Bermudian Lance was first Island signing

Posted: April 13, 2009 in Bermuda, music

lanceI just got back from the UK and was wading through the armful of music mags that I inevitably stagger out of WH Smith Gatwick with when I came across this nugget in The Word about the founding of Island Records by Jamaican Chris Blackwell. Island, which marks its 50th anniversary this month, may be famous for bringing the world Bob Marley, U2, Roxy Music, Free and many more great artists but I didn’t realise that Bermudian jazz pianist Lance Hayward was Blackwell’s first signing.

“… Chris Blackwell’s beginnings as a record mogul were … prosaic,” writes Rob Hughes in the May issue of The Word. “He’d already dabbled in various enterprises … when he stumbled upon blind pianist Lance Hayward at [Montego Bay’s] Half Moon Hotel one night in 1959. The 22-year-old decided to record Hayward and, lifting the name from Alec Waugh’s novel Island In The Sun, founded a record company with just £1,000.” Lance Hayward at the Half Moon was thus the first-ever release on what was to become one of the world’s most famous record labels.

Lance, the father of well-known Bermudian environmental activist Stuart Hayward, died in 1991 and there seems to be little trace of that historic Island record today. He lived and played for more than 25 years in New York City and accompanied the likes of Marvin Gaye when they played in Bermuda but rarely recorded himself. You can, however, still find A Closer Walk by Lance Hayward and Friends – an album that  many critics called the “definitive” Lance Hayward set – on iTunes.

While in Manhattan, Lance formed his own chorus, the Lance Hayward Singers, who are still going strong performing a wide range of music from Bach to Eliington using Lance’s original arrangements.

Meanwhile, to hear and see some of Island’s greatest tracks, go to this special Island50 anniversary web page.

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