Legendary DJ Dennis Alcapone: “Bring back some user-friendly lyrics” (The Interview)

by Dec 10, 2022Articles, Interview

Dennis-Alcapone (Photo courtesy of Pekka Vuorinen)


Where: London UK / Los Angeles CA (via Zoom)
When: November 16, 2022
Reporter: Stephen Cooper
Photos: Courtesy of Pekka Vuorinen, Ray Hurford, Rich Lowe, Tony Chin, Teacher, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2022 – Stephen Cooper

With raw, natural talent and the confidence of a champion prizefighter like Cassius Clay, legendary DJ—really singjay—Dennis Alcapone has been thrilling music lovers for over 50 years with his prodigious gift for toasting, or, “talk-over.”

An iconic figure in Jamaican music history, Dennis Alcapone stands out as a reggae ambassador for the ages—one who has been honored by Jamaica’s prime minister for his “contribution to the growth and development of various facets of Jamaican life.” Always graceful and humble, Alcapone is universally revered and respected by other artists, and legions of fans worldwide.

On November 16, I was blessed to interview Dennis via Zoom; Dennis was in London, and I was in Los Angeles.

During the roughly 80-minute interview, we spoke about many subjects of interest to reggae fans. For example, we spoke about Dennis’s early days as a youth, and his entrée into the music scene as the highly successful DJ for the “El Paso” sound system. We also discussed Dennis’s relationship and work with Keith Hudson, and the inspiration behind the lyrics to “Nanny Version”—the first of many hit songs Dennis sang for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One. Finally, Dennis and I discussed things like his musical process for song creation; his relationship with Duke Reid at Treasure Isle; the inspiration for the lyrics to the hit song “Mosquito One”; memories of Bunny Lee; Rasta influence on Dennis’s music; Dennis’s relationship with Dennis Brown and Bob Marley (and, much, much more along the way).

What follows is a transcript of the interview, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations. Embedded in the transcript are links to Dennis Alcapone’s music, exclusive images and photos, and more. At the end, there’s a link to the entire audio file of the interview—available on YouTube. Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch, the video footage of the interview was not preserved.

Dennis Alcapone - Photo Ray Hurford_

Okay, recording. Yeah, I’m terrible with these computers and things, too, Dennis—
I know, I know. Sometimes I have problems, too, but, I’ve got a little idea. And that’s what I put into focus now—[so] we can get this thing going, you know?

Yeah. Yeah. Irie. Dennis, I have to be honest, I know that I’ve traded messages, you know, back and forth with you digitally, but still I have goose bumps. Because talking to you, one of the great legendary deejays—really singjays—from Jamaica, it’s just such a tremendous honor for me, Dennis. I’ve been listening to your music and singing it—I think they say in Jamaica—since “short-pants days.” So I just want to tell you it’s such an honor to talk to you. And I want to give thanks for you to give this time to talk about your career.
No problem. We had a bit of [a] technical glitch, but we—

We didn’t give up, and now we’re gonna overcome it, and make the most of the opportunity. And Dennis, I know you know this, but I just want to be sure that everyone who will later watch this interview on YouTube—or who might later read this interview, the transcript of it—also knows from the start, that in the 1970s, which many people, you know, myself included, believe was the “golden age” of reggae, you recorded well over 100—it may be closer to 200 singles and hits—

—and many of these were hit songs that went to the top of the charts. And then, too, Dennis, I know you know this, but I just want to make sure everyone knows this, from the start, that in addition to all of these successful albums you have recorded—these hits like I say that I personally have been singing forever—since my youth [at least, anyway]—you’ve also produced works, I believe, by giant legends like Dennis Brown, and Delroy Wilson, and Augustus Pablo.

And then, finally, Dennis, you’ve received so many accolades over the years. Just four years ago, you were presented with the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation by Andrew Holness himself. At Jamaica House. How did it feel Dennis to receive that award that was given quote, as the Jamaica Observer noted at the time, for your “contribution to the growth and development of various facets of Jamaican life?”
It was a real honor, you know? I was really—it overwhelmed me so much that I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. (Laughing)

Oh man.
Yeah, yeah. After doing your work and getting a thing like that, it’s the icing on the cake I would say.

Yeah, it must have been. And Dennis as a way to get into the interview proper, let me begin by asking: Is it accurate to say that your professional career in music—that it began when you were about 20 or 21 years old and you were the DJ for the “El Paso” Hi-Fi Sound System? Which was in the Waltham Park Road area of Three Miles? And this was in ’67-’68? Do I have this information accurate?
Accurate. Accurate. Yes, in the Kingston 13 area.

We were the ruler in that area.

And Dennis, what I understand, you know, it’s a small point, but I just want to ask you because I mentioned “El Paso,” but, when I was doing all this research to prepare for today, and listening to some of your great songs—and hits—many of which I want to try and ask you about—I noticed that sometimes [I] would see El Paso spelled [“El Passo”]. Even on the record labels. And I was curious do you know why—normally, of course, it would be spelled just with one ‘s.’
Pirates! (Laughing)

Pirates of the Caribbean.

(Laughing harder)
It is one ‘s.’

Okay, I just wanted to make sure. It’s a small point. Now I want to come back in a moment to the El Paso sound system days. I understand this was a sound system, “El Paso,” that this was named after a country-western song by Marty Robbins?

I have to admit, I’m not a big country-western fan, but I googled up the song, and it’s a pretty wicked song.
It’s a beautiful song.

It’s a beautiful song, yeah.
It’s a beautiful song. (Singing) “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.” I love it so much.

It’s a very good song I have to say—after listening to it.
It’s a sad story as well, you know? That song is telling a story.

About a Mexican girl. It’s wicked.

Yeah, it’s very melancholy. Now I have to ask, Dennis, because when I read also—again you see all these things when you do research on legends such as yourself, that are out there. And I just need to confirm—I’d like to try to find out the accuracy of some of these things. Can you tell me, Dennis, I understand that you formed the El Paso sound system with at least one or two of your friends? I believe one of them was named Winston Cameron?
Yes, that’s correct.

Samuel The First - Photo Rich Lowe

And is there another person also that you formed the sound system with?
No, it was really me and Winston.

Okay, because I even see—I’ll just tell you, for example, I read on jamaicanmusic.com that “El Paso” was started by yourself and DJ Lizzy. But I think DJ Lizzy was deejaying—he was somewhere else.
Yeah, that’s misinformation. I actually started out with Winston Cameron. And also, the other guy that helped us with the sound system was Samuel the First. He was the second DJ of the sound.

Yeah. That’s another name I definitely saw [while researching], Samuel the First.
Samuel the First. He made some of the speakers for the sound system.

And one of the songs I want to get into—but not just yet—because I [want] to detour briefly, but I’m definitely gonna get into “Mosquito One”—I was listening to that just before we got on the [zoom] call. But I want to hold off for just a second, Dennis, if you don’t mind. And I want to detour for just a second. And I want to rewind the track just a little bit, because I don’t think it’s been done too much with you. Rewind the track of your life—so to speak—and ask you, I know you were born in Clarendon. And that you moved to Kingston very early on. I believe maybe as early as [when you were] one-year-old. Is that accurate?
Quite right.

Okay. And were you primarily raised by both your mom and dad in Kingston?
My sister.

Your sister?
My big sister, [Olive Smith—later she would become Olive Hylton—yes], she’s the one I went to Kingston to stay with.

I see. I see. And so your mom [was] still in Clarendon?
Yeah, she was still in Clarendon. My sister had just had a baby.

And I think maybe she want[ed] me to come there to stay with the baby in the day so—

Oh wow.
Yeah, so that was the reason for me moving to Kingston.

To help her with her baby, and—
I was a babysitter. (Laughing)

(Laughing) There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a good thing.
I didn’t sit on the baby, though. (Laughing)

(Laughing) And what did, if it’s okay for me to ask, I’m just so curious, what did your mom—what did your parents do—and what did your sister do—for a living? To support themselves and you?
My father was a farmer, and my mother was a dressmaker.

Wow. Okay.
Yeah she would make clothes for the kids in the district where I come from, which is “Culloden District.”

Yes, it’s a little district. And my mother would make all the kids’ uniforms to go to school [in].

Wow. Wow.
And other people’s clothes as well.

And then Dennis, I also want to ask [whether] either of your parents, or anyone else in your family—were any of them singers? Or [was there] anyone else [you’re] related to [from whom] you inherited this musical talent—this gene—this beautiful thing that you have?
I—one of my brothers [Alphanso, or “Phanso,”] really was messing around with a sound system. In Kingston.

But, not for long. I don’t really think that’s where my musical inspiration comes from. It came from listening to the radio. I was listening to this DJ from Canada called Charlie Babcock on the radio. And he was the one that’s—he’s got a lot of lyrics, you know? He was always toasting while playing records, you know? “I’m C.B., the cool fool, the one with the light jive—” (Laughing) You know, things like that. I used to just love listening to him. And I’m sure he inspired a lot of earlier DJs as well. Because he was always rocking on his program.

Wow. From Canada?
From Canada, yeah.

Wow. And that would be picked up on the JBC or the RJR?
It was on RJR.

And let me ask you, Dennis, also, did your parents—did they—once you, you know, set up this sound system and it was clear you were heading [down] this musical path…And you know, you suddenly told them—I know—I believe I read that you had originally trained as a welder—and were a welder. But when it was clear that you weren’t going to be a welder for long, and you were going to go into music, did your parents—how did your parents and family react to that decision?
Well that was suggested by my sister in Kingston. You know, she had a friend that used to come to her bar. She had one of those bars that sells liquor and tings, and she had a friend—he was a welder. And she asked him—she asked him to take me to the garage, and teach me welding. So I went and started out there. And my first week he asked me if I wanted to be paid. (Laughing) So I said, “Yes, of course I want to be paid.” And so he gave me 5 shillings. 5 shillings for a week. Because at that time it was pounds, shillings, and pence in Jamaica. And I wanted to buy [some] shoes. But 5 shillings cannot buy shoes. So I had to settle for a thing they call “crep.”

A what thing now?
“Crep.” It’s like sneakers.

Wow. Okay.
And there used to be a store in Kingston called “Bata.” “Bata” stores. [They] used to sell cheap creps. (Laughing) So the creps were for 7 shillings. And I got paid 5 shillings—

Two shillings short?
(Laughing) Yes, so I had to borrow two shillings from my sister in order to make [up that difference]. And I was the “boasty man” in town. (Laughing)

(Laughing) But then your sister then, did she support—you know, when you started to go into music—did she support that?
What really happened is she had migrated to England at that time.

Oh, okay.
So when she left for England, I moved from where I was and went to live on Brotherton Avenue[, not far from] Waltham Park Road.

By yourself?
No, my brother was there as well. And this other guy named “Eddie Burns.” Yeah, my brother Basil and Eddie Burns. My brother rented a room from Winston Cameron’s mother. That guy—me and him started a sound system. So we were living in his yard, and that’s how we met up—by chance that way.

Keith Hudson

I see. Now to return to when you were known as “El Paso” after the extremely successful sound system that you had. I read—you did an interview, Dennis, in 2009—so some years ago now—for a Hawaiian radio station. And you told the interviewer, basically, what I understood from what you said was: You went from being this very successful DJ on a sound to embarking on this brilliant, historic, recording career—that you’ve now enjoyed for over 50 years—when, one day, Keith Hudson, the legendary Keith Hudson, he rides up on a bicycle! And you and your friends are sitting on a wall—
On a [motor]bike—on a Honda 50 bike.

Oh, okay so a motorbike!
A motorbike.

(Laughing) A motorbike! Because I read this, and I was like, “He’s on a bicycle? How could he be on a bicycle!?”
Yeah he had a Honda—a Honda 50.

I see. That makes a lot more sense than a bicycle. (Laughing)
(Laughing) No, no. It was a Honda 50 motorbike.

I see. And then you were sitting on a wall, and I have to ask this, were you sitting—I know there’s a place where a lot of musicians would hang out that was called “Idlers’ Rest.” Was that where you were?
No, no, no. I was at my own home on Brotherton Avenue. We [would] normally sit on the wall, you know, and reason. The wall [was] at the front of the house. So we [would] normally sit on that wall and reason. And I can remember one day I was sitting on the wall with one of my friends named Barrington Phillips—Barry. And we were very short of money. And we wanted to buy something to eat. And we didn’t know where to get it at the time, you know? So we start reasoning. And I said to Barry, “You know something? Both of us have talent, you know? Yeah I’m sure we have talent, but I don’t know where it is.” (Laughing)

(Laughing) I said “I don’t know where our talent is, but I’m sure we’ve got talent.” And this was before I got involved with the sound system.

Yes, and everything happened after that—things started happening, you know?

Yeah and when you, you know, I have to focus just for a second on this moment with Keith Hudson. A few things if you don’t mind my asking, Dennis, I read that you said—[and] I wanted to follow up on. You said that Keith Hudson, was quote, at one point you said, “He was a ghetto dentist by trade.”

Can you explain that a little bit?
Well his trade was to extract teeth in the ghetto.

He would pull out the teeth!?
Yes. He pulled teeth and (laughing) whatever a dentist does, but he was living in the ghetto, so we called him the “Ghetto Dentist.”

(Laughing) Wow!
When anyone [had] a toothache, they would go to Keith. [To] [p]ull out their teeth.

Wow. I’m glad—I had to ask this. And I also read that Keith—you did a brilliant interview I recommend. [And interview] everyone who loves Dennis Alcapone [should] go [and also] read—with Angus Taylor a while back. And in that interview with Angus Taylor, you mentioned that Keith Hudson was a very good guy. That he was a guy who—he showed you how to open a bank account, that he bought your first “stage gear.” And I wanted to ask you, Dennis, because, you know, you’ve worked for virtually every single producer of relevance during that golden era of reggae. Was there any other producer who you felt that kind of goodness for—that you talked about with respect to Keith Hudson?
Yes. There’s a lot of other good guys down there that I worked for. But before you go any further, let me [say a little more about] Keith Hudson.

When he actually—when he [took] me down [to] King Street [to] one of those big stores down there, he bought me this outfit for [the] stage. I left from his shop—he had a shop on the corner of King Street called “Inbidimts,” and that was his record label.

What was it called?

Oh, okay.
[That was] his record label. So me and him, we walk away from the shop away [down] toward Idlers’ Rest. Idlers’ Rest is beside Randy’s Records store. In front of the park. We were there reasoning with Peter Tosh. And when we were reasoning, Nicky Thomas run come [up] with a paper—a newspaper. And [he said], “Look at this! Look at this! I’m in the British chart.” (laughing)

Love Of The Common People

Oh my gosh (laughing).
Yeah, so Peter said to him, “Move your [behind] from here.”

(Laughing) Peter wasn’t impressed?
No because as far as Peter Tosh is concerned, Nicky is interrupting our conversation. (Laughing)

(Laughing vociferously) Oh my gosh. That’s so funny, Dennis.
Yeah, well Peter actually run him away. [Nicky] run off—and when he run off—[Nicky Thomas] says[, as a parting shot,] it’s because the Wailers never get in the British chart. So Peter used a few more expletives and said, “Move your—”

I’ll never forget that scene, you know? (Laughing)

(Laughing) That is hilarious.
About two days after that, Nicky Thomas was off to England. Because at the time he had a hit in England called “Love of the Common People,” for Joe Gibbs. On the British chart.

Well I’m so glad you told that story. Now I know you recorded, Dennis, maybe about ten different songs for Keith Hudson before you would [later] move on to Studio One. And one of your tunes [for Keith Hudson]—I think it was [your] first one, [was called] “Maka Version.” I believe it was “Maka Version?”
Quite right. “Maka Version.”

Now I swear again—and maybe it’s the pirates, Dennis—but I wanted to ask again, because you see this a lot. “Macka”—I’ve seen it spelled at least three different ways. I’ve seen it be “Macka,” M-A-C-K-A—
(Laughing) Or “M-A-K-A”—

—that’s how it should be?
“—Version.” Yeah[, it should be “Maka,” because Maka is a tree with branches that will stick you.]

Okay. Because you see a lot of different things out there for the spelling—that’s just a small thing. Now I was listening to that recently, too, and there are some great horns—there is some really great horn-playing in “Maka Version.” And I wondered: Do you recall—I couldn’t pull up the names—sometimes it’s hard to find the players, the musicians, you know? Who is [playing] on “Maka Version?”
I’m not sure, but I can guess that Val Bennett was one of the musicians, because he [and also some—but not all—of the Soul Syndicate band members were] used a lot. I wasn’t there when that session was actually—when they did the session. I came afterward—after the riddim was mixed and everything. ‘Cause when I joined Keith Hudson they had already made those riddims, and they wanted El Paso on that particular riddim. But that riddim didn’t fit El Paso. El Paso was made on the Treasure Isle “You Don’t Care” [Techniques] riddim.

I see.
But they liked the lyrics so much, because every kid was singing “One-time, El Paso, one-time, right? Yeah so I actually say, “One-time Kitty, one-time.”

Yeah! This song “Maka Version” is such a great song. I hope everyone will go and listen to that. Now when you recorded for Studio One—you recorded so many hits for Studio One—but the first one I want to ask [about] is that song “Nanny Version.” Which I believe was a cover of Larry & Alvin’s “Nanny Goat.” And you recorded this—this is the first song—is [it] true that this is the first song that you recorded under [the name] “Dennis Alcapone,” and not “Dennis Smith.”
Quite right. What happened—like you said, I did about ten songs for Keith Hudson [including] “Spanish Omega,” “Sky is the Limit”—

“Hook-line and sinker, Spanish Omega.”
“Spanish Omega,” yeah. I did one named “Bad Harvest.” Can’t remember some of the names at the moment—

Shades of Hudson

“Shades of Hudson.”
“Shades of Hudson,” yeah. A lot of people love that song, “Shades of Hudson.”

Yeah. I love that song.
Yes, I even did some dub plates with it recently.

Nice. Wow.
Yes, “Shades of Hudson.” So when I went to Studio One, I told Morris—Sylvan Morris—that I would like a cut of the “Nanny Goat.” But at that time—

What was it that made you—[was] it because you loved that song, and you were thinking about it, and you said, “You know what? This [is the] song that I am gonna [make my] debut with at Studio One?”
Quite right. I loved the song. So that was one of the songs that I asked for. And at that time Larry Marshall was working in the studio. Larry and Enid. They were actually finding the tapes for Morris. When someone select a riddim, Larry or Enid would go and look for it. So they found the “Nanny Goat” riddim. And I just went into the studio, and the rest is history.

It sure is. Now you—to go back for one second again to “Maka Version”—I want to go back [to that] yet again. Because I can imagine—and you’ll see why I want to go back [to that.] Because I can easily imagine, Dennis, singing on a sound system, you know, some of the lyrics to “Maka Version.” Like “You’re in tune to the sound of this generation.” Or, as you mentioned, “One time, Kitty, one time. Two times, Kitty, two times.” And then, “Make a move brother, make a move.” But now “Nanny Version,” to me—I wonder what you think about this: To me “Nanny Version,” Dennis, that seems like a significant[ly] different [kind of] song. The lyrics in that song, to me, they seem different. Because the lyrics to “Nanny Version” they really are—if you look at [them,] and read [them] they’re very sophisticated. It’s almost like a poem. It is a poem that you’re reading. And it’s a very melancholy kind of sad poem. And if you don’t mind, I just want to recite the key lyrics, which [are]: “When you ain’t got no money, Brother—you can do this a lot better than me[, Dennis]—

—but, “when you ain’t got no money, Brother—”
“You ain’t got no friend.” (Laughing) “When the money ends—when the money’s done, that’s when your friendship ends. And you’ll have to start all over again.” (Laughing)

So, Dennis, this is so wonderful. It’s so amazing. It’s so genius this poem that you wrote. You still throw in a few things in “Nanny Version”—catchphrases and toasting phrases—like “With a double attack.” Or “Tell you ‘bout it.” But the heart of the tune is quite sad; it is quite wicked in its truth. About how friendships end when you ain’t got no money. It’s really such a deep poem. How did you come up with the lyrics to the song? And do you remember what brought the inspiration to the I—to be able to come up with that?
Well it’s everyday living, you know? It’s a real thing. Real talk. Because some people are like that. They’re all around you when you got money. As soon as the money finish, they gone.

El Paso

Mosquito One

Shades Of Hudson

Dennis, a lot of the world is like that—I think a lot of the world is like that.
I’ll give you a little story about that. When I did that tune, and first came to England on tour I met this guy, and he said to me, “You know that tune that you did, ‘Nanny Version?’” When you said, “When you ain’t got no money, Brother, then you ain’t got no friends?” He said, “I just love [those] lyrics. Because I was there. I’ve been through that. So that part of the lyrics it got hold of me.”

Yeah, it relates—
Yes, it relates a lot so I used to love that song. Just for that part of the song.

Me too, me too.
Millions of people, you know, can relate to that.

Yes. Yes. Now one thing I also want to clarify, Dennis, is one of your famous catchphrases. I listen to it a million times, but sometimes you can’t know until you ask the man who’s responsible. When you say “A-Waso, El Paso?,” –

—are you saying—first of all, am I saying it right? “A-Waso, El Paso?”
It rhymes.

And is that patois? Does it have a meaning?
Yes, it’s patois. It’s patois.

Is it basically saying, “What’s up, El Paso?” “A-Waso” like “What’s up?”
No—well, it’s kinda illustrating the greatness of the sound.

(Laughing) Now I got it. Now, Dennis, I also really want to ask this: You know, studying the lyrics of your songs—especially the big hits [of] which you have so many—it made me want to ask about, a little bit about your songwriting process. Because, for example, I may have sent you my interview from this summer of [legendary singer] Johnny Osbourne. And Johnny Osbourne told me that when he writes songs—he doesn’t write songs. He said basically all his lyrics are spontaneous, and the riddim is what tells him what to say. And—
Quite right.

What did you say?
(Laughing) That’s right.

Is that how you—
That’s right, especially the bass line.

The bass line talks to you.

And so are you saying also, that you’re like—are you like Johnny [Osbourne] then in that your lyrics they [are created] as you’re listening to the riddim? Or do you write them ahead of time?
Well it’s what [they] call “head talk.” You just work off of the top of your head.

And you listen. When you listen to the riddim, the riddim is telling you what to say. So Johnny Osbourne is so right. Sometimes you ride off of the bass.

But let me ask you—because your lyrics for all of your hit songs—you have so many hit songs—which are all so, the lyrics are so cool and crisp, they’re so conscious every time. And if you’re doing it spontaneous, is there a time, like when—because you have to keep doing songs, you have to record them. In order to get them the same way, to be the same lyrics every time, is there a point where you write down the lyrics to make sure, you know, that it stays consistent between performances?
No. What really happens, when you play the sound system it’s like a rehearsal. And it’s like a testing place for the songs that you’re doing. When you’re in the dance and deejaying—most of the time, when I was deejaying in the dance, there was a lot of people, because youths would gather around. To watch what I’m doing. They were so enthusiastic about the DJ genre. So anyway, when I’m deejaying sometimes I hear inside of my head that guy is saying something pertaining to what I am saying. And I would hear what he’s saying—soul food. And I link it to what I’m saying. And so on, and so on. But when you’re in the dance and people [are] just enjoying themselves, and they’ve [had] a few drinks, a few spliffs (laughing), right, inspiration just keeps forming. All the while you hear somebody deejaying—not professionally, but they are saying something, you know, [that] you can relate to? So I can draw from that, and mix it in with my lyrics.

But then does there come a point—that makes so much sense, and is actually quite beautiful artistically to think about—what you’re doing there in the sound system. But when you want to translate that to a recording—when you want to take that into the recording studio—is that the point where you have to [commit the lyrics] to paper? Or no?
No, no, no. It’s in your head.

Wow! You already know it. You know it.
I know it. It’s programmed. Most of the time it’s just one take. You don’t write it up. It’s already written in your brain. (Laughing)

Well that is just amazing. Now one of the tunes that you did—before I forget to ask about it—after you recorded for Coxsone for a while, you also recorded for another legendary producer. I think he’s a producer you once named as one of our favorites—if not the favorite. [I’m speaking] of Duke Reid for Treasure Isle.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

He became your steady employer. You were paid weekly I believe by him?
Yes, because I also brought [DJ] Lizzy with me to Treasure Isle. And Lizzy was getting paid as well—weekly.

And you were doing—my understanding is—not only were you doing your thing in the studio, but you were—people have written about this, they called it—they say you were an “A&R man” for Duke Reid. And you would do things—you did things like you picked up The Paragons from the airport. What are some other things, if you don’t mind my asking, that you can recall, you know? What are some other things that Duke Reid would ask you to do as part of your weekly thing for him?
Yeah he would ask me to run some errands, you know? Send me down to Tivoli Gardens and speak to some of the guys there. Because he was close to the folks in Tivoli; so if he wanted something [to be] dropped off in Tivoli, he would ask me to do it. And that—what you just mentioned, about me going to pick up The Paragons….Yes, what really happened, he wanted to form with The Paragons, with John Holt, but John refused.

There was some bad blood going on there between them. Because they were saying that every song that they wrote with John Holt, John Holt took the song for himself. And it caused a rift with them. So Barry and Tyrone Evans, they got a girl from America named Roslyn Sweat. So they brought her now, because when they brought her down, John wasn’t coming to join the group anymore. They brought Roslyn Sweat with them. So I went down to pick up all three of them up at the airport, and carried them back to Treasure Isle. Take them to their hotel afterward. And then the following day, [I] picked them up and carried them back to the studio, and [they] recorded this song called “Blackbird Singing in the Dead of the Night.” Big song. Big song. And another song I can’t remember the name—the title of it at the moment—you know, but great singers, great guys. And I actually dropped them back [off] at the airport after a week that they spent in Jamaica.

That’s so amazing to think about.
So great. So great. A different direction of the music. A different department, you know? You’ve got to be flexible. Especially when you [work] for Duke Reid. Because Duke Reid always had his gun at his side (laughing).

I can’t even imagine—I saw where you talked in numerous interviews about him walking with guns—and he would have his—I think he was able to hear from where he was in his office what was happening in the studio. And if he wasn’t happy he might fire off a (laughing)—fire off a round.
(Laughing) Yes, yes. He would fire off shots, you know? And get you—

But you still loved—well I don’t know if you “loved” him, but you still liked him?
Yes, yes. (Laughing) I worked for Duke Reid mostly because he put some money in my pocket.

Yeah. He was good about that?
Yes. A lot of [other] producers, apart from Keith Hudson, it’s like they’ve got superglue in their pocket. The money cannot come out. (Laughing)

(Laughing) Now isn’t it true that the first song that I believe that you recorded for Treasure Isle—it wasn’t—you were still recording for Coxsone. And Duke Reid’s engineer, Byron Smith, I believe he had a track called “Barbed Wire” by Nora Dean that he produced. And I believe the story is that he didn’t want Coxsone to know that he was retaining your services. And this was why he put the track out under “El Paso.” And of course I’m talking about—I mentioned it earlier—I love this song, this is the wicked track “Mosquito One” [recorded] [o]ver at Treasure Isle.
Yes, Mr. Smith was the engineer at the time. Byron Smith. So he called me, and I went down. And they told me he’s got this track that he wants me to version. So I said to him, “Really and truly, Mr. Smith, I shouldn’t be recording here, you know, because Coxsone is a ‘funny guy.’”

(Laughing) A “funny guy” meaning he might be upset if he knows?
(Laughing) Yeah, yeah. Because they had a little bit of a run-in with [legendary singer] Alton [Ellis]. Because Alton did leave Treasure Isle and went and worked on most of [his] songs for Studio One. Yeah, so there was a—they had a rift. [And even] before that with the sound system[, too]. So they were always “at it.” So anyway, I was a little bit reluctant, but I still voiced that tune for Byron Smith. So what he did, he didn’t put “Dennis Alcapone” on the [record] label, he put “El Paso.”

And you even shout out “El Paso” in the song?
Yes, El Paso. So he put it—they used to call me “El Paso,” you know, after—that was one of my nick—pet names.

After [your] sound [system]? After the sound [system] you had created it?
Yeah, because of the sound system.

And now, Dennis, I have to ask, we have to talk about these lyrics [of] “Mosquito One.” [We] have to talk about it, because I love them so much. Because the song begins—it’s so original: “Mosquito one, mosquito two, mosquito jump in a hot callaloo.” (Laughing) And I laugh every time I think about this. And every time I hear it. And [so] I have to ask[, because] if you’re not Jamaican sometimes [the] lyrics in some of these great old Jamaican tunes—they can go right over your head. Because sometimes they’re based on folklore. Or on [distinctively] Jamaican things. Or on patois. And so I have to ask you: What is happening in this beautiful, creative, quirky, hilarious song with the mosquito? Why is the mosquito jumping in the callaloo? (Laughing)
All I can say [is] it’s a folk song, you know? We had a great lady in Jamaica called Louise Bennett—

Ms. Lou!
Ms. Lou. So all those folk songs come from Ms. Lou.

That comes from Ms. Lou! Oh my gosh, you know who was telling me about Ms. Lou recently is [legendary singer] Nadine Sutherland. I interviewed Nadine Sutherland, and she—when she was a child—[she] was on the [TV] program that Ms. Lou did. I forget what it was called, but it was the program that she did on television—Ms. Lou.
There was one called “Massran & Ms. Lou.” This was on the radio. There was a special night where that one would come on, and everybody would gather around the radio [to listen] to Ms. Lou.

And then the callaloo—the “Mosquito One” lyrics—the mosquito jumping in the callaloo—that comes from a Ms. Lou song?
Ms. Lou, Ms. Lou, Ms. Lou. Ms. Lou. She was the folk lady at that time in Jamaica, you know? Anytime you want to listen to patois or things like that, she would joke around with it, you know? We grew up listening to her.

Now one thing I’m quite sure that Ms. Lou did not come up with is [the lyrics that] follow in the song of “Mosquito One.” And I just have to ask—make sure I’m hearing it correctly—because it’s so wicked I think. Because later in the song, am I not correct, it says: “Mother lock the door, and father got the key, but baby that won’t stop you from loving me.” (Laughing) Ms. Lou could not have said that!
(Laughing) No, no, no. “Mother lock the door, and father got the key, but baby that won’t stop you from loving me.” When you’re really trying to chill with your girlfriend, you have to come up with those kind of lyrics.

Chukki Starr & Dennis Alcapone (Photo: Teacher)

Chukki Starr & Dennis Alcapone (Photo: Teacher)

Oh my gosh, that is so wicked. Now I want to quickly try to ask, Dennis, because you recorded some great songs for Bunny Lee. And I was deprived of a chance—I actually was recalling this last night—because interestingly, I was sending I Kong my interviews of Earl “Chinna” Smith that I did when I was in Jamaica last. Which was in 2020. Before the pandemic struck. And as I was interviewing Chinna, he said “You really have to go interview “my father,” Bunny Lee. And I was shocked because I didn’t know Bunny Lee was still alive even. And I said, “Bunny Lee is alive!?” And he said, “Yeah, he [is still alive and] in London. He’s ‘my father.’ You have to go and interview him.” And then later that same year, Bunny Lee passed.

Yeah so I have to ask, because Bunny Lee—I wanted to ask you—because you did so many great songs with him, what is a fond memory or two of Bunny Lee that leaps to mind? And also, what made him such a successful producer?
Well he’s got a lot of things to say with everybody. Because Bunny Lee was actually responsible for the Soul Syndicate band. Yeah because those guys [were] raised in Greenwich Farm—where he was from. And Earl Chinna Smith, Santa Davis—

Tony Chin.
Yes, and Fully Fullwood—

—and all those guys, you know, he took them to the studio. And turned them into great musicians. Because they wanted a break. And Bunny Lee gave them that break. So as they play along to different riddims, they get better and better. Then that Soul Syndicate band becomes a real good band.

Yeah. One of the best I think, yeah.
Yes. And a lot of other producers were using them, so they got [very big] after that.

Blackbeard, Tony Chin, Dennis Alcapone - Photo by Tony Chin

When you think of him yourself, because you recorded so much with him, what is like a fond memory, or what is it that you think about—like a time you can think about recording with him? Or maybe it wasn’t in the recording studio, but what’s a good time that you remember of being with him?
Not getting paid.

(Laughing) “Not getting paid.”

That wasn’t what I was expecting you to say, Dennis. (Laughing)
(Laughing) Yeah, yeah, not getting paid. The only thing he would do, he would send somebody up to Kentucky [Fried Chicken]—up [to] Crossroads—and buy a bucket or two of Kentucky [Fried] Chicken. And give food to the artists and the musicians.

Oh my gosh. (Laughing)
Where the money is concerned, Bunny Lee has got superglue in his pockets.

Yeah but you might get some fried chicken. But you might not get any money?
You ain’t getting no money.

Now you have such great songs in your catalog, Dennis, that evidence a Rasta influence. And to name just a few, there’s “Rasta Dub,” “Jah Guide Us,” “Jah Rastafari” (which is alternatively named “Wonderman”). And then also, you have a very wicked song that’s called “Rocking Ethiopia,” which I think that you did for Sir J.J.
Sir J.J., yeah—a version of the Ethiopian “Seelah.”

Can I ask, Dennis, when did you personally become influenced by Rastafari? And were there any musicians or other people who were around you or in your life who were kind of influencing you when you were writing those songs—and singing those songs that show that Rastafarian influence?
Well it was me and my friends. We used to go to the Rasta camp to smoke, and listen to [the Rastas] reasoning. Rasta is the one, you know, who let me know that I must not eat pork. Rasta is the one who taught me to eat good. [To] [s]top smoking [cigarettes]—

Yeah vital—ital, yeah.
Yeah, so I get some good teaching from the Rasta camp. That’s where my influence came from.

And it started to blend into your music?
Yes. Yes. When we go to light the pipe in the Rasta camp, we have to say our prayers. So it was just lovely. It was spiritual. And we gravitated to that, me and my young friends dem. We used to go to the Rasta camp every evening, and we would share a spliff because we weren’t big enough to smoke one spliff [by ourselves]— (laughing)

The whole thing. (Laughing)
Right. Yeah we share spliffs. So some of the guys would just [light] the chalice, you know? When you light the chalice, you gotta say a prayer. So all of that comes from out of the [Rasta] camp [we went to]. And those people used to preach not even love, [but] pure love coming from the Rasta group.

So that’s how we gravitate to that side of the world. And so a lot of that comes out in some of my songs.

Yeah. For sure. And those songs are so conscious. And in “Rocking Ethiopia,” you sing “it’s a land of love where I can get a lot more blessings, I say.”
From above. Yeah.

And I love that song—that line—it’s such a cool tune. Since I know you’ve toured all over the world, Dennis, I can’t resist asking, did you ever get a chance to sing “Rocking Ethiopia” in Ethiopia?
No, I haven’t been to Ethiopia, unfortunately. (Chuckling)

Can I tell you—I told Ras Michael, yesterday, I had a conversation with [legendary singer, drummer, and spiritual leader] Ras Michael. And I told him I would be talking to you today. And I told him I would [be] ask[ing] you this question—this very one I just asked you. And I said, “I’m gonna ask, Dennis—Ras Michael, I’m gonna ask Dennis if he’s ever done this “Rocking Ethiopia”—which I love—in Ethiopia.” And Ras Michael said, “Even if Dennis”—and he said I have [his] permission to tell you this [that Ras Michael said:] “If Dennis says that he never [performed ‘Rocking Ethiopia’] in Ethiopia, tell him he is part of Ethiopia anyway.”
Ras Michael [is] a good man. Ras Michael is my brederen. I want you to big him up when you talk to him again.

I will.
Because, you know, I’ve got a brederen in Jamaica in “Fletchers Land.” He speaks to Ras Michael quite regularly. And Ras Michael is sending greetings to me, and I am doing the same thing. Through my brederen—his name is “John Bird.”

Respect. Well I’ll make sure that [Ras Michael] knows—that he hears—he wanted you to know, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve ever been there[, to Ethiopia]—he said “You’re already there.”
Spiritually, spiritually.

Ras Michael - Live By The Spirit

Exactly, exactly.
I’ve never really been to Africa, you know?

That’s a place that I always wanted to go. But I wasn’t invited there.

So it’s a part of the world that is—what do you call it—“virgin ground” to me.

Could it still happen, Dennis? If a producer—if they could bring you to Africa—would you go?
I was invited to Sierra Leone one time. But there was some kind of war kinda thing going on—

So I said, “No, no. I’m not ready for that.”

Yeah, that’s heavy.
Yeah. Africa is a place that you’ve got to get a [bunch] of injections—you have to inoculate yourself.

Yeah, that’s a lot.
[You have to] [m]ake sure you’re up to it.

True. Dennis, I watched an interview that you did with “Muscle” for “2 Lined Music Hut” in which you talked about your relationship, a little bit, with legendary singer Dennis Brown. And you mentioned, for example, how, when you were both working at Studio One, that you would often take Dennis to lunch. And you would buy him a Pepsi. And I think what’s called—I have to ask you this—I think it’s called a “Spirit” bun?
No, what really happened is Dennis Brown came down and see me there. You know, Dennis Brown was a little boy [at that time]. And Dennis Brown had a song with Derrick Harriot called “Lips of Wine”—that was his first song. And when he came to Studio One now, he didn’t have any money, because, you know, as artists, producers don’t give you any money. I had a few shillings at the time, so I would treat him to lunch every day. And our lunch consist[ed] of [a three-pence] bun—“Purity” bun—

A “Purity” Bun!
Yeah “Purity” is the [name of the]—

—the bakery where they cook the bun.

I see.
So (laughing) our lunch was a three-pence Purity bun, three-pence cheese, and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola. Yeah, so me and D-Brown used to be there [with] Alton [Ellis]. And later on “Sleepy”—Horace Andy. So we used to sit out back of Studio One. There were some boards down there that we would go and sit on. And Dennis would borrow Alton’s guitar. Alton would teach him how to play the guitar—

—so when Horace Andy would come, Horace would grab the guitar from Dennis as well. So sometimes, Alton would come looking for his guitar and he would say, “Where is that likkle boy!?” (Laughing)

(Laughing) Dennis—Dennis [would] take his guitar?
Right. That was—[yes, ]D. Brown [he] was looking for—an acoustic guitar he had. From there now, I used to take Dennis out like to [Brotherton Avenue,] Kingston 13 on my side. And Dennis used to light his little spliff. So on my corner now there was a little place he could get a little spliff to smoke. So we’d sit down and reason. And smoke. And then we’d go girl hunting. We and The Heptones now, we’d team up and we’d [go] to the drive-in cinema.

Wow. And hangout?
Yeah. So we were enjoying ourselves at that time, you know?

Get In The groove

You later—I read this so I wanted to just ask about it. Is it accurate that you later produced some Dennis Brown songs?
Yes, I produced a song called “Once Upon a Time.”

“Once Upon a Time?”
With Dennis Brown—yes.

Okay. Later today [I’ll] go listen to that.
Yes, I produced that song. And I also did a version—the ‘A’ side and the ‘B’ side. Dennis was on the ‘B’ side. That song was called “Get in the Groove.”

Wow. And what record label did that come out on?
Say that again?

What record label did that come out on?
Oh, my label that I had at the time called “Uprising.”

Cool. And I also—just to ask—you produced also tunes for Augustus Pablo as well?
Yes, that song was produced at Randy’s.

What song did you produce for Augustus Pablo?
You know I can’t remember the title of it at this moment in time.

I’ll have to find it, yeah.
It was one of those riddims that I had that he just played something on it. And there’s another story again with Augustus. He came to Studio One while I was there, right? And he was just a likkle shy kid, right? (Laughing) I’m looking at him now walking into Studio One—he came in as an organist.

And skinny, too? Shy and skinny.
Shy and skinny. He came in as a keyboard player, right? I don’t know what went down with him and Sir Dodd, but he didn’t stay there for too long. And then he left and he went to Randy’s. And that’s where he did the song called “Java” [with the Soul Syndicate].

I love that “Java.”
Yeah by blowing the melodica. And he didn’t look back from that, because Augustus is not a keyboard player anymore [after that]. Because “Java” make it—“Java” hit it very big.

Yeah, it was giant.
And so his trade now was—

Blowing that thing, yeah.

Now Dennis I have to ask about this wicked and rare video footage of you on YouTube. It’s footage I sent you a copy of. And you said, “Yeah, this is young Dennis Alcapone.” And it’s footage of you at the Edinburgh festival in 1973. I think this was your first trip to the U.K Is that right?

And Dennis, somebody uploaded this footage of you—that I sent you last week—somebody uploaded it to YouTube ten years ago. And since that time, people have watched it—that footage that I sent you—179,000 times people have watched that clip of you. Everyone—everyone who listens to this interview, I hope, will immediately go and watch that footage. And you first sing “Cassius Clay,” and your command on the stage—your performance—is so hot! I don’t think that Edinburgh—they showed a picture of the audience—I’m not sure that they understood—that they knew what hit them. You knocked them out. (Laughing)
(Laughing) Well that was [in] 1973 when I first came to England. I did a tour, and they wanted me on that festival. It was me and Nicky Thomas, The Marvels, [The] Pioneers, and this guy called Winston Groovy. And a few others who were on the bill. But what really happened is—it’s in Scotland. And the BBC2 had a program there [called] “The Old Grey Whistle Test.” And they [were] the one[s] who filmed it. And it was not available to the public for a long, long time. And someone send a raw copy—come and give [it to] me. Yes, and I had it. And then I started to distribute it to my fellow musicians that was on that show, right? But that particular video has been uploaded so many times.

It’s unbelievable. And do you remember—I mean the next—like I said you sing “Cassius Clay.” But then the next song in the footage that people can watch [on YouTube] is called “Wake Up, Jamaica”—a[nother] great song. It’s so nice to watch. And I know it’s a bit silly, Dennis, but when you’re watching that, in the last minute of the footage, you’re doing your thing on the stage, and it’s a beauty to see. But suddenly the camera [pans], and you can see your shoes.

(Laughing) And I was amazed, Dennis! Because you have—there’s like 5-inch heels! You have these giant heels! What is going on? (Laughing)
That was the thing at the time—they were called “platform” shoes. (Laughing)

(Laughing) And then you had to—I was amazed, because I was [thinking] how is he able to move so good—[looking] so practiced in those shoes.
(Laughing) Yeah, like I said, a lot of people upload it on my Facebook [page]. So many times it’s unbelievable. You know I was saying to myself, “These people don’t see that it’s been uploaded so many times on the same page.” But, you know, people just love that 1973 performance.

Now after you first toured in London in ’73, my understanding is that you came back to Jamaica, before returning again to the U.K., with what was called the “Jamaica Showcase” in ’74.

And it’s thereafter that you moved to the U.K., permanently. And I have to ask about that Jamaica Showcase. Because I believe among other stars it included yourself, Toots & The Maytals, Cynthia Richards, Al Brown, a young Sly Dunbar, and also, a young Dennis Brown.
Quite right.

And this is such an amazing array of talent—it’s mind-blowing when you think about, and you read that Sly Dunbar [and] all these people were on there. But I did want to ask, Dennis, because Sly Dunbar was there with [the band] “Skin, Flesh & Bones”—and I was surprised because I have interviewed Carl Malcolm. And I was wondering—I was like, “Wow, I wonder why Carl Malcolm wasn’t on the tour?” But then I noticed that maybe it was because “No Jestering”—“No Jestering” was one of the big Carl Malcolm [hits]. It came out in ’73. But then his other songs, the big hits “Miss Wire Waist” and “Fatty Boom-Boom,” they came out later. I was just curious because he was, I think, the main singer for “Skin, Flesh & Bones” at that “Tit for Tat” Club, and—
No, the main singer [for “Skin, Flesh & Bones”] was Al Brown.

Al Brown?
Yeah that’s the main singer [for that band]. And he had a big hit with the outbreak song called “Here I Am Baby.”

I see. So he—
He and Cynthia Richards, they were the resident singers at Tit for Tat.

And Carl Malcolm just wasn’t that big at that time yet?
I only heard about Carl Malcolm when I came to England. I didn’t know of him in Jamaica.

That makes sense then why he wasn’t on that showcase. Because—
No, no, no. Because like I say, Carl Malcolm made his name while I was in England.

I see.
Yeah, so [at] that time, 1974, Carl Malcolm wasn’t around the music scene—not that anyone would recognize anyway.

I see. Now did all those stars that came from Jamaica on that showcase, yourself included, did you guys all travel together on the same plane? And were you in the same hotel? And if you were, what stands out as, you know—what stands out as a memory about traveling and staying in the same hotel with these stars?
Well we weren’t actually in a hotel. The promoter had booked a house.

Oh, okay, you were in a house together?
Yeah, all of us were in this big house—big, big.

What was that like to be in a big house with Sly and Dennis Brown—

—and Toots?
Well to be honest with you, it—we didn’t take it as nothing at that time. Because we already knew each other, if you understand? I didn’t know Sly much, but I saw him playing at [the] Tit for Tat Club. And he was playing with Ranchie [McLean]—and Lloyd Parks was the bass player at that time. There was, I think, there were about two other musicians who I can’t remember at this time. But they [were] called “Skin, Flesh & Bones.” So we all traveled up for that showcase. And that was the time when this promoter called Admiral Ken in London—he was a promoter at the time. And he took me and Dennis Brown from the showcase and put us with Desmond Dekker—to do a show at the Empire Ballroom. And that’s when Bob Marley came that night to see the show. So it was Bob Marley, Family Man, and Carly.

[They] came to the show and there was a popular English boxer there at the time, too, named something or other—[Bunny] Sterling—I can’t remember—they all came to the show together, and I actually—Bob was backstage with us. So I called him onto the stage and introduced him to the crowd. And the rest is history. At that time, he was just promoting the “Catch A Fire” album.

Catch A Fire

Did—did—this is so amazing to me. Did you know Bob Marley before that night? Were you already acquainted with him from being in Jamaica?
Yeah man. Yeah man. (Laughing) We was rolling together in some form or way. Because I can remember one day, me and Lizzy walked into Randy’s Records Shop. And he was in the record shop. And he was actually leaning up on the counter. And when me and Lizzy walk in, he passed some remarks to say, “All uno little boys work for Studio One. Coxsone, you know.” (Laughing) So I said to Lizzy, “Did you hear what Bob say?” And Lizzy say, “Yeah man, mi hear him.” You know so we walked past Bob and go towards the LP records rack—it was a further step up when you go into the store. And me and Lizzy was reasoning. So anyway, we step [out] and we were walking outside, and Bob remarked to us, “[Al Capone, a nu the I me a-talk,] you know? But the I dem no fe work for Coxsone, you know? Coxsone a thief!” So I said to him, “Bob, listen, I’m a deejay, right? So I have to find where the good riddims are to work on. U-Roy is at Treasure Isle, right? And next to Treasure Isle, Studio One have the good riddims. So that’s my job, I have to find good riddims to work on.”

And what did Bob say?
He was alright after that. He was cool. When I explained [it] to him. But he had some grievances [with] Coxsone. And I understood totally [what his concerns were]. He was just up the road, you know? We’d see Bob every day. And sometimes he would come down to Idlers’ rest, very rarely, but he would come down there because his record shop was [on] Charles Street. And Bunny Lee’s shop was on Orange Street. Charles Street is just a couple steps up the road. We would see Bob regular[ly]. [And] the guy that was working in Bob’s record shop was my friend. A guy we called “Johnny Cool.” [Some people would call him “Johnny Lover.”] He was the one that was selling [records] in Bob’s shop.

And so Bob—it sounds like he always had a good relationship with the musicians. That people he respected, he always had a good relationship with them. From what I can tell. It was never a rivalry or anything like that.
No, no, there is no rivalry. There is just music. Beautiful stuff, you know? He just wanted to get good production. Because, you know, Studio One [had the good riddims]. He started the Tuff Gong label with “Skill” Cole. And Bunny and Peter. And then they had the relationship with Scratch—Lee Perry. They started recording for Lee Perry. Yes, it’s a lot of lovely history.

It is. And Dennis—I want to—it’s such beautiful history. We’ve been talking now for about, almost, unbelievably, because the time goes fast, over an hour now. Actually closer to 70 minutes. And I want to thank you for being so generous with your time. And also with these memories. These really precious memories that you have. And at a time like this, I always—when I’m speaking to a giant legend like yourself—a legend in the music—I always start to feel a little bit inept. Because I start to think about all the things I wish I could have asked you about. And the things that I still want to ask you about. And all your many songs. Because you have so many that I love. And I’m hoping, Dennis—this is just a pitch and a plea to you that we can stay in touch. And I’m hoping that, maybe sometime—maybe even next year sometime—we could maybe talk again. And I can ask you some more questions about more of your historic songs. Would you be up for that maybe?
Yes, maybe we can do a part 2.

Yeah, I would love it. Even Angus—I would point out, my esteemed colleague Angus Taylor, who I have a lot of respect for, when he interviewed you, he had two parts too. Because even he couldn’t do it [all in] one part. (Laughing)
No, no, no. You need a whole week.

Exactly! You need like a whole class at a museum—a reggae university. Now Dennis, until we can hopefully connect again for the sake of the history—reggae history—I only have two more questions—two more to ask today. And the first one is: Are you recording new music still, and what musical projects, tours, other musical endeavors are in store for Dennis Alcapone—that all music lovers should watch out for? Both [until] the end of this year, [and] going into next year?
Well, I’m working on an album for myself at the moment.

With some original tracks from way back when.

Wow. Cool.
I want to keep the thing real, if you understand?

And from time to time, I’ve been recording for other people. In Europe. In America. And some other places, you know, where there are still records to be released.

Unreleased records, you know? So I’ve never stopped working, really. And I still—I’ve got records on tape now that still haven’t “reached the road” as yet. A lot of projects that I’m working on that should be coming out next year sometime.

Well I know all the people are going to be thrilled. I’m thrilled to hear that Dennis Alcapone has just said that he’s going to release a [new] full-length album—

—coming some time in the future.
Yes, I actually did compile one from Treasure Isle to Studio One.

A compilation that I personally compiled myself.

Hasn’t hit the road as [of] yet.

Dennis Alcapone (Photo: Teacher)

Beautiful. Beautiful. Now I want to say, you know, Dennis, I hope that God/Jah guide and protect you always. You’re one of the treasured heroes of this music. And, you know, so many people, including myself, have gotten so much joy out of listening to your songs—for so long. So we just treasure you. And we want to keep you safe. And keep you around a long, long time. My final question, Dennis, before we hang up—and we’ll be in touch because I will want to talk to you before I publish the transcript of this interview. Because you said some things—some names of people, places, and things—that I will want to make sure for historical purposes are accurate. So I’ll be sure to get in touch with you about that later. But, Dennis, before we hang up for today—and I give you a rest—what final message would you like to send out to all the many, many Dennis Alcapone fans in Jamaica, in the United States, in the U.K., in Africa—all over the world—so many people love Dennis Alcapone. What message do you have for us?
My main message is to bring back the love. The love that we used to share. In the early days. Love of the music. Love of each other. And stop the violence in the world. It makes no sense. Because if you deal with violence, you go down in silence.

Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s true. (Laughing)
(Laughing) Right. So I’m just saying, please, bring back the love. Let’s enjoy like we used to do. Let’s go into the dance without thinking that someone is going to shoot up the dance.

So well said.
Let’s go to the dance and have a drink or whatever thing you do—if it’s a spliff you smoke or whatever—[and] enjoy yourself. And go back to your home.

Yeah, because we lose too [many] people unnecessarily. So, please, let’s bring back the love. Like it used to be. And the lyrics of the music nowadays, you have to take your time with it. Because when the lyrics [are] good and clean, people live in more love. But if you’re gonna bring lyrics that [are] talking about guns, and all kinds of foolishness, then you’re inciting violence. So, please, bring back the love. Bring back some user-friendly lyrics.

They need to be “ a defender, not offenders.” Be a defender, right?
(Laughing) Yes. (Toasting) “Don’t let the children cry, or you’ll have to tell Al Capone why.”

Exactly. Hey Dennis, thank you so much my friend! We’ll be in touch, and you have a great rest of the day, my Brother. Thank you so much, Dennis.
Give thanks, Steve. It’s a blessing.

Bye, Dennis. Thank you, Dennis. Bless up. Talk to you soon.



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