Fireworks lit up George Town harbor Monday evening to celebrate renowned musician Lambert “Lammie” Seymour as he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association at the Cayman Mardi Gras kick-off event.
Mr. Seymour, who was born in George Town but has resided in Bodden Town for the last 26 years, has been contributing to Cayman’s music scene for the last 50 years. He’s perhaps best known as the lead singer of the reggae band Memory of Justice, which rose to prominence in the early 1980s, topping the Caribbean charts for eight weeks with their second album, “Me and My Crew.” But Mr. Seymour was jamming long before that.
Mr. Seymour was born in 1954 and at the age of five he decided he wanted to be a musician.
He bought his first instrument, a rhythm guitar, in 1967. Shortly thereafter he was introduced to the bass guitar, and by 1968 was playing in his first band, the Soulful Flames, entertaining crowds at the Agricultural Show grounds and town dances. Eventually, he would pick up the keyboard, and become known for his smooth singing voice, too.
According to the music and entertainment association president, Jean-Eric Smith, Mr. Seymour faced a unique challenge when he first started playing the guitar. Mr. Seymour is left-handed but in those early days of his musical career, there were only right-handed guitars available to him. Undeterred, he turned it upside-down, emulating musicians like Jimi Hendrix.
Mr. Smith, who presented the award to Mr. Seymour, said that while many of his recent fans might not even know that he’s a bass player, he’s “one of the best bassists in the Caribbean.”
Mr. Smith described Mr. Seymour as “shy” and “unassuming,” and during the first part of the music legend’s career he shied away from the limelight, often standing with his back to the audience.
“He never sang a note,” Mr. Smith said. “But that would change in the coming years.”
After playing with his musical idol, the band Humble and the Meek, at the then La Fontaine hotel (now Royal Palms) during the early 1970s, Mr. Seymour and his friends launched the first iteration of Memory of Justice.
As bands often do, members disagreed about what their focus should be, and Mr. Seymour and his friend, Charles “Greggie G” Gregory, played for a time on their own. This is when, out of necessity, Mr. Seymour began to sing.
“What a shock to the system,” Mr. Smith said. “The previously shy bassist now had to stand up in front of the crowd and play and sing at the same time.”
Eventually, other musicians were recruited to fill out the band, but Mr. Seymour retained his role as lead vocalist. The band included Allan “Tabio” Myles, George Powell, Jonathan Ebanks and Gary Ebanks.
“They worked like crazy, night after night, producing their dreams of recording original songs in a small studio on Eastern Avenue called Caymaniac Studios,” Mr. Smith said. “They developed over 100 songs.”
The band’s albums were very well received, and they were invited to play at festivals, opening for acts like Chaka Kahn.
Mr. Seymour has performed all over the island, the Caribbean, and at many venues in Central America and North America, as well. He’s played background music for many local artists, and today he appears with the Swanky Kitchen Band.
Exhibiting that reluctance to be in the spotlight, Mr. Seymour was a man of few words as he accepted his award. “It feels wonderful,” he said, before Mardi Gras organizer Matthew Leslie could coax a few more remarks from him.
Mr. Seymour used the opportunity to advocate for other musicians.
“I want to say to the Cayman Islands that musicians need to get paid,” he said. “We need to get paid, it’s long overdue, and the music will not get any better if the people in power don’t get involved and try to do something with it.”
Mr. Seymour says the music industry is “nowhere near” where it should be, because most people are unwilling to pay for it. He hopes that the public will support local talent by buying their records, attending performances, and lobbying the government to create more live music venues, particularly in hotels.
He wants the people of Cayman to see that “music is a driving force everywhere in the world.” And he, for one, is never going to stop playing it.