As Bahamian people, when we really think of it, there is not one musician that we truly hold on a pedestal for the contributions towards our culture. We’re speaking about the level that say Jamaica holds Bob Marley up to: national icon. Well, we do have a musical icon; The one and only Tony McKay.
Born Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey on February 18 1942, the Cat Island-native packed his bags and moved to New York’s Greenwich Village to study architecture. It was not long before McKay strayed from his major to his interest in music. His first stab in the industry was with ‘Tony McKay and The Islanders.’ The mixture of Calypso, African, Folk, Junkanoo and Carnival sounds saturated small clubs and bars in New York.
The efforts of ‘Tony McKay and The Islanders’ paid off when they were discovered Bob Wyld who opened the door for McKay to Mercury Records. ‘Tony McKay…’ was now renamed ‘Exuma’; the albums ‘Exuma’ and ‘Exuma II’ were released. Exuma, the group of 7 released many singles, many of which revolved the topic of Obeah.
After a short stint with Mercury Records, Exuma moved on to Kama Sutra label releasing four albums: ‘Snake,’ ‘Reincarnation,’ and ‘Life.’ This was during the time the unforgettable “Doh Wah Nanny,” from the album of the same name was released. Despite success with a certain audience, Exuma’s mainstream appeal was just not big enough to keep him on a major record label.
Continuing on with little exposure, Exuma released ‘Penny Sausage,’ ‘Going to Cat Island,’ ‘Universal Exuma’ and ‘Street Life.’ Back home in The Bahamas McKay & Co. scored hits with “Rose Mary Smith” and “Shirlene.” At this point in his career, McKay settled in New Orleans, playing in many of the festivals in the musical hub.
Later on, McKay released the albums ‘Universal,’ ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Street Music.’ McKay left The Bahamian culture with a discography of ten and has been associated with big names such as Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Rita Marley, Patti Labelle and the list goes on. Even Queen Elizabeth II recognized McKay’s talents when she awarded him with the ‘British Empire Medal’ for all that he contributed to the Bahamian culture.
After suffering a faint heart attack, McKay toned down things, focused on his paintings and was then living between Miami, FL and Nassau, The Bahamas before he passed away on January 25, 1997. Survived by five children (one deceased), McKay spent thirty-five years producing and contributing to the culture of The Bahamas; these are precious and gifted pieces of art to be cherished for eternity.
You can’t talk about Tony Mckay and NOT press play on this track!