It was Chaplin who gave each man his official nickname, Josie Wales as The Colonel, Charlie Chaplin as The Principal and Willie as The Inspector. Charlie Chaplin was a nickname he had already earned for being such a comedian. With his artless charm and understated humor, he was able to bring out the clown in the often reserved Josie Wales as well. Both Josie and Charlie liked to act the funny man, and both injected a lot of humor into their lyrics.

Although he appeared stiffer and more distant at first, Josie also loved to be drawn into a joke. Being around Chaplin encouraged Josie's lighter side. One of their classic joint lyrics was their 'Musical Diseases' [An answer to the Smiley and Michigan, Diseases] which includes "donkey-mylitis and the cow-arthritis". Josie had a few droll lines of his own in his story of trying to import a car, "Them get me rude, them get me rude, in a the Honda Prelude" The way they worked, Josie would start off with some serious subject and Charlie would come in with something absurd. When Josie would deejay 'Kingston Hot', Chaplin would follow with "England flat..."

Chaplin grew up in Spanish Town. As a child, he didn't really have it in his mind to deejay, but he never strayed far from the music. "I used to look up to Bob Marley because Bob Marley used to send me go buy him cigarette and him spliff them thing there, when him a play [foot] ball. So, me used to kinda involve ina the music them way deh. But me never know me woulda be an artist 'till me start listen Stur-Gav. Ranking Joe used to deejay that time. When him deejay and dance done, like 5 o'clock ina morning, him always call me and give me the mic. The dance empty but me still talk pon the rhythms dem. So, people start hear the tape and start talk to U Roy and them take me on officially."

At first, Chaplin wasn't ambitious. He wasn't even looking for a recording career. Luckily, it came and found him. Producer and lead singer with The Royals, Roy Cousins, approached him and offered to take him to the studio. "Me just a do it for 'do' sake, cause me never make no money. Me never money motivated. Me just fascinate fe go ina the studio, do a couple of songs, and him release them, put them out."

Roy Cousins released two LPs, 'Presenting Charlie Chaplin' and 'One of a Kind'. But, people in Jamaica still didn't know Chaplin as a recording deejay. The Cousins material was released in the UK and only available as an import. The real recognition started when he voiced 'Que Dem' for George Phang.

The oddly titled 'Que Dem', was Chaplin's first Jamaican release and his big break at home. The song, originally named 'Credel', criticized deejays for using pejorative names to refer to women [There was a trend of deejays referring to women in their songs with names like credel, tegereg, pancoot, Jezebel, kinarky, etc.], but the label on the 45 was printed incorrectly. When the song became a hit, there was no reason to change it [That sort of thing happened all the time in Jamaica. For example, Frankie Paul's version of 'Worries in the Dance' for Junjo came out, on the 45 and LP, as 'War is in the Dance'. Anthony Redrose's 'Temper' came out as 'Tempo'. What surely ought to have been 'Jump and Prance', was rendered an unlikely, 'Jump and Prawn' (Clint Eastwood, 1977, Ossie Sounds).]. Since people knew the song by the strange name, Phang allowed the LP to retain it. Phang released another 45 from the LP, 'Diet Rock', which also became popular. He then followed it up with another LP named 'Fire Down Below', which contained 'Dance in the Atlantic Ocean'.

Naturally, George Phang was interested in recording the other half of the duo. Seeing the success of the work Phang was doing with Charlie, Josie agreed give Phang a try. His gamble paid off immediately. The LP 'Undercover Lover' came out in 1985 and contained some of his most beloved dance lyrics, like 'Throw Me Corn', 'Hoola Hoop', 'Ganja Pipe', as well as new material like the title song which came with a video, one of the first in the emerging medium of Jamaican music videos.

Although they recorded separately and maintained independent careers, Josie and Charlie continued to perform live, on the sound or in concert. They had developed such a close working partnership, their lyrics could flow into each other's. Chaplin saw his relationship with Josie as something organic, something so natural that it almost had a life of its own, "If I have a shilling, is not only one side. It's two sides. So, it's two sides to everything." He once described the power of Stur-Gav, "We try to spread something around so that the people, so that their eye can be more wider. And Inspector Willie, him is a man now, him always know the right stuff at the right time. I and Josie like a spiritual business a gwan. Sometimes, we listen back the cassette and we shake we head."

Today, Chaplin is involved in a variety of business ventures, including a security company, a rent-a-car company, a construction company and his own music company, Government Yard production. As if that weren't enough, he's taken over George Phang's old post as the manager of the Arnett Gardens football team. To Chaplin, music and sport, in Jamaica, go hand in hand. "Bob Marley always have a football on him guitar when him a go pon tour. Them two things go along."
"Selecting a sound is not so easy. You don't just play the tune. You have to listen and follow up the deejay all the time. It take a lot of concentration," Willie explained in 1985. "You have to study the crowd. Cause, you see, I am studying the crowd. Like, if I should play a tune and I hear them, like, "Farward!" and make enough noise, well, I know instantly what type of tune they like. I just keep on the same line."

The selector was the glue that held the whole sound together. Without a solid selector to maintain the pace, nothing else would function properly. "It's no use having a big sound and no selection of music or a selector [who knows] when to fit in a tune," U Roy recalls. "Because you have certain dance time when a lot of people out on the street. If they are not hearing the type of tunes for them to come in, they just not go to come in. Willie is good at that."

Inspector Willie came from musical roots. His father was Count Lasher, a well known old time calypsonian. Willie got his start selecting with the Stur-Gav back when Ranking Joe was deejaying. But his first night proved to be his last- at least, for a couple of years. That same night he played out, was the night the sound got mashed up and closed down.

Tinga Stewart outside Tuff Gong
(photo: Beth Lesser)

Ernest Wilson plays piano in Channel One in his neighborhood
(photo: Beth Lesser)
To his credit, Inspector Willie never 'mixed' on Stur-Gav. The current trend, heavily used by Gemini and almost as much by Volcano, involved dropping out the music for a beat and bring it back with a slam. Willie let the music play as it was mixed by the engineer. Unlike other selectors, Willie varied his selection greatly instead of sticking with the hits. He wasn't afraid to play artists who weren't considered cool at the time, like Beres Hammond, who, at the time, was dismissed as middle of the road, not roots enough for a dance. Or he might throw in very un-dance hall styles of music, like festival songs. He would play Tinga Stewart's 'Float a Come' or even a deejay 45 like Smiley and Michigan's 'One Love Jam Down'. He could pull out oldies like The Eternal's 'Stars' or The Mad Lad's 'Ten to One', or more current but less common selections like Hugh Griffith's 'Cool Operator' or 'I'm Coming Home', The Wailing Souls' 'Ishen Tree' or the wicked Freddie McGregor tune, 'Roman Soldiers' (produced by Niney the Observer). One of his favorite pieces was the smooth and uplifting 'Skin Up' by Ernest Wilson. Another was the Meditations' 'Turn Me Loose'. Willie liked to vary it up so that no two nights were the same.

Stur-Gav could hold its ground in U Roy's home turf. But when it first came back on the road, I Roy started trying to muscle in with his Turbotronic sound. "U Roy is more strict with his sound and wouldn't, say, give you a date unless you pay down some money," Willie explained. "Well, after a time now, is like the people couldn't keep up to it, so I Roy come around and start giving people date for no money. So, him start saying him control the area. The people he was giving free dates say him sound was better than U Roy's sound. They was just, like, boosting him up. So they say, alright, since its better, we gonna have a competition. So we had a competition one night at 5 Southgate Plaza. It was the new Stur-Gav's first competitive outing." When the dance got hot, Willie pulled out his unlikely secret weapon, a dubplate of the Meditation's song, Enemy, (a song he claimed, at the time "no one wanted to hear") and, "from I put it on, pure noise! Boy, I Roy cried that night!"
Willie stood out as a selector because he didn't follow trends. As Josie states in his lyrics, "Stur-Gav don't rewind". You didn't hear a lot of 'haul and pull up' on the sound. Just music, cool and steady. The continuity created a smooth, flowing vibe that could be very intense but never out of control. Willie played according to his own tastes, which ranged from the hottest dubplates to oldies like 'Evening News' and 'Clarendon Rock'. Phillip Fraser was one of his favorite artists and Willie gave his material a lot of play, songs like 'Blood of the Saints' and 'When I Run Out'. Phillip later credited his exposure on Stur-Gav as giving him the boost he needed in the early 80's, when he was trying to get his career back on track. Willie would play 'Please Stay', on the Johnny Dollar Rhythm, to which Josie would chant, "Everything gone electric". From there, Willie would go into his special dubplate of 'Goodbye My Love', on the Live and Love rhythm, and then into Phillip's dance hall classic, his rendition of the Manhattan's 'Shining Star'. Willie made Phillip one of the biggest dance hall singers of the early '80's.

Phillip's style, with the vibrato at the end of each phrase, seemed to inspire the deejays duo. Many of the Josie's greatest hits arose in response to Phillip Fraser selections. Josie commented, "Phillip was my artist, and a friend, and then the songs that he sing really touched me. Like one called "Special Request to the Manhattans", 'Come on baby, Let me dance, we never danced to a love song. Come on Baby' - on the Hi Fashion [rhythm]. Those songs- it was the joy of my life. I live to go to the dance, just to be on those versions. It gave me a high there, a high like where you feel extra fit, to the utmost. Words cannot express that feeling. And you lost yourself in the music and you skank your life away."

Phillip can remember the way he and Josie interacted musically like when Josie came up with his lyrics, Leggo Mi Hand. "It was over one of my songs," Phillip commented. "'Girl I love you and I don't want you to leave me please stay…'" Willie was selecting and, as usual, playing the Phillip Fraser, 'Please Stay', "Josie is at the mic and he haf' fe find something to say," Phillip continues. "That's when he came up with, 'Leggo mi hand gateman, make me come in...' Also, every time I sing Never Let Go, Josie would do [his lyrics] 'Kingston Hot'. Phillip was so well loved by Stur-Gav that he was often invited to sing live, although he was much more a recording singer than a dance hall artist.
In the 70's, Greenwich Farm had been one of the most active music neighborhoods. After all, reggae Don Bunny Lee lived "up at the top" on West Avenue. So, all the singers would pass through to check him - John Holt, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson. Situated right next to Trenchtown, the other great birthplace of musicians in Kingston, Greenwich Farm was a little pocket of intense creativity. "Greenwich Farm was one of the nicest area as a ghetto community. It was a residential area. We have seaside, we have the best herb, All the singers used to go there," Phillip reminisced. [Phillip also had an illustrious father, the dancer Sparky of the duo Sparky and Pluggy who performed at various venues around Jamaica and on the Vere John's Opportunity Hour stage show. Close as brothers from childhood, Sparky and Pluggy grew together in Greenwich Town. Sparky started out dancing with a man name Gandi, Gandi being the other half of the duo named Sparky and Pluggy. When Gandi left to go to a trade school, John Peck (Pluggy Satchmo) filled in and the duo returned to the stage. Eventually, Sparky relocated in the UK and Pluggy teamed up with female dancer Beryl McGar and continued performing their "swing tempo" routine until the two immigrated to Canada in the late 60's.] In addition, they had Earl Chinna Smith's Soul Syndicate Band, who provided the backing for many of the roots classics that were recorded by local artists.

Phillip Fraser in his neighborhood
(photo: Beth Lesser)
Phillip grew up in Greenwich Farm as one of the last generation of singers in Jamaica to learn their trade accompanied by live musicians rather than recorded tracks. Phillip's generation included singers like Sammy Dread, Earl Zero, Michael Prophet, and Rod Taylor, singers who later became popular in the dance but who started out accompanied by acoustic instruments.

"We were practicing with Earl Chinna Smith and Earl Zero- fishing line and sardine pan to make guitar - that how they made the guitar - and we would sit down and play. And then we took it from there and the Soul Syndicate band was formed- in the same place, Greenwich Town. Then we started recording with Soul Syndicate. We would go to rehearsal at 9th street and then we would go into the studio."

Desperate for the opportunity to practice, even when there wasn't anyone around with an instrument, the youngsters would go to the closest bar and sing along to the music on the jukebox. Phillip recalls how they would, "Punch in the version and sing. That was before I was singing on sounds. Punch the version in on the jukebox and sing on it."

Sammy Dread was always there with them, "It's like Phillip Fraser is one of my best friends. Me and him grow up together, spar together. We used to go to the juke box because you used to have the vocal and the version. A lot of us used to go to the bar. We used to compete - me, Phillip Fraser, Michael Prophet, Peter Ranking, General Lucky. And you know [in] Jamaica, people used to be drinking the white rum, Heineken. They would be drinking and then somebody would come in and punch the jukebox and punch the version of the music and everybody used to take it up. Whoever sound good, get that praise for that day. That's how we used to do it."

Neighborhood producer Bertram Brown released Phillip Frazer's first LP, Come Ethiopians Come, backed by the Soul Syndicate on his Freedom Sounds label in 1978. The Freedom Sounds style was strictly roots. The Soul Syndicate provided deep, complex, moving rhythms to back singers like Phillip, Earl Zero and Prince Allah. The tone was serious culture but the music was fluid and melodic.

When Freedom Sounds folded, after trouble with a bogus label with the same name in the UK that was pirating their records, the territory was taken over by Don Mais, also a native of the area, and his Roots Tradition label. The Soul Syndicate band had morphed into High Times, but Chinna Smith was still at the helm. With Don Mais, Phillip recorded Never Let Go, the beginning of his passion for doing over the songs of his long time hero, rock steady singer, Greenwich Farm's own local star, Slim Smith.

"Slim Smith never really teach me," Phillip recalls, "He was an elder in Greenwich farm. His baby mother was a friend of mine and her brother used to stay in the same yard. I used to love him. I used to admire him for his voice. If you notice, his songs were my biggest songs - "I will never let go" - cause people didn't know that song until I did it on 45. I record it over and then people realize it's a Studio One. Also Watch This Sound. He was my idol."

While Phillip loved Slim Smith's smooth, malleable, soulful vocals, he also felt for his pain. Slim Smith was one of the long list of great Jamaican artists who succumbed to mental illness. "This business now, it's not an easy thing', Phillip lamented in 1986, "It's a very bad thing. You have to have your head pon your body. You can't let them rob you and you just go mad and stop sing. You have to just gwan and take the robbery and gwan sing the same way."

Phillip claimed his independence around 1992 and began producing for his own Razor Sound label. 'The music business has always been hard because it's like a mafia thing. People don't want no one to reach to the top. That's why right now I have my own thing going. I have my own label, my own distribution, everything." He works with a "whole heap of artists- Al Campbell, myself, Candy Man, Tristan Palma. I recorded Michael Palmer, Wayne Smith, Tony Tuff, Sugar Minott, The Meditations. Also my son, Ras Frazor Jr. I put out an album with him- Philip Fraser and Son, Roots Man Time."
By the time Stur-Gav left for its New York tour in 1984, both Josie and Charlie were showing signs of being too big to be contained in one local sound. They were performing on major Jamaican stage shows, along with superstar Yellowman, as the three top deejays (often joined by the forth, Brigadier Jerry). Both were beginning to kick up and assert their freedom, often appearing on other sounds. In 1984, Stur-Gav peaked. The tour abroad was the culmination of Josie and Charlie's organic development as a team and the beginning of each one's independent star status. When Stur-Gav returned home in 1985, Josie and Charlie were gone and the main deejay was Principal Grundy, formerly Jah Grundy. The audiences started fading away and other sounds, like Kilimanjaro and Stur-Mars took over.

Principle Grundy gets down to earth
(photo: Beth Lesser)
During its short reign, Stur-Gav had been unique in maintaining a vital balance between professionalism and street credibility. Despite the rough necks, the gun salutes, the posses, Stur-Gav maintained a quiet dignity, an air of pure professionalism. As Chaplin explained at the time, "Stur-Gav, it no 'just come up' - like most of these sound. U Roy have a following from him deejay King Tubby's and he go through the struggle."

Eventually Josie and Charlie did come back to the set. But, by that time, both men had outgrown the sound system. They were touring internationally and doing stage shows. After that, the sound would disappear and re-emerge periodically. U Roy never gave up as he loved being in the business and saw it as his true profession.

Today, Stur-Gav sound is still up and running. Although the sound still plays in Jamaica, most of the demand is abroad, and U Roy spends a substantial portion of his year touring. "We only play one type of music," He asserts. "We strictly play rub-a-dub. We don't come out of that range. We no cross over no bridge, no boarder, no nothing. Strictly rub-a-dub music. Whoever hear my sound, and expect to hear a soft music or a calypso- don't expect to hear that. Those thing will stay at my house (because I listen to every different type of singer). But when it comes to my sound, my sound play just one type of music- rub-a-dub. You hear the vocals, you play the version- this is how we deal with it. I don't plan to change that style. Whenever people refuse to hear that style, I know exactly what to do, put my sound down. Yea. When people stop wan' hear that style whe' my sound play, my sound put down."

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Article: Beth Lesser
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