Jerry Baxter (of Well Pleased & Satisfied): No Longer In The Slum Part 1 (The Interview)

by Jun 2, 2023Articles, Interview

Interview with Jerry Baxter part 1


Where: Unknown
When: May 2004
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Jerry Baxter, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2023 – Peter I

Jamaica has produced so many great harmony groups it is stunning to see how many of them never got the break they deserved and broke up beforehand. Some of them were on a par with contemporary R&B groups as far as perfecting the blending of voices went. If it wasn’t sounding sweet it was the opposite, and often just as appealing in its execution; exposing the raw ghetto nerve of the sufferah. There you have the sound of Well Pleased & Satisfied; a more energetic and intense style and, if you ask me, one of the most original in reggae music. Reading a reggae record chart in the spring of 1977, you could learn that a tune like ‘Pickney A Have Pickney’ was one of the best-selling pre-release singles in England by said Well Pleased & Satisfied.

The creation of lead-singer and songwriter Ephraim ‘Jerry’ Baxter, Well Pleased & Satisfied was formed sometime in the early seventies, hooked up with Sonia Pottinger’s stable of artists and got a big hit with the sublime ‘Sweetie Come From America’, a song included several years later on the Hollywood soundtrack to ‘Club Paradise’; though it did little to break the group out of a long struggle in obscurity. Ever since hearing the emotional energy in Jerry Baxter’s lead-vocals, I have been looking for more information on their past history in the music but nothing has surfaced. So, it was about time that their story was told as it has rarely been told anywhere, and here it is. Jerry is more focused nowadays on being a businessman, travelling between Kingston, Miami and New York, but there is promise of dusting off the back catalog within a not too distant future. My thanks to Jerry for taking the time to speak at length in May, 2004. Thanks also to David Jahson, Sarah, Cassey, Tim P, Robert Schoenfeld, Donovan Phillips, and Steve Barrow.

Where were you born?
I was born in St. Mary, a district called Cumberwell, St. Mary, Jamaica, December 1947. Then I left from Cumberwell and come to town when I was four years old. OK. Then from there I go to school there and raised in Kingston. Kingston 11, that’s where my school lies. Stayed there, went to school, I went to Boys Town School. But first I went to Cockburn Pen School, Cockburn Garden now it’s called, and I was going to Boys Town Arlington School, and finished there. And then I started life on my own, start learn a trade. It didn’t work out so I took up singin’.

What did you work with?
That trade was… at first I start to make brooms, like what the dreadlocks makes just to stay alive. And then that wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I start to make bags, handbags, and then we started to distribute to all the stores: Time store, Sangsters bookstore, Marzouca’s, a lot of stores all over the place.

Kingston 11, where exactly is that again? Waterhouse?
It’s Waterhouse. Kingston 11 is the area where King Tubbys used to have his studio. Yeah.

A pretty ‘hot’ neighbourhood back then, wasn’t it, or that came later on?
Yeah, it was violent in the seventies, but it break down a little bit. People has gettin’ to their senses and start to show a lickle civil manners. And from then it’s not that worse, it is a little bit better, y’know, we start to get more united now and all that. But every now and then they break away, people always have their differences and they do something. But I mean, it wasn’t like in the seventies when it break away very, very bad, yunno, and it come back also.

If you would explain further for those not familiar with that era, why did it get so ‘hot’ in the seventies?
Well, it was the change of politics and some of the people feel like they shouldn’t work and some feel like they should have something for free. Because the only system there was democratic socialism, so they didn’t know what the leader Mr Michael Manley was saying. So most of them didn’t understand, they didn’t understand that they should work together as a people, they should try to really, as a people, to work together in peace and harmony and share a social conduct and share the social approach in life, but they didn’t understand. So sometime they wanna beg, they wanna steal sometime, they do all kinda t’ing. But after a while when they realised it turned around.

You’ve lived in Waterhouse most of your life?
Well I was living in a more depressed community, it was called Majestic Gardens. That is out by Three Miles Round-A-Bout, the same Kingston 11, by Three Miles. But my mother take me away in 1962 from there, and I went to Waterhouse, the same Kingston 11 community by the little fall, up on the hill. I stayed there, stayed there forever! I’m still living there now. But from 1962 when we got independence, I’ve been living in Waterhouse.

Music Like Dirt
What was the start in music, writing, all of that?
Well, it happened that I was going to school where my teacher always taught me about African history, so I always believed in African history, y’know, I would always strongly believe in our history. So he always taught me about history, black history. So I wrote the song ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, and I sing that for Coxson first. But before I wrote the song ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, I was singin’ for Coxson, I do about seven songs for Coxson, Studio One, and he released about three or four of them. One is called ‘Music Like Dirt’ and one is called ‘Wepp’, it was the flipside of the hit song called ‘Nanny Goat’.

What year was this?
I think… man, I don’t remember if it was ’68 or ’69, but it was in the sixties.

So late sixties.
Yeah, it was in the sixties, man. It was going down… it was coming close to the reggae, it was coming close to when the reggae was formed. It is the same era that reggae was formed, but it don’t have that stage yet. I remember when they were in the studio doing the final beat, Jackie Mittoo was playing the organ and was playing the piano together along with I think this guy was called Denzil Laing, played congo drums and percussion, and he got a guy called Eric Frater.

On guitar.
Guitar. And he got I think Boris Gardiner was playing the bass at the time, and I think Carl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan was playing tenor saxophone, and… I’m just trying to remember some of the musicians was there. But Sylvan Morris was the studio engineer. And they clap the beat, ’cause Jackie Mittoo was playing the organ and the piano combined together, they clap the bass and the piano that with the organ they was playing a shuffle, was playing that shuffle on the organ. So when they clap the beat and they come outside, they were trying to find a name for this beat, and they call it all kinda name until they come up with ‘reggae’. So reggae was born at Studio One, at 13 Brentford Road in Cross Roads, reggae was birth there, the sound called reggae was birth there. I even remember this guy called Joe Gibbs, he used some kind of a reggae t’ing, because he had a band I think was called the Hippy Boys, and they used to do some songs. But it wasn’t like what Coxson had done, it was something more simple, more simpler. And I think Coxson was puttin’ up a fight to Joe Gibbs, I think Coxson was fightin’ him, something like that. I think they had a fight for that, because Coxson was swearing that he was trying to swallow his beat, he owned this beat, something like that. But they still go along, and people keep on creating their own little sound alongside with Coxson. But they never sound like Coxson, Coxson was the father. It’s like Coxson was… it’s not really ‘was’, he was and IS the Motown recording studio of Jamaica. There was Duke Reid, Treasure Isle studio, and there was Dynamic and there was Federal and there was a little… I don’t remember that studio. You got Randy’s studio.

You got West Indies, WIRL, too, became Dynamic later on.
West Indies Records was there, yes. Formerly West Indies Records then turn over to Dynamics Records. ‘Cause I think it was Edward Seaga along with Byron Lee who was running West Indies Records, and then I think it was Seaga sold off his share, something like that, to Byron Lee, and he continue. Federal Records was run by a man I think named Ed Khouri or Al or Derrick Khouri (actually Kenneth Khouri, later run by son Paul), something like that, with the Khouri family. They are of Indian descent (actually Lebanese), so they were called Khouri and so they run the Federal record company. Duke Reid him run Treasure Isle, and by Randy’s, he had his t’ing out by North Parade in Kingston. But you had Coxson who had the Motown of reggae music, Studio One. Mr Clement Dodd, he is the Godfather of Reggae, because in his studio they had changed over the rock steady to reggae, and that’s how it is. But there’s a lot of guys who is saying that they create reggae and say they know that they’re the reggae master, but they’re just fooling around, they are kidding themselves. Reggae music was created at Studio One.

So you formed the group right in the beginning of that era.
It was the same year that the reggae – I think it was ’68, the same year when reggae formed out, we formed the group. We, me and my friend, Bertram McLean, we start out. First we start out with Lloyd Parks and Sly Dunbar, and ‘Ranchie’ (McLean’s nickname) and myself, we used to play together. We rehearsed but we wasn’t in a group together, we just rehearsed an’ t’ing. Because Lloyd Parks had just broke up his group called the Termites, they used to record for Mr Coxson, and they do some songs for a guy called Ernest Barnett. But they wasn’t recording anymore for Coxson, so we always rehearsing over a place called Compound, in Tower Hill. It’s the same Kingston 11 area. Sly Dunbar always say that he is the drummer, but there’s a guy who – his name was Neville, and Neville’s uncle I think bought a tape, a reel-to-reel tape for him, a portable reel-to-reel, and tape he didn’t play and listen back to – it’s just like a cassette tape, but it’s only that reel-to-reel thing. But Sly Dunbar always take off the top of the tape, the box, the top of the piece of material that cover the tape making sure there’s no dirt get inside of it, pick it out all the time. And he’s always biting on his lip, beating the coup of sticks and say he’s the drummer. And he always act like a drummer and playing the drums, soundin’ very good but it was no drums. But he was trying to play it, y’know, keep a drum beat there. And Lloyd Parks have an ordinary box guitar, and he always play the bass, OK? And Ranchie who was my friend who I sing with, always play the riddim – you understand what I’m saying? We have two guitar. And I always sing harmony and I always sing lead. So that is there we start as The Actions. Me and Ranchie was the Actions, but Lloyd Parks and Sly Dunbar were just the musicians. But Lloyd Parks was a singer and a musician, because his group called The Termites was broken up, him and a guy called Wentie.

Termites - Do The Rock Steady
Right, Wentworth Vernal.
Vernal, yeah. You know what I’m talking about. OK. And there we went to Coxson, and we did about six or seven songs I told you before, for Coxson. So while we were there, Coxson told us… we do audition for Treasure Isle and his liquors, but we didn’t want to sing for Treasure Isle. We go to Coxson, you understand, because Coxson was the studio that was going hot. Treasure Isle records was selling, but we feel it more at Coxson’s studio. So Coxson told us that whatever song we’ve got, all the songs we’ve got, we should record them, because it sound very good. And that’s what he is saying. He’d want us in the day to try and put down the songs, and when he’s got the time, we should come in and record. So we did about seven songs for him, we was trying to finish an album. Before that he told us that we should do any of our songs we wanted to. But first he put out a song called ‘Wepp’, and then he put out a song called ‘Music Like Dirt’, and that sell very well, but it wasn’t on the charts. And he put out one called ‘No Bada Gwan So’, and a couple more. But I don’t know if he put out those, about three or four of those songs. But anyhow, ‘Wepp’ was on the flipside of the hit song called ‘Nanny Goat’ (Larry Marshall), and ‘Nanny Goat’ was the best selling reggae song of the same era. So the same era when the reggae was exploding, it was coming out on the streets, it was all over the place. Everybody know the song through the hit. So he told us now, if you left me with seven songs on a royalty basis, we could be a millionarie. I said to myself and Ranchie “Wow, man!” So we walked out of Coxson’s office. He didn’t even remember that we sell him the song, because he used to buy songs from artists for seven pound ten. Everyone of the artists that sing for Coxson, most of them sold their songs for seven pound ten. Most of the artists that record for Studio One get only seven pound ten for a song. Seven pound ten. So we said we wanna be a millionarie, so we decide not to sell our songs. So we walk out of the office and say OK, we collect on a royalty basis. He bought the ‘Nanny Goat’ from Larry & Alvin, they lived up in a place called Barbican, it was up in St. Andrew, that wasn’t the downtown area, it was uptown – St Andrew. So we wait until three months time, when the song sell and sell, and we see like we should go for our royalties, ca’ we’re not working so we need some cash. We go inside of his office, we say we come for our royalty, he said, “Which royalty did you want?” We said, “The royalty for the flipside of ‘Nanny Goat’, ‘Wepp'”. And we say to him, “It’s our song, we didn’t selling you the song, we said we gonna collect on a royalty basis, we could be a millionarie”. So we come now, we’re supposed to be millionaries, we’re supposed to be rich now. Ca’ the song is a hit all over the world – Miami, England, Jamaica, it’s number one for a lot of weeks, it was on the chart. It was the biggest selling reggae song in Jamaica, ca’ it was the first song that come with the beat that sound that way, with an organ, so it got to go. So Coxson look at us and say, “No Jackson” – he called everyone ‘Jackson’ (chuckles).
He said, “Jackson, you no understand! No man, I bought the song from you, from you guys”. And we said, “No Mr Dodd, no sir, you told us”. So he said OK, he’s gonna look for the papers. So he looked for the papers, and he keep on looking and looking, can’t find no statement or no contract that we signed on a outright project. We didn’t sign a outright project with our song, we didn’t sign a outright contract. So after that he told us to come back another day. We come back another day, I think it was a Saturday, and we come back about ten o ‘clock, and we were out there, and we were dying for hunger. We’d sit there under the mango tree, and we sit there and wait until night. Then we see he open the door and come, he say, “Jackson, you still out there?” And we said, “Yeah! Yes Mr Dodd, we’re supposed to, because you told us to wait”. And he said, “OK, come back Monday morning”. We come back on Monday morning, he take us in his office, this time God have a little mercy now, it’s like he have a little sympathy for us now, he take us in his office. And we go inside and we sit down, and he say, “OK, I’m gonna give you guys twenty pounds for the song”. We said, “Twenty pound, Mr Dodd?! This is a hit song! You can’t give us twenty pound!” Man, as I’m talking right now I feel like crying, but I’m not gonna cry, man. And he said, “Twenty-five pound then!” We said, “Mr Dodd, you’re not supposed to be dealing with us, you’re supposed to take the statement of the sale, and pay us according to the amount of songs that sell”. And he said, “OK, thirty pound!” We said, “Mr Dodd, why you doing that?! You’re supposed to checking the papers, you’re not supposed to be dealing”. We keep on saying the same thing to him, and he had a gun at his side – he always have his gun. So he said to us, “OK, I’m gonna give you guys twenty-five pound and that’s the bottomline!” It was like he was getting nervous! He was getting nervous, I could see he was chilling, like. Because this is why he never pay nobody. I think I met a guy called Skully, he was one of the first guys who record in Jamaica, and Skully had told us that the biggest money he had paid any artist was twenty pound. But anyway, as I was saying, he was trying to reach for his gun, like he was gonna shoot us, and I touch Ranchie and I whisper to him, “Ranchie, it look like he gonna shoot us!” Beca’ we’re little kids, just leave school, and not so strong and we’re not so brave to let someone with a gun in those days fe really, y’know, happen to us. He was acting like he was gonna go for the gun. And I whispered this to Ranchie, and Ranchie said, “OK Mr Dodd, we take thirty-five pound”. And he gave us a check, it’s not a bounce check, but he cross the check – that mean seh we can’t take it to the bank and change it, we gotta take it back to him for him to sign his name and clear it. And we take it to the bank and never realise that he cross the check, and the bank seh: “Just go back with it”. The bank was Nova Scotia, down by the bottom of King Street in Jamaica, that would be the number one street in downtown Kingston, King Street. But when we go back for him to sign the check, he still was giving us the runaround! He was still hiding, yu understan’. And we had to come back still another day, we wait until night… and God help us that… man! I don’t know, he signed a check for thirty-five pound. So we were the Actions, the group called the Actions, me and Ranchie – Euphraim Baxter and Bertram McLean as the Actions, we were the biggest artists, biggest paid artists in Jamaica and Studio One, the Motown of Jamaican recording companies. So we were the biggest paid artists who received thirty-five pound on a check. None of the artists who sang many number one songs ever received thirty-five pound. Never. So you are the first man to get this t’ing in an interview, you are blessed. That would never have happened before this time, because you got the history. The inside history of Sly Dunbar and Lloyd Parks, y’know, you’ve got the history.
Catch The Quinella
And Ranchie.
And Ranchie. So it happened like that. Then now, there was this guy called Alton Ellis now, after Coxson said, “OK Jackson, you’ve got to keep on recording for us, so I need you to finish that album”. Next time we going to the studio, Alton Ellis was putting on a voice, or he was laying a rhythm or something, but he always in the studio, always in that studio, so we couldn’t get no time to really do the rest of our songs. We laid some riddims, and it was Marcia Griffiths who do some overdubbing on them and, y’know, make some songs for herself. So we couldn’t get no time to do our stuff. We got fed up, we get frustrated, and I said to Ranchie: “Ranchie, I’m gonna quit, I’m gonna stop singin’. Because every time I come, there is Alton Ellis in the studio and he’s voicing, voicing, he’s laying riddims, he’s everything”. I say, “I can’t get in the studio, we can’t do it”. So I remember my mother, Mrs Ivy, saving some money to open a store, because I said I need to open a store for myself. So my mother take out some of the money, bought a ticket for my sister to go to London, and that she would make a better life and send for us, the rest of the family. But she got out in the country, got hang out with a man down there, she married him and got children and get stuck. She never go to England, and that money was waste. But the rest of the money that I’ve got in the bank, I said OK, I’m gonna take it out and start some recording for myself. But Ranchie could play guitar very well, he wasn’t trying, he was playing guitar that time with a little band called R&B Invincibles, and also Sly Dunbar was playing. So I said to Sly I’m gonna take them to the studio, and I’m gonna rent the studio. So I rent Channel One studio with the money, and I hired Bobby Ellis and Tommy McCook as the horn section, and I hired Sly Dunbar and Ranchie – I’ve forgot the keyboard guy, I’ve forgot who played the organ, and so forth. But we come up with the song ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, and then we go release that song, and that song was very big in England. That song was very big in the dancehall, it was a dancehall anthem in Jamaica. Everybody thought it was King Tubby’s production, but it was my production, ’cause I gave him the riddim to really play for… to distribute, like to tell the sound guys them to make it popular. And I did ‘Black On Black’, I did ‘Westman Rock’, I did ‘Chat Chat’, I did ‘News Carrier’, I did ‘Barberman Bawling’, I did ‘Sweetie Come From America’ – I did that for Mrs Pottinger. It was very big in England, ‘Sweetie Come From America’ was very big in England.

Before we go too fast into your history with Well Pleased & Satisfied, what about some other Actions tunes, with titles such as ‘Catch The Quinella’. You remember that song?
Yeah, ‘Catch The Quinella’! Yeah, I was trying to remember the song! My man, you are baaad, man! You was in the studio, man. You wasn’t even in your country, man, you wasn’t even there. You was in Jamaica, man, your mind – everything was there! ‘Obey obey, catch the Quinella’ (chuckles)! Yessir. And we got one called ‘Giddup Grumble’ – ‘Giddiup’.

Yes, ‘Giddup’. But this is nothing I take credit for, it’s in a discography, ‘Roots Knotty Roots’.
OK. And we got one called ‘Wepp’ and one called ‘Music Like Dirt’. But like how I told you before, Coxson had released four of the songs, so I couldn’t really remember me song, it was so long now. But you, man, you was there (laughs)! You was there, man. You was there, man! Once you got the record, you mind something, you’ve got something.

Well, we have a comprehensive discography of vintage recordings to use nowadays, it helps for anyone willing to do some research.
But I’m saying that you were there in some way, because you’re lucky to have information, you save me a lot. Because once you ask me, I could almost tell you the four songs, not almost but I could tell you the four songs.

I think you mentioned ‘No Bother Gwan So’ already, huh?
‘No Bother Gwan So’? Aahhh! This was another one again! Man, that was the fifth song, man. We never really get to voice the rest of the songs. We have one called ‘Fat Girl’, but we never get to voice that one. I think at the same time you had the Heptones doing ‘Fatty Fatty’ (sings the chorus). So we say since he was singin’ about ‘Fatty Fatty’, we say well, we gonna sing a song about (sings): ‘Fat, fat, fat girl, you gotta think how fat you are…’. And we walking down the lane and whistling the song, it just create a vibe like when you see the woman walking with her butt and shaking. You know, our song would be a hit too, I’m sure of that. But we never get to voice it, ’cause Alton was always in the studio. So that’s it, y’know, at Studio One. It start back at Channel One with us, the same group: Sly Dunbar, Ranchie, everybody. And I even did an album for a guy in New York, he was called… we call him ‘Fireball’. And that album, we got a number one song offa that album in New York, after the album called ‘Someone Is Watching You’. But I’ve got this song now on an album, I’m thinking it would be a good music to release.

 Bother Gwan So
‘Wepp’, that’s a pretty peculiar song.
It’s like a guy with a suit, he’s got a lot of smells coming funny, a guy with a funny smell crep. It’s like, his name is Wepp, he’s a guy who doesn’t wash his crep, so he always have a office smell. We say ‘Wepp, Wepp, I smell your crep’. He stand up in the crowd and everybody goes: ‘Wepp, Wepp, I smell your crep’. And that’s the crep, watch his crep, man, ’cause his crep was very… you know? Yucky (laughs)! It’s like Coxson say, we got the song that’s selling. Because when ‘Nanny Goat’ come, it would be like the time for gimmick songs, it was like a lot of jokes, it’s like it was stand-up. It was like music and comedy. So we have all the jokes in the song, we can keep a joke in a song and it sound very good. So Coxson said, “Man, you got what the people want to buy, so gwaan”. But Alton always in the studio, so we never get to finish the album.

I guess this is the typical sort of novelty tune of its day.
Yeah. I mean, well you have some guys in Jamaica who are singin’ some songs they call dancehall songs, but it’s not really reggae. Because in Jamaica right now, most of the artists are not playing reggae. They are kinda mixin’ some (imitating a machine-like sound).

I think it should be distinguished from what reggae is, or what ska is. It is more like a Jamaican form of hip-hop.
Yeah, it is like a hip-hop thing, it’s not reggae. I don’t call it reggae, ca’ I don’t sing those songs. So I’m here working over a studio called On Beat Recording Studio and I’m doing a new album, and it’s called ‘Reggae In The Bag’. It’s songs dealing with the system, y’know, it’s like I can’t give away the songs on the air, but it’s gonna be called ‘Reggae In The Bag’. So I’ve got them published and everything, I’ve got them at a stage where the album is very close to be finished. That (title) song is telling you you’re going through a system, and the guy is saying to you ‘what you got?’ And I say ‘well I’ve got it in the bag’, y’know. It’s a bad song. Man, it’s a song like when Bob Marley was out in the seventies, that’s how that song sounds.

The classic way.
Yeah, right. It’s like it got some guitar pickin’, some real mean guitar pickin’, you know what I’m talkin’ about. And some horns blowing, and the drum, foot-drum kickin’, and the bass bouncin’ all over. Man, it’s terrible, man. It’s mad, I don’t know what to describe it. It’s a bad song.

OK. So back to the Actions again.
After Coxson the group just break up from that because we didn’t go anywhere. Ranchie was playing with his band and I was going solo. So from solo to solo, Ranchie going from We The People – no, R&B Invincibles, then I go solo and sing ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’. But before that I formed a group now called Well Pleased & Satisfied. And that was my big debut, that was because the name of the group was so strong, it’s like it was commanding. ‘Cause we got this guy on the radio, Don Topping, and when he was playing my song it was like a preacher on Sunday mornin’. When he call the name of the group, it was like, man, it was something.

How did you come up with that name for the group?
Well, I always think of things very properly and I always think of names of songs, because I even wrote a song of the group – I wrote a song off the name of the group. I love the name so much and I said (sings): ‘I’m dealin’ well pleased and satisfied for the things you have done for me, people!’ You know, it was that crossover reggae. But I didn’t record that song all now, so maybe on my next album. Because I’ve got about eight albums to take with me to New York, so probably on my ninth album I may be… havin’ that song, I don’t know.

So when was the group founded, to be a bit more specific?
Well Pleased & Satisfied was formed… I think it was in 1971 or ’72, either ’71 or ’72. But it was formed in the early seventies. It was formed around the time after I leave Coxson, because Nicky Thomas the guy who was ‘livin’ the ‘Love of the Common People” and all those hit songs, we used to sing with him, I and him and a guy called Hugh Lewis who is a member of Well Pleased & Satisfied, Everand Miller was the guy who was doing the bass in the group, and he was a member of the group who sing with Nicky Thomas. But Nicky Thomas break away and go to Coxson, and go on an audition. But Coxson didn’t select him because he was singin’ in his nose. Like he got a sound like a goat, like the words wasn’t comin’ out of his mouth, it was like comin’ out of his nose. So he went to Derrick Harriott, and Derrick Harriott select him and he sing a song called ‘Run Mr Nigel Run’. And then he went to Joe Gibbs and do about three or four songs for Joe Gibbs, and then he just took off like that. And then Nicky Thomas go to England and I never see him.

He has passed away now.
Yeah. And then now, because our group with Nicky Thomas was called the Sammarcands. Yeah, the Sammarcands. So we used to rehearse with the Gladiators, we were workin’ out for the same producer, a man called Mr. Lee, living in Washington Gardens, that is out at Washington Boulevard. That is on the other side of Waterhouse, on the next side of Waterhouse like you’re going to the country.

What was his label?
I didn’t remember the label, because I think… ahhh, man! If I could… oh, man.

You never recorded for him?
No, I didn’t record something for him, because Nicky Thomas and the guy who was supposed to sing the bass in the song – the song was called ‘Compare The Lovin’ I’ve Got For You’, until now Nicky Thomas didn’t remember that song, until the moment when he died. ‘Cause I don’t think he remembered the song, ’cause it was a very powerful song. It was a song that must be a hit. Sometime the man who we was gonna sing the song for was in his living room, and when we go there, we got to eat some dinner, and we got to sing ‘Compare The Loving I’ve Got For You’ for him in his living… not his living room, in his dining room. We just go inside there, and the four of us got to form up the group together, and like… man, it was something! ‘Cause that song was very strong, ‘Compare The Loving I’ve Got For You’.

What about the other members, Hugh Lewis and David Paul Johnson?
Paul Johnson? Well, Paul Johnson wasn’t a member of Well Pleased & Satisfied. He was workin’ at the Ministry of (inaudible) where a guy called Ken Quatty who was to deejay for I, whe help him to make him a deejay, use to know him. And then I told him that I need someone to go to England for me, ’cause I know no one in England, to get some distribution, to get that to a company. So I gave him two albums and I bought his ticket, gave him some recordings, give him some money and send him to England. But he rip me off. He collect some advance and he take the money for himself, and go to another place, New York, and open a business for himself.

So that was Johnson. What about Hugh Lewis?
Well, Hugh Lewis he was a member of the group, but he wasn’t active with me. Because I had to do all the roadwork, I gotta press the label, I got to find the money for myself, I got to arrange the songs, I got to write the songs – I got to do everything for the group, you understand. No one never really helped me.

OK. So Lewis never co-wrote any of the songs?
Well, he didn’t really write no song, he never write a song. But just because he’s my friend, I shared the writing. I write all of the songs, I write and compose a theme. One time he tried to write a song, it was a song what John Holt sing, and he was using the melody off John Holt’s song, to get to write the song. But all of the song was what I write, but I shared the write. I said OK, I’ve gotta share ’cause he’s my friend. That’s how it is. We still share the writing now, because once you give someone a share or the other guy get account within the business, you can’t change that no matter what you do unless someone compromise, you know that? Someone gotta compromise, sign over their right and give to you. So it’s like that, that’s it y’know.

But apparently you never gave up that Actions name from what I could see, a few mid seventies releases bearing that name came out like ‘Please Mr Deejay’, ‘Holy Mount Zion’ and ‘Run Society’ for Randy’s. Was Clive Chin involved in those? He’s credited on the label.
No, no, all those songs was produced by me. I did everything, I arrange, I produced (coughs)… Whenever time you give – like those guys in the recording studio, they would just put a label and they put ‘produced by Randy’s’, or ‘produced by Keith Chin’, or something. And we’re just glad for them to distribute that for you, you don’t really pay that much of mind, you don’t think of your rights. You just want to get your song playing on the radio, or to get some money to start a next song, you understand me? It’s like a fund. I didn’t know that the business was so big, I didn’t know. It’s when people like Bob Marley really come on the radio and seh well, man, it’s very big, I said “Wow!” And I always see him there in the studio, and where he was selling his songs, some of his material, our group Well Pleased & Satisfied was one of the group who was selling. Because we have a song called ‘Black On Black’, we got ‘Living In The Slum’, we got ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, we got ‘Chat Chat, ‘News Carrier’, and we were selling. So Bob Marley albums were going very good an’ t’ing deh, it’s the same company, Total Sounds. So I realised then that, look, there’s money in it. But all those time I didn’t have no money to really put myself on the rail and write the proper way.

Pickney Have A Pickney

Open The Gate Bobby Boy

Sweetie Come From America

Right, but the Randy’s stuff was just distribution, no other involvement you said?
No, I produced them. I paid the musician, I rent the studio, but they used their label.

But why didn’t they put ‘Well Pleased & Satisfied’, instead you got this mix-up with your former group? You wanted both names out there in case something big happened to any of those names?
I don’t know, I don’t quite remember what that fusion was like. But I think first we used the Actions, and then after a while to change over back to… we decided to perform Well Pleased & Satisfied. When we do the song ‘Black On Black’, I think that’s the biggest song for Well Pleased & Satisfied. And then we have ‘Chat Chat’, ‘News Carrier’, that’s the way. But the rest of the songs I think it was the Actions. Yeah. But the Actions was the same guys from Well Pleased & Satisfied, but original Actions was me and Bertram McLean, Ranchie, he used to play with Jimmy Cliff. He was playing instrument along with Skin Flesh & Bones at the time, he had a band with Sly Dunbar, Skin Flesh & Bones, and they were playing at a club, for Tit For Tat on Red Hills Road. That’s a guy called Dickie Wong who booked them at that club. So after a while that band break up, and they start a band called the Revolutionaries with Sly Dunbar. And then I think Lloyd Parks was in that band but break away and start We The People. I don’t remember what the fusion or how the mishandling/dismantling of the band go. But if you could get Lloyd Parks you can get how it was, I don’t remember. Skin Flesh & Bones was at one club called Stables and another one called Tit For Tat. I think Skin Flesh & Bones was playing at Tit For Tat and We The People at Stables, so that’s where he started the band-thing and opened a record shop. But I’m surprised that most of these guys that have a good history, a very nice history that can make reggae music influence other people and other artists to come in the music business and start lower than how they start, and start better… they don’t tell people how they really start. It’s like they’re afraid of their history. I do really see through that. So I really like Bob Marley. Bob Marley to me is like – I don’t know, I don’t even know how to describe him. He’s the greatest along with Dennis Brown. My favourite artists in Jamaica was Dennis Brown and Bob Marley. Dennis Brown is very special. He did one of my songs, and when he realised that it was my song, and King Tubbys introduced Dennis Brown to me, he hugged me. He said “My brother! Wow, man!” He did the song ‘Open the Gate Bobby Bowa’, y’know, but is only that he changed the lyrics. But it’s my song anyway. So that album is called ‘Joseph Coat of Many Colours’. Yeah.

And no compensation for it.
No, I didn’t get nutten from that, I didn’t get nutten from it. ‘Cause I didn’t have my publisher Ted Powder toward the songs… was that he migrate back to the United States or somewhere in Europe. The Khouri people who are responsible for the publishing, I don’t know how it really got to them, because there’s nutten. Then it’s like everyone is giving you the runaround, you got no lead, you got no money to go to no lawyer, everything was low down. It’s right now how I realise how the business should go; first you should get your publishing write up t’ing, copyright everything. See a lawyer, a good lawyer to really get a contract straight before you sign. You know, I didn’t understand nutten, now I understand. So I am singin’ more better now.

Ted Powder, wasn’t that guy associated with Johnny Nash and Cayman Music, the JAD offshoot or spin-off? At least Danny Sims was the head of that company.
Woodwater Music.

That was with Danny Sims.
Yeah, Ted Powder was doing I think some publishing for Bob Marley too, I think so. Yeah, yeah. So you see, everywhere Bob go, we always there. I even record a song the other day, I think it was 1988 or ’89, it’s a soca song called ‘Water The Garden’. It’s a very, very popular song in Jamaica, very big in Jamaica. And I gave Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong for them to distribute it, and it was some guys working in the company, and they pirate the song within the company. And they press the song and sent to Guyana, and it was a number one song in Guyana, and a number one song in Jamaica. But I didn’t want to buy a spot on the radio to push it. Because no matter how much songs you sell, or how much thousands you sell, you’ve got to buy the spot – all over the world it has got it like that. I don’t know, it’s running from Motown days to right now. You’ve got to buy the spot or you give the guys something to play the song. So I didn’t buy the spot for the song, and it didn’t reach number one. But it was on the charts in Jamaica. It was very big. They still sell that song. One of the biggest calypso songs in Jamaica, ‘Water The Garden’. So I have that album ‘Water The Garden’ taken with me some time when I go to Europe.

Black On Black
Which was the first single as Well Pleased & Satisfied?
The first record by Well Pleased & Satisfied to come out was ‘Black On Black’.

That was on the King Town label.
Yeah, yeah. ‘Black On Black’ is a song… they say civilization began in Africa, the Garden of Eden where Adam & Eve was born according to the Bible story. Then with ‘Black On Black’ it told you how black people, like a black woman, say for instance she can produce any other nation that exist in the world today. Now if you check it out, like she can produce a Chiney baby and it almost look close like the father, a white baby – even though she is black it look almost like the father, it’s like that. It’s being very, very white – or so called white you see, I don’t see they are white people, or they’re black people. I don’t see people black or white. I don’t know, but in those days I was thinking different, but now I see it different. Anyway, it was telling you that the people that they call black people – or black woman – can produce any other nation that exist in the world today. A black man, if he go to the barbershop and get his hair cut, he can take one piece of the hair and take the other pieces up, it’s inside a black man’s hair you got unity. You’ve got a magnet, a magnitude of united steel or magnet always sling the steel, and we always like a magnet. So it shows, yunno, that the culture of the black, what they can do. It’s not even the race like, say, the white is not good, the Chinese are not good, it’s not no racial discrimination thing. It’s just saying that what the black man can do, you understand, it’s just showing you some of the things that we can do. So be proud of yourself and don’t look down on yourself. The potential of the African man, just like that. ‘Black On Black’, that was one of my biggest selling 45s, ’cause it was distributed by Total Sounds, and that man treat me very good, man. I could get money to go on and make other records, I could go to the radio station and… you know? Do a lot of t’ing there (chuckles).

The head of Total Sounds was a guy from Australia called McDonald, right?
(Chuckles) OK. You see, he…

A white guy, aussie, even.
Yeah, he was a guy from Australia. He wasn’t fully white, like he was a… half-white. Anyway, Mr. Mac. OK, he got a nephew called Paul Fuller, I think he was working at JBC at the time, I don’t quite remember. In those days you got I think – what’s the name of the other guy…?

Not Free I, was it?
Errol Thompson.

OK, ‘Turntable Time’.
Free I do the same t’ing. No, Free I and Jeff Dixon…

Jeff Dixon was called ‘Free I’ actually.
OK. And ET now was the top DJ that time. Anyway, we take the song to a company called – it wasn’t Micron at those days, it was called… man, wow! It was a company run by a guy called Winston Blake, he was married to this lady…

You mean Merritone?
Merritone! Man, Merritone Records! Man, you were living in Jamaica…

Anyhow, Merritone was run by Winston Blake, and we take the song to Winston Blake, and when Winston Blake play the song, he look at me and said, “Look, tell me somet’ing” – and my friend Hugh was standing there too because he was in Well Pleased & Satisfied, “Why you sing so much t’ing about black people? This is racial discrimination”. I said, “No, we are not disputing out of how few things they can do”. He said, “But the other day you talk about the black man, the black woman, what about the black woman and black man – what about that?” I said, “I’m not saying nutten wrong, but the good t’ings about it is what they can do an’ t’ing”. But he was causing a fuss, like. Because he didn’t want to distribute that record because it was too much about black people for him to play. And I remember I lived to see that guy come on tv and talkin’ a lot of good t’ings about black people, and I said: “Look, look at that guy, man!” I told my wife, “You see that guy?” She heard that guy talking now, and I said, “You should have heard that guy what he told me about my song ‘Black On Black’, man, you’d cry”. Anyway, there was Paul Fuller who with Mr. Mac who would run Total Sounds, who owned Total Sound recording and distributing company, and Paul was standing up right round by Merritone, go by Winston Blake’s place at his shop – he got his distribution place there, and he said to me, “Come, follow me. That song is a good song. Come, I’m gonna let my uncle hear the song, come with me”. So I follow him, and we go right around Total Sounds, because is the same building, and we signed the contract immediately. And we take the song to this guy ET. Man, every evening that guy played that song three times, four times, and he was the number one DJ in the country in those times at JBC radio station. And man, that song took off like a bomb, man! It was a bomb! It wasn’t on the charts, ca’ we didn’t pay for it to reach the chart. But it was my biggest selling song, along with ‘News Carrier’ and ‘Chat Chat’, ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’ in Jamaica, man.

Open The Gate
I guess the problem with the ‘payola’ was as much a problem then as it is today within the industry in Jamaica? Not Jamaica alone though, it is widespread.
Yeah, you gotta pay for it. In the recording business right around the world, I don’t know if it’s in Germany or Scotland or in France or in England or around Europe, because I’ve never been to no radio station there, but in my country – even America, you gotta pay. Because if you watch some of the movies, like with Marvin Gaye and the Temptations, that show you how Motown was started and how Temptations was created and all those things. So you see from the fifties coming right up, there was a payola system in the music, that’s how a lot of songs hit. Because even independent producers don’t have a lot of money to give discjockey, so they get stifled.
So the smaller producers rarely got any airplay, but who was going beyond that in those days, supporting the lesser known producers, like ET for example? He was a bit different I heard.
Yeah, he was a good guy, ET. But sometime I found this guy Junior McGlashin and we know somebody who know him, and we take the song to him – Junior McGlashin was workin’ at RJR, and man – as I speak my head raised, my head is… currently going through my mind, there is a current charting through my body, y’know, it’s like an energy and it vex very good – and we take the song to him. And the first guy, Hugh Lewis know someone who was working in the army, and he tell us about Junior, that he knew Junior at RJR, and we asked him to see what he can do. And we offered to give the guy money, and the guy say “No! I don’t want a penny!” You understand what I’m saying, man – the guy never stick a dollar in his pocket, man! And man, that song was a bomb. I think it was ‘News Carrier’. Mr. Mac was distributing it, and he treat me very good. Treat us very, very good. I gave Mrs Pottinger one called ‘Chat Chat’, and that was selling like hot bread. When I go for royalties she said that… man, she just give me a few dollars, y’know. Not even biscuit money.

So Mr. McDonald was not involved in your productions whatsoever, apart from taking care of the pressing and distribution of the tunes.
Yeah. All of my songs, I never sing… away from Coxson, I’ve never sing for no one. Away from Mrs Pottinger, I sing two of their… I was gonna do an album for her, but I changed my mind when I see the result for ‘Sweetie Come From America’, because it was very big in England. ‘Cause we even got a contract for it, for a soundtrack movie with Jimmy Cliff called ‘Club Paradise’. So we got in the soundtrack of that movie, ‘Sweetie Come From America’ was the soundtrack recording in that movie.

I know, I’ve seen the album. How did that track end up on the movie soundtrack? How did it come about, and the song itself?
Well, there was a man – the song was selling in England. The English people always like to tease the American people at times, y’know. Sometimes they like to have a joke, even though they are close they like to have a joke of Americans, because they’re different. The American break away from the English and the English always say that they’re leader for the Americans, the American always say they are not – or something. But they always have a little thing going there. So I just pick out that song, I say “Sweetie come from America, you should a hear how she a twang”, but that mean she was talk in a different tone, and she was acting like she couldn’t speak no patois, no broken English no more. She was acting up, she was in the high-zone, man. When money done, she would stop talk, all those things, she started to speak our language an’ t’ing like that. It was telling you how people from America, when they come to Jamaica, people who come to see… who migrate from Jamaica to America, when they come back how they react, y’know. As soon as their money fade, they would start act in a way, because they ain’t got nothing to show of. So the English people love that song, ‘Sweetie Come From America’. They love it in London, I think I’m gonna do over that song.

But you were approached by the producers of the soundtrack, or you dealt with Mrs Pottinger to end up on the soundtrack?
They was a guy who… I don’t know if he heard it on the radio or what, but he was going to every record shop, every place that distribute music in London, everywhere. He was all over London, looking for Well Pleased & Satisfied. And there was all kinda guys… he was calling me all over the place, him want to come down and get the contract to go up back, to (inaudible) the money, to give the guy the OK or something. But he finally get to Mrs Pottinger, because he found out that she was the one who owned the song. She don’t own the song, but she own the riddim, she’s the producer. She own the riddim, so she automatically owns the song, but we own the writing and the publishing. But anyway, she made (inaudible) for us to sign the contract, but then I didn’t wanna sign because I said we should get a lawyer or something like that. But my friend Hugh Lewis was very jumpy, he said no. Just because he said the contract is gonna – the guy gonna use a different song, because he can’t wait no more, and this and that. So it end up that we signed the contract, and he gave us fifty thousand dollars. And that was just cheatin’ us, because I know she could give us the deal for more than hundred thousand, or one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. So I wrote to Warner Brothers and asked them about the royalty, and they say they can’t find a statement even if it was a outright contract and all kinda things. So that’s the end of the story.

Club Paradise

So nothing after the advance in other words?
No, nutten after. Even the sales, nutten from the sales from London. Nutten, because he claimed that the guy who was selling the record in London, the government confiscated his business, because he was into something, or something I don’t know.

Would that be Chips Richards from Sky Note?
I don’t know, I don’t remember his name. But they say the government confiscate his things and all those… I don’t remember his name. He gone without paying tax or… I don’t know, I don’t recall the whole story. I know that’s what they told me. And even the song ‘Water The Garden’, that’s the same way it end up. Because I and the guy Shaune Dixon, I wrote that song and we produced it together an’ t’ing, do some harmony tracks an’ t’ing, Shaune Dixon and Jerry Baxter. So we did ‘Water The Garden’. It was number one song in Guyana, but we never get nutten. So when Hank Holmes (a retired radio DJ from Los Angeles, founder of the renowned ‘Reggae Beat’ show with Marley-historian Roger Steffens) called me and tell me that he need some material from me. I said “Yes man, I understand, I feel you need a song”. But I’ve been robbed from… I don’t know how to explain, man. Everyone robbed me, I don’t know – everyone! I don’t get no pay. So music just give me a lickle small something. I don’t figure it would give me a lot of money, just give me something, no matter how small it is. So he say he didn’t have no money at the time, because he was trying to get everything together and all kinda t’ing. So I understood his problem, but I’m sorry I didn’t give him, because he helped me so much. Because at least he did me something what you are doing now, so I mean he helped me.

He did a lot for lesser known names in the business, giving them airplay and exposing the music for a wider audience, Roger did the same but covering different ground. Well Pleased & Satisfied was one of those names.
Right. Yeah, he did even tell me one time that we were bigger than… I don’t even gonna call the group’s name, because that gonna give Baxter group. But he say that that group was a number one group in Jamaica, he see Well Pleased & Satisfied as the strongest group. So I’ve got the number one group in Jamaica. Because he say, the way I sing my songs is like an energy that I put in it, it’s like a force coming through. It’s like – I don’t know, I’ve got an energy there, man. Because I sing from my toe, I don’t sing from my mouth. The sound come from my mouth, but I sing from my toes, the bottom of my feet. When I sing, I stick my toe in the ground, that’s how I sing.

(Chuckles) You have a special sound, if not a bit peculiar. I can’t say that anything else reminds me of Well Pleased & Satisfied, you have that originality. I mean, where’s the influences? It pretty much was your own origination, the sound there?
Yeah, I come up with that myself. Like, I listen to a lot of Temptations, Impressions, or Jerry Butler. I listen to all American classic singer, Nat ‘King’ Cole, everyone that sing those. So I pick out how they sing and I try to place my words. And I try to preach, I try to sound like a messenger, and I try to really go out there deep. So I always ask my friends, who even try sing like me – David Jahson is one of my best friends, I always trying ask him to whistle and go with me, ca’ I and him do ‘Natty Chase The Barber’, but he just put his name alone. He just make his name alone with it, but is the two of us. We voiced ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ together, and ‘Give Thanks and Praise’. He was talking to me the other night, he was saying, “Man, from I did those songs there it’s like…” – you know I can’t come up with the song, so I’m gonna go and revive back David Jahson. We’ve got some songs which I am gonna go and overdub and overdub, and try to lick back some songs. Because I think he did a Dennis Brown song that sounds very good, and he did two more songs. I’m gonna overdub them. But when I go to London, I don’t know if I’m gonna revoice him. I’m lucky and he’s lucky. I mean, he got a chance with me that he got that help with me, so I’m gonna draw and try pull him out some more. That a very humble guy still. But I mean, I’ve got to pull him out some more, because I’ve got a lot of faith, man. I don’t give up.

How did you meet Jahson?
Ahh! Well, it’s just through…

He was a member of Well Pleased & Satisfied at some point too.
Yeah, right. Sometime he played with me, sometime he play with drums and all those things, percussion and all that. So we just linkin’, like a friend thing. We always have a thing going. He was a part of the group too. I met him when doing the business with the bags, that’s where we met. He used to be the distributor for the handbags. So he used to move with a guy who was a custom broker and a guy who had a lot of contacts with the stores. So he linked that guy with me, that’s how we get to distribute the bags to all the stores, Sangsters, all those places. So he got the contact with that guy, the custom broker, and then we meet. And then now, he was singing for a long time, then we start save back some money now to go back to the studio, and we link up back and do ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ and then ‘Give Thanks and Praise’. And then he toured with Jacob Miller and Inner Circle, then he come back. Then he was trying to leave Jamaica, so I said no, you can’t leave me, man. He was still leaving, and I said “Man, you got a ticket? OK, I buy you a ticket”. And I said OK, let’s go back in the studio. I’m gonna let you go back to England, man, and before you go back we gonna do two album, man. And I said “OK, hold this, take this with you to America”, and he tried to go back to England. So me and my friend Shaune Dixon, we helped him to put that together, and that’s when he reach back in England. He got married and stay there for a while.

You and Jahson did like a duet of the Wailing Souls classic ‘Mr. Fire Coal Man’.
Right, right! Right, man, you was in Jamaica (laughs). You must’ve been living in Jamaica, Peter! You were living in Jamaica, man.

(Laughs) Right, you never know. Jahson put that out on a compilation he titled ‘Past & Present’ some years back.
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Yeah, ‘Past, Present and Future’. Yeah man.

(Continue reading of Part 2)


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