Singer Roy Shirley laid the foundations for rocksteady with his Joe Gibbs-produced 1967 hit "Hold Them." An eccentric, dynamic performer famed for his theatrical stage garb and quavering vibrato, his scant recorded output and limited international fame belie his significant influence on the evolution of reggae. Born July 18, 1944 in Kingston, Jamaica, Shirley first honed his three-octave voice in the choir of his mother's Trenchtown revivalist church. As a teen he began competing in local talent contests, befriending fellow competitor Jimmy Cliff, who encouraged him to go pro. Shirley's earliest professional recordings for producer Simeon L. Smith remain unreleased, but in 1965 he scored a local hit with the ska ballad "Shirley." After stints with Ken Boothe, Joe White, and Chuck Josephs in the Leaders, and with Slim Smith and Franklyn White in the Uniques, Shirley resumed his solo career, in 1967 meeting television repairman and record salesman Gibbs through a mutual friend. Together they created "Hold Them," which in slowing down the frenetic ska rhythm effectively gave birth to the now-famous rocksteady beat. The single proved a hit across Jamaica, and Shirley went on tour. Clad in a flowing silver cape with an absurdly high collar, his stage presence drew heavily on the histrionics of R&B showman extraordinaire James Brown, complete with tongue-in-cheek vocals that verged on outright cartoonishness.