Meet The Band

BYRON LEE & THE DRAGONAIRES

Probably, no other band has worked as hard as the Dragonaires to forge a Caribbean blend of music, with its mix of Reggae, Soca and flavour of Ska, Rocksteady and Rock & Roll. Utilising all the rhythms of the region, Byron Lee & The Dragonaires has placed Caribbean music in a position of dignity.

In its forty-six years of existence the band have become a household name in West Indian communities around the world with their international success rivalling many major bands internationally. Today, the Band continues to tour extensively, performing in an average of 36 cities each year.

The Beginning

Band

It all started after a football match when five good friends got together and decided to harmonise. Carl Brady, Ronnie Nasralla, Alty East, Ronald Peralto and Byron Lee were the first in what was to become Jamaica's premier Band - Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. The name Dragonaires was in honour of the Dragon, St. George's College insignia, the school from which all the original members of the band emerged.

To have lasted over four decades is a significant achievement for any band. However, with a foundation built on a combination of talent and discipline it is no surprise that the Dragonaires have continued to be one of the most sought after bands from the West Indies. Bandleader Byron Lee brought to his band the same intensity which made him a soccer star, and made it distinctive. He was one of the first who understood that music is a business, and from his group he demanded respect and discipline - and got it. He, in turn, tried to give the crowd that followed him a slick-looking band that would take minimum breaks, play good music and ensure that patrons got their monies worth.

Their first gig would be a brief stint on the Bandstand at an Old Boys Dance at their Alma Mater, St. Georges College, for which they were paid the princely sum of £5. The year was 1956. In 1957 the band officially formed under the name Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.

Though Calypso has been the band's backbone from its inception, it was to emerge onto the local scene with a new North American beat called Rock and Roll.

"We were the most versatile band in existence. Singing from Rock & Roll to Meringue we would pack them in. Children would sneak out at night to stand by the Club door and listen." Carl Brady - original member of the Dragonaires

At a time when more established bands ruled the roost with Bebop, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires would, in a short time, make this beat a tremendous success in Jamaica.
In fact, legendary band leader Sonny Bradshaw, leader of the Bebop era, gives credit to the band for literally "slipping the field" with Rock and Roll and pulling away the crowds to emerge the leading band of the late fifties to early sixties; at a time when everyone thought that Bebop was unlickable. The band went on to expand their repertoire to include Latin rhythms especially that of Cha, Cha, Cha. "We were definitely the most versatile Band in the 50s, 60s and early 70s," boasts Carl Brady, one of the original members of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.