|The mid seventies saw a sprinkling of 45s using the classic 'Ali Baba' rhythm being revitalised to good effect. Among the more successful of the tunes using this classic was the Tommy Cowan-produced 'Natty Chase The Barber' sung by one David Jahson, his definite breakthrough and probably the best known song by this obscure singer/songwriter and one that has been revived more than once since this period. It also gave title to his equally classic album in conjunction with Inner Circle, except that the hit in question was left off the LP at the time. Little has been told about his experience in the music business, so I felt it was about time we got some inside information about the days spent with Tommy Cowan, Inner Circle and the late Jacob Miller, his stint in Well Pleased & Satisfied, and what became of his career after the success with 'Barber'. I linked up with him in May, 2004. My thanks to David for his time, daughter Sarah, Dave Katz, Bob Schoenfeld, Sergio (Heartical), Donovan Phillips, and Steve Barrow.|
Q: When did you enter the music business?
A: OK, well, it was about 1970. We used to go up to Coxson, Studio One, and try to see if we could get our songs record, yunno. At the time there was a lot of people coming there trying to get their stuff done, and I had been going there for about five months before actually. I went to Coxson and he was taking audition that day, I went up to him and I sang a song I had named 'Far I'. And when I sing it to him in the audition, he said to me, "Go into the studio and tell Morris to put your voice on the tape and sing the song". Because, I think he kind of liked my voice, so I went in and I told (Sylvian) Morris what he said, and Morris put me there and I just sing the song a'capella, like. And that was OK. So I went back the following day, and I say, "OK, Mr Coxson, I did the tune you told me yesterday, I put my voice on the tape". And he said OK, "Alright then, I like the song. Go there and there will be a session tomorrow, so come along". And when I went to that session there was quite a few people waiting to record as well. I knew that I wait and wait and wait, until I went in and they played a riddim for the song that I had named 'Far I'. But at the time Leroy Sibbles that used to be in the Heptones, he was the one playing the bass at the time...
Q: Right, the Sound Dimension band.
A: Yeah, with Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace and quite a few other musicians that time. There was like, y'know, I only used to read them names on record. I went and I do the song, but when I was supposed to voice the song I was nervous, I think maybe because I see these big stars around like Heptones, and some other man, they were listening to me singin', and they would come into the studio. Because I see them out there I was nervous so I couldn't sing (laughs)! I couldn't sing the song they way how it should.
Q: Got blocked in some way.
A: Yeah, they came in there, Leroy came in an' "Wha' appen, man?! Sing the song, man! You don't want to have someone sing some music out there - sing the song!" But because all these man was my idol, I couldn't really sing the song. So I did it, I sing it in the end but I wasn't satisfied how I sing it, yunno. But they take it on the tape and everything. And I was feeling a bit anxious after I voice it, because one of my friends heard the song and he said he want a dubplate of that song to play on his sound. So Coxson cut a little dubplate of it along with some other songs, and they put it on dubplate that evening. But every time I keep going back to Coxson and thinkin' that he would press the song, 'cause it's my first song, I can't wait to hear it come out, y'know. But it never come out though. One day I went to Coxson, I say, "Coxson, what happ'n, man? You're not puttin' out that tune?" And he say, "Which tune you sing again, Jackson?" 'Cause him don't even remember me, yunno. So he say, "Which tune you sing again, Jackson?" I say, "Yeh, dem song name 'Far I'". He say, "I'll tell Morris to go look for that song again". So, he was in the studio one Saturday, the same Saturday Morris tell him that, "Yeah, look, that's the song, man". He was cuttin' some dubplates for some other sounds, y'know, and he played the song. I said, "Yes, that's my song, Coxson!" Coxson was playing it and he said, "Jackson, you didn't sing that song proper, yunno. I can never put out that song 'cause if I put it out, all my man dem that use to buy Coxsone music, them say: 'Coxson, you gaan sof'!'" Oh gosh, I feel so bad when he told me (chuckles). I felt really bad. So...
Q: How old were you at this time? Just a teenager trying a thing.
A: I think I was round about sixteen, yeah, round about sixteen I was that time. And I really vex, and I get downhearted. 'Cause Coxson say that and I was really lookin' out to have that song on the Studio One label, one of his labels that he put out. And y'know, I felt so bad. But there was the following week, there was... no, no, no! Not the following week, it kind of round about '72 now, a year go when nutten happen for me. And there was an announcement in the Gleaner, that Dynamic Sounds having an audition, and they want some new singers to come. So I went down there, and there was about two hundred men out there waiting - in Jamaica there's lots of singers (chuckles). So, all I had was to wait until they let in people, it was like a long wait again. So the time when they let in me and this group - me and them was talkin', they was called Earth & Stone, but they actually didn't have any song out there yet. Out of that session that day, they only pick me and Earth & Stone to record out of those two hundred men. So Earth & Stone they record a song named 'Bunch of Babylonian', and I sing back the song 'Far I', I sing it back in a different way than how I sing it at Coxson, y'know. And when they was playing it in the studio, Byron Lee pass through, and he was saying, "Who sing that song?" And he was like, somebody stretched him out towards me like they did a t'ing, and he get a quick look at me and he went out. They had all these things on the songs, they had these pamphlets print up and all kinda advertising ready to do. They had all the printing things there at Dynamics to do the labels, the sleeves, the pin-up cards, all those t'ings. Them have all those equipment in the one place to do everyt'ing, getting ready for the song, 'cause they think it was a big hit. So anyway, the following week I went down there and I saw Niney, ca' Niney was the producer they used, he was doing very good at the time with Dennis Brown and he was making a lot of hits with Dennis Brown. So they used Niney as the producer to get them some hits at Dynamic. I think Byron Lee had asked him, like, 'Me want you to produce for the day or for the week, to pick some artists for me'. I think it was something like that, he wasn't permanently with them, like. But he was one of the top producer in Jamaica at that time.
Q: Had his own with 'Blood and Fire', a big hit at that time, and so on.
A: Yeah. So he was the one who produce it. But I think somewhere along the line - I was young, somewhere along the line, probably Niney and Dynamics they didn't agree with somet'ing on the music.
Q: Interesting to see that Dynamic, who were mostly producing for the mainstream, that they took interest in a Rasta song even at this time, the early seventies.
A: Yeah, they were doing like Toots & The Maytals, Eric Donaldson and quite a few other. But they wasn't into roots, but Niney was producing roots and was making money. So they probably say oh, maybe if they put Niney in the produce for them, he probably would pick two good tune, or four good tune for them, 'cause he was the top man. So he produced, I did 'Far I'. It was very nice at the time. Our first song, it was like a hit. But I think somewhere along the line, a couple of days between that, Niney and them probably might fall out over some kind of business. Because when I went back on the second day, down to Dynamic, I saw Niney and he said, "Come here, man. Don't sing that song like how you sing it yesterday, I want you to sing it different now". What he did, at the time Ernie Smith have a song name 'Mus' Be A Duppy' record, man.
Q: 'Duppy Gunman' you mean?
A: Yeah, Ernie Smith did have a song name (sings): 'It must be a duppy or a gunman, I man no find out yet...'. So he was tellin' me seh, "Don't sing the song like..." - I was singin' it slurry, I was singin' it like how Dennis Brown used to sing in the early days. And he was tellin' me, "Don't sing it like that, don't bother slur it up, and pretty it up too much, just sing it like how Ernie Smith sing (kind of 'thrusty') 'Must be a duppy or a gunman...'. You say 'Far I, Far I!', don't bother say (in lower tone) 'Far I, Far I'" - like niced up. He say, "Don't bother with no sweetness, just say 'Far I, Far I!'" But I didn't like how Niney was tellin' me to change the song. But because he was the producer, I was doing what he was saying, and at the time I know that it was messing up the tune. Beca' what they did, at Dynamic they have about 24 or probably 36 track at that time, and the same track that I did the original one on, they put this other voice he was tellin' me to do over, he was rubbin' out the other voice same time weh I was doing the other one! You see what I'm saying? At the time I didn't know because I didn't have no knowledge of studio runnings or anyt'ing like that, and I was saying because it's Niney and he knows what he's doing and blah blah, and he was jumpin' up and saying, "Yeah man! That is our!" But I wasn't feeling good how he wants me to change the song. But at the time Byron Lee and Neville Lee, they didn't know anyt'ing about that. They was still up in the office getting ready to put out the song and everyt'ing. And I think it spoiled it, because it was... I didn't feel good in myself how Niney tell me now how to sing it, and...
Q: It was released as 'For I', credited to 'David Janson' on the Jaguar subsidiary.
A: Yeah! 'Janson'. Yeah, the Jaguar, I was vexed about that one! They was pumpin' it on the radio, man. It was gettin' 24 hour play even on the Sunday, it was playing, playing, playing! And I'm saying, "Blower!" I didn't even like to hear on the radio. People say, "Hey, Jahson, come hear your song!" I didn't want to hear it, because it wasn't how I want to sing it. So about five or four weeks I went down to Dynamic to see how it go. Neville Lee was there, y'know, and he say,"What 'appen, man? The song is not moving as fast as I want it to do, I'm doing everything for the song, and the song not doing nutten". I said that Niney told me to change the song, yunno. He said, "What?" I say, "Niney told me oh, change the first one how I did sing it first, they change it and I get to understand that the same voice track that I did it on, they put this one on the voice track and rub it out at that same time I'm puttin' one, an' rubbin' out that same voice track". That mean they couldn't even remix it, they spoiled it altogether. So, Neville Lee didn't realise that, you see. So it really went to number seven in the chart, but I didn't think seh it a strong that really, number seven. He said, "What?" So all those pamphlets and all those things that I see lined up with 'Far I' and 'David Janson', that they print up for the street and all these other things, they didn't went anywhere, they just stopped that instantly after I told them it wasn't the way I originally sing it.
Q: The musicians on that track, can you remember them?
A: Dynamic? I can't remember all the guys name, but those guys usually play for Toots...
Q: Right, Jackie Jackson on bass, and so on.
A: Yeah. And Bobby Ellis was on trumpet I know, Bobby Ellis and...
Q: Hux Brown too?
A: Yeah. That's the first time I meet them, meeting those guys still.
Q: Paul Douglas on drums.
A: Yeah, yeah. Those are the men that actually played, 'cos I remember that they usually - they were mostly like Dynamics kind of man them that plays, they play mostly for Toots and Eric Donaldson, them kinda man. So, it was nice. I liked the riddim track, even though the riddim track sounding good, and the version - they put a little bit of the voice that them didn't rub out, and some of my friends say, "Why didn't you sing it how the version part of that voice sound?" I said, "That's how I sing it original, but they let me sing over it and rub it out".
Q: Somehow I doubt that's a misprint on Dynamics part, why it was titled 'For I'. Dynamic was uptown people, and they probably kind of hid the title, as to avoid the obvious Rasta connection with a title like 'Far I'.
A: Yeah, I know how they rest, but you know actually at this present moment I'm still getting some royalties from the PRS for that song. I get more money from the PRS for the song than I get from Dynamic at the time. That's what prompted me now to go into producing my own t'ing, 'cos I didn't like what Niney did. Up to now, I saw him and I told him, "Niney, you spoiled my first big hit from Jamaica", 'cos Dynamic really played that song. Even on a Sunday I hear the song play, I could see that them didn't like it, I don't know what happened, but it was really playing. And it didn't actually went the way it should went, for a song that gets so much play. I don't know if it's the voicing that they make me do, 'cos if it was in the original voice how I was doing it, then the first song that I made it really would've been like a big number one and it would've spread all over the place. But anyway, I went to Dynamic when it was money time, and they must've given me about sixty dollars or so, and it was like... I mean, I was feeling a bit depressed on that. And I was saying, the next time I'm doing it I'm gonna produce it myself. Because no-one know how inside the studio stay, and what happened and what's going on. The first cut they had, but me said the rest of my songs I'm gonna produce, I'm not gonna follow-up on anybody and ask them to produce my songs for me. So, the second song I did was called 'Child Of A King'.
Q: Released on the Ital Lion label.
A: Yeah, 'Ital Vital'. Yes, and that one now I did it myself and there was a place in Jamaica called Micron, I think it was Micron Music...?
Q: Pete Weston's distribution outlet.
A: Yeah, Pete Weston. So I give it to them to distribute. They did that Ital Vital label, so they put it on that label. Well, it didn't get as much play as how 'Far I' get on the radio, but it did a little bit better. And me as the producer, the money I get is really just probably over the hundred dollar. Hundred dollar in those times wasn't bad, it was good still, yunno.
Q: This was released shortly after 'Far I'?
A: It was round about sometime early '72. Yeah. A few months after 'Far I'. And then I try and try with that, and went around, y'know, I sell quite a few of that. In those times I could've taken some boxes of records from Pete Weston and I could go straight to the sound man, or anybody playing a sound in their yard and just sell them a copy same time, and that's how that song spread around more for me. I just did go around, selling it on foot, and stuff like that. I cool off for a bit for a time. I used to like this 'Ali Baba' riddim, which I know I used to sing when I was a boy, I used to like that when I was going to school.
Q: A John Holt classic.
A: Yeah, he sing it as 'Ali Baba'. So I get Bobby Ellis, I get Tommy McCook. I called Sly (Dunbar), 'cos Sly was my friend, he used to live nearby. By the time he came late, and Horsemouth was at the studio at the time, it was at Channel One, and Johnny Clarke brother - they call him 'Fish' Clarke, he was there as well, and Robbie (Shakespeare), there was a guy name Ranchie (McLean). And 'Dirty Harry' (Hall), Bobby Ellis, Tommy McCook, I get these guys in. It's from my third song, and I say that I'm gonna do 'Natty Chase The Barber', but them play over back the riddim for me, the 'Ali Baba' riddim. And I sing 'Natty Chase The Barber' on that one.
Q: This is like '75 now, or the year after?
A: Yeah, that was coming up to '75 now. Yeah. And I did that one, and everybody in the studio was like happy, yunno. When it finish, man, them say "Yeah man, that's a hit tune! You have a nice tune, I like that". And they was laughing about the lyrics and stuff like that, and I say OK, that's good. So I didn't have any money now to actually put it out. They had it mixed - what we did was we record it at Channel One, and I went an' mix it at King Tubbys. That's how we used to do, we didn't want Channel One to do it. We laid down the track there at Channel One, and I went and took it to Tubbys. He was doing the mixing, 'cos Tubbys was living nearby to me as well. I was at Waterhouse at the time. So, I was stuck with it now, 'cos I didn't have any money now to press or to do any stuff like that. So I was kinda stuck with it, like. And there was this guy name Tommy Cowan, he used to be in The Jamaicans.
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