Q: How would you see Lynn Taitt's role in shaping the rock steady sound?

A: Oh, Lynn Taitt should get some honours, he deserved it. Two persons I think should get honoured, and get this - that is Jackie Mittoo and Lynn Taitt. Those two musicians honours - they all, you have a lotta other people come, I'm not saying they are not doing anyt'ing, but if those guys never shape, never help shape the music and did so much for the music, it wouldn't be around. A lotta music come an' die, yunno.

Q: But the use of horns took a step back, somewhat, when ska left for rock steady. It wasn't used to such an extent as in the ska era by those producers on the scene during that time.

A: No, because the Jamaican producers, or the set of people like this, the less they can pay is all the better for them (chuckles).

Q: Naturally.

A: So that's what they always try to do, yunno. The less they can pay is all the better for them. So they generally operate that way.

Q: So less sessions meant an increasing schedule on the North Coast hotel circuit for you, playing for tourists.

A: Yeah. I did, what, two stints on the North Coast, played with Mallory's father, Hooter Williams. And then I left home after a time and then Lynn Taitt dissolved (the band) and went off for Canada, and then I left for the North Coast to play with Billy, Billy (chuckles)... oh gosh! I can't remember his name but I played with his band at the Yellow Bird and went on to play with Lance Thelwell at the Holiday Inn Hotel. I did around a year and a half I think.

Q: Did you play with Boris Gardiner at that time? He was in one of those bands frequently playing on the North Coast hotel circuit I think, at that time.

A: No, I never play with Boris Gardiner. After a while I just came back into town.

Q: I think Carlos Malcolm could've been the one you was searhing for, he had an orchestra up there at the time I think.

A: No, that was before. Because, when I just joined the Mighty Vikings, Carlos wanted me was to come and play in his band, afterwards. All I had was to turn him off, because I had a band I was leading, yunno. That's how it went.

Lynn Taitt.

Q: But the specific reason for 'avoiding' horns, when you had less horn arrangements in the rock steady or early reggae era, it wasn't totally of financial reasons. I don't know, was there enough 'space' to use horn players extensively within that fast beat of the early reggae sound at the time? Organs and keyboards took over those parts, because it was kind of new and fresh to use that instead, wasn't it?

A: There was space, always space there. Yeah. Always space there for the horn lines, right, but they never use to pay. That's why, you see, if you notice with Lynn Taitt, he did a lot of time if you notice it, he always have horns in most of the tunes that he plays on, especially with his band. It's a lot of horn lines with Lynn Taitt, because his was a smooth dance band and a session band, he always get the horns with the Jets.

Q: But no-one in the Jets took over when Taitt decided to migrate to Canada?

A: No, no, no. When Lynn decide fe leave for Canada, we hear long before about it, right. He never went right away, yunno. (Coughs) Because they sent for him from I think around the Easter, and he never leave until after the independence, because he had so many jobs. And he tell them seh he can't afford that, that's how it went with him.

Q: But when you worked with Jackie and Taitt, who took care of the horn arrangements? You had the input between those two and the other horn players in the band, a collective effort.

A: No, most of the time - when I was at Coxson, with Jackie Mittoo, how the whole development went, when these guys dem come in, they went to Jackie first. And then now Jackie he made the riddim for the song, and if they want horns, if they would need horns, they'd tell him. And then he send me them - I had an office, he just come round deh... send them round to me and they would blow. He'd tell them what key the song, yunno, recorded the background, and then now when they come to my office them tell me the key, I pitch a key on my trumpet and they start sing it and then I record the horn arrangement.

Q: So you took care of most of those arrangements without the involvement of others like Jackie and Lynn for that?

A: Yes, I used to do the horn arrangements. I find that mystic but I think I was the first person Coxson ever give an office as (chuckles) an arranger at 13 Brentford Road. Yeah, I think I was. I wouldn't say I'm the only one but I think I was among the first one to get that. And that's how it used to work. Jackie did the riddim and I did the horn arrangements. Well, with Lynn Taitt now, we're just going into the studio, and I was in charge. Not to really say get up or off the line, but wheresoever him put it in the song, yunno, I would listen and relate it back to the rest of the horn people; when they are to come in, which phrase and what of what is what. I was in charge (chuckles) of the horn section for him, and in so doing get true impressions, very good. And still all I had was to play a part, but it never matter to me, yunno. But I was workin' well. But I think Taitt should have gotten, or should get...

Q: More credit.

A: A lot of credit. And also Jackie Mittoo, because I have worked with those guys and I have seen what they have done to our music.

Jackie Mittoo.

Don Drummond.

Q: What about Don Drummond?

A: Don?! Don deserve it more than anything else, everybody know that! But I don't know why somebody don't posthumously give him.

Q: He has been in the shadow of Jackie somehow, even though Drummond wasn't partly responsible for the rock steady and reggae formats like Taitt, Jackie or Leroy Sibbles, you cannot deny him his place among the best Jamaica ever had.

A: Well, you see, a lotta people not going talk because what really happened, you know, in those days the music wasn't considered so great as what it is today. So therefore in those time that didn't happen because even a guy named Vere Johns...

Q: 'Opportunity Hour'.

A: Good! That guy should have get honoured! Because if there wasn't a Vere Johns there wouldn't be a Alton Ellis, there wouldn't be a Delroy Wilson, there wouldn't be nobody! Yu understan' what I'm dealing with? Yeah! (Coughs) He is the man that started those t'ing an' get the whole t'ing moving, and you don't even hear nobody talk about him. So it's just life (laughs), yu understan'. A lotta guys don't know wha' mek them name, right. I don't grudge them, but I would like they learn where everything is coming from, and who put in what and who did, right?

Q: There should be some kind of establishment in Jamaica pertaining to the history of the music and those involved from the start, and a very detailed one at that.

A: Right now, people try to write about the music history, yunno, but generally they go to the wrong people, most of the time. To write our history, you'd have to get certain amount of musicians, right, certain amount of producers, and other people connected to the music history, like you did have the Khouris and West Indies (WIRL) and all those people. After now you could take a real good look at it. But like a man just go to one producer, but the one producer don't busy with the whole industry, it's the business that he was doing at the time.

Q: There is at least one classic riddim, one instrumental that you have written, but the title escapes me at this moment...

A: Which one?

Q: I don't know right now, I just can't get that title... back in my head, the rhythm that is mostly associated with Bobby Ellis. I believe this was a seventies rhythm.

A: Oh! Probably you are talkin' about 'Stormy Weather'? That is, whe him name...? Doctor Dread done it over with 'Diseases' (Michigan & Smiley). The riddim, them use the riddim on this t'ing about 'Diseases' and t'ing like that, probably that is the one you are talkin' about that I did. (Coughs) I have somebody workin' on it right now, because (chuckles) I did it for Mrs Pottinger, right, and it looks as if she... the person told me - somebody was tellin' me long time that they hear it in a film, and she was tellin' me that she no know nutten 'bout that. Well, I get somebody and when I get back to Jamaica I supposed to hear what happening. Because that guy is a musician also, and he's in America and he has the knowledge of the publishing t'ing, and things like that. And the last time I talk to him before I came on tour - is he was making headway, but they're trying to dodge him out. But him say they supposed to pay, him making headway. So that's where it is. I feel that is the tune, it named 'Stormy Weather'.

Q: That's probably right (it wasn't, I was actually searching for 'Up Park Camp', apparently another Ellis composition released to great acclaim in the early seventies). So moving into the seventies, how was the time with the Black Disciples and Jack Ruby at the production board? He used horns extensively, again, after some 'absence' in the music up to that point.

A: (Coughs) Oh yes, I would like to say - Burning Spear about that, aksing... Because I suffer a big disaster in '79 when the time was very bad, politics that go down. Yeah, and my house did burn down. I did have everything, instruments, I did have masters, I have song on tape and everything (chuckles). Everything go up in flames.

Q: Where in Kingston was that?

A: Uh, I was living at... a mansion nearby dung... not Meadowbrook - well, it's lickle bit below.

Q: It's not Jones Town, the Trench Town area?

A: No, no, no. It's the last, call it distric' or whatsoever (chuckles) it's called... dung the Bouleward, down to the bottom going to Mandeville. You have Duhaney Park, in Duhaney Park it's adjoining... but ohh shit man, I don't remember the name of it, yunno! But no, it just burned down, I lost a lot of t'ings. And I think that's where some of that music where Mrs Pottinger come in to claim. I thought I did write it out and dem t'ing deh, but it look like I never did copy it, copyright it at the time. (Coughs) I thought I did do that.

Q: What about the solo albums in the seventies, there was the 'Blazing Horns' album with Tommy (McCook) for Yabby You for example?

A: No, they took... Yes, it wasn't really Yabby You, it was Sounds.

Q: Right, King Sounds, of the Grove Music label.

A: Yeah.

Q: That was his production?

A: Yes, King Sounds. I mean, the riddims were Yabby You riddim.

Q: And then he had you to do your thing over those riddims.

A: Yeah, he used Yabby You riddims and I and Tommy put on melody lines and solos and t'ing like that. And I did somet'ing like that for Bunny Lee too.

Q: With the Aggrovators?

A: Ahh, with Bobby Ellis and Tommy McCook, rush out that.

Q: But there was no formal plans to put out a solo album, at that time, just the producer compiling these tracks to make an album? That's how it goes anyway, most of the time.

A: No, it was just the producer, right. After that I made one more as 'Bobby Ellis & The Crew'.

Q: Yes, 'Shaka' for a short-lived San Francisco label, Dublab.

A: (Silence) 'Shaka', right. 'Shaka' was...

Q: How did that come about, you played for Burning Spear at the time?

A: Yeah.

Q: And this was in conjunction with Nelson Miller (formerly drummer with Burning Spear's band) you produced that album?

A: Yeah, yeah. And after that now that's when my whole world came tumbling down with the fire (chuckles), and everything got consumed. So I have to try start all over again.

Q: How do you view the music in its current state, and horns? You believe horns will get back to the studios in a serious way, ever?

A: Horns will always be there, the world is round, yunno.

Q: (Laughs)

A: (Laughs) And what goes around will come around, the horns will always be there! What really cut out the horns, yunno, instead of using three persons to complete a sound, right, they use a syntheziser. But when you go out there 'live', right, the syntheziser cyaan replace ya (chuckles). And they ought to know that.

Q: That keyboard is just way too 'plastic', you will never be able to replace the sharp sound of a horn section, the live feel. I think you proved this over and over on this tour with Max and the Ethiopian.

A: Of course we need that. The syntheziser cyaan replace for everyt'ing.

Q: By the way, you appeared in 'Rockers' too, right?

A: Yeah, yeah. I did feature in 'Rockers'. I, Tommy McCook and I think (Herman) Marquis. Down Maxfield Avenue, some backyard, we were playing 'Satta'.

Q: Right, with Horsemouth's companion, 'Dirty Harry'.

A: Dirty Harry, yeah!

Q: (Chuckles)

A: (Chuckles) Was doing 'Satta'. Yes.

From left: Tommy McCook, Dirty Harry, Bobby Ellis and Herman Marquis.

Q: Whatever became of him after that movie?

A: He died. I dunno, he migrate to America. I see him one or two times, yunno, when I go up there. Well, he got mixed up with drugs, drug business. That's how he died.

Q: What's ahead for you now, any recording projects to start or finish when you get back to Jamaica?

A: No, what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to get loose ends on the both sides together. When I hook up with this guy, we'll see if we come together to do some recordings. I want to tell you, him and Ernest Ranglin play together.

Q: Are still playing with the Yard Beat band in Jamaica?

A: Yes, but we hardly get any engagements, yunno. So you've heard of Yard Beat (laughs)? You are well informed (laughs)! I'm glad to know that he he...

Yard Beat.

Bobby Ellis' contribution to reggae music cannot be overstated or even underrated for that matter, even though he's been, naturally, in the shadow of fellow sixties hornsmen in the Skatalites. He is present on a number of classic recordings such as Burning Spear's 'Marcus Garvey' album, to name one. Tracing the recorded works of this gentleman is not the easiest when so little instrumental music gets reissued properly these days. But in any case, there are some gems to be found on those that has been put onto CD. For example, the 'Stormy Weather' track ended up on Heartbeat's 'Reggae Train' anthology of Mrs Pottinger's High Note productions, and still available. 'Put On Your Best Dress', another Pottinger/Tip Top/High Note/Gay Feet album compiled by Steve Barrow for the Trojan imprint in 1989, is without doubt a classic by now and also readily available on CD where you'll find Bobby featured. Heartbeat released 'Riding The Musical Chariot' back in 1990 which included work by Bobby and the Crystalites band, such as his 'Alfred Hitchcock' title. If only the long unavailable 'Green Mango' LP by Bobby and Tommy McCook could be the subject for a reissue in its original sleeve - how about it Trojan? It is long overdue, as well as a re-release of the Bunny Lee-produced 'Black Unity' LP which came out in 1977 on Count Shelly's Third World label. And Mr Lee, if possible, have it in its original jacket, that would be a treat...

The 'Blazing Horns' LP which, again, combined Tommy McCook and Bobby is thankfully already a part of a reissue-package of two albums on Blood & Fire's label, including the Glen Brown-produced and extremely scarce 'Tenor In Roots' album (in its original issue back in 1975) by the late and great Tommy McCook. It is one compilation I would highly and unreservedly recommend; two masterful musicians literally blowing new life into these most vibrant and electric of Jamaican rhythms, and supervised by two of the island's ace producers as well. Music as strong as this will simply not be made again, ever. Although Bobby's first 'real' solo album contains a few interesting moments, 'Shaka' is not quite the debut, full-length record one would've hoped the man could deliver. It's been out of print for the past fifteen years or so and not likely to show up again in any format I reckon. Neither are the handful of titles he produced for his own Quaking label, which featured names such as Freddie McKay, Lennox Brown and Neville Grant among others. In retrospect, Bobby Ellis' career is artistically quite remarkable looking back on it, but as with so many in the history of this music, he has far from received what he is due in terms of monetary matters, if not even true recognition. The Jamaican authorities ought to realise at least the value of his long-term contribution while he is still here with us in flesh, instead of showing that appreciation posthumously. Give the man a mark of honour so he can enjoy and benefit from this achievement now, not later. You if anyone truly deserve it, Mr Ellis. Keep on blowing Mr Hornsman, blow on my brother, blow like you've never done before. Blow 'til the very last drop.

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