Fifty years in the music business and the Pioneers’ appeal remains undiminished by time or reputation. Led by original members Jackie Robinson and George Dekker, they are still in demand by audiences around the world because of hits like Long Shot Kick The Bucket and Let Your Yeah Be Yeah, which ruled the British national charts during the group’s seventies’ heyday.
Formed in Jamaica during the Summer Of Love, the Pioneers recorded a series of hits for Joe Gibbs’ Amalgamated label as the new reggae beat took hold. Early hits such as Long Shot, Catch The Beat and Jackpot dominated Caribbean playlists as the sixties drew to a close. The group then signed to the Beverley’s label, joining a roster that included Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals and Desmond Dekker, whose band now backs them on this 50th Anniversary tour.
Long Shot Kick The Bucket, written about the death of a well-loved racehorse, provided their international breakthrough in 1969 after the legendary Trojan Records released it in the UK. Reggae music’s growing popularity with overseas’ audiences served them well, and within a few months they’d recorded an unreleased song by Jimmy Cliff called Let Your Yeah Be Yeah, which flew into the British charts during the summer of 1971, peaking at No. 5.
As a live act, the Pioneers earned comparisons with Motown acts such as the Temptations by virtue of Jackie Robinson’s dynamic lead vocals, their close harmonies, immaculate dress sense and synchronised dance moves. They would continue to record a succession of well-received singles and albums for Trojan throughout the early seventies. Later on, they would be championed by 2 Tone bands such as the Specials, Selector and the Beat, who all covered songs originally made famous by the Pioneers.
This 50th Anniversary edition of the group – still featuring Jackie and George – has continued to tour and record ever since, performing to audiences all over the world and especially in South America, where they’ve played to massive stadium crowds on occasion.
“Looking back we have no regrets,” reflects Jackie Robinson. “If we had to do it all over again, we’d do it the same way, and we’re still having a good time. We’ve done well for ourselves. We’re just thankful for all that we’ve achieved and what we have.”
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