I’m Just A Guy Riddim

by Nov 14, 2018

Alton Ellis
Rock Steady

When you start going through the eras of the music it doesn’t take long to realise that the Rock Steady era was really Duke Reid’s as far as producers go. Duke had the Rock Steady sound almost down to a patent. A notable exception to this is Leslie Kong’s Rock Steady sound, which relied upon a Calypso sounding rhythm guitar played against a slow distorted early flying cymbal sound.

Coxsone Dodd

When it comes to Coxsone Dodd, Duke’s main rival at the time, you could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that he never really bothered, going from slow Ska to slow Reggae in one go. Yet Coxsone did record in the Rock Steady style. The big problem is finding good examples.

Alton Ellis

One of the best is Alton Ellis’ classic “I’m Just A Guy”. It’s main feature is the wonderful one drop drumming of Bunny Williams, which Alton fondly recalled in an interview with David Rodigan. Everything else fits into place around the drum. The only exception is Alton’s vocal, it seems to glide across the riddim effortlessly.

Alton Ellis

Alton Ellis (1967)

I’m Just A Guy

The popularity of “I’m Just A Guy” as a tune and the popularity of Rock Steady, as well as the great respect for Alton in the music, guaranteed that Coxsone would regularly have to dig this tune out, and he did, starting in the mid-’70s with a deejay cut from Dillinger, “Dub Them Rasta”. Towards the end of the decade Hortense Ellis gave us “I’m Just A Girl”, followed not much later by the very memorable “Vanity” from Sugar Minott. It gave Michigan & Smiley a big hit with “Rub A Dub Style” while another deejay cut, “Clippin” from Jim Brown, was also very popular as was Earl Sixteen’s cut “Just Another Day” around the mid-’80s, with the last Studio One cut of the riddim coming from Brigadier Jerry telling us all about “Ram Dance Master”.

Sugar Minott

Returning to the late ’70s for cuts recorded outside of Studio One, we find “River Jordan” from Sugar Minott, one of the first big hits on the Black Roots label, part of the Youth Promotion group of labels, which Sugar had just helped to set up. On the B-side can be found Captain Sinbad & Little John’s “51 Storm” duo deejay cut, that was just as popular as Michigan & Smiley’s tune. Another truly great cut of the riddim is Cocoa Tea’s “I’m Going Home”, which appeared on his debut album for Henri ‘Junjo’ Lawes around 1985/86, when the riddim was in favour yet again. Sugar Minott cut the tune again this time for George Phang. “Old King Cole” was not as good as “Vanity” or “River Jordan” but still worked. This cut was the basis for Charlie Chaplin’s “Coco Deala Brown”, one of many hits found on his debut album “Que Dem” released on Powerhouse.

(Source: Ray Hurford & Jean Scrivener’s “Rhythm Wise One & Two”)


Selected tunes from the ’60s, ’70s & ’80s :

Alton Ellis – I’m Just A Guy
Barrington Levy & Linval Thompson – Police And Soldier
Dennis Brown – I’m Just A Guy
Dillinger – Dub Them Rasta
Enos McLeod – I’m Just A Man
Hortense Ellis – I’m Just A Girl
Jacob Miller – I’m Just A Dread
Morwells – Cool Runnings
Pat Davis – I’m Just A Girl
Alton Ellis – I’m Just A Man
Brigadier Jerry – Ram Dance Master
Clint Eastwood – Check 39
Captain Sinbad & Little John – 51 Storm
Charlie Chaplin – Coco Deala Brown
Cocoa Tea – Love You Always
Cocoa Tea – I’m Going Home
Don Carlos – Booming Ball

Earl Sixteen – Just Another Day
General Echo – Bathroom Sex
I-Roy – Pusherman
Jim Brown – Clippin
Josey Wales – Yu Wrong Fe Send Come Call Me
Luie Lepki – Chicken Farm
Michael Prophet – It’s You Girl
Michigan & Smiley – Rub A Dub Style
Nicodemus – Outside Girl
Prince Hammer – Good Morning Teacher
Purpleman – Trod Along
Ranking Trevor – Savalamar Rock
Sammy Dread – Today
Sister Carol – My Children
Sugar Minott – Old King Cole
Sugar Minott – River Jordan
Sugar Minott – Vanity
Toyan – Warehouse Breaking
Vin Gordon – I’m Just A Horn
Yellowman – Yellowman A The Lover Boy