The influential ska drummer, Everett Morton, who was best known for his work with The (English) Beat, has died at the age of 71. The news was announced yesterday (October 9) on The Beat’s social media channels. A cause of death has not been announced.
“It is with great sadness that we have to announce the passing of Everett Morton, a beautiful and talented man,” the band wrote. “His family are naturally grieving. Please respect their privacy. RIP Gaffah!”
The curator of Coventry Music Museum, Pete Chambers BEM, paid tribute to Morton in The Coventry Observer, describing him as “the engine room of the ska band. He was a true gentleman,” he said, “gently spoken, charming, always supportive, and always there for people.”
“His drumming was incredible, gracing Top 10 chart hits such as ‘Tears Of A Clown,’ ‘Mirror In The Bathroom,’ and ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’ and Top 10 albums I Just Can’t Stop It and Wha’ppen’.
“A more frantic style is evident on songs like ‘Ranking Full Stop,’ while his drumming on the likes of ‘Whine and Grine’ is superbly inventive. Unlike many drummers Everett played the whole kit, creating a tapestry of rhythm always evident on every Beat track.”
Born in St Kitts in 1950, Morton moved to Birmingham in the mid-60s, where he attended drum school. He became known for a distinctive style of drumming, with his kit set up as it would be for a right-handed drummer despite him being left-handed. He later began playing in his cousin’s band, forming The Beat in 1978 alongside Dave Wakeling, David Steel, Andy Cox, and Ranking Roger.
After signing to Coventry-based 2-Tone Records, they made their first chart appearance in 1979 with “Tears Of A Clown/Ranking Full Stop,” which peaked at No.6. They later set up their own record label, Go-Feet.
They released three albums during their main period of activity: I Just Can’t Stop It in 1980, Wha’ppen? in 1981, and Special Beat Service in 1982, which featured one of the band’s best-known hits, “Save it for Later.”
“Everett was pretty frightened of anything you could call punk I think, so he put it all in straight 4s on the bass drum and that’s what gives it the drum machine sound,” said Dave Wakeling, founder of The Beat in Face magazine in 1981.
“He’s such a strong player and he was so much better than the rest of us when we began that if he thought we were going wrong he’d just stop us dead with a roll – we’d stand there open-mouthed until he let us back in.”
After their split in 1983, Morton went on to form The International Beat with Jamaican saxophonist Saxa and Birmingham-based vocalist Tony Beet, releasing an album entitled The Hitting Line in 1990. The Beat reunited periodically in various forms until Ranking Roger’s death from cancer in 2019.