Reggae musician Franklin Delano Alexander Braithwaite, better known as Junior Braithwaite, was tragically murdered 2 June 1999. He was born April 1949 in Kingston, Jamaica. He was the youngest member of the vocal group, The Wailing Wailers which Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh started in 1963, when ska music had become popular in Jamaica. Soon after Beverly Kelso and Cherry Smith joined the group as backing vocalists.
He joined Bob Marley and the Wailers were a Jamaican reggae band led by Bob Marley which developed from the earlier ska vocal group, the Wailers, created by Marley with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer in 1963. By late 1963 singers Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith had joined the Wailers. By the early 1970s, Marley and Bunny Wailer had learned to play some instruments and brothers Aston “Family Man” Barrett (bass) and Carlton Barrett (drums), had joined the band. After Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left the band in 1974, Marley began touring with new band members. His new backing band included the Barrett brothers, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion. The “I Threes”, consisting of Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Marley’s wife, Rita, provided backing vocals.
The lineup was known variously as the Teenagers, the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers and finally the Wailers. The original lineup featured Junior Braithwaite on vocals, Bob Marley on guitar, Peter Tosh on keyboard, Neville Livingston (a.k.a. Bunny Wailer) on drums, and Cherry Smith and Beverley Kelso on backing vocals. By 1966 Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith had left the band, which then consisted of the trio Livingston, Marley and Tosh. Some of the Wailers’ most notable songs were recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry and his studio band the Upsetters. In 1964, the Wailers topped the Jamaican charts with Simmer Down. The Wailers also worked with renowned reggae producer Leslie Kong, who used his studio musicians called Beverley’s All-Stars (Jackie Jackson, Paul Douglas, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Rad Bryan, Hux Brown) to record the songs that would be released as an album entitled “The Best of The Wailers”.
Braithwaite was with The Wailers for eight months and sang lead on such songs as “Habits”, “Straight and Narrow Way”, “Don’t Ever Leave Me”, and “It Hurts To Be Alone”. He had the best voice in The Wailers, according to Studio One’s Coxsone Dodd, who discovered the band’s talent. Bob Marley later commented: “Junior used to sing high. It’s just nowadays that I’m beginning to realize that he sounded like one of the Jackson Five. When he left we had to look for a sound that Bunny, Peter and me could manage.”
Braithwaite left the band in 1964 and moved to the United States with hopes of pursuing a medical career, living in Chicago and southern Wisconsin for the next 20 years. He returned to Jamaica in 1984 to work with Bunny Wailer on a Wailers’ reunion project. However With the assassination of Peter Tosh in September 1987, plans for world tours with a reunited Wailers never materialized and Sadly Braithwaite was also murdered on 2 June 1999 in the home of a fellow musician in Kingston.