Alton Nehemiah Ellis September 1 1938 – October 10 2008, Kingston, Jamaica
Alton Nehemiah Ellis was born in Trenchtown, Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in a musical family that 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. Early in his life, he learned to play the piano.  He attended Ebeneezer and Boys’ Town schools, where he excelled in sport as well as music. In the first show organized by the school director, Mr Bailey, for Vere Johns, who had been invited down to talent scout, Ellis performed as a dancer (in a duo).  He would later appear on Vere Johns’ Opportunity Hour. He began his singing career in 1959 as part of Alton & Eddy with Eddy Parkins after winning some competitions.
As a result of their recording at Studio One, Ellis and Parkins had a hit in 1960 with “Muriel”, a song Ellis wrote while working as a labourer on a construction site (from Dodd’s first commercially oriented recording session at Federal Studios). As a result of this initial success, “My Heaven” was released, a slow R&B ballad similar to “Muriel” with instrumental triplets and vocal harmonizing. In addition to “Lullabye Angel”, “I Know It All”, “I’m Never Gonna Cry” and “Yours”, they also recorded R&B tracks for Vincent Chin’s Randy’s label. Upon winning a major talent contest and moving to the United States, Parkins and Ellis split up.  Ellis stayed in Kingston, working as a printer and after losing his job, he restarted his music career, first forming a new duo with John Holt. When Holt joined The Paragons, Ellis formed the Flames. The recorder continued to work with Dodd and also recorded for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label. At the start of his career, Ellis recorded with his younger sister Hortense; early tracks were still R&B-inspired, such as “Don’t Gamble With Love” (1965).