The Morwells interview
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Eric ‘Bingy’ Bunny Lamont and Maurice ‘Blacka’ Wellington formed the Morwells in 1973. Both had grown up in the Ghost Town area of Trenchtown and had been friends since schooldays. Bingy Bunny had already made records with Bongo Herman for Derrick Harriott, gaining considerable success with “Know For I” released in the UK on Songbird in the early ’70s. Then Bingy joined Blacka and his brother Icewater.
They released their first record “Peanut Vendor” (also known as “Prophecy” by Little Roy), which was successful enough for them to continue. “You Got To Be Holy” and “Mafia Boss” followed in 1974, two really good roots tunes. A connection with the West London based Sir Jessus record label and Sound gave them a very big seller in the UK in 1975 with the wonderful “Bit By Bit”, which showed once again that roots reggae can take many forms, and that a simple love often provided it with its truest expression.
“KINGSTON 12 TOUGHIES”
It was followed in the UK (in 1975) by a recut of the Melodians “Swing And Dine”. Produced in the same relaxed style of “Bit By Bit” it had also done very well in Jamaica. Around this time appeared an album by the The Morwells called “Dub Me”. This dub album released on the Morwell label is apparently one of the best dub albums of its time. More importantly, it would suggest that there is a vocal set to the album and that could be the mysterious “Presenting” LP also released on Morwell at the same time, but which is completely unknown, apart from its title. The Morwell label in Jamaica continued to issue singles including “Proverbs” and “Run Baldhead Run”, both released in 1976.
“Crab In A Ball” and “Problems” came in 1977. Then eventually in 1978 came the release of the first (known) Morwells album “Crab Race” on Burning Sounds in the UK. Included on the album were the hits “Bit By Bit” and “Swing And Dine”, and “Music Is So Divine”, and another cut of the “Proverbs/Peanut Vendor” rhythm. The rest of the album showed the group to be socially aware as well with thoughtful titles like “Got To Find Somewhere To Live” and “Reality”, while the title track is an attack on the way of living that many people find themselves caught up in, sung over a militant rockers rhythm.
“Crab Race” was a fine and strong debut album from the group. They followed it in 1979 with “Cool Runnings” which came out on Clement Bushay’s label. Whereas “Crab Race” had featured a selection of songs of reggae styles from the mid-seventies to around ’78, “Cool Runnings” presents the group in a late rockers, early dance hall style. Still the group sounds relaxed as ever. “Wish I Could fly” is gentle and sincere… “Be Wise” is very similar, likewise “I Nah Want Dey Yah”, a cut of “Real Rock” and a plea for repatriation. The most powerful song on the album is “Man A Kill Man”
“Man Ah Kill Man In The Street
And Look How He Can’t Even Find Food To Eat
The Big Guys Ripping Off And Living Sweet
And The Brother Killing Brother In The Street”
1979 also saw the group release its biggest hit since “Bit By By” , the excellent “Kingston 12 Toughie”, which was eventually released by Trojan in the UK on a 12″ Disco. The album of the same name was issued the following year by Carib Gems. Found on the album was a recut of “Bit By Bit” in a rockers style. More traditional was “Brain Food” a tribute to the thought provoking powers of herb. “I’m A Radic” picks up on the message of “Kingston 12 Toughie”, which is one tune that cannot be bettered in any way. One of the best records of the era. The “Peanut Vendor” rhyhtm is used for “Wicked Man” and is based on the “Prophecy” title by Little Roy. The album finishes with another classic from the group, “We Want To Go Back Home” – otherwise known as “In God We Trust”.
“In God I Put My Trus’
Where There Is No Fight Or Fuss
I Know Is I A Must To Be Free.”
The tune along with the likes of “They Hold Us Down”, “We Waan Go A Yard” “Educate Your Mind” and “Young Lover”, were compiled and released in the U.S. by Nighthawk Records. It may not be their best, but it’s certainly the greatest Morwells album so far, the one which hopefully the Morwells will build on. Very little have been heard of the group over the last few years. Bunny, of course, has been busy as a founder member of the Roots Radics, but it would be good to see the Morwells finally come forward. Any success they find is long overdue.
Right now, I’m looking for a deal with a company that’s really interested in Morwell Esq.
Morwell Wellington Esq. knows he won’t get one where he’s sitting. He’s just sat down in Nicky’s chair in Front Line’s press office, a small room just off the main Virgin press office. Morwell and Jah Woosh have just strolled in. Within five minutes they have taken the place over. It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Only Gaylene and Nicky keep a smile on their faces. The rest simply cannot believe what is happening. They couldn’t have heard of the expression “Dread At The Controls”.
A distribution deal?
I want to license some record, you know. So I can get things going, because right now I find certain companies in England ripping off artists. A matter that was at the time being looked into by the Morwell’s solicitors.
How about the Trojan tune “Kingston 12 Toughie” were you happy with its treatment over here?
They didn’t really come for that tune, but everywhere they went in Jamaica they heard “Kingston 12 Toughie”.
It’s got a very hard dub on the back, mixed by Jammy… At this point Morwell explodes!
…No, it’s not Prince Jammy! It’s just Morwell stuff. Morwell play it, Morwell produce it, Morwell mix it. They are the face, right Jah Woosh? (Woosh agrees) We have a company comprising of a publishing company and a record company.
You used to have your own label.
Years ago, “Bit By Bit”, “Swing And Dine” were hit sounds. Ever since from I put out my tune, I have been pirated. All along the line. That’s why I’m here now (June ’79). No one in London is entitled to put out anything by Morwell Esq, but now I’ve licensed one to Greensleeves, “They Hold Us Down” and a dub LP.
How many people are involved with the Morwells?
Well there are three of us. But everything lies between me and Bingy Bunny. Bingy Bunny is the musical director and arranger. He also co-writes with me, and I’m the financer for the whole project.
Have you got any albums that you will be trying to get released over here?
I’ve got two albums at the moment. These were due for release over here a couple of years back. And I’ve got two more LP back home, that I’ve got to work on, and think about releasing them myself, because right now some guys, all they want is to put it out and nuh give you nothing, and I’m not into that bag really.
Didn’t you work with the Observer a little while back?
Yeah, we did a song with Niney the Observer called “Mix Up”.
It was credited to Niney & the Morwells, wasn’t it, what happened to it?
That was a beautiful tune. Back home that tune was one I go deal with. Some kind of talking, “Mix Up, Mix Up, Everybody Mix Up, Police Mix Up, Soldier Mix Up”. It was the time of violence that was going around us. So we just got together and deal with this mix up thing, it was a nice tune, I love that tune.
Another tune that came here on the Black Lion label was a Heptones tune “Meaning Of Life” but it had the Morwells name on it?
That was written by me and one of the The Heptones, Barry Llewellyn. And through I didn’t have not contact for releasing songs in England, a company called GG bring it out. And a friend came back to Jamaica and we get it done again on disco, and we send it up.
How long have the Morwells been together?
About five years really.
Are you sure, it seems longer…
About five years.
So “Bit By Bit” must have been on of your first tunes?
Yeah, I hear that tune was getting a good angle, it could have been a British hit. Then “Swing And Dine” and then we had a tune “Come On Little Girl”.
That came out on the album “King Tubby’s Surrounded By The Dread At The National Arena” didn’t it?
Blacka then explains that this is typical, and doesn’t know anything about it, and is about to call Winston Edwards, when I tell him it’s on a white label, and suggest he listens to it first. Blacka then goes on to state other forms of rip-offs.
Me worked with Culture, I was the one that formed Culture. I was the one that gave them their name – Culture. When they come to record at Joe Gibbs their name was African Disciples. But them don’t give me no credit, and I don’t quarrel with them really. Me write some hard tunes, Cornell Campbell’s “No Man’s Land”, “Running Up and Down”, me and Dennis Brown wrote that, we don’t get anything, all we hear is Joe Gibbs write it, me no quarrel, me just cool. Even Jah Woosh here, I was the first man that carry him into the studio, first man. When Culture come to sing fe Joe Gibbs – dem run away from the studio and said “Me Nah Want To Sing”. And me said give me them and let me work with them African Disciples. Just four of them singing, not three. Their first tune was “Blood In A Babylon” and then we do “This Time” and then we do “Two Sevens Clash”. You see the “Two Sevens Clash” album, me on that and “Baldhead Bridge”. We record every track, me nah get no credit, none at all. Me dis-satisfied with the whole of the record scene in general. If it was praise we deal with, I man would be a millionaire. I say praise, but praise put me nowhere. If I get neither praise, credit or money, I’m still living, and I’m still cool. I’ve got me name Morwell, cause in the next few years all your going to hear is pure Morwell, but the reason why we get a fight is we don’t record for other people, so they fight us.
Who have you produced apart from Jah Woosh?
Prince Hammer, a good entertainer, Ranking Trevor, a little bredda Nicodemus and Delroy Wilson.
What was your first production?
“Last Call (In Harmony Hall)” with Sir Harry, later released by Trojan. Then after, the first that came from the Morwells “Girl You So Divine” that was the first, then you have a tune name “Prophecy”.
How long before “Bit By Bit” was this?
Before he could reply, Jah Woosh shows Blacka the front cover of Black Music with the Wailing Souls on the cover – laughing at the headline ‘Wailing Souls – Reggae’s Next Supergroup with Thirteen Years Of Rip-Offs Behind Them’. I never did find out what Woosh was laughing about. But Blacka didn’t laugh, he went on to tell that there was a possibility of a Morwells tour. Which sadly hasn’t come off yet. He then said that during the interview he hadn’t explained Bingy Bunny’s role fully. So he asked me to switch the tape machine back on again to finish the interview Morwell Esq style.
Everything in the Morwells, Bingy Bunny responsible for it. So if me buy a car, don’t want one car, buy two cars. If I buy a house, have to buy two houses, everything 50-50.
(This interview was originally published in Small Axe #7. There were 28 issues of Ray Hurford’s Reggae fanzine released from September 29, 1978 on to September/October 1989.)