Born Alton Nehemiah Ellis in Trenchtown, Kingston, Jamaica, Ellis was raised within a musical family which included his older brothers Leslie [who performed as one of his back up singers and co-wrote some of his songs], and Irving known as ‘Niney’) who was a popular singer and steel pan player on Jamaica’s North Coast. He learned to play the piano at a young age. He attended Ebeneezer and Boys’ Town schools, where he excelled in both music and sport. While at Boys’ Town Ellis performed as a dancer (in a duo) in the first show that a school director called Mr Bailey had organized for Vere Johns who had been invited down to talent scout. He would later compete on Vere Johns’ Opportunity Hour. After winning some competitions, he switched to singing, starting his career in 1959 as part of the duo Alton & Eddy with Eddy Parkins.Ellis and Parkins recorded for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, initially in the R&B style, having a hit in 1960 with “Muriel” (from Dodd’s first commercially oriented recording session at Federal studios), a song Ellis had written while working as a labourer on a building site. This initial success was followed by the release of “My Heaven”, which like “Muriel” was a slow R&B ballad with the instrumental triplets and vocal harmonizing common to the ballads of that period. Further releases in the R&B style followed: “Lullabye Angel”, “I Know It All”, “I’m Never Gonna Cry” and “Yours” The duo also recorded R&B tracks for Vincent Chin’s Randy’s label including “Let Me Dream”. The duo split after Parkins won a major talent contest and moved to the United States. Ellis remained in Kingston, working as a printer and after losing his job, he restarted his music career, initially forming a new duo with John Holt. When Holt joined The Paragons, Ellis formed a new group, The Flames. Ellis continued to work for Dodd and also recorded for his arch-rival, Duke Reid on his Treasure Isle label. At the start of his career Ellis recorded with his younger sister Hortense; early tracks with Hortense like “Don’t Gamble With Love” (1965) were still in the R&B style.
Alton Nehemiah Ellis OD (1 September 1938 – 10 October 2008) was a Jamaican singer-songwriter. One of the innovators of rocksteady who was given the informal title “Godfather of Rocksteady”. In 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame.