Born on February 6, 1945, in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, Bob Marley helped introduce reggae music to the world and remains one of the genre’s most beloved artists to this day. The son of a black teenage mother and much older, later absent white father, he spent his early years in St. Ann Parish, in the rural village known as Nine Miles.
September 4, 2017 – Earl Lindo was born Earl Wilberforce “Wire” Lindo on January 7, 1953 in Kingston, Jamaica. His nickname “wire” over time became “Wya”.
While attending Excelsior High School in the late sixties, he played bass and classical piano, before he became interested in the jazz sounds of Lee Dorsey and Jimmy Smith. With Barry Biggs, Mikey “Boo” Richards, and Ernest Wilson he then played in the Astronauts. Continue reading Earl Lindo 9/2017
September 1, 2017 – Hedley Jones (the Wailers) was born on November 12, 1917 in near Linstead, Jamaica, the son of David and Hettie Jones, and started making music as a child. He made his own cello at the age of 14, as well as a banjo. In 1935 he moved to Kingston, where he heard Marcus Garvey speak, and worked as a tailor, cabinet maker, bus conductor, repairing sewing machines, radios and gramophones. He said: “I was what people called a jack of all trades. I could fix everything.” His main work was as a proofreader, with the Gleaner and Jamaica Times.
He also played banjo in a Hawaiian jazz band, before forming his own Hedley Jones Sextet. Inspired by the recordings of Charlie Christian, but unable to afford an imported guitar, he built himself a solid-bodied electric guitar, and was featured with it on the front page of The Gleaner in September 1940, at about the same time that Les Paul was doing similar pioneering work in the US. Jones continued to build guitars for other Jamaican musicians in the years that followed. Continue reading Hedley Jones 9/2017
August 24, 2017 – Jamaican Ska Authentic Winston Samuels (McInnis), a living legend in Jamaican Music, was born in Kingston, Jamaica to proud parents Winston D. McInnis and Mavis Davis-McInnis in 1944. From the time he was born he loved to sing. As a matter of fact his mother, Mavis would have Sunday family discussions followed by songs of worship. There was such harmony in the household that it drew other tenants who loved to listen to him. Continue reading Winston Samuels 8/2017
May 6, 2015 –Errol Brown was born on December 11, 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his family, to the UK when he was twelve years old. In the late 60s, Errol and his friend Tony Wilson formed a band which was first called ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ but this was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, but Errol was told he needed permission. He was contacted by Apple Records, discovered that Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended. But it was in the disco era of the mid-1970s when Hot Chocolate became a big success.
February 2, 2014 – Bunny Rugs (Third World) aka Bunny Scott was born William Clarke on February 2nd 1948 in Mandeville, Jamaica and raised in the capital of Kingston. In the mid 60s he joined Charlie Hackett and the Souvenirs, the resident band at the Kitty Club on Maxfield Avenue, before leading the early lineup of Inner Circle in 1969. In 1971 he did a stint in New York where he was a member of the dance band Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers and the Bluegrass Experience.
He returned to Jamaica in 1974 and recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry, initially as a backing singer, then with Leslie Kong’s nephew Ricky Grant as the duo Bunny & Ricky. They released singles such as “Freedom Fighter” and “Bushweed Corntrash”.
October 18, 2007 – Lucky Dube was born August 3rd 1964 in Ermelo, formerly of the Eastern Transvaal, now of Mpumalanga. While at school he joined a choir and formed his first musical ensemble, called The Skyway Band.
It was here too he discovered the Rastafari movement. At the age of 18 Philip joined his cousin’s band, The Love Brothers, playing Zulu pop music known as mbaqanga.
May 25, 2006 – Desmond Dekker was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres on July 16th 1941 in Saint Andrew Parrish, Kingston, Jamaica. Dekker spent his early formative years in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. From a very young age he would regularly attend the local church with his grandmother and aunt. This early religious upbringing as well as Dekker’s enjoyment of singing hymns led to a lifelong religious commitment. Orphaned in his teens following his mother’s death as a result of illness, he moved to the parish of St. Mary and then later to St. Thomas. While at St. Thomas, Dekker embarked on an apprenticeship as a tailor before returning to Kingston, where he secured employment as a welder.
His workplace singing had drawn the attention of his co-workers, who encouraged him to pursue a career in the music industry. In 1961 he auditioned for Coxsone Dodd (Studio One) and Duke Reid (Treasure Isle), though neither audition was successful. The young unsigned vocalist then successfully auditioned for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s record label and was awarded his first recording contract. He auditioned before the stable’s biggest hitmaker, Derrick Morgan, who immediately spotted the young man’s potential. However, it was to be two long years before Kong finally took him into the studio, waiting patiently for him to compose a song worthy of recording.
March 13, 1998 – Judge Dread was born Alex Minto Hughes on May 2nd 1945.
Although often dismissed as a novelty act, Judge Dread was actually a groundbreaking artist. Not only did he put more reggae records onto the U.K. chart than anyone else (Bob Marley included), he was also the first white artist to actually have a reggae hit in Jamaica. The Judge also holds the record for having the most songs banned by the BBC, 11 in all, which incidentally is precisely the number of singles he placed on the charts. Judge Dread was born Alex Hughes in Kent, England. In his teens, he moved into a West Indian household in the Caribbean neighborhood of Brixton. Hughes was a large man, which helped determine his early career as a bouncer at the Brixton’s Ram Jam club. He also acted as a bodyguard for the likes of Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd, and Duke Reid. There was a spell as a professional wrestler, under the mighty moniker the Masked Executioner, and even a job as muscle for Trojan Records, collecting debts.
By the end of the ’60s, Hughes was working as a DJ with a local radio station and running his own sound system. It was Prince Buster who provided the impetus for Hughes’ metamorphosis into a recording artist. The DJ was so taken by Buster’s seminal “Big Five” that he went into Trojan’s studio to record his own follow-up. Over the rhythm of Verne & Son’s “Little Boy Blue,” Hughes recited a slew of hilariously rude nursery rhymes. It was by sheer chance that Trojan label head Lee Gopthal walked by during the recording; impressed, he immediately signed the DJ. His song was titled “Big Six” and Hughes chose the name Judge Dread in honor of Buster. The single was released, aptly enough, on the Trojan label imprint Big Shot. Initially an underground hit, once Trojan signed a distribution deal with EMI later in 1972, the single rocketed up the charts, even though the distributors refused to carry the record. The song was also a hit with a radio ban as well, and Trojan’s disingenuous cries that it wasn’t about sex were met with the same scorn as Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream,” the first of the rude reggae hits. The ban was no more effective this time either, and the single rocketed to number 11, spending six months on the chart. “Big Six” was just as enormous in Jamaica, and before the year was out Dread was in Kingston performing before an excited crowd. Those nearest the stage assumed the white man milling around was Dread’s bodyguard or perhaps his manager, at least until he stepped up to the mic. An audible gasp arose from the crowd as no one in Jamaica had considered the possibility that the Judge was white.
Back in Britain, “Big Seven” was even bigger than its predecessor, thrusting its way up to number eight. It too was an innuendo-laced nursery rhyme, toasted over a perfect rocksteady rhythm and reggae beat. In the new year, “Big Eight” shot up the chart as well. Amazingly though, Judge Dread’s debut album, Dreadmania, failed to even scrape the bottom reaches of the chart. However, the British continued to have an insatiable desire for his singles. In the midst of all this rudeness, in faraway Ethiopia people were dying, so he helped organize a benefit concert starring the Wailers and Desmond Dekker, and also released the benefit single “Molly.” The single was the first of Dread’s releases not to boast a single sexual innuendo, but radio stations banned it anyway and the charity record failed to chart. In an attempt to receive some airplay, Dread released singles under the pseudonym JD Alex and Jason Sinclair, but the BBC wasn’t fooled and banned them regardless of content.
The artist’s second album, Working Class ‘Ero, which arrived in 1974, also failed to chart. “Big Nine,” released that June, and “Grandad’s Flannelette Nightshirt,” which arrived in December, turned out to be just as limp. Judge Dread seemed to have lost his potency and both singles lacked the thrusting naughtiness of their predecessors. However, the DJ shot back up the chart the following year with “Je T’aime,” a cover which managed to be even more suggestive than the original. The ever-enlarging “Big Ten” took the artist back into the Top Ten that autumn; and the “Big” series eventually ended at a ruler-defying 12. A new album, Bedtime Stories, just missed the Top 25, while the double A-sided single “Christmas in Dreadland”/”Come Outside” proved to be the perfect holiday offering. The hits kept coming, although none would again break into the Top 25. In the spring, The Winkle Man sidled its way up Number 35. The Latin flair of “Y’Viva Suspenders” proved more popular in August 1976, but failed to give a leg up to the Last of the Skinheads album.
Britain was now in the grips of punk, but Judge Dread was bemoaning the lack of reggae in clubs, and wishing to “Bring Back the Skins,” one of a quartet of songs on his February 1977 5th Anniversary EP. However, the artist was capable of writing more than rude hits. One of his songs, “A Child’s Prayer,” was picked out by Elvis Presley, who intended on recording it as a Christmas present for his daughter. However, he died before he had the chance. In the autumn, the delightfully daft barnyard mayhem of “Up With the Cock” scraped into the Top 50. Dread’s raging affair with the charts ended in December 1978, with the holiday flavored “Hokey Cokey”/”Jingle Bells.” It had been quite a run and 1980’s 40 Big Ones summed it all up.
Dread sporadically continued releasing albums, which were still bought by hardcore fans. He also continued touring, playing to small, but avid audiences. His last show was at a Canterbury club, on March 13, 1998. As the set finished, the consummate performer turned to the audience and said, “Let’s hear it for the band.” They were his final words. As the mighty Judge walked offstage, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was 52.
September 11, 1987 – Winston Hubert McIntosh better known as Peter Tosh/Stepping Razor was a Jamaican guitarist and singer in the original Wailers of Bob Marley & the Wailers fame. Born in Petersfield on October 19th 1944, he became a pioneer reggae musician, as the original guitarist for The Wailers and he is actaully considered as one of the originators of the choppy, syncopated reggae guitar style, and as trailblazer for the Rastafari movement and the fight to legalize cannabis.
He was a target for the police and underwent many beatings. In the early 60s Winston met Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer through his vocal teacher, Joe Higgs. Continue reading Peter Tosh 9/1987
April 17, 1987 – Carlton “Carly” Barrett was born December 17th 1950. As a teenager he built his first set of drums out of some empty paint tins, and had initially been influenced by Lloyd Knibb, the great drummer from the Skatalites. He and his brother Aston were raised in Kingston and absorbed the emerging ska sound. Working as a welder he first tried building a guitar and playing. But he soon realised guitar wasn’t his thing and picked up the drums.
In the late 1960s Carlton started playing sessions with his brother Aston, the pair calling themselves the Soul Mates or the Rhythm Force, before settling on The Hippy Boys, a line-up that featured Max Romeo on vocals. Leroy Brown, Delano Stewart, Glen Adams and Alva Lewis also played in the band’s fluctuating line-up.
The Hippy Boys became one of Kingston’s busiest session bands; fittingly their first recording was “Watch This Sound”, backing the late Slim Smith. They also released a couple of albums for Lloyd Charmers, Reggae with the Hippy Boys and Reggae Is Tight. As well as playing on many sessions for Bunny Lee and Sonia Pottinger, the Barrett brothers also played on two 1969 UK chart hits, “Liquidator” for Harry J, and “Return of Django” for Lee “Scratch” Perry, with whom they had now taken root.
For Perry, they took the name The Upsetters, and knocked out a long run of instrumentals, including “Clint Eastwood”, “Cold Sweat”, “Night Doctor”, and “Live Injection”. It was while with Perry that the Barrett brothers first teamed up with The Wailers, then a vocal trio consisting of Bob, Peter and Bunny. After recording many now classic numbers, Carly and Aston decided to team up with The Wailers on a permanent basis.
The Barrett brothers recorded several singles with the Wailers in 1969–70: “My Cup (Runneth Over)”, “Duppy Conqueror, “Soul Rebel”, and “Small Axe”. Most of these songs appeared on two Perry-produced Wailers albums: Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, and formed the early foundation of the one drop sound.
Though original Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston left the group in 1973, Carlton and Aston remained with Bob Marley and went on to record Natty Dread in 1974. Carlton has songwriting credits for two of Natty Dread’s songs: “Talkin’ Blues” and “Them Belly Full”.
Carlton remained with the Wailers in the studio and on tour until Bob Marley’s death in 1981. His signature style can be heard on every recording the Wailers produced since 1969, with the exception of the 1970 “Soul Shakedown Party” sessions produced by Leslie Kong.
On 17 April 1987, just as Carlton arrived at his Kingston home and walked across his yard, a gunman stepped up behind him and shot him twice in the head. He was dead on arrival at a Kingston hospital at age 36.
Shortly after his murder, Carlton’s wife, Albertine, her lover, a taxi driver named Glenroy Carter, and another man, Junior Neil, were arrested and charged with his killing. Albertine and Carter escaped the murder charge, and were instead convicted and sentenced to 7 years for conspiracy. After just one year in prison, they were released in December 1992 on a legal technicality.
Carlton is featured on all the albums recorded by Bob Marley and the Wailers with the exception of the 1970 “Soul Shakedown Party”. As a famous and influential reggae drummer and percussion player, he was the originator of the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style. He wrote the well known Bob Marley song “War” and with his brother Aston co-wrote “Talkin’ Blues”.
With Carly’s beats and his brother Aston’s bass, the Wailer rhythm section planted the seeds of today’s international reggae.
May 11, 1981 – Bob Nesta Marley – One of the world’s best-selling artists of all time with sales totaling to over 100 million albums and singles, Bob Marley is a true legend. So much so that even 37 years after his death, his name recognition is higher than his landsman Usain Bolt, the three times Olympic Gold Medallist and fastest man in the world. (Bob was know to also be a very fast runner and great soccer player.)
The singer-songwriter, musician and guitarist achieved international fame starting out with his group the Wailers in 1963. The band lasted 11 years before disbanding and Marley began his solo career that gathered a quick following. He was known for infusing his spirituality into his hits like “No Woman, No Cry”, “Is This Love” and “Three Little Birds” to create true musical poetry. Continue reading Bob Marley 5/1981
23 March 1980 – Jacob Miller was born May 4, 1952 in Mandeville, Jamaica. At the age of eight he moved to Kingston, Jamaica where he grew up with his maternal grandparents. In Kingston, Miller began spending time at popular studios including Clement Dodd’s Studio One. He recorded three songs for Dodd, including “Love is a Message” in 1968, which the Swaby brothers, (Horace, later called Augustus Pablo, and Garth) played at their Rockers Sound System. While the song did not garner much success nor maintain Dodd’s attention in Miller, it resulted in Pablo’s sustained interest in Miller.
After the brothers launched their own label in 1972, Pablo recorded a version of “Love is a Message” named “Keep on Knocking” in 1974. In the next year and a half Miller recorded five more songs for Pablo, “Baby I Love You So,” “False Rasta,” “Who Say Jah No Dread,” “Each One Teach One,” and “Girl Named Pat”, each of which became a Rockers classic with King Tubby dubs on their b-sides. These singles developed Miller’s reputation and ultimately drew Inner Circle to hire him as a replacement lead singer. He first recorded with Clement Dodd. While pursuing a prolific solo career, he became the lead singer for reggae group Inner Circle with whom he recorded until his death in a car accident at the age of 27.
Inner Circle was an emerging reggae group made popular playing covers of American Top 40 hits. Band leader Roger Lewis said Jacob Miller was “always happy and jovial. He always made jokes. Everyone liked jokes.” Adding Miller as lead singer, the band’s lineup was Roger Lewis on guitar, Ian Lewis on bass, Bernard “Touter” Harvey on keyboards, and Rasheed McKenzie on drums. Coining Miller as Jacob “Killer” Miller, the group continued to build popularity. They signed with Capitol Records in 1976 and released two albums, Reggae Thing and Ready for the World. Their first hit with Jacob Miller was “Tenement Yard”, followed by “Tired Fi Lick Weed In a Bush”.
While recording, Miller continued pursuing a solo career, recording “Forward Jah Jah Children,” “Girl Don’t Com” produced by Gussie Clarke, and “I’m a Natty” produced by Joe Gibbs. He earned second place in Jamaica’s 1976 Festival Song competition with the song “All Night ‘Till Daylight” and produced his first solo album in 1978, Dread Dread. While most of Miller’s solo work were backed by Inner Circle members, his preferred rockers style diverged from the tendency of Inner Circle to experiment with other genres, including pop, soul, funk and disco. The track which has brought him the most lasting recognition is the rockers standard “King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown” with Augustus Pablo, a dub of “Baby I Love You So,” engineered by King Tubby. Other notable tracks with Augustus Pablo included “Keep on Knocking,” “False Rasta” and “Who Say Jah No Dread”, all produced by Pablo. The album Who Say Jah No Dread featured two versions of each of these tracks; the original and a dub engineered by King Tubby.
Miller was featured in the film Rockers, alongside many other musicians including Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth and Burning Spear. In the movie, he plays the singer of a hotel house band, (in reality Inner Circle), who are joined on drums by the film’s hero, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace and play a live version of Inner Circle’s hit “Tenement Yard”.
In March 1980, Jacob Miller went with Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell to Brazil, to celebrate Island opening new offices in South America.
Two days after returning from Brazil on Sunday, 23 March 1980, Miller was killed in a car accident on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica, along with one of his sons. Miller and Inner Circle had been preparing for an American tour with Bob Marley and the Wailers, and the next album, Mixed Up Moods, had been recorded before his death.
Jacob Miller was reggae artist Maxi Priest’s cousin.