Louis Jordan were very popular. Many Jamaican performers incorporated the 12 bar blues chord progressions and boogie bass lines of Fats Domino with African rhythms, placing emphasis on the offbeat. The new style of music became known as ska. One of the first people to record the ska rhythm was Ernest Ranglin.

"One day he (Ernest Ranglin) was trying to get the guitars to play
something, and him say 'make the guitars go Ska!,
Ska!, Ska!' And that's the way the ska name was born."

blue beatSka came to Britain with the West Indian immigrants of the early 1960’s and was initially known as ‘Blue Beat’ as some of the first records were released on the Blue Beat label. The first international ska hit was ‘My Boy Lollipop’ by Millie Small which was in fact record in England in 1964 for Island Records. It is rumoured that a young Mod, Rod Stewart, was involved in the recording session - playing harmonica. Whatever the truth of this, ska was certainly very popular with the Mod crowd, who would often frequent West Indian nite clubs and could be seen as being the first and possibly only truly multicultural youth culture.

ska dance
Mods would also adopt some of the dances seen in these Jamaican clubs, and dances such as 'the ska' and 'the blue beat swing' became almost as popular as 'the block'.
blue beat label

Several ska hits followed through the 60's including ‘Guns of Navarone’ by the Skatalites, ‘Rudy, A Message to You’ by Dandy Livingstone, ‘Liquidator’ by The Harry J Allstars and in 1969, ‘The Israelites’ by Desmond Dekker became the first Jamaican produced recording to become a number one hit in Britain. By the end of 60's part of the Mod movement had evolved into Skinheads, who continued the racial mixing of the mods and their appreciation of Black music, whilst ska itself had evolved into Reggae.