Jerry Baxter (of Well Pleased & Satisfied): No Longer In The Slum Part 2 (The Interview)
When: May 2004
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Jerry Baxter, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright: 2023 – Peter I
In this second part Jerry Baxter talks about Total Sounds, various singles, forming his own labels and producing artists such as deejay Ken Quatty, his debut album, David Jahson, The Actions, and much more.
Since you had a bunch of singles out on this imprint, was there any intention at the time to do an album for Total Sounds?
No, Total Sounds wasn’t really…
I mean, you had ‘Fight Against South Africa’, ‘Gates of Zion’, ‘Living In The Slum’ and…
Ah OK, hold on, hold on! Don’t go no further. With ‘Fight Against South Africa’, the only person on the radio who played ‘Fight Against South Africa’, is the same ET. And I was the first man to sing an apartheid song. Long before Bob Marley, long before everybody, because I think so deep of the African history. And I always keep in touch, you understand, but I don’t have no friends in Africa. The other day I met an African lady, and I said, “Lady, you are the first real black African woman I’ve ever met”. She said, “Why you said that?” I said, “I see you are from Africa, straight, undiluted. I’m from Jamaica, I pass through the slave system and go there and come back to America. But you come straight from the Motherland, so I respect you. Can I do something for you?” And she gave me five dollars, and I said, “Why you doing this?” She said, “No, no. I see you thinkin’ like an American”. And she put the five dollars into her little bag and I got hurted. But I mean, I still forgive her. She was the first real African person I’ve ever met. I’ve met woman, but I’ve never really met an African woman. I still long to see her, but I don’t know if she move away and I don’t see her, so I don’t know. She move away from the apartment complex. Anyway, ‘Fight Against South Africa’, man, that was the first apartheid song recorded in the history of Jamaican music, wow! And Mr Mac was the distributor for that song, that man is very strong, you understand. That man know a musician, that man is for music, y’know, that man is deep. But Errol Thompson was the only guy that played that song in Jamaica. It didn’t sell a lot in Jamaica, it sell a few copies. Because the people in Jamaica didn’t really care if the black people… they didn’t know much about apartheid. So it’s not that they don’t care, but they don’t know what to care for at that time for apartheid, or what we’re talkin’ about with apartheid. So when the song was playing, the beat was heavy, it was like the beat was coming out of a mountain, it was a very heavy standard beat, it was one of the heaviest songs I’ve ever recorded. But I mean – a strong riddim, the people did not fetch that song in the music, what it was askin’, you know. But that was the song I feel that everybody could buy, but they just buy a few copies of that.
I assume the massacre in Johannesburg in ’76 partly inspired that song?
Yeah, I watch it on tv. I watch all those things, and I read in the newspaper and watch how they were slaughtering, and I watch how the guy ‘Vastor the Imposter Smith’, you got Ian Smith that time.
That’s it. Smith say he ain’t got no limit to shoot the black man dead, I say, Vastor the Imposter say he would be doing the very same. He called himself the partyhead, y’know, just to shoot the black man dead, but the whole world should fight against South Africa and the racial issues you see down there. And it was a very strong song, y’know. Man, you are deep, man. I never thought you would know everything about me (laughs)!
‘The Gates of Zion’ was when I was going to school, and that’s my teacher down by Boys Town School, he always told me… always tell us about that, black history. And how they teach the black man that a fruit called breadfruit must boil in a big pot, cut it in two and give them, rub them in crocus bag – a bag whe you put like sugar and all those things in those bag, was a luggage bag whe they carry loads in those bag. And they would give to the black man to wear, and they would send their dog on them. They would cut the black woman belly, to know if the black pregnant woman was better. They would say, “I bet you don’t tell which baby is inside this belly”. One man would say a boy and the other would say a girl. But to know that, the woman is not gonna have baby at the same time, so therefore to know that they gotta cut the belly with their sword, and let out that baby, from inside to outside. So that’s how I come up with that song, ‘The Gates of Zion’. It’s the same song as ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’. But when I did ‘Open The Gates Bobby Bowa’ is that we did that disco 45 and give the solo song with a guy, my wife brother, he’s called Joe Banner (aka Jah Banna). Now, he sounds like Big Youth, Manley Buchanan it is, and I take him to the studio and he do a deejay version for the disco 45. So when I finish sing, he started deejay for the remainder of the disco 45. So that’s how we call that ‘The Gates of Zion’. Then we put a gate, the both of us would open a gate, and there was like a lickle policeman – something like that, and we were going through the gate to Zion, y’know. It was distributed by Total Sounds, on their label.
And there was ‘Living In The Slum’.
Well, ‘Living In the Slum’ was… oh, I was living in Majestic Garden, and I see how the system goes down there. ‘Living in the slum, and your needs get numb, you try to sleep but yu mouth got to be dumb, so you face brutality and all kinda mentality, you get victimized from the society, you get brutalized by the people living around you. But still you got to have freedom – freedom, freedom, freedom. Free to walk the streets at nights and days, your kids go to school so nice and sweet, they come on back just the same, then we say we got freedom…’ (sighs).
There was ‘Sweet Music’ on Total Sounds as well. You recall that one?
… Yes (silence).
You remember that tune?
… Yeah man. Yeah.
(At this point Jerry vanishes from the phone. In the distant I can hear him sighing and sobbing, telling himself to calm down, “yeah, yeah” and “OK, OK” is whispered in the background. I’m asking if things got a bit too much for him at this moment, if we should stop). It’s all coming back now, isn’t it?
(Long silence) Yes, it come back, man.
No problem. Take it easy, it’s a long time. It can be overwhelming at times, like now.
Yeah (silence). Yeah. It’s like that, man. It’s like…
Nuff work for pennies only, it hurts when you think back.
Yeah. It’s very hard, it’s like… it a hard life (sobbing). Yeah, I come back to the real world, man. People got to understand (sipping a glass of water).
A long time now, and ‘wear and tear’ as they say.
Yes, very difficult times. Very difficult times to get by, and get back to the system deh ya.
You feel ready?
Yeah. You can go ahead now, I’m OK. That song was very touching, ‘Living In The Slum’. ‘Cause every day you face the slum, it’s hard. Every day rough.
Watch your back, like.
Yeah, all kinds of people, y’know. Very difficult. And it still go the same, still go the same. It still go the same unless the people unite. What I’m trying to do, I wanna make an album called ‘Living In The Slum’, so it will have that track on it.
Well, you’re living in the slum, people they just have a style. On the sidewalk, they stand on the other side longing to see somebody fight someone to take a news to say this and to say that that they see somebody fight, and they don’t realise that they’re hurting their own self, the rest of the community. So it’s like… you know? They will always be fighting each other, there’s no unity. They always been carry news like the Gleaner, like a newspaper or a radio station, or something. That’s how that song come about, I always think about people and how they live. I don’t really write a song offa… if I see an individual person do something, I can write a song offa that, but I would turn it around. If I see someone do something bad, maybe I say OK, too bad, I’m gonna protest. But I mean, I don’t write a song off an individual person. Yeah. I don’t deal with it that way.
Yeah, it was Sly Dunbar in his early days, man. It’s like he was the star. In his early days, it’s like he was bursting out, he was just anxious to be what he is today. He was trying to make his stride, it was like Jackie and them riddims, write an artist’s drums, man. Was very good. Even ‘Black On Black’, ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, he never play… He tells – everywhere I see Sly, he tell somebody about them songs, it’s like he never play the song like that again. Never. All the songs that he done for me, those drum beats, it’s like it’s the best of Sly Dunbar. He can play drums, he is the best, one of the best drummers in Jamaica. I would say he’s the best, because he made it in the drum business and the music. But the drums that Sly play for me, he never play for nobody. He played in a way that, y’know, it was different.
You had another song for Total Sounds named ‘Tenament Yard’.
OK. Well, y’know it’s like I look around in the system and see people sit down and how they watch what you buy, taking it to your house. And if you cook something in your pot, just because it’s a tenament yard where everybody see everybody and know everybody, they will always watch what you cook, what you eat, it’s like they are the CIA or the KGB, always snookin’ around, snookin’ around, lookin’ around for some clues, the CIA do the same thing. That’s what people do in a tenament yard where they watch everything, they’re lookin’ for clues, y’know, they’re trying to get to you. So that’s how ‘Tenament Yard’ come around. It was lookin’ at the system surrounding a tenament yard. I don’t like it.
Then you put out ‘Life’ on the Exclusive label.
What was it called?
OK, ‘Life’. I don’t even know how it go, beca’ I voiced that song but I don’t even remember how that song went, trust me. I don’t even remember I did that song. I know the melody of the song (sings): ‘Life oh life for a boy out a street deh…’. But it was dealing with the system alone, that song.
You formed your own labels, such as King Town from early on for your own stuff, and also produced other artists, like ‘Jah Lion’ by Ken Quatty on the Dub Station label. You mentioned him before, tell me some more about this deejay Ken Quatty.
Yeah well, Ken Quatty was a friend, just a friend. First I and him we start to sing along with a guy called Dion, we called him Lester. And we start together, the three of us. But every time I call Ken Quatty to really do like try sing the harmony for a song, he always says he’s asleep – his older brother tell us that he’s sleeping, so every time I go to his yard to pick him up to go to rehearsal, he’s always sleeping. So I just say forget it, y’know. And then Dion now, he was a guy who is always trying but he can’t sing. So it’s like, I really bought a guitar together, and I just say “OK, if you wanna sell me the guitar, sell me your share of the guitar”. And they say they don’t wanna sing no more, but they can’t sing anyway. I pay for the guitar and I now own the guitar, so that is how I reach over by Washington Gardens and start the group The Somarcands along with Nicky Thomas, the guy who did ‘Love Of The Common People’. Because I was owner of a guitar, it’s like you own a master instrument, you understand. And everybody looking at you walking with the guitar, you’re a singer because of… you know? It was a lot of fun. Anyway now, Ken Quatty was out of the group, Dion was out of the group, right, and I and Hugh Lewis and Eggar Miller and this guy Nicky Thomas, we start the group called The Somarcands, that was how we formed the group. When I start producing back now, that’s how I go for Ken Quatty back and I say “OK, you can’t sing but you mus’ fe talk, you mus’ a fe talk a song”. So I set up the melody for ‘Jah Lion’, yunno, I do the intro and he do the rest of ‘Jah Lion’. He even do a song called ‘Row Fisherman Row’ and that song was very big in Holland, I got a lot of money for that song, got a big money for that song from the Khouris. But the Khouri people along with Total Sounds was the best people in the recording business.
Still what I heard about Total Sounds according to Ras Karbi, this guy McDonald emptied the account and vanished from the island, just left his staff and company stranded right there.
Yeah, yeah. OK, I don’t know.
Just disappeared, possibly left back for Australia again.
But man, the man was a good man. I don’t know, I don’t know… it might be.
But you own the rights to your Total Sounds output still?
All of the rights, all of the songs I own the rights. I never give him no rights for nutten, he only own the distribution, distribute all over the world or whatever he want to distribute. Not all over the world, but if he can export, they export. But that’s it, they never get the rights for it. Like, if someone call them from London and say they want a hundred copies, and they send out a shipment, they can sell on a export deal, because that’s how they mostly sell from Jamaica, on export.
Yeah, I got the Top Of The Pop label, you got it. A song called ‘Dinner In Bed’ and a few more songs.
Plus one called ‘Chase Them’.
‘Chase Them’, yeah.
And when David Jahson hit with ‘Natty Chase The Barber’ on the ‘Ali Baba’ riddim, you did ‘Barberman Bawling’.
No, well, ‘Barberman Bawling’ was a…
That ‘Barberman’ stuff was a popular theme in the music at this time, a spin-off from the Jahson tune I suppose?
What happened with ‘Barber Man Bawling’: in those days all the young guys they wanna be Rasta, and then some guys say them a dread, some say they are Nyah, some say they are… but they’re still Rasta. And there was a lot of locksing going on, and then the barbershop was empty, so I say man, it’s time to sing a song like (chuckles): ‘Barber man bawling, the youth them a starving…’. And that song, I done a tone of voice, a sound close like a Ken Boothe, but I sing it… I know the melody in that song, like I changed it. The other day my friend who is my publisher, he heard that song and he said, “Hey, you tried to sing like Ken Boothe!” And I said, “No, the sound just come up and a just find the melody for it”. It’s just that, I just do it. But it sound like Ken Boothe, yeah. I even do a song called ‘We Live Together’ that was very big in England, Joy White and Jerry Baxter. Ahhh…
‘Always Together’, the Bob & Marcia song.
The Bob Andy song, it was very big. It sell a lot in England. It sell and sell, y’know. That song was big. David Rodigan, man, Rodigan used to murder that song, man.
Are you aware of the inclusion of this song on Lloyd Coxsone’s ’12 The Hard Way’ anthology? It’s out since the late eighties on the Tribesman label in the UK, the same ‘Always Together’.
I know nothing about that.
Also, on that album there is the Well Pleased & Satisfied track ‘Open The Gate Bobby Bowa’, but with your name, as a solo cut.
Yes? On that album?
Yes, ’12 The Hard Way’.
That guy have to give me some money, man! It seems like we’re in for a big thing, because you have the proof for the album. All you have to give me the proof, and I will get the lawyers to deal with it, he gotta pay me some money.
When you are in business, once you get the proof, you are in business, y’know. Beca’ I don’t give him my songs. I’ve got so much things on my mind, man. If you hadn’t got the history of mine, I could never reach so far with those things. Thank you for what you’ve done, man.
I tell you this, you understand, ca’ you take me back so far and so deep. When I was doing the part with ‘Living In The Slum’, it breaks me down because I started crying. It’s like I feel the things that happened in those days, and it made me weak. That’s why Hank Holmes he said, man, I’m deep, y’know. There’s no group in Jamaica weh sound like Well Pleased & Satisfied.
I believe this album has the most readily available tracks by Well Pleased & Satisfied up to now, it has remained in print over the years. You have Delroy Wilson, Jimmy Lindsay, Faybiene Miranda, Ras Midas and Burning Spear on it, among others.
I know nutten about that, man. Nothing, no statement. Nutten, man! See, I’ve been robbed ever since I came in the business that I’m so lucky in the business that… when I say lucky, I’ve had success. My kids always wanna dance offa my songs. Once I hear a sound, I never stop add to it. I remember King Jammys offered me a Jack Ruby riddim. Mrs Pottinger always wanted me to come and work. Lee Perry, when he heard my song ‘Chat Chat’, he said wow, ca’ I made a song like Bob Marley, and he said he want me to come and do some recording for him. So I say yeah, although I don’t reach his studio yet. It’s like I’m nervous. I don’t see how I’m gonna collect from none of these guys, y’know. These guys they make money, they don’t pay money. But I’m trying to hold on to what I’ve got.
How much of the original tapes has survived?
I’ve got all of them, all of my original tapes, all of my original recordings. I even got all of my original recordings with me right now on CD, and also DAT cassette. So if I come London… if anyone is interested – I would want to have a company, or a company with me anywhere I go, who would have the contract I could sign with. But this album ‘Reggae In The Bag’, I would like a big company to have this album. I think it’s gonna be big, this new album. It has recordings soundin’ like Channel One, some of the recordings sound like Channel One. It got some R&B mixed with reggae, and it’s a fusion of a lot of different music. But it’s reggae, and it’s just solid, like original music. Original instruments, everything sounds real, y’know. It’s a good album, the best I’ve ever really done so far.
Can you recall a tune named ‘Warrior’ on the Top Of The Pops label?
‘Warrior’, OK. ‘Warrior’, ‘Warrior’… ‘This warrior from Port Maria…’. OK, yeah. And ‘Dinner In Bed’. I did a song called ‘Wanna Be Loved’. And there’s another song again, ‘General’. It’s speaking about royal people – it’s based on people who come off a war, they would send the parents to war. You had to be a man of bold. They would either take your soul or you would go to war, and burn you cheap. You got to honor your respect, you couldn’t sit on the throne and wait for someone else to go out there and defend your country for you and you stayed there and… you know? Sometime it worked, but most of the kings though had to go out there. So what the ‘General’ is saying is that the general is coming up to my father’s funeral and gave his twenty-one gun salute and say he was a brave youth. But me and my mother we got fatherless, lost our father. Like the one father we have was taken away for the war. And when he die they gave him a twenty-one gun salute. The leaders of the world are purely war, y’know. That was like the African world policy, y’know, the war general.
I leave Sonia Pottinger and go to Total Sounds for distribution. Beca’ what happened is that I gave her the song called ‘News Carrier’, I told her that though where she got all the contacts at the radio station, ca’ she got the big contacts at the no. 1 radio station, that would give me x amount of play for the song. Ca’ I want the song to really go big. I wanna make an album for myself. So I told her that look, this song is my song, but you still gonna pay x amount. When you paid me x amount, cut it in half, take so much of money back. When she done that, she told me that, “Jerry, look, this song is going, man. This song is large now, wow!” “Wha’! It’s really selling”. And when I go for my royalty statement, Mrs Pottinger don’t wanna pay. So I go back to King Tubbys and book some time. I would give you a history of King Tubbys. So, I go to King Tubbys and I book some time, and I do the song ‘News Carrier’ on the same riddim. So that is how because I was hurt, so I say I’m gonna use the same melody on the same riddim and do a different song called ‘News Carrier’. So I take that song to Total Sounds because they were distributing for me at the same time. So that is how, you understan’. Mr Mac he treat me very good, because he give me a good money at the time.
OK, ‘News Carrier’ was released on Truth & Rights as well as Total Sounds. What was the first record you cut for Mrs Pottinger at High Note, this was ‘Sweetie Come From America’?
‘Sweetie Come From America’, yes. And with that one as I told you before she only gave me fifty thousand dollars for the soundtrack, that’s the only money. I didn’t received no royalty.
That tune was released in the seventies, then reused in 1986 for the movie starring Jimmy Cliff, Peter O’ Toole and whoever it was, not a very interesting movie I have to say. But anyhow, what a surprise for you to be included in a Hollywood soundtrack.
Yeah, yeah. I was surprised. But at the same time just because I got so much robbed, I was saying I need some money I’m gonna hold out. But my friend Hugh Lewis was what we called jumpy – he was hasty. So he signed up, because Mrs Pottinger was tellin’ us that look, we need to go right now. So either it’s now or never.
Pity, because it turned out to be yet another rip-off, sort of anyway.
Yeah, a rip-off anyway. So you see, anyone I’ve worked for in the music business, I always get robbed. I never get… the only people that ever made me feel good in the record business is the Khouri people, Richard Khouri and Paul Khouri. All of the Khouri family by Federal, that’s the company Bob Marley buy out now and turned into Tuff Gong. And Mr Mac from Total Sounds recording company, he was the guy that made me feel good too. But otherwise, all these labels and the this and the that, Mrs Pottinger and the High Note label and the… nutten, man.
You did ‘Walla Walla’ for Mrs Pottinger too.
Yeah, OK! Yeah, I didn’t remember that song, man. I’m saying you was in Jamaica (laughs)! Yeah, I did ‘Walla Walla’ for her plus I get a little money… no! I didn’t do ‘Walla Walla’ for her, I think maybe she distribute that.
Right, it came upon her High Note label anyhow.
I think she distribute that for me. But she want me to do an album, but the way she treat me with the 45s, want her to own and produce, I said no. If you gonna treat me this way on my own product, I ain’t gonna get nutten for an album, so I just walk out and leave her. I don’t go back to her. Sometime I pass her and say hi, what’s up. But I realised you can’t… you know? They are something, man. They don’t think of the artists, all of them is the same. I’ve heard Dennis Brown say something that Joe Gibbs with his production is treating him the best, and I appreciate that, y’know.
One of your hardest songs must undoubtedly be ‘Pickney A Have Pickney’ on High Note, even the title stands out. Tell me more about this track.
Yeah, that track now… I don’t even know. It’s like, I ask her and she don’t even know where the tapes are or nutten. Because she’s like she could make a lot of money now but I don’t know if she don’t know what to do or if she’s interested or not. But she could make a lot of money, because she buys out Treasure Isle, all of Treasure Isle catalog. And along with High Note she have a lot of business there going on. So all she need to do is set up a business and start distribute worldwide and make some money. But I don’t know how to come together, although I have to really get those songs. Because ‘Pickney A Have Pickney’, I need to do over that song, ‘Sweetie Come From America’, I’m gonna do over back that song, and I’m gonna try… But I need some original instruments, like original drums, original bass, you understand. So I don’t know when I come back to Jamaica if I’m gonna get Ranchie and Sly Dunbar to do it, or what I’m gonna do over back of them songs.
The inspiration for that track now.
Well, when I look around and see… every time children leave school like eighteen, and the first thing I see is their stomach swell, and you see a little guy and they say he is the baby’s daddy, and you see it’s not workin’, he don’t have a trade, and you say wha’, what is this? Why should children have children?
They are just a kid, y’know. And they can’t take care of their kid, why should they have children? And they have to carry it to the country and leave it on their grandmother. That is what the song was saying, y’know. And children should not have children, pickney should not have pickney. (Chuckles) It’s not hard to wash the baby’s napkin, but if you can’t wash that, so why should you have kids when you can’t do it. (Chuckles) Yeah, that’s ‘Pickney A Have Pickney’. But all of the songs you hear I talk about, I wrote all of the songs, man. I have a song now that I do… Bob Marley do a song called ‘Slave Driver’, so I’m gonna add some words to that song, just spice it up a little. You know, just some lickle simple things. I’m not gonna use all of his words, so when I’ve voiced it, maybe I will put it on the album ‘Reggae In The Bag’, I’m not sure. I want the album to get straight to my… I want all the rights to come to me, my family.
Not sure if I got you correctly regarding the songs you had for Sonia Pottinger, you still have them or she have them in her possession?
No, she have all the tapes.
I heard something she was ill, but not sure about that though, if she still is. So out of business, perhaps.
I heard from her… son or if it was her daughter or something that she was living in the States, that she’s married to a pilot or some guy like that, I don’t know. I’m not sure.
But what about those solo tracks you did on the Ball of Fire label, this was after the break-up of Well Pleased & Satisfied, or a side-project, whatever, while in the group still?
Yeah, the Ball of Fire label it was after the Well Pleased & Satisfied, the guys are not clingin’ to… every time I want to do harmony, sometime harmony group. Say for instance, I’m doing ‘Black On Black’, now one of the guys they have to go and sing the harmony, and I have to leave the lead and come back and give him the stone, and when I give him the stone he’s not owning the stone, so I have to come down and sing the harmony. Go back and take up the lead, you understand. So after a while then I carry these guys too far, man. Like I’m beggin’ these guys to really come with me, ca’ I’m writin’ songs, I’m producin’ songs. If I was in Europe, say ten to fifteen or twenty years ago, I would be a millionaire. Trust me, ca’ the people in Europe they love my songs. The Europeans, I love them, man. They are deep, man.
Freedom Freedom aka Living In The Slum
The Actions – Giddy Up
Ken Quatty – Row Fsherman Row
So what was the link-up between you and the Burning Sounds label in London?
Yeah well, that’s what I tell you now, that guy Paul was workin’ at the ministry house and I gave him the album and I said look, man… my brother used to have his family in England and he still have his family there but I didn’t remember that my brother – because I was not close with my brother to ask him. So I said to Paul, “You’re working at the ministry, we’re not getting any money. Now look, I know you have to get a lickle small, but this is big. I’m gonna buy this ticket for you, I’m gonna take you to my business weh I have my bag, I take you in the office, sit down. I’m gonna show you the business, what you gonna do”, this and that, and tell him everything, right. And I buy his ticket and everything, I pressed up 45s and give him that he sell them when he come on a pre-release system, and we export that along with him. Anyway, I said, “Man, I’m gonna share this thing, fifty-fifty with you. You don’t put no money, you don’t put nutten. All you gonna put, you gonna take this through the ministry, leave and go to England and do the business for me. Whatever you get, when you come back we gonna start a business together. It gonna be me and you holding up this recording company, OK?” And he write very pretty and he’s quick, his script is like a type-machine printing that letter, y’know. So I like that about him.
So which was the first album, ‘Love Train’ or ‘Give Thanks & Praise’?
I give him the album ‘Give Thanks & Praise’.
That was the first one, your debut long player?
Yeah. And I gave him ‘Love Train’, and he got what you call an advance from mister…
Mr Rana, head of Burning Sounds.
Rana. And he take that money across to New York where he link up with another guy called Paul Houghton who have a record shop in New York in those days called Soul Heaven Record Shop, Soul Heaven. So he claimed that that guy borrowed some of the money and this and that and he hooked up with that guy, and then all kinda t’ing happened. When he come to Jamaica I was gonna hurt him, and then his mother said to me, “Jerry, he is really down”. She said, “Man, I’ve never seen you this way, you don’t feel nutten, my son”. I’m sorry for that lady, when I look at her, his mother, I said no, I ain’t gonna do this. I sorry for the lady and I just walk with him to make a phone call, because he claimed that he lent Paul Houghton in New York who owned the record shop some of the money. How could I send him to England to do my business, and then “take back my money with you, and let us start a business in Jamaica. And you’re gonna go to England, take my money back to New York, then you lend it to somebody. Then you come back to Jamaica to tell me that you lent it to somebody – what should I do?” Anyway, I give him a chance, because he called the guy and I say bwoy, y’know, don’t worry. One day I met this guy Paul Houghton at Total Sounds, finally meet him, you understan’. I realised it was him, and I said man, you owe me some money. And I tell him how much the guy lent him an’ t’ing an’ t’ing. So he got a gold chain and a gold ring, he told me he had a thousand dollars in his pocket, so I take away everything that he’s got. And there was a big rock behind the studio door, and the man… the devil was tellin’ me that I should take the rock and do it, beat him. But there’s a God in me that said no, my wife and my kids at home, my wife could never take care of my four kids. So therefore I forget about it, I give him a chance. I don’t think that. So now I’m saying that look, y’know… it’s like everywhere I turn, man. So I take off what he have, and he say he’s gonna go to his record shop office and then pay me. All now I don’t see him, maybe his business got flat down. But the money that Paul Houghton had steal from me, he take that money and opened a record shop for himself. And then now some guys from Puerto Rico or some of those guys in America, they go to the roof of the shop and take out all the content, the money, the stuff, everything, they clean him out totally. So I don’t know where he is, Jamaica or otherwise.
So in other words you never dealt with Mr Rana yourself, I mean after the first album?
No, no, no. No, I never met him. I tell Paul he must go, and if he got a deal then come back to Jamaica with the money and then we gonna start producing more albums. Then he could take off again, he could do the promotion, and we could share the music. I need someone like him to take care of the work, taking care of the record business, you understan’. Because I’m doing my bag business, I can’t… I’ve gotta go to the country, and sell my thing. I ain’t got no time to really do so much t’ing, you understan’, so I need help. So I said to him we share the company if he help me. And then all that he couldn’t satisfy, he take everything for himself. So you see I had no luck.
You just got a name for those albums, no other such benefit.
Just the name, man. And you see, I’m not a person who’s afraid to speak my history, because I know where my history guide me and tells me. ‘Cause if I say I’m gonna hurt someone, each one by the test of time would get something, but if God can talk to you and say ‘don’t do that’, if you do that you’re gonna go… you understan’. I could revert myself and re-baptise myself and come back into the business and say, look man, I’m gonna be on my own. So you see, anyone who is with me right now with the business, and if they’re not listening and try to guide me and I guide them, I’m gonna go follow my line. Because I know I can sing to make a living. And once people dance offa your music, that mean they gotta dance to your music, that mean you can make money. If they don’t dance to your music, you can’t sell.
Once you get out of the business, it’s like you have to re-establish yourself and build back the name in the music. And one good thing is to have the back-catalog back in print, not only some of the 45s but to reissue the ‘Love Train’ and ‘Give Thanks & Praise’ albums as well. At least give them a re-release on CD, they have been unavailable for way too long now.
Yeah, yeah. That’s what I’m doing right now, that’s what I’ve gotta go do right now.
Yeah, I had lined up a dub album but I didn’t worry because Mr Hank Holmes was trying to get that. But I mean when I realised that he didn’t have nutten to give me, and I got so much robbed, that’s why I wanted to talk to you to tell him that I’m sorry an’ t’ing like that. Beca’ you see, speaking about ‘Living In The Slum’, you see what it done to me… it’s like I don’t wanna call it, because it’s like it bring back so much memory from the slum, y’know, dirty water, broken bottles in the street – everything. It’s like when you’re in the slum, man, you’re in the slum. You gotta have ambition to really get out of the slum, yunno, and that’s hard.
But you did.
And I did, y’know. ‘Cause I raise five kids, I try my best to really get them on the track, but I try, yunno.
As far as I can remember, I think the first record I picked up by Well Pleased & Satisfied was ‘Fast Mouth One’ way back when.
Yeah, ‘Can’t get the fast mouth one, they can only live so long…’ (chuckles). Yeah. When you was in Jamaica when I sing all those songs, you was in Jamaica in Coxson’s studio, you was in Randy’s, you were in Channel One studio – you were everywhere, man, you’re great. Trust me.
(Laughs) Well, I can hardly take credit for that, there’s lots of people who are responsible for this information, y’know, it’s a collective effort I would say. But anyway, the theme of that song is something we’re all way too familiar with, the big-mouthed people. No action, just empty words. Blabber.
Yeah, they just come along and you say something and don’t realise what hurt it’s gonna become for somebody else, and they just keep on pushing their nose where they shouldn’t push their nose. And I say ‘I can’t take the fast mouth one because me and my Idren live so long, fast mouth one they just go wrong…’, and so forth and so on. Wow! You were in Jamaica, man.
OK. It’s still one of my favourites, no doubt. I love the horn arrangements on that one.
Yeah, the arrangement? Yeah, yeah. I think it was Bobby Ellis and Tommy McCook, because I always use them as horns. Every song that I use horns in, I use them. They got that Studio One sound. They always… yeah…
(Silence. He disappears from the phone again) You still there?
(Silence) Yeah, I’m still here. Oh… OK, yeah, yeah. What I’m saying is that people doesn’t think what they are doing when they are doing what they’re doing, y’know. It’s like one of those things I think… you know (almost sobbing).
About those solo tracks you did on Ball of Fire, like ‘Macca Jungle’ and ‘Someone’s Watching You’?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
When did these come out – eighties?
Yeah, it was in the seventies, man. OK.
Produced by someone called H. Green, who’s that?
Yeah, yeah. That guy – it was produced by Mr Green, ‘Fire’, we call him ‘Fireball’, yeah. ‘Macca Macca Jungle’, yeah. ‘Someone’s Watching You’ was a number one song in New York, it was on the reggae charts, right. I didn’t get no money from that neither, because he was trying to do some different business, and then he get (inaudible), and I don’t know, we didn’t hear nothing about it. All I got from that song was a guitar. Unlike Bob Marley, I figure like a bread or something like that. Man, sometime when I remember my musical history I wanna cry, man. Before I was crying, yeah, I was crying.
I know. You had something on the Heart & Soul label by this guy you were talking about, Paul Johnson, at least he put his own name on it, titled ‘Dolly Down Deh’.
Yeah, yeah! They do all kinda things. All of the guys, once I get mixed up with them, they just go along and do all kinda things, man. Once I get hold of my things, that’s it. That was it, you know. I just want to give somebody a chance. You see, you was tellin’ me about this guy who pirate two of my songs and not gettin’ any money, and I was saying that look, if you got the proof, you could share something – you see what I’m saying?
Right, that’s how I’m stayin’, that’s how I stay. Because once you give something for me, I want do back something for you. Still if I do anything for you, I no really want nutten for me. I’m that guy.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, all those tunes produced by me and Ken Quatty. We start a business and we start a different label until we gonna start produce some songs together. But just because we have a song called ‘Row Fisherman Row’, it was a big song in Holland. The country called Holland, it sell a lot over there. So the Khouri people, Federal people was distributing that song. So the royalties we take from that song was very large, so we decided to do more and go and do an album. But we needed to distribute a lot more songs, so we say OK, we gonna distribute all those songs first. But after a while Ken Quatty now, he take out some of the money and do the promotion big now, he want to do the promotion, he take that money out and he couldn’t get back the money, so I said to him forget it. All now I (inaudible) away some of the label for the song and we start press, but we never get forward that song.
Well, he migrate to New York, he and his wife and children, Ken Quatty.
He’s been out of the business since then, not active currently?
No, no, no. I haven’t spoken to him in a while.
So there’s two duets with you and your friend Shanti Dixon, ‘Sympathy’ and the one you mentioned, ‘Water The Garden’?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, ‘Sympathy’ and ‘Water The Garden’. We do other songs, but it’s like every time the lead voice changes, it’s like the people don’t buy it. Is like one time I’m not leading the song, is like the people don’t buy it. If one time you’re not leading, the sales slow, nobody would buy again. You see, I leave ‘Water The Garden’ and do some of the harmony track on the tape, and Ken Quatty lead some of the thing. But it’s like once we leave that, something change, y’know, we no pick up no sales. But he’s done a song, he’s done some more tracks now, and he’s trying to get some things together. We got another album called ‘Strong Love’, we gonna put out that album. So I don’t know what he’s gonna do, with ‘Strong Love’ album, I don’t know what he’s gonna do with it.
I believe the easiest Well Pleased & Satisfied track to obtain on the market is ‘Chat Chat’, that track is included on Heartbeat’s CD ‘The Reggae Train’, their anthology of High Note productions. Did you know about this? I think this one has been on the market for the past twelve years or more.
Ah… I would like with ‘Sweetie Come From America’, to redo that song back. I could find out who is distributing the song and maybe I could get some royalty – Heartbeat you say? OK. Man, if I could get ten per cent of my royalty, I could be the richest man. The other day I found all my master tapes and I gave my daughter them, and I said this is millions of dollars, and she put them in the house, and I got to go and (inaudible) them. Can you imagine me go hook up with you all now and you are so deep in the music and show me the value of all this and… you know? That’s what I’m saying, we need support with everything, man. And look at ‘Chat Chat’ now, I gave her that song to distribute, and she don’t give me nutten. She said that that no sell nutten, right. ‘Sweetie Come From America’, it don’t sell nutten more than I get fifty thousand dollars. ‘Pickney A Have Pickney’, everything she… some of those people, man! I don’t know. I go to Coxson, like I told you before, and I’ve gotta cry to get thirty-five pound from Coxson. We are the biggest paid artists at recording company Studio One. Can you imagine how much artists come to Studio One: the Gaylads, the Wailers, the Heptones, Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson, the Silvertones. All of the groups, man, you name it: Lord Creator, Larry Marshall – all of the groups. Everyone who started the business: Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff – everyone of those artists come through Coxson. We are the only Actions – former Actions, who turned into Well Pleased & Satisfied – was the biggest paid artists, thirty-five pound we collect. You understand? It’s hard, man. Sometime during this interview I cried, man. I gotta cry, man. It’s hard.
The hardships of life, yes.
Yeah. I’ve done a number one song, the last soca-calypso song, I sung that song, I don’t… they rip it off in the company. Pirate the song inside of the company, can you imagine? The same guy who is looking after the books, he press the record under the counter and sell it to a next country, and it’s number one there. And when you go there to be shown the statement, he’s not givin’ you no money, and when you check the statement it’s almost blank, man.
If you would like to reflect a little on what you’ve done over the past twenty years or so… I’m sure there’s several collectors and others who has come across your name and wonder what became of you, ‘what became of Well Pleased & Satisfied?’, like.
Well, what I’ve been doing over the past years, I write songs the same way, and I sing the same way. Because I sound like – the voice I’ve got now, it’s like thirty years ago, you understand? I can’t believe it, my voice is still young.
Yeah, my voice is young and I feel much more better now. I can take a note and, y’know, it’s like a joke. Doing a song is like fun, man. Everywhere I go, every studio I go, they’re just crazy. Some use to say, if I go to market and somebody hear my voice, they say: “What are you doing here?!” This mornin’ when I go to a supermarket and I sing a song, I was tryin’ to sing a song, and I say: ‘I don’t wanna be in love with someone who don’t love me’. And I just have the melody of the song, and the lickle lady said: “What are you doing here? Why are you shopping? You should be in the studios!” I said: “I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’!” (laughs). She didn’t know that I’m a singer.
I was told you have a studio in Kingston?
Yeah, that’s where I record at a…
I heard there was some burglary down there, so the studio is no more?
No, well, that’s where we finish up most of the album that we got now here. We’ve been finish up, remixin’ all those old tracks, overdubbin’, and doing some new tracks.
What’s the name of your studio?
Dub Station Recording, 73 Bell Road. So I get some larger equipment. When I come to London I need to buy one of those analogues, bigger 24-track and get some bigger board. I’ve got a bigger board down there a’ready and some other things. So I’m gonna hook up the studio. When I get to London and that store, I’m gonna try and go back home and then come back to America, and then I’m gonna go back to Europe again. I wanna reach Japan and get a branch there, but I don’t know. All over the world, especially Japan, I need to go to Japan. I’m gonna be on a tour thing. I’m na gonna stay, ca’ I stay there on the white floor and doing business, things in America. And it is that when Bob Marley come to America he was drivin’ a forklift, now I’m in America workin’ towards going on my tour, doing all kinda things, y’know. But I hope the people in Europe see this interview and help me.
I suppose that’s partly the intention with this interview, a large part of it. When I went to New York last year, I saw a bunch of Dub Station singles. From what I can recall there was a French distributor, Wa Do Dem, on these blue labelled 45s, there was some David Jahson titles and some other artists I can’t remember at this moment.
Yeah, what we do now, we distribute to… there’s a guy called Ernie B in California, he got a company. And there’s some guys from France and there are some guys from – I don’t know if it’s Japan or what, but they have some company in Jamaica what we distribute. So we press and we give them record to distribute for the export market. So we have a song called – we have ‘Open The Gate’… we have, man, I’ve got to have the catalog here, I can’t remember the other songs again. We’ve got probably about nine or so 45s that we repressed, that we re-released and distributing. But we don’t start repress no albums. We was tryin’ to get the album jackets and t’ing, but we never reach to do that so far.
Right, the ‘Love Train’ and ‘Give Thanks & Praise’ albums.
Yeah, we was gonna try to repress that. But at the same time I gotta migrate to America, because I say well, if I come over here maybe I could save some money and move to Europe, because I need to come to Europe. Yeah, I need to see the people who love me and support me for so long. Europe, here I come!! Wow! (laughs).
What about a reunion of the original group? Maybe you’re not too keen on that considering the group’s past, with Hugh Lewis and Paul Johnson. Or have you settled this by now?
Well I was tryin’ to do some other guys, but the guys they are singin’ like they are… ‘Cause you see, I’m a man… if you’re not singin’ strong with me, it’s like you sing with a feel, it’s like you kill my feelings. If I’m workin’ or if I’m not workin’ really fast or with a tempo that I can raise some energy to really open the work, it’s like I get tired. Once I’m not workin’ with a feeling, I become really like I’m gonna fall. So if you sing with me and not singin’ with a feeling, it’s the same way. You’ve gotta come with me, come with me, you can’t sing like you’re talkin’. You’ve gotta sing from your feet and put your toes in the ground and stick it in the ground and rock and keep diggin’ the beat and… you know, do something. You’ve gotta wake up, man. Yeah.
So the next project we can expect from you will be what you’ve been talking about over the course of this conversation, ‘Reggae In The Bag’? That is what’s ahead for you now?
Right. Yeah, that’s the album, I feel it will do something, man. I just feel it, man, ’cause it sound like Channel One in the seventies. Some of the tracks are done in my studio and then I come and I overdub and do all kinda things and it’s very different, man. There’s a song called ‘Rocking We Rocking’, that song. And I sing on it, one of the version sound like Pat Kelly, y’know. When I sing like him and I change myself, it’s like I’m doing it… man, I’m experimenting. This album is very great, y’know.
I believe it was David Jahson who placed one of your tracks titled ‘Come With Me’ on an album of various UK and JA artists, the LP’s titled ‘Grass Roots’ on the L.A Records label. I believe it was out in the early nineties, did you know about this?
Yeah, yeah. ‘Come With Me’, we take that from the ‘Love Train’ album.
Ah, OK! He credited it to Jerry Baxter though, not by the group. Same thing anyway (laughs).
Yeah, yeah. That’s right. If I could get two guys to really work with me, I would form back the group, Well Pleased & Satisfied, ca’ I love the name.
Live performances, did the group do a lot of that back in those times?
Yeah, mostly Actions, the Actions. Beca’ when Well Pleased & Satisfied burst out, that were between… on Total Sounds. I didn’t have no money to go on tour to really come to England or Europe to really establish the group the right and proper way. Well, Miss Pat – Pat Randy’s – that a the only… is VP Records now, she was offering to give me some money to really do what I wanted to do. But at the same time I didn’t want to take money from them. And then now, whenever time I sell my record I have to pay back everything, then I have nutten left. So I would say I would work and sing, but I couldn’t work and sing because then I couldn’t do a tour. Because I didn’t have no money to do a tour, y’know.
The Actions were up there on stage at the various theatres in Kingston, those kind of places?
In Jamaica like the Ward Theatre, I would perform in the community. But mostly Ward Theatre, I perform at some clubs and doing stage shows, but we didn’t go on tour. But Ward Theatre was a big thing, when you perform at Ward Theatre it’s like… you know? And Majestic Theatre, or Ambassador Theatre. But Majestic Theatre a the number one spot, Ward Theatre was a big spot too, and that was the Actions performing there.
What about performing at Heineken Startime in Kingston, you’ve never been invited or tried to approach them for a show there? That seems to be the main stage for vets in the business nowadays.
Well I’ve never tried to go to them and approach them. Because they are so… money sometimes, it’s like a favour, they do something for you and, y’know, it’s like it’s so hard. Sometime you have to be friend with them and… I just say forget them. It’s no good, but I just say I’m not interested. If they wanna big up my story and find out that I was existing and do a t’ing, if they do not wanna give me. ‘Cause I see a lot of artists not agreeing doing a lot of things, they never been performin’ at that show. And I know those artists are good artists, you understand. But it’s like everything is everything, so it’s like you just have to let some people stay.
What do you feel about the modern roots music coming out of Jamaica these days, artists like Luciano, Bushman, and so on? There is a resurgence of veterans too, I suppose these new artists has opened up some doors again for them.
Yeah well, it’s coming back. But what they need to do if they could get a studio, what they should try now is to get some acoustic, some real sounds. Get some acoustics in the studio and get some real sounds and rebirth the reggae back and come out of the dancehall t’ing. Beca’ dancehall t’ing is like – it’s not that it’s not good, it sounds very good for the young kids. But for the reggae to really move up, you can’t play dancehall music until you have the reggae beat. Dancehall music is what sells nowadays. Dancehall music is just a drumbeat, yunno, or maybe some guys playing a percussion or something, or maybe playing around there ‘bing! beep!’ There’s nutten really going nowhere, y’know, but it’s selling still. But they need to get some acoustic in the business.
As with so many other veteran artists, the time is now right for a second coming of this group. Well Pleased & Satisfied has such a strong grip on the vintage market and is still highly regarded in many parts of the world it would hardly be a failure if they made a serious approach for a comeback. The heartfelt, unmistakeable and energetic vocal style of Jerry Baxter has been deeply missed among those who appreciate original reggae music, the classic way, and the coming album should be proof of this when it arrives; that the group still has a place in modern times. Mrs Pottinger has constantly reissued ‘Sweetie Come From America’ on 7″ and kept the name alive over the years because such a tune never dies in the minds of the reggae public, and she knows this; go find it if you haven’t heard it already, it is made of that timeless quality you’ve heard from other such seventies recordings. Baxter has repressed several of his vintage titles on the blue Dub Station label over the past five years and it would be even better to see the ‘Give Thanks & Praise’ and ‘Love Train’ LP’s get the final reissue treatment as well. A collection of the very best of them could be a good start to relaunch the name to reach even more people as there is several European companies making only the best presentation of that period in Jamaican music currently. How about giving Blood & Fire, Pressure Sounds, Makasound or Auralux a ring, Mr Baxter?
This piece is dedicated to our good friend Bob Schoenfeld of Nighthawk Records who passed away recently in St. Louis, USA. Bob was one of the world’s biggest supporters of authentic Jamaican music and a contributor to these interviews from the start with a healthy supply of material from his vast collection, he also scanned some labels featured within this article. Bob was an avid blues fan and started the Nighthawk label in the mid seventies alongside Leroy Pierson, a label which later switched direction into the reggae field and produced some of the most memorable albums the music has seen, starting with the classic ‘Wiser Dread’ compilation in 1981. In later years Bob put together the Roots Knotty Roots discography of Jamaican singles alongside Mike Turner, an enormous contribution to the documentation of the music and culture of Jamaica. Bob, you will be sadly missed. Thanks for all you’ve done. May you rest in peace now.
I learned a lot from his long experience in the reggae business and he had a big heart for what we term as vintage reggae music. Earlier this year he put it like this to me and I want to share it with those of you who read this piece because it speaks so clearly what it was about back in those days:
One of the things that has never been brought out much in public print or discussions is that reggae music is really a heart break business in many ways. Despite the undeniable talent of the Jamaicans, the number of obstacles facing reggae artists and labels has historically been huge and have only declined slightly over the years. Ignorance is wide spread on all fronts and many artists have sabotaged their own careers in various ways. Greed and stupidity are not uncommon both within and without the industry and many see it as a lump sum game. That is, they think that if there is a winner others must lose, so jealousy, back-biting and concealed hostility are widespread despite the platitudes of unity. (Bob Schoenfeld)