Q: Who were some of the first people you worked with as far as recordings, was that (Prince) Buster?
A: The first recording we do in a Jamaica was with a man name Stanley Motta, that's Stanley Motta with Derrick Harriott & The Jiving Juniors. That's my first recording, yeah.
Q: Oh, which one?
A: We call the song 'Over The River', yeah. That's my first recording in Jamaica.
Q: What was the studio, did Motta use his own or he got the slightly better facilities over at Federal?
A: No, the studio was in Hanover Street, Stanley Motta's studio.
Q: Ah, I see. He used to pioneer a lot of the mento recordings on the island.
A: That's right, that's right, that's right. Yeah.
Q: And that was 1960 or something?
A: Yeah, about that time, the first recording with the Jiving Juniors, Derrick Harriott.
Q: What happened next, you started to sit in on sessions for Duke Reid or Coxson?
A: No, well, after Derrick Harriott session, I know them through... they used to do a lotta stage shows, and I was friends with them so they asked me to come an' do some recording with them. I met them how I met Monty Alexander, yunno. Yeah.
Q: So what about the work you did for Buster, there was a lot of material you cut for him?
A: Prince Buster? No, me never record for Buster too tough that time deh, me used to record fe Duke Reid, (Count) Boysie, Coxson. Me record fe a lot of different people that time.
Q: What about someone called Charlie Moo?
Q: Could be.
A: Yeah, we used to record for him, for the Chineyman dem an'... we used to do a lotta recording, me an' Lester Sterling, yunno. Me an' Lester Sterling used to move together and do a lot of session fe different companies, different people.
Q: And of course for Vincent Chin too, Randy's.
A: Yeah, we do recording fe Randy's, beca' Randy's was my... Vincent was my personal friend an' we come from the same part of Kingston. So when he told me he want to do some recording, he had started record a while... an' his sister name Pat I think, yeah?
Q: His wife.
A: His wife, yeah.
Q: How did this move to England come about now, what brought you over? This was in 1962.
A: Yeah, because me would be deh 'mongst Count Ossie, with Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, but we used fe jus' play music fe the love, y'know wha' I mean, we never really used fe get pay fe play, so me seh me would like to tek a try abroad. And sometime dem a try fe store we too, yunno, try fe store I up in a jail an' all dem t'ing deh. And after a while me said so, me no waan fe stay no longer for me no earn no money out of music an', y'know wha' I mean, me seek opportunity abroad. Me mother find a fare fe me an' me get fe come a Englan'. Yeah.
Q: You had any relatives over in England when you arrived?
A: No, no, no, me no have any relatives in a Englan', me only have friend in a Englan'. Only a friend.
Q: How did you see London at that point?
A: When me come a London, Englan' so cold me waan go home again.
A: So cold, man. Me did feel sick, man. An' I used to move around with me friend them all over the place. Ca' me na have nobody inna Englan', just the friend dem whe me know an' used to associate with.
Q: What did you do at first?
A: Just cool, jus' stay with me friend them at daytime, an' sometime we used to go down a the Roaring Twenties. You did 'ave a place name the Roaring Twenties.
Q: The club, yes.
A: With Suckle, Count Suckle used to have a sound system down deh, him play dung deh, so we used to go down deh a daytime - a night-time I mean, that was my regular movement inna the West End.
Q: When did you start to work with Shallit, when was it that you linked up with his Blue Beat label?
A: Well, me get fe know - me meet Laurel Aitken, Laurel Aitken used to give me... him used to book me 'pon one a him show all the time in Greenwich or Stockwell, dem place deh, an' him tell me seh him do some recording with a man name Mr Shallit. So it's through Laurel Aitken how we get fe know Shallit.
Q: What was Shallit's background?
A: I think him was a Jewish, old man. Yeah. Him used to have a shop down 'pon Erlam Street inna the West End, beside Piccadilly deh. Him used to do regular session with a man name Siggy Jackson.
Q: Who was Siggy?
A: His associate in the business them man, Siggy Jackson. So when me get fe know them like me start get session from them, so I was there for the next two or three years, I was recording with Mr Shallit and the Blue Beat label.
Q: Did you do a lot of work there?
A: Yeah, me do a lot of work, man. Beca' Laurel Aitken was like the producer, Laurel Aitken was producin' a lot of people that used to do ska, so Laurel was the driver in that set-up, yunno.
Q: The musicians you worked with?
A: Well, you have British musicians, you have Jamaican musicians, you have... lots of nationalities, yunno, different nationality, people from different countries.
Q: All of that material you cut for Blue Beat, do you have any control of that now, if it could be released again?
A: No, I didn't... Mr Shallit died, yunno.
A: In the sixties I think, or early seventies. The shop was closed, I don't know who get the works of that company, but it's not... no more, no Blue Beat any more.
Q: Buster used to do a lot of stuff for Shallit too.
A: Yeah man, Mr Shallit used to invite Prince Buster up to London, we used to do a lot of shows in the country and in London, yunno, and recordings as well.
Q: What about the first solo album in England, this was done for the Palmers, Pama Records?
A: 'Reco In Reggaeland'?
A: I did it for Palmer, yeah. 'Pon the Pama label.
Q: What led up to it?
A: When me jus' come a Englan' me always stay around by Cambridge Road, near Kilburn, and Mr Palmer always... Mr Palmer like music so Mr Palmer always come 'round by the studio when we deh, when we used to practice. So I get fe know Mr Palmer through I used to stay in Cambridge Road side, an' he know one or two sound system men inna the area, so me get fe know Mr Palmer round by that place. And it's three brothers of them, an' me an' him (Harry) become very good friends. Them throw a lot of appreciation towards me, so I can say they're my friends, y'know wha' I mean.
Q: Did you make a decent amount of money working for them?
A: Well, not makin' money, but as a form of solidarity, they're the first ones who gave me the choice to make a record, you understan'. But not a whole heap of money, beca' at no time in my life I get a lot of money. I'm just a instrumentalist, y'know. The vocalist' always will be the head ones. Is not that I have anyt'ing against vocalists, vocalists are always the people with the opportunity more than the instrumentalist. So I'm a serious instrumentalist, I don't mix with vocalist' too tough. I jus' prefer to bring my voice through my instrument. All my life I discover that it's not easy for the instrumentalists, the vocalists always come out like the boss, and I'm one of the instrumentalists who don't want no vocalist to boss me, yunno. So I have always studied instrumentally, instrumentation, you understan'. In other words, I have never played with a band to support a singer. I have always - I'm a dominant trombone player, so I don't want to be a supporter of singers. Yeah.
Q: More or less independent.
A: That's right, that's right, that's right.
Q: I think that's an important question, the whole issue of instrumentalists being in the backseat for so long compared to singers...
A: Instrumentalists are looked down upon like seh the guys who can talk, and the guys who can sing, I have nutten against them. But their domination have been in the music system so long that I have... you understan'. I am not into singers.
Q: Or deejays.
A: Respect to singers, but I am not the kind of man that would have a singer in my band. Yeah? If I had a band I prefer to sing myself. You understan'? But I'm preparing my music for instrumentalists, I'm not preparing it for singers as such. The singer are the one who get all the money, and the instrumentalists are the ones who are the strugglers. So, sufferin' has been my regular companion, you understan'. Yeah, yeah.
Q: Do you think horns will get back into the music again, or is it an instrument which is on its way to die out as far as Jamaican music production goes?
A: Yeah, well, in Jamaica, when I was in Jamaica you had so much great players of the instrument that instrumentation was the rule in Jamaica, you know wha' I mean.
Q: The norm.
A: But since I come to Englan', over the years I don't hear much instrumentalists again. Mostly talking (chuckles), talkin' an'...
Q: The deejays.
A: Yeah, deejay take over. Whe me no dung a Jamaica, me no dung a Jamaica fe eight years, man, eight years or nine years, I didn't get a gig, man. Ya hear me good? I no in Jamaica fe eight or nine years, I didn't get to play, man. Is only because I love music why I still play it, y'know. But there was no work for instrumentalists, deejay tek over the music, man.
Q: How do you really feel about that?
A: Well, I am happy for those who didn't have a choice in life an' that they could've gone into music an' do very well, I have nutten against deejays, but I'm only saying it's harder... When a man is takin' up an instrument, he is seeking intelligence. Ca' to play an instrument, is not an easy t'ing. If it was so easy, all the rich men who become powerful in life, they would be portrayin'... they would be sayin' they're a player of this instrument or a player of that instrument, you understan', but that is not given to those people. Is only the lowly an' the sufferers who can play instruments, man. No rich man cyaan play it so, ca' him 'ave no heart, is the poor man who bring that out a himself or through sufferin', you understan'.
Q: The Jamaican music industry no longer sees the instrumentalists as something valuable?
A: No, no, no. When we were doing the music we were doing it from the heart. When we were doing the music, beca' we long to play we were from the heart, but now it's money. Music becomes a business, a serious business, yunno. Yeah, music gone from heart to money, you understan'.
Q: That's where the music is, overshadowed by money, greed, and so on.
A: That's right, that's right. Yeah.
Q: It's the cashflow that counts.
A: Yeah. People used to sing calypso with love, people used to make songs out of bamboo, used to make saxophone out of bamboo, and coconut reed, and happiness, yeah? It change, man, changed. Deejay tek over the music, deejay.
Q: But things have to change too, evolve or whatever.
A: Well, everything change, me an' you know that (chuckles). Everyt'ing, me an' you know evolution takes place, nobody can stop that, yunno. But in that time in Jamaica you had so much great musicians around that it was the norm, y'know, the instrumental music was the top of the chart. But since we left Jamaica you don't have so much - you have a lot of horn players, but they're not dominant, yeah? A lot of good horn players in Jamaica, but they're not as dominant as when we were there.
Q: You mean youngsters?
A: Young people just back a singer, most of the young trombone players or the young horn players, they can only back a singer. The singer is the star, they're not the star, you understan'. But people like us, we worked so hard in what we do that people respected us. We become so popular in Jamaica because of the masses, not because of the money or the big house or the big car whe we drive, you understan'.
Q: More of the skills.
A: Yeah. We become popular in Jamaica beca' people loved we, y'know wha' I mean? Some people become popular because them have money an'... yeah. But personally I know I become popular because of my movements with the people of Jamaica. People from all walks of life in Jamaica know me very well, man, they know that I'm a strong musician. Yeah.
Q: But as it is said, 'everything goes in cycles'.
A: (Chuckles) That's right, yeah.
Q: The horns will come back sooner or later, as some sort of reaction to the plastic things, the computerized stuff and the often soulless machinery in the music of today.
A: To be honest, I haven't done any recording for nobody again, or any kinda... I leave that alone, y'know. I do a lotta work for myself, but I would like one day to go into the studio an' finish what I'm doing. Beca' after you get the experience musically, man, you don't give them the record for nobody. I do a lickle recording fe people in Japan maybe, and maybe in Switzerland and maybe in Argentina, yunno. But not much fe... not as much as first time.
Article: Peter I|
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