Toots Hibbert – 54-46 That’s My Number (1942-2020)
Toots Hibbert 1942-2020
Career: Singer / Multi-instrumentalist
- Never Grow Old (1964)
- The Sensational Maytals (1965)
- Sweet And Dandy (1969)
- From The Roots (1970)
- Monkey Man (1970)
- Greatest Hits (1971)
- Slatyam Stoot (1972)
- Funky Kingston (1973)
- Roots Reggae (1974)
- In the Dark (1974)
- Reggae Got Soul (1976)
- Toots Presents The Maytals (1977)
- Pass the Pipe (1979)
- Just Like That (1980)
- Knock Out! (1981)
- Toots In Memphis (1988) [Toots solo album]
- Recoup (1997)
- Ska Father (1998)
- World Is Turning (2003)
- True Love (2004)
- Light Your Light (2007)
- Flip and Twist (2010)
- Pressure Drop – The Golden Tracks (2011)
- Got to Be Tough (2020)
- Live (1980)
- Live at Reggae Sunsplash (1983)
- An Hour Live “Straight from the Yard” Dedicated to Robert Nesta Marley (1990)
- Live in London (1999)
- Unplugged on Strawberry Hill (2012)
- The Original Golden Oldies Vol.3 (1974) [Prince Buster productions]
- Life Could Be A Dream (1992) [Coxsone Dodd productions]
- The Best Of Toots And The Maytals (1979)
- Reggae Greats (1985)
- The Very Best of Toots & The Maytals (2000)
TOOTS HIBBERT – 54-46 THAT’S MY NUMBER (8 December 1942 – 11 September 2020)
Frederick Nathaniel Hibbert, better known as Toots Hibbert, was born in May Pen in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica, the youngest of eight children. Both his parents died young and by the age of 11, Toots was an orphan who went to live with his brother John in the Trenchtown neighborhood of Kingston. In 1962, while working at a local barbershop, Toots was heard singing inside by Ralphus “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias, which led to forming the trio The Maytals – named after Hibbert’s hometown of May Pen – at the start of Jamaica’s ska craze. They began recording for Coxsone Dodd. With the hoarse vocal from Toots, backed by an impenetrable wall of sound, it was not long before The Maytals became one of the more popular vocal groups in Jamaica. Some of the group’s early recordings were incorrectly attributed to The Flames and The Vikings in the UK by Island Records.
After having scored some massive hits they left Coxsone Dodd and went on to record for Prince Buster for whom they first recorded the vengeful “Broadway Jungle/Dog War”. However, their stay with Prince Buster was also short-lived and The Maytals moved on again to Byron Lee’s stable. In 1965 they made Jamaican musical history when both sides of the single “Daddy/It’s You” topped the Jamaican charts and in 1966 they won the prestigious Jamaican Festival Song Competition with “Bam Bam”. The future was looking bright, but late 1966 Hibbert was sentenced to 18 months in prison for possession of marijuana and wasn’t released until 1968. This experience provided the inspiration for “54-46 That’s My Number”, a song they recorded for Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label. “54-46 That’s My Number”, which detailed Toots Hibbert’s prison experiences, became a huge hit in Jamaica and the UK and featured on of reggae’s most enduring bass lines. The song marked the beginning of a hugely successful period for the group, both artistically and financially.
Toots Hibbert – Reggae Geel 2010 (Photo: Teacher)
They recorded many classic songs for Beverley’s including “Do The Reggay”, one of the first tunes ever to use ‘reggae’ in its title. And there were also “Monkey Man”, which actually reached the UK charts, and “Sweet And Dandy”, which won the Jamaican Festival Song Competition again for them in 1969, and “Pressure Drop”, which was one of the group’s most popular tracks. With producer Leslie Kong’s untimely death in 1971 from a heart attack, The Maytals lost their mentor. For many reggae fans and followers the songs recorded while with Beverley’s was their best work. The Maytals subsequently returned to Byron Lee, the at that time successful owner of Dynamic Sounds, a state-of-the-art recording, mastering and record pressing complex. In 1972 The Maytals won the Jamaican Festival Song Competition for the third time with “Pomps And Pride”. The same year they came to wider attention due to their cameo role in the groundbreaking Jamaican movie “The Harder They Come”.
Through their work with Byron Lee at Dynamic Sounds and the movie they had attracted the attention of Chris Blackwell and became Toots and the Maytals. Blackwell’s Island Records released what became their biggest-selling album “Reggae Got Soul”, which took them into the UK album charts. In 1980 they recorded a live show at London’s Hammersmith Palais, which was mastered, processed, pressed and in the record shops 24 hours later. The album, “Toots Live”, showcased the group at their best. By this time, they had left their Jamaican audiences far behind, but their nebulous ‘pop’ audience soon started to ignore them as they moved on to the next big sensation.
In 1982, after 20 years being a trio, Toots Hibbert came to an agreement with Ralphus “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Matthias to disband the Maytals project before going on tour. The following year he released his first solo album entitled “Spiritual Healing”. Toots then withdrew from touring and recording, but by the late ’80s Toots and the Maytals were revived, mainly to start touring again. Although albums were occasionally released, Toots was successful again with the Grammy award-winning 2004 album “True Love”. In May 2013, he received a head injury after being hit by a thrown bottle during a performance at the River Rock Festival in Richmond, Virginia. After a three-year hiatus following the incident at the festival, in 2016 Toots and the Maytals returned to the stage and began touring again. Last month Toots and the Maytals released their first studio album in a decade, “Got To Be Tough”.
Read Stephen Cooper’s 2018 interview with Toots Hibbert here.