When it comes to the early dancehall era of the 1980's there is a lot of talent to look at. The Roots Radics was the backbone of some of the most crucial recordings ever in Jamaican music with producers like the late Henry 'Junjo' Lawes and Linval Thompson taking over the hit making throne from people like Bunny Lee and Joe Gibbs the previous decade. A few of them came from foreign, Johnny Osbourne split from his Canadian band and returned to Jamaica, for example, and cut a superb album for Coxson. We all know what became of that. We also know what happened to Willi Williams when he returned from Canada to record with Coxson Dodd in JA, there the 'Armagideon Time' was born. Wayne Jarrett was another one, born and grown in Jamaica but settled in the United States since the seventies. He had done recordings in New York for the Wackies stable but returned to Jamaica on and off, recording the great 'Satta Dread' for Robbie Shakespeare, and hit big with producers Junjo and Jah Life, 'Saturday Night Jamboree' was one big song in 1982 making the charts, and 'Chip In', the album, did well in England at the time. But he has been quiet for the past twenty years, only recently moving in the company of people like Ranking Joe, he cut a version of Horace Andy's 'Money Money' classic some years back, his long time spar and main vocal influence. That was the last record, but I'm positive it is a lot more to come from this singer. My thanks to Wayne and family, Carlton Livingston, Donovan Phillips, Russ Bell Brown, and Steve Barrow.


Q: Where did you grow up, in the countryside or in Kingston?

A: Well, I grew up in Kingston, yunno. I was born in Kingston and actually grow up in Allman Town, Allman Town, Roachford Park (?). Then I moved uptown when my mother came to the States.

Q: Mid fifties.

A: Well yeah, I'm born in the mid fifties, 1956. I left Jamaica when I was seventeen years old. I didn't know anything about... well, I had a little voice then, 'cause I actually sing in a choir. My teacher forced me to sing in a choir, I didn't even know I was singin' so good (chuckles).

Q: 'Forced' you (chuckles)?

A: Well, she... I didn't want to do it (laughs)! You know, a lickle young yout' an' t'ing, you don't want to sing in a choir. That was my thing at the time as a youth growing up in Jamaica. But born in Kingston, I leave Jamaica when I was seventeen year old, moved to the States, y'know.

Q: How come? Your parents landed a job over there.

A: As a youth, your parents get a break fe come to America, and you just want fe send for your kids, them could come to America and have a better life.

Q: Of course.

A: It's not all of us in Jamaica have it good, yunno (laughs)! Y'know what I mean, not all of us.

Q: I know.

A: So they come away and get a lickle break and send for them kids, that's what my mother did. It was seven of us.

Q: Ouch, seven kids.

A: Yep, she only did it, man. And when I came to the States I went to Connecticut, Hartford. That was my little 'country' (chuckles). Didn't born in the country in Jamaica, but came to America and went to the country, y'know, which was alright, kinda keep me out of the environment. 'Cause, in Jamaica you mostly get kinda picked in the politics t'ing, yunno. That was one of the main reasons why she sent for me.

Q: To keep you away from getting 'too involved', like.

A: Yes, I wouldn't get too much inna the badness t'ing, although I get a little taste of it growing up, y'know how it go. Born inna the ghetto you haffe... you have to be rough an' tough, boss. The lickle young yout' them whe live around you, you don't want to get mixed in with them. So, socialize with them is kinda wha' 'appen, end up sick with the police them, 'cause they don't care. But when as a yout' in Jamaica I was always 'natty dread' still, yunno. Growing up being a Rastafari kid, and I have fe cut off my dread when coming to America.

Q: Oh, so you were dread even in the early part of the seventies?

A: Eh? Yeah, I was there, that was early, early seventies around when I knot up, knot up me hair an' t'ing. 'Cause, move like I say, live 'round Rastafarians, a Rastafarian elder there always reasoning with you as a yout', an' show you certain lickle t'ings 'bout Selassie I an' t'ing, y'know. I accept, I accepted it. So when I come to the States, your parents always a fight that, my parents couldn't get it, 'cause I had to cut my hair. But cuttin' your hair is only hair, meanin' it was a heartical t'ing, yunno.

Horace Andy (Photo: David Corio)
www.davidcorio.com
Q: Did you get to know Horace (Andy) from the same neighborhood down in Jamaica before you migrated, or how did that friendship evolve?

A: Yeah, Allman Town (laughs)! Allman Town, yunno, we met there.

Q: He grew up there?

A: Well, I never really get into those details with Horace Andy regarding where him grow, yunno, or born an' grow. But I know that is a fe we link up an' know each other in Allman Town, and Horace Andy used to walk with him guitar an' always a play him guitar. Sometimes when I say to him seh, "Brethren, you can play da guitar deh good, man, 'cause I always see you with guitar" (laughs)! Actually that's how we start talk. That was at Race Course, y'know Race Course is like, I think them name it Heroes Circle now, yunno, with Paul Bogle an' all them, where Marcus Garvey an' all them heroes bury.

Q: Right, Heroes Park.

A: Heroes... well, Heroes Circle was change to Heroes Park now, 'cause it's actually a park, where kids going to and play, y'know what I'm saying. 'Cause I used to play (there) as a kid growing up. Yeah man, Horace Andy was very cool. You know, we kinda get to know each other. Him used to come to my yard and sit down and read comics and exchange comics in them days, y'know. Comics was actually like a cartoon book, with Batman and Superman and all (laughs)... we used to read as a yout'.

Q: (Laughs)

A: Cartoon stuff, y'know, 'cause we was kids (chuckles). Horace was actually older than me still, but wasn't that much older.

Q: Apart from singing in the church choir, you never had a stint in a vocal group around the corner, like?

A: No, I didn't start sing in Jamaica, y'know. Like I say, I did the choir t'ing, I was young, but when I came to America I was seventeen years old, so I was probably about seven to twelve years old when I did that. So I was miles from music, y'know what I'm saying, was far from music. I left to the States a couple of years after and be able to have a lickle part-time job and go to school. And I start to buy a lickle amps and a turntable and a lickle-lickle mic, yunno, start buy me record an' play them an' just a mess 'round on the mic, realised I sound alright coming through the mic (laughs). That's when I start to be impressed with my voice. You know, I don't know if it was the mic doing it or what, but it sounded good to me coming through the mic. And then, a brethren them would say to me that - one of my family said, well, "Bwoy, yu sound good, yunno! Mek a tape". I start tape meself an' I start feel impressed with myself, for some reason I don't sound bad. And, like, couple friends would ask me fe make a tape for them, and I make a tape for myself and I make it for them. A couple lyrics sometime, the lyrics come to me and I might just... I don't really write, I didn't write nutten then. I didn't go and say I'm a writer (chuckles). I just make a idea out of me mind and sing and put together, a freestyle, them kinda freestyle, right.

Q: Improvise.

A: Mmm, yeah, that was basically it at the time.

Q: What was the reggae scene like in Connecticut back in those days?

A: It was...

Q: Small.

A: It was slow, man, y'know wha' I mean. People love it, the people them was more old fashioned, the people was older people, country. You know, it's like you have people there that keep them lickle t'ing, an' it wasn't that much club. It wasn't no studio at the time that I know of, no reggae studio.

Q: It was more based on blues dances, basement parties.

A: Eh? Right, right, older people them. And then them would keep a stage show now and then, was the regular artists them, y'know what I'm saying. And as times goes by, t'ings kinda change, different people move in a the place, younger people start change all them t'ings. I kinda remember they had a West Indian club, the American-West Indian Social Club, y'know, an' it was pure old people them a run the place! And when we go deh and step in as - like I say I started to knotty again, yunno, when I came here, and it's like them used to give we a fight, bwoy! I tell you, man, them woulda act like they never see Rasta people before. When you go to New York and you go to the clubs them it's like it's nutten. You know, I used to always tell the folks, "Look, we live in the community and being a part of the community while we can't be a part of the West Indian clubs and we're Jamaican", y'know what I'm saying?

Q: Yep.

A: And always a sow them with them lyrics, with those lyrics (chuckles), till gradually, gradually over the years you have more younger people start get involved and be member, mek members of the club an' them t'ings just change, slowly.

Q: From that period, you were the only one from Connecticut who made a serious attempt at recording, or you had other people from that area who made some kind of name later on?

A: But you know, when I did... Connecticut, like, I didn't do my recording in Connecticut, yunno.

Q: No, naturally, that was in New York, but I was thinking of the local scene in general, if there was anyone else of interest at the time?

A: Local scene... well, Horace Andy moved to Connecticut (chuckles).

Q: I think I've heard something similar, yes. When?

A: Horace Andy later on, I think that was in the late seventies, early eighties, I can't remember quite well 'cause the memory is going, Horace moved back too - well, not moved back, him moved to Hartford and we link up again (laughs). I think him came there, he came there at the time and did a show, him and John Holt them and a lot of older guys, and that's how we link up in Connecticut. Make myself available to make him know that I live here now, I'm in the area. Yeah, at the time him know some guys that had a record shop up there, Sporty, the main man that was keeping all the stage shows in the area.

Q: King Sporty?

A: Yeah, King Sporty, you've heard of him (chuckles)?

Q: I think Sporty was a deejay in Jamaica, did some early deejay tracks, like late sixties. Later on he wrote 'Buffalo Soldier' too.

A: You serious?

Q: Yeah.

A: OK, never heard that.

Q: I believe he's still married to this soul singer, Betty Wright (of 'Clean Up Woman' fame). You know of her?

A: Yes.

Q: I believe he's working out of Miami now.

A: Well, I'm hoping it's the same guy, 'cause I think them call him 'King Sporty' the same for real, yunno (chuckles). He was there in Connecticut, had a record shop. But I know him had moved to Miami for quite some time, and the last time I went back to Conneticut, 'cause I go there every year and meet my family, 'cause my mother still live there, and I saw him up there, man. He moved back to Hartford, Connecticut. Even though compared to the eighties, sometimes in the eighties...
Q: Or the seventies.

A: Or seventies, right, it's much more livlier (chuckles). Yeah man, so that was basically Horace Andy and me that I can remember at the time. You had some lickle other guys that seh them can sing, that would form with us when we do anyt'ing up in that area, yeah. Then Horace Andy moved away, him got married to a friend of mine, and end up leaving later on. But I did my recording, a friend of mine took me to New York and - it wasn't really a friend as friend, but I used to buy records out of him record shop, named Belltone. And him is the one who say him know someone that gwaan tek me to - he keep saying that and don't do it, though finally one day he say come make we run to New York. And that's when I went to New York with him and link up with Bullwackie. And the first song I did with Bullwackie was 'African Woman'.

Q: What year could that have been?

A: That was late seventies, I can't pinpoint the exact date. But late seventies, early eighties. It had to be, because I came to America '73, so...

Q: But was that actually your first ever recording, that one for Wackie? I mean, you did a tune called 'Satta Dread' back in Jamaica, which I suspect was earlier than that one.

A: That was after.

Q: Was that really after? OK.

A: The first song that I did for Bullwackie was a song named 'African Woman', most people probably don't even know it. 'African Woman', first time in the studio I was like frightened at the mic (chuckles), I'm a shy person, yunno. And all of a sudden I going fe do somet'ing I want to do for the longest and going to the studio and just freeze up, y'know, 'cause there was so much people. And I perform good when I'm behind doors, locked up singin'. That's why I used to love Tubby's studio. You used to be in one lickle room by yourself an' sing your tune them, yunno.

Q: Right, a tiny little booth for voicing.

A: (Chuckles) And that's how we did it at Tubby's studio. But Bullwackie, first song was 'African Woman'. Then I backed off. At that time I had family so it was like I had to go and do what I had to do and come back real fast and care for my little daughter, y'know. So that was Wackie, and then...

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