by Howard Campbell
[Kingston, Jamaica] – Filberto “Fil” Callender, an unsung musician who played on some of reggae’s biggest hit songs, died here on May 27 at the age of 75. Robbie Lyn, his colleague of more than 50 years, confirmed his death.
Callender was born in Panama but emigrated to Jamaica with his family in the 1950s. In the 1960s he was resident drummer at Studio One in Kingston where he played on songs like the seminal Satta Masa Gana by The Abyssiniansconsidered the anthem of reggae.
He also performed on Nanny Goat, a 1968 song by Larry and Alvin that some musicologists consider the first reggae song. But in a December 2014 interview with the French site, unitedreggae.comCallender rejected this idea.
“I played on songs that they consider reggae. My opinion is that those songs weren’t reggae, like Nanny Goat. I digress a bit, but the drums I play on Nanny Goat, it wasn’t reggae, it was rocksteady,” he said.
Mr. Fix It by Winston Francis, Cuss Cuss by Lloyd Robinson, the instrumental Hot Milk by Jackie Mittoo and Queen of The Minstrel by Cornel Campbell are some of the other classic songs featuring Callender’s motifs.
Callender switched to guitar in the early 1970s when he co-founded The In Crowd. A band that included his younger brother Tony Lewis on bass and Lyn on keyboards. He wrote and played guitar on some of their most popular hits. Hits including His Majesty is Coming and We Play Reggae Music.
During the 1980s, Wire Callender retired from secular music and became a Christian. He was awarded the Order of Distinction, Jamaica’s sixth highest honor, in 2013.