Winston Grennan is one of the master drummers of Jamaica. His new band is the Ska Rocks Band. They have just released a CD in America called 'Wash Over Gold' on Skegway Records. Carter Van Pelt from '400 Years' reggae magazine thought it was time that Winston told his story - Here it is... Thanks to Nan Lewis, Entertainment Works, for making this interview possible. (The original can be found in the (out of print) "More Axe 8: Mud Cannot Settle Without Water".)

CVP = Carter Van Pelt
WG = Winston Grennan
WG: I made my own drum because in the beginning I started to play on my mother's plates and pans. I was breaking them up, and she didn't like that, so I moved from the pots and the pans to the condensed milk can, and butter pan. I gather them and make myself a nice drum set, out of cans. I started playing that, banging that. Eventually even that started to bother her, she didn't want that, but what she really didn't want was for me to be involved with the music. She was trying to stop it, but I was defusing it all the time.

I moved from that, I was playing in the yard. Then she grabbed them up (the cans) and threw them out. So I decided to make myself a set out of something really good. Then my brother cut down this tree, called a cotton tree, and we cut it down and we divide it up, this big tree into about five pieces, and we started to dig them out, using a chisel and hammer. Then we got goatskins, clean up the skin, put it on the drum and tune them up, set them up and try them out. I didn't want to do it when my mother was around because I know she would break them up. So I waited until she went to the market. She went to the market every Saturday, and I waited till she's gone, and then me and my brother started to jam in the back yard, and the place was packed with people.

Someone must have told her what was going on. So one Saturday, she decided to play a trick. So she leave like she was going to this market. We set up, and was jamming, and in the middle of this jamming, here comes mum. We was charging these people to come in and listen to us. So she started to chase everybody out of the yard, and they had to get out. She wanted to break my drums and throw them out. I said "No you can't do that. You've broke up everything already, and I've spent time on this set." So she kinda save it, but in reality she just wanted me to pay attention to my books. I think I was a very good scholar in school, but Jamaican parents really want their kids to get the best of education, blah blah blah. So I decided to stop playing the drums for a while to satisfy her. So I kinda put them away. I started going to school, and dealing with school.

All of my uncles they play music. They had a band. I have six uncles, Chris Scott, Jeffery Scott, Danny Scott, Lowlyn Scott, Ossie Scott and one more. I forget.

Winston Grennan
CVP: When was this?

WG: This was in the fifties. In Kingston. When I was a little boy. I was like watching them in the fifties. So I figure it was about '55/56. In that period I was really following them around.

CVP: And they played what kind of music?

WG: They played boogie woogie. This was before any kind of music develop in Jamaica. They did this for a while, and was playing with a saxophone player named Val Bennett, and also one of my uncles was pals with Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook and Lester Sterling. See my uncle he used to teach. I remember when I was a boy I used to spend time with him at the holidays. I remember seeing him with blackboard and chalk, writing down music notes, and all these guys would be blowing and doing their thing.

As a little youth I was just watching and studying everything. After that period I decided, you know... I quit college, and that really upset her, so she threw my stuff out, and threw me out of the house. So I was on my own now, and I was sixteen/seventeen. So I decided to go to Kingston to see if I could find some work. I have a friend who work on a bus, and I ask him if he could give me a lift to the city. I didn't have no money. So he told me yes, and I get my things ready, and the next morning I hop on the bus, and get into town. I was hanging out with my friend who was living by D'Aguilar Road, out by Rockfort, near to the hills where Count Ossie used to have their place.

CVP: By this time, did you have any influence from the Nyahbingi drummers?

WG: Well yeah, that's how I get in touch with the Nyahbingi thing. Count Ossie, used to live up on the hills. Where I was living wasn't far from there. It was at the foot of the hills. Wareika Hills I go up there, and I used to run into Count Ossie, Bongo Herman and a next guy named Suner. That was when Roland, and a couple of other guys used to come there and join them.

Count Ossie


Lord Tanamo
CVP: So the Skatalites used to spend a lot of time with Count Ossie and the Rastas?

WG: They weren't Skatalites at the time.

CVP: But the people who became the Skatalites?

WG: Yes, some of them. From there you have this guy called Lord Tanamo, and he got together with Lloyd Brevett, and this was the beginning of the Skatalites, this was how they was going to get together. So Brevett and Tanamo they started jamming together until... Their drummer at the time was a guy named Wacky Aston. Aston Henry is his real name. So in the course of that time. I was just like trying to play, real drums now. But I was like under cover, because through I wasn't sure of myself, I didn't want to show myself up to much. So I played with a gentleman name Trenton Spence, but the thing with Trenton Spence, when you play with him, you would hire the drums from him. So everytime that I play, as soon I got my money, half of my money had to go to pay for the drums.

CVP: You're talking about stage shows, not studio work.

WG: Well this was like playing a tiny little bar. So then I said, well I don't think I want to pay for playing the drums. So I went to this gentleman Mr. Myers. He was a saxophone player, but he was also renting the drums. So then I said that's it. So I broke off with the music, because I didn't know if I was going to be a real drummer or not, I was just testing out these people. Then I went to another guy named Raymond Harper, who blows trumpet, and Carl Masters who blows trombone, but I didn't have no drum. So when I was with these guys I just used to knock on a little conga or something like that. I stopped then, and got into Boxing. I needed some money to buy a good drum set.

CVP: Into boxing!

WG: Yeah, When I was in school, you have different sports, Long Run, Boxing, High Jump. I was good at the Boxing. I went to a gym, out at Rockfort Road. I was hanging out there, and a gentleman by the name of Scotty ask me, "Do you like to box?, I could train you." So I said yes, and we became friends. He took me by his place, over at Seven Mile. He had a beach, and we train, and train. I was really up for this, I was really excited about it. He then took me over to fight in Belize. Most of my fights were in Belize, Mexico and Guatemala.

Winston Grennan

Winston Grennan
CVP: Was that a good living, Boxing in the Caribbean?

WG: Well, in Jamaica you have to do whatever you have to do to make some money.

CVP: I suppose you made more money, the more people, you knocked out.

WG: Well I made some money, it wasn't a lot, like what is going on now. But I made enough money to buy me a drum set. I ended up stop Boxing after 32 fights, and I was undefeated. They wanted me to move up into an heavier weight, and I said no I'm going back into music. I'm not going to fight anymore. The thing is, no one in Jamaica, know that I boxed. This was very quiet, and I keep it like that. One or two guys might know, my family didn't know. If they knew, they would have disowned me.

CVP: They thought that was worse than being a musician?

WG: Right, the whole thing with my mother, was that she didn't want me... she wanted me to be a doctor. I couldn't see that, because I know from a little boy that I wanted to play drums. It was in my mind all the way through, but instead of letting my mother know, which she would get crazy about, I just hide everything. I came out of Boxing, without no cuts or anything, a clean face.

CVP: What age were you, by this time?

WG: I was like eighteen or nineteen.

CVP: What year was this?

WG: This was actually 1959, 1960.
CVP: What was happening musically then?

WG: What was going on then, then was blues, boogie woogie, lots of Elvis Presley, lots of Paul Anka, Louie Prima, um the one from New Orleans... Satchmo. Them kinda things. We listened to a lot of Spanish radio stations as well. In Jamaica you could get Cuban stations, a lot of stations from Miami. When it really started though when everything was really getting the swing was in 1963.

CVP: Ah, how about... What about the recording of 'Oh Carolina'?

WG: What about it?

CVP: That was a bit earlier. Was it popular?

WG: It was popular, but what happens in Jamaica sometimes is that when these guys cut records, they make a test disc, and give it to sound system to play. Then they rush it off to England, it get a lot of play in Jamaica. You see I wasn't in the studio when those tunes were recorded.

CVP: So you had given up Boxing, and had bought a drum kit.

WG: I had heard about this band called Bim and Bam. They used to do plays. Like soap opera kind of thing.

Bim & Bam
CVP: Like Vaudeville?

WG: Yeah. So I go by his place. I chat with him, cause he know my uncle. He said yes, and he gave me a script. Then we did a next one called 'The White Witch Of Rosehall'.

CVP: That place near Montego Bay?

WG: Right. So I was in those plays, and then I run into Bobby Aitkin, and Bobby Aitkin have a band called the Carib Beats. A nice little band, and that band back up Bim And Bam. My part in the band... Bobby wanted me to play keyboards. He was looking for a keyboard player. So I said well I could play the keyboards, because when the band played, I wasn't acting then. So I started playing the keyboards. Then Bobby say "You want a job". I said "Sure." So I became the keyboard player for the Carib Beats. When the Bim And Bam had finished, we had a gig to play at Mandeville in a school. We all went, and the drummer didn't show up. The good thing was, that the guy sent his drum kit on before. I never found out why he couldn't make it. When we got to the school, we wait and wait and wait, no drummer, and everyone started to panic. So I said to Bobby, I could play the drums. He laughed at me. They didn't know I knew drumming, because I didn't tell them anything.

So they said, "No man you can't play the drums". I said "Yeah", so they said "Try to play." I said to them I didn't know how to set it, and asked them to help me set it up. Which they did. I didn't have no sticks, so I borrow a knife, and cut a nice branch from off a guava tree. I shape out two pairs of sticks. Then I came back, and said I'm ready. So they started to laugh. So we set up the drums, and get everything set up, mic up everything. We got ready, and he started to count. When I finished the show, Bobby say to me you're a good keyboard player, but you stick to the drums. From there on, that was it. I felt great, I was a full member of the Carib Beats.

CVP: Had the Carib beats been in the studio, by that time?

WG: That came next. We was practicing and practicing and getting things together. We was practicing at 25 Galloway Road, between Maxfield Avenue and Waltham Park Road. Then Ansel Collins started to visit us now, and through we didn't have a keyboard player I said "Would you like to play keyboards?". He said "I would like to play drums." I said "You don't know drumming, there's a keyboard there, we need a keyboardist." So he started to play the keyboards. But he was new, and didn't mind that I was teaching him to play. I said "Cool." So we sit and exchanged things. Then he started to play this tiny little organ. Bobby got a bigger one later. It was then that we went to the studio to record. We went to Federal. At that time Federal was one little room, I would say 10x10. All the singers, would have to wait outside until their time had come, it was so small, you could not all fit in there.

Bobby Aitken

Ansel Collins
CVP: The recording was two track?

WG: A tiny two track reel to reel machine, one mic in the middle of the room, everybody surround the mic, all the musicians, that's how we used to record. So anyway we go and record some tunes, and put them on wax. We take them to record shop, and people start to play them. Everybody start to hear it and Bunny Lee come by, and decided he want us. At the same time we was doing some work for Jet Star, Mr Palmer. So we do a lot of recording for him too.

CVP: So the Jet Star company goes back that far?

WG: Oh yeah, Mr Palmer, he was there, under cover doing the work. So most time when a guy cut a tune the next day, Mr Palmer he caught himself a plane to England. After a while I ended up playing with a guitarist by the name of Ronny Bop, and we ended up doing some work for Palmer too.

CVP: In Jamaica was this stuff released on the Federal label?

WG: Some stuff was released on Federal, but most of the stuff that was done for Palmer went to England. Everything they do went to England. It mostly come out on the Jet Star label (then known as Pama Records). You understand?

CVP: Yeah.

WG: Then I started singing. I sing for Mr Pottinger, Duke Reid and Coxsone.

CVP: How many vocal tunes did you record?

WG: I recorded three albums. About 30 songs or more for different people.

CVP: And on the record, would the name say Winston Grennan?

WG: No, Winston Richards.

CVP: Richards? Is that your real name?

WG: Well I went to school under the Richards name. My stepfather was Richards, so I went to school under his name. It was only when I travel, and I went for my passport, that's when I realized my name was Grennan. All the while I was recording under Richards. The person to talk to about this is Roger Dalke in England
CVP: What time was this now, mid sixties, late sixties?

WG: Let me see, it was about '64. It was about the time that the Skatalites just form. They formed about '64/'65, when they started to play.

CVP: Did they get their start working for Coxone?

WG: They worked for different people.

CVP: They were on the Wailers original cuts.

WG: Yeah, they recorded the Wailers originals cuts.

CVP: So that was '63.

WG: I think it was '64. I start singing before Bob and Toots. It way after that Bob and Toots come in. Actually me and Jimmy Cliff started about the same time. The reason I stop singing was because I realized that you sing, and you don't get no money, and everyday that you go to the shop, they tell you "Bwoy this track don't sell", and so on. So I just give that up. I used to sing with a girl, then the girl go leave and go to England. After that I just concentrate on sessions seriously. I then started to record with Coxsone, Duke Reid and Mr Pottinger, Bunny Lee. After a while Bobby Aitken get moving in another direction. He was getting into the church, and all of that. So me and the bass player, his name is Vincent White, we call him Bassie, and he's really inventive, like Family Man. I used to like to watch that guy play a lot. I've never seen that guy get a credit.

CVP: On albums, does he get credited as Vincent White or Bassie or does he never get credited?

WG: His name never show up. We played together on so many cuts. He cuts loads of hit records, and his name is not out there. I'm trying to get the record straight. Some of these artists, when they do interviews, all they want to do is to take all the credit. They don't give credit to the people who help them get into the business. There are lots of people who I help get into the business, like Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear. Robbie spoke of me, but Sly's never give me any credit. I saw your interview with Sly, in '400 Years', and I laughed my head off. Sly's memory is now that bad, that he's forgotten all the things that I done for him in Jamaica. He said that Ansel Collins teach him the drums, but if Ansel Collins teach him drums, where did Ansel Collins get the drumming from? It had to come from somewhere because Ansel Collins wasn't a drummer. I showed Ansel Collins how to play at 26 Galloway Road.

Sly Dunbar

Robbie Shakespeare
CVP: What was 26 Galloway Road?

WG: That's where Bobby Aitken live, and that's where we rehearse, and when the Carib Beats were rehearsing all the musicians from left, right and center, would come to listen to us.

CVP: What part of Kingston is that?

WG: It's between Waltham Park Road and Maxfield Avenue.

CVP: I would say that regarding Sly, I don't think Sly meant to disrespect you Winston. If I talk to him again, I would mention what you said to him. Sly, when I spoke to him, would think and think, and try to remember things, and I could tell he was trying to remember, and he just couldn't remember.

WG: So are you trying to tell me... I will tell you something, he should remember. When I was leaving Jamaica...

CVP: I only had 20 minutes to speak to Sly. He went over his history quickly.

WG: I'm just curious, when I was leaving Jamaica. I had Sly traveling around with me from studio to studio, and if Denzil Laing was alive you could ask him, and he would tell you. I would have Sly, showing him, how and what, and when to play! So he could play, who I was playing with. Jackie, Hux, and Gladdy. He should have remember that. When I get to the United States, Jackie, called me up and tell me I have to come back. I had only been here 3 days. I said, "For why?" He said "Boy, Sly can't handle the job, he can't cut it." I said "Well, if he can't cut it, find another drummer 'cause I ain't coming back." Then after a few days, Byron Lee called me. He said "You gone, and left me record half finished." I said "Well I didn't have to tell you I was leaving." He said "Well, you haffe to come back. No one can fit in, and the guys are talking about breaking up." "Well if they break up, they break up. I'm not coming back." So I know at least Sly would have remembered that. I think it's too embarrassing that it couldn't fit into the gig, and that they had to duck him out of it. The band break up, because of this. They couldn't find a drummer to keep up.

CVP: This group was the Dynamic All-Stars?

WG: Yes, the All-Stars. This group do lots of work in Jamaica, and consists of myself, Jackie Jackson on bass, Hux Brown on guitar, Lynn Tait on lead guitar, Ronnie Bop on rhythm guitar, Denzil Laing on percussion, Winston Wright on organ, and Gladstone Anderson on piano. Every so often Boris Gardiner would sit in as well, on bass, when Jackie couldn't make a thing. Larry McDonald on percussion, Bobby Aitken on guitar. These were the people. After these people, the Skatalites horn section would come along to blow on them. So lots of tunes, you think are the Skatalites, they are not the Skatalites. It's the All-stars. There is a club called 'Tit For Tat'. Well the guy who owned it wanted me to go and play there, he went to Miami and brought a new drum set, and wanted me tune the drum set up.

Jackie Jackson

Hux Brown
CVP: You're talking about Dickie Wong?

WG: That's right. "I will come and tune the set, but I will not play in the club. But I know a guy who'll come and play, and sit there day and night for you. A little youth named Sly Dunbar." At that time I loaned Sly a little white 'Rogers' drum set. I loaned it to Sly to practice. When I heard about Dicky Wong now, I told Ansel to tell Sly, that this guy is going to check him. That is how Sly got the connection up at that place. Me and Jackie Mittoo, used to play there on a Friday night, if we feel like it. Me and Jackie would get together with a bass player, and go there and play. It was then that we told him he would have to get a drum set. I didn't want to drag my set around. Sly finally got the job. There was another club called the 'Stables'. Have you ever heard of that?

CVP: Never.

WG: That was very close to 'Tit For Tat'. At the time Ranchie...

CVP: Ranchie McLean?

WG: Ranchie McLean, this was how he hooked up with Sly. All these guys used to come and watch the Carib Beats. Ansel Collins was in the band with us at the time, and still learning to play keyboards. Finally Ranchie and those guys got to go to the 'Tit For Tat' club and got to play with Sly there, and that's how that little group got started. It was called 'Skin Flesh and Bones.' At this club called 'The Stables' this guy who owned it wanted The Carib Beats to play. Bobby, asked me if I want to do it, and I said, "But only if it doesn't impede me from doing my recording sessions." He said it wouldn't. So I said "OK, let's do it." So Sly is over at the 'Tit For Tat' club, and I'm at 'The Stables'. They would always make sure they finished early, so they could come and watch us play. So all along Sly has been walking along, following me, observing me, trying to learn. So I was surprised that even in twenty minutes of interview, he never remembered that. If someone helped me, and then someone asked me about my story, the first thing I would do is mention that person's name. Not going around the corner telling people that Ansel Collins teach him drum. When he know damn well that Ansel Collins was with the Carib Beats, learning to play himself.

CVP: One of the reasons he mentioned Ansel Collins, was that the first session he played on was 'Double Barrel'.

WG: And, that's another thing. I was supposed to be on that session. The reason why I didn't play the session was that Ansel booked the session, and didn't tell me the time. When he finally told me about it, I said "No man, best thing you can do as you and Sly are on the same corner, let Sly go and play, 'cause Sly need to learn how to play in the studio." That's how Sly got to play that track. Through, Ansel is around me and Bobby Aitken he wanted us to play. After a while Ansel go off, and they ended up forming a group. Six guys in a group, who don't know that much, that's good. We ended up getting Conrad Cooper, from the Fabulous Five to play keyboards, and Grub Cooper. You know about the Fabulous Five?

CVP: I'm not sure.

WG: Well, two brothers, one's called Grub Cooper and the other Conrad. Conrad who plays keyboards, Grub plays saxophone. Why Conrad was playing with the Carib Beats was that sometimes I used to sing, sometimes when I did that. I figure I need someone who can play the drums, to play for me. This is how Ansel got to play the drums. I eventually teach Grub Cooper how to play the drum set. So he could play for me, when I sing, when he was not blowing.

Gladstone Anderson, Winston Grennon, Lynn Taitt
(c) Nan Lewis-Entertainment Works
CVP: Who were the other drummers in the Rock Steady era?

WG: Well I have some news for you now regarding Lloyd 'Tin Leg' Adams. Tin Leg was a little guy, who used to come to the same place as all these guys - 26 Galloway Road. At the time Tin Leg was no drummer. Tin Leg used to hang around me, wanted to be my friend. I always accept the little youth dem, and try to show them, when they don't know nothing. Tin Leg went up and down with us. One time I was playing Montego Bay, he wanted to come, but we had nowhere in the car to take him. You know what we ended up doing with him. We packed something in the trunk of the car, leave a space and stick him in the trunk of the car. Leave a little breathing space so he could get some fresh air. We told him to duck when we went pass Police station, so they wouldn't see him. So that's how Tin Leg get to the gig.

When we was coming back from the gig now, we had to pack more things in the trunk so there less space for him, but we got him in there. When we came back from this gig, he wanted to learn how to play drums. I started to show him, one or two things. Till one day, Tin Leg call me. Tell me say, that he wanted to borrow my drums, to practice. I had more than one set, so I said "Alright, borrow this other set of drums and go practice." By this time some guy, had a little session and wanted to drag him on it. He drag him on the session, and he didn't play the session correctly, and they ended up calling me. When I went to studio, that's when I learned it was Tin Leg playing. I said "This guy hasn't finished his craft yet, and he's trying to rush into the business." So eventually I said to him "Listen, what I'm teaching you to play, you can't go rushing off to play at session, and tell people I teach you, they will laugh at me. You can't do that." He said alright. So one day I was going... I was playing with Byron Lee's band. One Sunday I was going towards Ocho Rios to play, he used to play there every Sunday. I was supposed to play for Duke Reid on some Alton Ellis session, and this girl named Phyllis Dillion. So I asked Tin Leg to do it. "I know Duke is going to be very mad, but I have to go to Ochie with Byron Lee. I would like you to go to Duke's studio (Treasure Isle) and cover for me." I sat that guy down for about four days. There was a certain phrase that Duke Reid like, that I used to play for him, he called it 'Buda Buda'. So I showed him how to play the 'Buda Buda' beat.

CVP: What records would that be on?

WG: The records were never cut. What happened was that, when Tin Legs went to the studio, to tell Duke that I couldn't make it. Duke started to get real crazy. This was the reason I asked Tin Legs to go, you had to be real careful when your dealing with Duke. So anyway, he goes on the drum set, and the first thing that Duke ask him is "Can you play the 'Buda Buda'. Did he show you how." Tin Legs says "Yes." So they was running down this tune, he made one mistake trying to play this thing. Duke stop it, and go again. He still couldn't play it. Duke then started to get real crazy now. Duke slowly moved around the back of him, and take out his gun... bow, bow, bow. Three shot by his foot. "I want to hear Buda Buda. That's what I want to hear."

The engineer told me, that little Tin Leg piss himself up around the drum set. After that happened Duke went downstairs to get some Guinness for the band. Tin Leg asked for the bathroom. Tin Leg went to the bathroom. When Duke came back, he asked where Tin Leg was. Then Byron Smith the engineer told him, he just saw him running across the street, like fire was on his tail. I waited two days before I went back to the Studio, but Jackie had already told me what had happened. So I said to Duke "How's the session, I heard it was great." So Duke said to me "Is that your student?" I said "Yeah." He said, "I tell you what, Don't teach him anymore." I said "Why?" "I asked him to play the 'Buda Buda' and he can't play the 'Buda Buda'. I had to put three shot by his feet, to see if he could wake up. Then he ran away." The next Sunday I had to go back and play this session. So that's the story of Tin Leg.

CVP: That's more than I bargained for. Can you tell me anything about drummers like Horsemouth Wallace, Hugh Malcolm, Mickey 'Boo' Richards.

WG: All these guys, that you hear, I was their hero. Those guys follow me, some of these guys was in reformatory school, bad boy school. This is where Horsemouth Wallace learn his drum. Even so, they still did not have a pace, so they didn't get a lot of session. I was the guy who had the pace. In Ska there was Drumbago, I never had anything to do with the Ska. He was the first guy to play the Ska. He play the Ska on the right cymbal, and he hit the rim shot very hard. That was his style. Then after that you had Lloyd Knibbs come in and start to play. He had a 'ting a ling a ling' on the cymbal, that was his style. Drumbago would play steady and quiet, but Lloyd Knibbs would play and make a lot of noise. So everybody would talk about Lloyd Knibbs, but Drumbago played on a lot more sessions, because he was a lot more steadier. Lloyd used to play a lot of rolls, some people like it, and some people don't.

You had another drummer called Carl McCloud, he was a very good jazz drummer. He used to play with the Skatalites too, play a lot of the Jazz versions. You also have a drummer called Wacky. Then there was Hugh Malcolm and Paul Douglas, they came into the business in the late sixties, early seventies. Hugh Malcolm was no drummer until then. He had to go and buy and hustle some drums to go and practice. The thing with Hugh Malcolm was that he came with a style, but he always come to the studio late, and then sometimes they would play the session. He would collect the guys' money, and use it all, and no give nobody... He would collect the money and then when people would come for their money, he would say "I'm so sorry I kinda spent it." The guys would then get angry. So he slowly started to fall off the map.

I then take over real big time, everybody was calling me and not Hugh Malcolm. So Hugh Malcolm take it to hard, and started to act crazy. Walking around, looking up at the sky, and doing all kinda of foolish things. Every so often, I kinda feel sorry for him. He would sometimes come by the studio, and I would ask the guys, can I make him play one tune. To make some money, so sometimes he would play one or two tunes. To make some money, it's not his session, but that's the way I am, I always like to help others who are around me.

Horsemouth Wallace plays on some session for Studio One, but he wasn't no big time studio drummer. These guys were like fillers. If a guy come from the country, and want to do a session, and I was not available. They would get a session, same thing with Mikey 'Boo' Richards. So they was in line, watching me, following me, learning from me, trying to play my likes. All of them, I mean all of them. Santa Davis, follow me around like a baby. Watch me, try to copy, but through I was so versatile I was ahead of them.

Lloyd Knibb

Santa Davis

Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace
CVP: Which one of them do you think had the most creative talent?

WG: Through I leave there so long, I don't know. When I was there everyone was at the same wavelength.

CVP: I was just wondering what your perspective was from the time.

WG: Remember, what most of them have recorded, is stuff we do, that they have redubbed over. They don't really record anything new, it's just pure overdub. Basically this is what Sly did. He just sit down and shuffle up those tunes. It's just the same old thing that they are doing.

CVP: In terms of dancehall rhythms, but at Channel One when he cut the track 'Right Time' for the Mighty Diamonds that changed reggae music.

WG: At that time, I wasn't in Jamaica. If I was still in Jamaica, there is no way that Sly would have ever got that popular. The way I controlling the whole scene with all the different styles and variations that I play, they couldn't handle it. That's why they was very happy when I left Jamaica. This is how this Sly and Robbie get together, you know. With Robbie, I was the first guy, that trod Robbie around. I was the guy who gave Robbie a bass.

Winston Grennan

"Familyman" Barrett
CVP: I thought he learned from Family Man?

WG: No, no. I recommend Robbie. Robbie used to come around with me. We used to have a group, me, Ronnie Bop, Jackie Jackson, Peter Austin from the Clarendonians, and a guy named Junior used to play the organ. The band was called the El Dorados, which used to be Hippy Boys first, then it change from the Hippy Boys to El Dorados. It was a Chiney man who owns... He stills own all these theaters the same way, this guy Pat Wong used to manage us. Robbie used to come by a lot, because we used to have a lot of stage show. Robbie was a bad boy who used to make fights and all these things.

So I used to coach Robbie, I said to him "Robbie I think it's time for you to slow down on the badness. Come with us to the studio." He like that, and he had a friend named Charlie who used to DJ. Charlie said to him, "Yeah you should go with Winnie." He was watching Family Man at the time, but he didn't have a bass, until I gave him the bass. So when he get the bass I said "Get the strings from Family Man, and bring back the bass, so I can show you how to play it." He did that. The next day he came back with the bass, well strung up four strings. So I said "Ronnie Bop, come, here is Robbie, let's deal with it now." So me and Ronnie, take him around the back of the theater and sat him down, and start to show him what the chord is. I started to hum the phrases 'bood da do do dum, bood da do dum dum'. I said "You go practice these things, and when you practice you practice fast because there is a lot of work that comes up at night, because Jackie Jackson work at night at the Sheraton, and if the artists come in at night, and if I cannot find Family Man or Lloyd Parks. I want you to practice, so you can play that good. So you can be my bass player." This how Robbie got into the business. I took Robbie to his first recording session, that he played on, for Mrs Pottinger. Up at Randy's studio.

Robbie Shakespeare

Judy Mowatt
CVP: What was that session?

WG: That session was for Judy Mowatt. I don't remember the tune, cause it's a long time.

CVP: What year was this?

WG: In the sixties, somewhere about 68/69. When he was playing I made him sit close beside me, "I don't want you to get nervous." I told him, "Anything you play it you play it precisely. Don't look at me, just know what your doing." He followed the advice. When he finished the track, Scratch - Lee Perry walked in and asked me who the bass player is. I told Scratch, that I'm bringing him in as my bass player. "Don't think your going to get him." Sometimes these guys, they know someone coming up they try to take the guy away. Samfie them and take them away from you. I didn't want them to do that with me and Robbie. It was my intention to have a band between me and Robbie. It would have been Winston and Robbie, that was the idea. So we play that session, and Mrs P like it. So I said to Mrs P, "He's yours now, when you need him, just let me know." From that Robbie started to get one or two session, here and there. When I was ready to leave to come away from Jamaica, it was the same time I was dragging Sly around to the different studios and showing him the different styles, and how to play, to fit in with Jackie and them.

When I know I was going to leave, I told Robbie. I said Robbie, "I'm very sorry. I'm going away." and he get a little disappointed. I said "This is what happens sometimes things change, and people have to go. Don't worry once you get good, guys will call you. You could hook up with Sly." I told him that and... "Go and play, but I have to go." I was surprised, when I started to hear about Sly and Robbie. I couldn't believe it was them. I keep asking people who's this Sly and Robbie? When I really found out it was them, I thought these were my students! I really feel good about it, what they was doing. At least I turned out some good musicians in Jamaica.

Carlton Barrett
CVP: I would say so. What about Carlton Barrett?

WG: Carlton Barrett, same thing. When Carlton start, he never really know what he was playing. He wanted lecture and thing, first of all he wanted to learn how to tune his snare drum. I have a certain sound on my snare drum, that every drummer like, but I tried not to show them how to tune it that way. I didn't want them to have my sound. For whatever I do, all these drummers seem to want to know how to do it. If you all want to play like me, I'm going to get all the work, why don't you come up with your own style. Get off of my style. They really didn't have the brain to come up with anything. A lot of them at that time couldn't really read music. I could read music. So everytime I go to the studio, I would write down different phrases, and take them with me on a little piece of paper, and play them. Through I know these guys are coming along trying to steal my licks. I thought well I'm not going to play the same licks, so they could catch it.

So when I'm not doing a recording session, do you know where I go to practice - Hellshire Beach. I used to have some Rasta friend out there, they set up and make a stage for me out there. They would set up there roast fish and lobster. I sat there and I eat fish, and I some practice with the ocean, but these guys don't practice. All they do is come to the studio. Some of these guys know where I'm recording before I know! You see them hanging around outside the studio, and they keep telling the producer it's me that sent them. It come to a point, where I had to ask Byron Lee to put up a fence around his place, because of me (laughs), too many guys were coming there. I told him that these guys know that I'm coming here, before I know. The same thing at Channel One. I was the first guy to play at Channel One.

CVP: How far back does Channel One go. When did the Hookim's open it?

WG: It was the early seventies. They had an engineer Sid Buckner, who is Coxsone's cousin. He was the engineer there. Me, Hux, Jackie, Winston Wright, Gladdy, go there and test it out for them.

Channel One (Photo: Syphilia Morgenstierne)
CVP: Was it a four track then?

WG: It was either a four or eight track. We started to play, but we wasn't really getting no money. We decided not to go back there and do that. Unless the guy is going to give us some money. We told Siddy, well we have to get paid. We did it for the first test, to make sure the studio was functioning properly. All these tracks that we cut. I feel that the studio gotta be functioning correctly by then, but no money was coming in. So we said, "Man forget it."

Plus the area where it was, it wasn't a good area. It was kinda of a bad area. Cause sometimes you go there and you leave your car, when you get back one of your wheel had gone off of your car. Or your mirror had gone, or your lens had gone. Jackie, had a nice car. Also Winston Wright, and those guys were very nervous. Gladdy had a nice bike, and to leave them outside there... You don't know if they would be there when you finished the session. So we kinda dust Channel One. After that it was then that Sly and them started to go there, to play. Then Sid Buckner leave, and went to England. I don't know who was there then, but we was the first of the guys to go there, open it, christen it, play the first beat on those machines. Don't ask where the record is, because I don't know, but knowing these people they might be in England still selling.

This is how I lose a lot of credit. In the days when I was playing, they was only making 45's. With a plain cover. No label, maybe they use the stamp with the blue ink. Some of them would have a stamp with producer, artist, studio. That was it. And in those days we was cutting record by the million. We could go and cut three or four albums a day. That's how we used to work. From studio to studio, we would be at Dynamic's from 10 to 12, cut one or two albums. Leave and go to Harry J cut two more, leave boom over to Joe Gibbs and cut two more. Bim, maybe go over to Chin Randy's or Mrs P would want a session. Boom over to Federal, that's how we operate. Any drummer that could not keep up with that amount of tune per day, cannot play with those guys. They have to have stamina, they have to be able to play fast rhythm and medium rhythm. but a lot of these guys could only play the slow and medium rhythm.

Up until now I'm the only drummer, away from Lloyd Knibbs, Drumbago and Wacky who could play the Ska rhythm. No other drummer in Jamaica can play that up until now. That's why Sly branch off on that route that they took, because they couldn't handle the Ska. You understand. In this time we was doing work for all these people. We was doing work for Byron Lee, we was working for Federal, we was working for Chin Randy's, we was working for Derrick Harriott, Clancy Eccles, Rupie Edwards, Bunny Lee, Prince Buster, Lee Perry, Mrs Pottinger, Chris Blackwell, Dobby Dobson, Keith Hudson, Leslie Kong, Ken Lazurus, Warrick Lynn. You name it, we was working for Island Records, Virgin Records, Trojan. All these guys know me very well.

Everytime that Chris Blackwell, go leave Jamaica for England with a track, he told me that guys used to run come and just would want to know if it was Grennan playing. Because even in England, you would have guys trying to copy my drumming. What really mess me up, was that I leave Jamaica at the wrong time, and come to America.

CVP: You left when it broke internationally.

WG: Right, Chris Blackwell wanted us to come to England to live. Me, Ronnie Bop and Gladstone Anderson. We decided that we didn't want to do that, because we were in such demand in Jamaica. It look hard for us to just cut and come to England to live. When Chris came back, I told Ronnie, "This don't make no sense. Chris should come down here to Jamaica with the sessions." We told him that, and Chris Blackwell copped an attitude, from he heard that. So the same thing that he did for Sly and Robbie, so they got so big, it was the same thing he wanted to do for me and Ronnie Bop, and Gladdy and those guys. The same when the Wailers was forming. Bob did want us to be part of the Wailers. Bob came to me at Dynamic Studio. Long before. No one don't know all this. No one really know, how tight me and Bob really was. When we cut the 'Kaya' album, the album was cut by Roland Alphonso and the Meditators band that cut that album. It wasn't the Wailers.

CVP: Your talking about 1977? Or something at Studio One?

WG: No, no the original 'Kaya' album cut at Dynamic Studio. It was for a gentleman named Planner. He was responsible for that session. Brother Planner we call him. A Rastafarian brother.

CVP: Mortimer Planner?

WG: I don't know if it was Mortimer, we just know him as Planner.

Mortimer Planner

Mortimer Planner w/ Haile Selassie
CVP: There was a very famous Mortimer Planner who met Selassie at the plane.

WG: That's the one, that's the Planner I'm talking about. Me and him was good friend also, and also Roland. This is how we got to cut the session. We were rehearsing up at Orange Street, at a club called the Orange Bowl, with Roland And The Meditators. Bob came and told us about the session, and then Planner came and told about the session. The album was recorded the night before Haile Selassie visit Jamaica. Hear what I'm saying.

CVP: So this is 1966.

WG: Whenever that was.

CVP: How many tracks were recorded then?

WG: A whole album. I can recognize some of the songs. 'Rock My Boat', 'Sun Is Shining', but after the session finish. Bob and Planner when into some kind of dispute. At the same time, Roland Alphonso and The Meditators were supposed to do a show at the Ward Theater, with a lot of artists for the coming of Selassie. Bob Marley was supposed to be on the bill, but through the problem between him and Planner, he took off to Montego Bay and didn't come back. He didn't come for the show. When he came back he trim off his hair off his head. He didn't come, he didn't look for Haile Selassie or nothing. Bob hide away, and came back when Haile Selassie gone. With different hair now.

CVP: I thought he was in America at the time.

WG: No, no, no, people think he was in America. There is so much misinformation.

CVP: History has been written saying that he was away in America, and Rita was the one who went and saw Selassie.

WG: Maybe they was trying to cover up something. I don't know. I'm telling you what I know. I was there, I was the one who was playing on the recording session. Bob was at the session. The whole night he was there, cause we was in the studio the whole night, till 10 o'clock the next morning. I don't know what the dispute between him and Planner was about.

All I know was that he had some misunderstand, and then he took off, to the country. He didn't come back, because he didn't want to play on the show also, but his name was advertised for the show, and that create a big problem because when people realized that Bob wasn't coming they started to get wild and crazy in the theater. There was a Chiney guy, who's now managing Sister Carol in Brooklyn. I think his name is Wong. He used to manage Roland's band at that time. He was in there, and everyone was trying to crowd him, and blaming him for Bob not coming. And the guy say I have nothing to do with that. People were getting real crazy and angry. They didn't want to hear no other artist. Every other artist that come and try to sing, they stone them off the stage. They want to hear Bob, through they know that we just cut the album. They want to hear the new songs that Bob have, but it never happened.

CVP: Where was Peter and Bunny at the time?

WG: I do not know, where they was. I think this was at the time that they break up. I think they was on the verge of breaking up. After this scene with Planner, this is when Bob went to Chris Blackwell for help. It was then when he went to Chris Blackwell with some of those tunes, for Chris to put them out. Right in that period. Bob was at Coxsone first, he sing all those tunes, and him and Coxsone then get into a war.

CVP: Then he went to Leslie Kong.

WG: No, actually he didn't. When he leave Coxsone, Scratch was the one that drag him. After he leave... Scratch and Coxsone are cousins.

Lee "Scratch" Perry

Coxsone Dodd
CVP: Scratch and Coxsone are cousins?

WG: Yeah, Family. Also Sid Bucknor, who was the engineer. All family, me and Scratch was very tight, and when he leave Studio One, he drag Bob Marley along with him, and then he started to write songs, and get Bob to sing them. It was then that I started to play serious with Bob, with Scratch. Then him and Scratch have an argument, and as soon as that happens they shift from where they are to someone else. He then hooked up with Planner, to cut that session. He then went to Chris Blackwell, and then Chris Blackwell say "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. I give them the money to make this record." But at that time they was forming the band. Bob came to me, figure it was me, Gladdy, Winston Wright, Jackie and Hux to be the band. That was the band that Bob did really want, but those guys didn't want to get involved. You know that the situation around Bob was pretty hectic. With the bad man, you know, a whole lot of bad man follow Bob, and all this crap, and these guys didn't want to get involved with all that. So they didn't take the offer. They turned it down. So right away, I couldn't get involved, because I didn't want to leave the guys. We was doing all the sessions.

Robin Kenyatta came to Jamaica, we played for him. Garland Jeffries, Paul Simon, Peter, Paul & Mary we play for them. The Rolling Stones came down we played for them. We were the guys... we could read music. If I leave, I feel it would be a bad vibes. When Hugh Malcolm joined the group, he couldn't keep up, so they got rid of him. A little later on a drummer came along name Paul Douglas, every so often we would bring him in, because I couldn't play on a session. Paul was about the only guy, that these other guys would trust to really come and play amongst them.

Anyway, Bob Marley was not in America, he was in Mo Bay. They have a place down in Mo Bay. That was where Bob was, hiding out.

CVP: For how long?

WG: About a week or so, or two. I think he waited until Haile Selassie leave. He wasn't around nowhere when Haile Selassie was there, and I was there. Who knows why he tell everybody he was in America. When he didn't want you to know where he was, he would tell you anything.

Bob Marley
CVP: The story is, that his mother Cedella moved to America, and he went to America for some time, like a year, to work.

WG: He finally went to America, but not at that period there. Yes he did go to America, but not at that time. It was Mo Bay he went. I hang with these guys, I play with them, but I'm not around them 24 hours a day. A lot of time it's out of sight out of mind. If you want to get a lot of these people nervous, just go to Jamaica, and say that I've heard Winston Grennan is coming back for good, and watch how they react. I was down there last year recording with Toots, and Barry was driving me around. Taking me back from the studio to the hotel. And Barry I think pass by Sly and said "Boy, Guess who is in Town - Grennan. I hear him come for good." Barry said that everybody get nervous. Everybody say "Really". Barry tell them that I had come back for good, and that I was recording at Tuff Gong with Toots. The next day the whole town know I was in town. Everybody was asking questions, a guy came to Tuff Gong and said "I have a electric drum booth, but I know you need acoustic booth." I said "Well you better do that. If you want me to play, your not going to hear me play electric. I play what I play best which is acoustic."

The reason I leave Jamaica, was that after a while I get frustrated. There was no one there who could teach me anything. I get fed up with this. What make it nicer was that everyone of the artists that came down, everytime I finish playing a record they say "Man you don't sound like a Jamaican drummer. You would do well in America." Paul Simon told me that, Dizzy Gillespie told me that. All of them said the same thing. So what is it, all these guys are lying? After a while I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to leave Jamaica for good. I didn't want to upset Jackie and them, because everytime I mention it, they say "What are you going to America for, Money?" I said "No. I want to go to America to get some experience in arranging. I want to go to a school. Right now, what am I learning? No drummer here can teach me anything, they are all waiting for me to come up with new styles. This is why I leave Jamaica." Right after I leave, everything change. When I was in Jamaica, nobody was touring. Then Jimmy Cliff was touring in England. Jimmy Cliff was about the only guy who at the time was touring. Then Toots told me he was planning a tour, and he want me too.

Anyway the only person who know I was going to leave was a bass player named Tony Ramsey, who was playing with Sonny Bradshaw at the time. I used to play with Sonny Bradshaw, every so often. The reason why I liked to play with the Sonny Bradshaw band, was that it was the only band that would play Jazz, and those things that I used to love. All my uncles were Jazz musicians. I really like Jazz from a little boy. Jazz was in my head, I wanted to play Jazz.

All the work that I had done from the sixties, no name! And guess what happen, right after I leave in the seventies, this was when Chris Blackwell started put their name on records. This is how these guys name got to be so big - you understand. They didn't play half the amount of hit records that I play. One or two of them might be a little hit, for a while, but I'm talking big hits. That last, a long, long time on the charts. I'm talking about England, Jamaica - all over the place. Look at 'Cherry Oh Baby', 'Rivers Of Babylon', 'The Harder They Come'.

Slim Smith

Bunny Lee
CVP: I might ask you, someone who is not around anymore, who died around the time you left Jamaica was Slim Smith. I know you played on a lot of tracks of his. What can you bring to mind about Slim, to shed some light on him.

WG: Slim Smith was a very good singer, in the early days they used to have a group called The Techniques and The Uniques. You have a guy named Lloyd Charmers, Winston Riley, also Roy Shirley. They started with Coxsone, then Bunny Lee sneaked them away from Coxsone. We started to do a whole lot of tracks with him

CVP: Slim, recorded for Duke Reid too.

WG: Yeah, but Bunny Lee was actually the guy who... Bunny was a guy who would take these guys around, and find someone who they could actually record with. Bunny, knew that Slim was out there and he grabbed him. He recorded a lot of album with Slim, and he took them to England. There was one special song that really make it so big, it called 'My Conversation'.

CVP: That rhythm has been recut so many times.

WG: Okay, now that melody, 'da, da, dah - da, da, dah'. That was me. I played that piece, and how I get to play that piece. After we cut the track, when Slim was voicing the track. I heard that sound in the track, I said to Bunny, "I think I have an idea here, you know. Let me put it on." Bunny said "What is it?" I said "Just stop the tape", and I went to the piano. They open a track for me, and when the tune started, and Slim started singing - I played the melody. The guys just freaked out, they said "That's it, that's the sound." Little did I know that it was that, that would make the tune really hit. They make version after version of it. They come with a version called 'Dr No', 'Dr Dread', about five Doctor songs, then they leave the Doctors and they go on to the nurses. Nurse this, nurse that. And every piece that they put out was a hit. I never get credit for it, I never even got paid for it. Someone was trying to make a claim on it in England. One thing with Bunny Lee, Bunny Lee said "No." He said that Winston Grennan played that, nobody else. Winston Grennan played the drums on it, and also played the keyboard. Once a guy don't see you around, and someone come to do an interview, he will run his mouth and tell you anything. That's why there is so much misinformation. They don't know better, because this is what they have been told.

If you went to Jamaica now, and ask for me. The guy would say "Who?! Winston Grennan, no I don't know him." Or "I heard he died." They will tell you all these kind of things. If you come there and look for me, which could be something that is important, they feel it could make them some money. A lot of them don't no nothing about the music, they don't know man like Jackie Jackson, and Jackie Jackson is one of the bass man who was pumping up the rhythm, during the Rock Steady and Reggae era's. Long before Family Man, all these things come afterwards. A lot of these young guys don't know.

Winston Grennan ca 1997
(c) Nan Lewis-Entertainment Works

Lynn Taitt ca 1997
(c) Nan Lewis-Entertainment Works
CVP: How about Leroy Sibbles, as a bass player?

WG: I wouldn't say Sibbles was a great bass player, he knows his way around the bass a little bit. He's a great singer.

CVP: I thought he played bass on a lot of his Heptones tracks?

WG: He played some bass on his tracks, but if you... When I'm talking about bass players I don't want to knock anybody.

CVP: So you really respect Jackie Jackson as a musician.

WG: Those guys, they know what they are doing. Also Lloyd Brevett, up until now I haven't heard anyone who copy his style, or Jackie's style. These are people who I call classic musicians. Born with it inside. Jackie Mittoo, Winston Wright, Gladdy Anderson. A good guitarist, Ronnie Bop, who actually teach a lot of them. I don't hear no one talk about these guys. Yet, it was these guys who brought a lot of these other guys into the thing. The problem is that the foundation of the whole thing, they are not in Jamaica anymore, they are America or Canada.

I told a guy the other day he wanted to take me to Jamaica to do a session. I told him "Listen, I'm not going to Jamaica to do a session. First of all if I go to Jamaica, I have to have the right musicians. If they ain't there I don't want to play. I know the system very well. I know who can play, and who cannot play. Why don't you keep the session up here?" I said, "Hux is up here, Ronny Bop is up here, Lynn Tait is up here, Brevett is up here, Winston Grennan is here - who do you want?" In all the changes in the music, the only thing that change in it, is the electric drum that play in it. They play over the same tracks that we play already. He was telling us that he want that sound from way back. I told him that you cannot get it in Jamaica, no one in Jamaica can produce it. All of them is up here. So eventually he finally listen to me, and bring up Gladdy and Jackie. The singer was Leonard Dillon... You know him?

Leonard "The Ethiopian" Dillon
CVP: Yeah, Leonard Dillon - The Ethiopian.

WG: I played on a lot of tunes for The Ethiopians. 'Everything Crash'. He came and we did a great album for Nighthawk Records, Robert Schoenfeld. He wanted to go to Jamaica to mix the record, I said "You have to understand the sound that you want to get is right here. No.2, you cut the thing here on this good machine. Why do you want to go to Jamaica to mix it?" I said "You should check the tape, before all the musicians have left the studio." "Oh no, everything is alright." Boom everybody gone back - Session finished. The session was at a place called Woodstock in German Town. A studio called the Club House, a great studio. We took one and half hour, and cut 15 tracks. We hadn't seen each other for over twenty something years. This was October 1992. He had booked an whole week. Once you use the All-Stars, you don't need an whole week.

1998 Carter Van Pelt / Ray Hurford.