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Born Alton Neamiah Ellis in 1944 and grew up in Trench Town Kingston, into a musical family, he learned to play piano as a youngster. He initially sought fame as a dancer, competing on Vere Johns' Opportunity Hour. After winning a couple of competitions, he switched to singing, starting his career in 1959 as part of the duo Alton & Eddy with Eddy Perkins.Alton and Eddy recorded for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, having a massive hit with "Muriel"

They recorded a follow-up, "My Heaven", before Eddy moved to the United States. Alton continued to work for Dodd and also recorded for his arch-rival, Duke Reid on his Treasure Isle label. By the mid 1960s, ska was moving on and the beat was slowing down to rocksteady he made futher hits such as "Don't Trouble People", "Dance Crasher", and "Cry Tough", Recording with a backing trio, The Flames (the varying line-up of which included his brother Leslie Ellis, David "Baby G" Gordon and Winston Jarrett, Alton scored big with the hits "Girl I've Got a Date", "Cry Tough" and "Get Ready - Rock Steady", which was the first song to refer to the name of the newer genre. As rocksteady dominated the Jamaican airwaves for the next two years, Alton continued to score hits for Treasure Isle, working with artists such as Lloyd Charmers, Phyllis Dillon and The Heptones. His Mr. Soul of Jamaica album is regarded as one of the definitive rocksteady albums.

Alton continued to be active on the reggae scene until his health began to deteriorate. In December 2007, he was admitted to hospital in London for treatment of cancer of the lymph glands. He is the younger brother of the late Hortense Ellis, and the father of fifteen children including Noel Ellis and Christopher Ellis, who are both reggae singers. Ellis died in October 2008 after collapsing during a show in August.


Albums
Mr Soul Of Jamaica (1967) Treasure Isle
Sings Rock and Soul (1967) Studio One
The Best Of (1969) Coxsone
Sunday Coming (1970) Coxsone
Greatest Hits (1973) Count Shelly also released as Cry Tough
Still In Love (1977) Horse
A Love To Share (1979) Third World
Showcase (1984) Studio One
Slummin' (198?) Abraham
Mr Ska Bean'a (1981) Cha Cha (Alton Ellis & The Heptones)
A New Day (1983) Body Music
Daydreaming (1983) Silver Camel
25th Silver Jubilee (1984) Sky Note
Continuation (1985) All Tone
Jubilee Volume 2 (1985) Sky Note
Change My Mind (2000) Orchard
More Alton Ellis (2001) T.P.
Live With Aspo Belle
With Hortense Ellis Alton & Hortense Ellis At Studio 1 (1990) Heartbeat Compilations
All My Tears (1965-68) (2006) Brook
Alton Ellis Sings, Heptones Harmonise Jet Star (Alton Ellis & The Heptones - 1978-80)
Arise Black Man (1968-78) Moll Selekta
Be True To Yourself (196X-7X) (2004) Trojan
Get Ready For Rock Reggae Steady (1967-74) (1999) Jamaican Gold
Many Moods Of Alton Ellis (1978-80) (1980) Tele-Tech
My Time Is The Right Time (1966-71) (2000) Westside
Reggae Valley Of Decision (197X) (1996) House of Reggae
Soul Groover (1997) Trojan
Reggae Max (1997) Jet Star
The Duke Reid Collection (1999) Rhino
Soul of Jamaica (2001) Bianco
It Hurts Me So (2006) Essential Gold
Reggae Chronicles (2006) Hallmark
Muriel (2007) All Tone