A memorable and thoroughly enjoyable gig for the The Forest Hill Billies was Gaz and Duke Vin’s Rockin’ Luxury Cruise to Amsterdam in 1986.
The cruise was a mini floating festival of reggae, rock steady and ska music with a great mix of people and featuring some true legends of the Jamaican music scene.
The event, organised by Gaz Mayall of Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues and DJ Duke Vin offered 16 hours of entertainment on a luxury sea cruise from Sheerness to Holland with sightseeing and shopping in Amsterdam from Friday 17th October 1986 returning Sunday 19th. Travel arrangements offered pick-up points by coach from South and North London and transport to and from the center of Amsterdam from the port.
On the ship there were two packed dance floors, one for the DJ Duke Vin and one for the bands and club DJs.
The bands, a reggae and ska line-up included Laurel Aitken and The Full Circle, The Deltones, Luddy Sam and the Deliverers and The Forest Hill Billies. There was music and dancing all night.
Gaz says: “When we did the cruise, Duke brought the Jamaican crowd and I brought the skinheads and rock ‘n’ rollers. It was a mad mix and it really worked well”
Duke Vin, Legendary Sound Pioneer
The DJ sounds on the cruise were from the late Duke Vin, billed as ‘Legendary Sound Pioneer’. He was the first person to bring a sound system over from Jamaica to England in 1955, and in the 1960s he played his sounds at top London clubs including The Marquee and The Flamingo. He was also one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival.
Lorenzo “Laurel” Aitken, who performed on the cruise with his band The Full Circle is often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Ska’. He was an influential Caribbean singer and one of the pioneers of Jamaican ska music. Laurel Aitken’s 1958 single “Boogie in My Bones”/”Little Sheila” was one of the first records produced by Chris Blackwell and the first Jamaican popular music record to be released in the United Kingdom.
Formed in 1985 by ex-Delta 5 vocalist Jacqui Collins and keyboard player Sara McGuinness, The Deltones were one of the few female ska bands in the UK. They were together for five years and were regulars on the British live music circuit. Their brilliant vocal harmonies were assisted by solid rhythm section with drummer Jeremy, and powerful brass section led by trumpeter Matty.
Flyer for Gaz’s first cruise with The Potato 5 and The Pioneers: