Earth & Stone: All Through The Years (The Interview) – Part 2

by Jan 10, 2024Articles, Interview

Interview with Earth & Stone
 


Where: Somewhere in the US
When: About 2009
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Albert Bailey & Clifton Howell, Pekka Vuorinen, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Peter I


In this second part, Clifton Howell and Albert Bailey talk about some of their singles, unreleased material from Channel One, lack of promotion, a show at the Carib Theatre, Ossie Hibbert, the Cha Cha label, their own Rockstone label, and much more.

If I could just drop a few song titles from the Earth & Stone catalogue, would you both tell me what you can remember – the motivation, the inspiration, the players, the circumstances which brought about those songs, you just reminisce whatever you can… Like one classic, apart from ‘Jailhouse Set Me Free’, I believe most people think of Earth & Stone if a song like ‘In Time To Come’ are mentioned.
Clifton: Yeah, well, I could answer that, ’cause I was the one who really came up with that idea. I tell you what. That inspiration came from… All right, there was a time when they had this ‘Peace’ thing, they had ‘Peace Dance’ all over the place.

The ‘Peace Treaty’ in the late 1970’s.
Clifton: Yeah, so Albert and I were supposed to follow another friend to this Peace Dance in Tivoli Gardens. Well, I decided I wasn’t going for some reason. And when they came and said OK, if I’m ready, I said “Listen, I don’t think I’m going, yunno”. By this time I was getting the vibes, the idea of how it used to be so much war between the two fractions, and now they are together. You know? So I went and got the guitar – he had a guitar, so I went and got it from him, and started by trying to put some lyrics to this idea, this ‘war and peace’ thing. So, by myself I came up with the idea, ‘All through the years was just blood, sweat and tears…’. And that’s where it came from. So the whole idea was the ‘war and peace’ thing. Maybe I never tell Bertie that, but that’s what it was.

Albert: Right.

Clifton: So, from there again, I think it’s from the political thing again.

What about a song like ‘Run Home’?
Clifton: Oh! (both laughing out loud)

Albert: Now we’re coming to the politics, yunno.

Clifton: Same thing! Yes.

(Chuckles)
Albert: Pure gunshot, yunno. We lived in an area y’know, Peter, where certain time it’s like – I don’t know what Iraq sound like now (chuckles), but I guess we had a mini-Iraq. Yes, gunshot every day, gunshot every week, it come outta the environment deh.

Almost close to a ‘civil war’, not quite, but…
Albert: I wouldn’t even call it ‘civil war’, it was just political fractions, yunno. Guys get guns from politicians, and politicians get guys to fight each other in order to protect their terms and their vote will be secured. They use it as a way of intimidating. In their area where it’s their stronghold, people would be free to go out an’ vote. But then like other areas now, they keep that area intimidated by a lot of gunshot an’ blah blah blah. And people get scared, so that make things easier for the politician to win the election. That is what these guys came up with. And a lot of innocent people that we know die. This was a daily thing, people die daily. And living in the environment and seeing what is happening, so the song came up, ‘You better run home for your life…’. We never call no name, we never say we went for the gun (laughs). You see, you gotta be careful, yunno, you cyaan call names or else you set up yourself if you went for the gun – and it na go nice.

Three Wise Men
‘Three Wise Men’.
Albert: Oh, that lyric again is a long time Clifton lyrics (chuckles). We sing it together, Clifton as a lead…

Clifton: (Laughs) Yeah. Well, the idea came from the bible really. The ‘three wise men travelling, carrying…’-

Albert: The birth of Jesus.

Clifton: Right, so that came of that idea.

Bible inspired lyrics, but what was the connection between the three wise men into modern times, so to speak?
Clifton: Well, I just used the idea in a more modern time. If I can remember the lyrics, ‘Three wise men travelling far from the east, if you should see them don’t think they are thieves, they’re Abbah’s very best friend…’. OK, I guess what happened is that I got the idea from the bible but then just turn it around into nowadays, into modern times. I mean, back in those days you could get beat up by a guy because you’re living in east, so if you travel from the east to the west and a guy knows that you’re from the east – and from certain parts of the east – then you could get beat up, you could be killed. You know what I mean? So the whole thing together I think brought out that song. So the main idea is really from the three wise men from the bible, really.

And ‘False Ruler’.
Clifton: Oh well, that was Albert’s idea.

Albert: ‘False Ruler’ again coming back outta the same political vibes. You know, because when we look and see what was happening, we were very poor, man. We know what hunger was like. And when we look and see how the political system worked, that’s how that song just come alive, ‘False rulers of the world, dem haffe get a beating…’. You know, ‘Babylon go on an’ say dem a de ruler, dem slave us so hard without any dunza…’ – when we say ‘dunza’ we mean money, right. ‘While I and I man on ya dying for hunger, Babylonian siddung ‘pon a big bag a dunza…’. So again, all a dem songs we did came out of experience, the environment we lived in and what we saw. So we were like preachers in the environment. Yeah, we were just like ministering to the people around us, man, opening their eyes to the present, listening to what we were experiencing.

‘Don’t Let Them Fool You’.
Clifton: OK, it was ‘Don’t Let Them Bribe You’ really, that was the lyric, right?

Albert: Right, ‘Don’t Let Them Bribe You’.

Clifton: I think the title they have it is ‘Don’t Let Them Fool You’ though.

Albert: Right yeah, but that wasn’t the original title we came with, is ‘Don’t Let Them Bribe You’. We come back to the environment, because many at the time was hit upon by politicians. They get guys to shoot and kill one another to get a lickle money. So again, it’s the same political system in all of these lyrics, it came out of ‘Don’t Let Them Bribe You’, y’know, ‘to take another one’s life’. We were like watchmen, you understan’ (chuckles)? At the time we didn’t know it, but now we stop and looking back, we realise seh we were like watchmen. And our job was sending out a warning that many young men would be victims. It’s in these lyrics, ’cause if they would take heed to these lyrics, many would be alive today. So because they failed to heed to these lyrics they were used by politicians and little did they know, they were just gunned down.

Clifton: Yeah, that’s right.

To me the Earth & Stone lyrics are pretty harsh to say the least, and if you, at that time especially, would be too outspoken, you would possibly have to pay the consequences for it. But you never felt that uneasy, that you were on your way to become a target for your view of the situation?
Albert: (Chuckles) Well, I can just answer that part. You see, we were in the heart of the heart – in the heart of it. But if you notice in our lyrics, we didn’t become personal. You hear the point (chuckles)? The point where a person would directly point at us and say well, then we are representing that party or that party. We were just speaking generally for mankind, regardless of what party you had. And as I said, we were messengers, trying to forewarn these young men who were tools for the politicians. Our job was basically to forewarn them. We didn’t really scared, we never have no fear at all! No fear that we would be attacked by any politicial party, because we didn’t really identify ourselves as any support for a party.

Johnny Clarke - Strickly Reggae Music
No one ran into trouble.
Clifton: No, not at all. I think we had one song that Jo Jo – I think he was scared to put it out, and that was a song… Albert, you remember a song that the Diamonds did something on that riddim too?

Albert: Yeah, ‘Johnny Was A Badman’. You know (chuckles)?

Clifton: Yeah!

Albert: Ah, you know that song! Yeah, until now Jo Jo haven’t released it.

Clifton: Yeah, I have never heard it.

Albert: But that song was a powerful song, yunno. And that was a warning, talking about bad men, that Johnny was a badman whe just sling his gun and one night Johnny got cut down… I don’t remember all of the lyrics, but it end up one night that Johnny was cut down. But the whole point of those lyrics was, again, to forewarn young men. Just like the wild wild west, you remember the wild wild west where a guy would sling his gun and make a name. And once you make a name then every guy want to challenge you. So you have a name for a little while and then, y’know, after a while they’re history, after another guy challenge you and you’re killed. So at the time we were trying to put forth that young men would realise that Johnny got bad and him sling his gun an’ everybody know Johnny, but after a while one night Johnny finally came to his fate. It was ‘Johnny Was A Badman’, or ‘Johnny Sling His Gun’. We had that song on a dub. He gave us on a dub, and we had that dub but then we lend them out and then they disappeared, man. As Clifton said, maybe Jo Jo was afraid to put it out.

Clifton: Yeah, I think he was scared.

Speaking of dubplates and unreleased material from your most fruitful Channel One period, apart from the steady stream of 45s Jo Jo put out, do you recall what remained in the can?
Albert: We did some songs for Jo Jo at Channel One that we know was some powerful hit songs. Even when we started the second album, we started the second album which we did three tracks on that album, and I know those three songs were three powerful songs, riddimwise, lyrics-wise, and vocal – everyt’ing was classic. And even the same song that he released later – I don’t know how long he released it, this song ‘Give Me (What Is Mine)’, all those songs we did, Jo Jo sit down on those songs. Those songs were some powerful hit songs. Yeah, even when we did over this song, we did this song before Dennis Brown for Jo Jo, Channel One, ‘Ain’t That Loving You’. And Jo Jo sit down on all them songs. We frightened when we hear Dennis Brown did it for Joe Gibbs and it became a hit, you remember, Clifton?

Clifton: Mmm.

Albert: We did those songs, man, and the voice real cris’, riddim an’ everyt’ing was great. I don’t know, but he held us back, man.

Clifton: Yeah, we did a song there that never been released, you jus’ mentioned those three songs that being on the album. Yeh, he never released none of those songs!

Albert: No! I heard one a dem one night at a dance, on dubplate. Yeah, as far as I remember.

Clifton: And those were good songs!

Albert: Oh yes, man, every song we made inna dem days could be a hit, if they could get promoted. But as I said, our producer didn’t give us the kinda promotion… Earth & Stone jus’ literally sell themselves.

Clifton: Right, right. That’s what it was.

Albert: Without any promotion.

So you basically feel that Jo Jo didn’t fulfill his part in promoting the group the right and proper way.
Clifton: Of course, yeah.

image host
Earth & Stone recording at Channel One Studios
Albert: Yeah, we know for certain that we were the unfortunate group who had the talent, had the ability, lyrical-wise, vocal-wise, and somehow didn’t get the break, the promotion that we did deserve.

Were you signed up by Jo Jo to even take care of management regarding live shows at the local theaters and shows in general, or how did it look like?
Albert: That may be one of our setbacks too, that we didn’t have a manager. At the time we were thinkin’ about this guy who was the manager of the Diamonds. But it didn’t get off the ground.

Who was that, Tommy Cowan?
Albert: No, it wasn’t Tommy Cowan. You remember that guy, Clifton?

Clifton: Yeah, but I don’t remember his name now though.

Albert: No, but he was deh ‘pon the scene in those times, we were thinkin’ about that same guy. But things didn’t get off the ground. We were looking overseas to see if we could find a good manager, and even when that LP (‘Kool Roots’) was released, they could’ve done a lot of things whereby we could have toured at the time.

Clifton: Yeah, we promote ourselves, man, the songs promote themselves.

What about performances?
Clifton: Quite a few, yeah. We did quite a few live concerts, quite a few. We did a few, Bertie, right?

Albert: Yes man, we did quite a few. We did shows with all Dennis Brown, Jacob Miller…

Clifton: Delroy Wilson.

Albert: Couple of big shows, man, with big name artists too.

Clifton: Gregory Isaacs.

Carib Theatre
Albert: Gregory Isaacs. On Easter Monday morning, man, we did a show at the Carib Theatre, the band was put together by Clancy (Eccles), and all when the show do finish, bredda, they owe us so much money to kick you to (unaudible) (laughs). And we went down on stage and bust up the show, a so the Jamaicans tell we, yunno. When the show finish the promoter shake off we hand an’ we walk out an’ feel nice seh well, then we couldn’t believe that we could be so loved. It was jam-packed, one of Kingston’s biggest theaters. Carib, that was the most famous theatre in Jamaica.

Clifton: At that time.

Albert: When you do a show in the Carib Theatre you know seh you have reached somewhere there. Yeah. At the Ward Theatre which we did, we did a show at the Ward Theatre one night, it was the two biggest theaters that every singer wish to do shows in those theaters.

What about competition at the Channel One stable? It was generally good vibes or a tight atmosphere between the acts at the time? There’s even a mix up, an old myth by now, that the ‘other’ Channel One duo Hell & Fire is mistakenly another ‘version’ of Earth & Stone. When you supposedly changed lead singing, then you were known as ‘Hell & Fire’, at least according to those rumours!
Clifton: No, that’s a separate group.

Yes indeed, it is. I believe Hell & Fire was created by one Lunsford Simpson and a harmony singer, they recorded for Linval Thompson, GG’s, Channel One and High Note among others.
Clifton: Yeah, you remember them, Bertie, right?

Albert: You know, Hell & Fire, these guys sing a song ’bout ‘Things and Time will tell’?

That’s the Wailing Souls (‘Things & Time’).
Clifton: No, that’s Wailing Soul.

Hell & Fire did tracks like ‘Show Us the Way’ and ‘Pointless Killing’ for Channel One.
Albert: Those groups came after, long after we. I have no real knowledge of Hell & Fire.

Clifton: I used to see them at the studio there.

Albert: Mmm?

Clifton: Yeah!

Albert: I don’t remember that group, Hell & Fire, at all.

Clifton: I think it was two guys. Yeah, I think it was two of them.

Albert: (Chuckles) I don’t even remember, yunno. Maybe I saw them there, yeah, but I don’t remember the group at all.

Earth & Stone – No Time to Lose

Earth & Stone – Three Wise Men

Earth & Stone – In Time To Come

Dennis Brown did give you some good encouragment at the time, didn’t he?
Albert: Oh yes, Dennis Brown was a guy, yunno… D. Brown look at me personally and say, “Bwoy, Earth & Stone, the man them haaard, yunno!” It really reach Earth & Stone ’cause he expressed that personally.

Clifton: Mmm.

Albert: We did a stage show with Dennis Brown one night, you remember, at the Ward Theatre?

Clifton: Right.

Albert: Yeah!

Clifton: He used to be at Coxson’s in the early days, remember?

Albert: Yeah, yeah.

Clifton: I mean, we used to talk to him an’ t’ing like that, in the early days of Coxson, borrow a guitar an’ t’ing like that. In the days when man used to carry his guitar to the studio…

Albert: (Chuckles)

Was the group under contract for Jo Jo or you could freelance without trouble? Because there came quite a few Earth & Stone 45s for people like Ossie Hibbert, Winston Riley and his late brother Buster Riley, you had something for a guy called Clint Wright. No, those two for Wright came out as The Officials, sorry. One tune titled ‘Happy Man’, the other called ‘Music Music’.
Albert: (Laughs) Clifton?

Clifton: Yes!

Albert: You know the songs we did with Toddy that came out as the Officials, yunno! Yeah (laughs)!

Clifton: Oh, that’s what it came out as (laughs)?

Albert: For the man dem whe fight and get gunned down.

Clifton: Yeah, last week we were talking ’bout the same guy, you remember?

Albert: Yeah, yeah. But you know those songs, brethren?

Clifton: We only harmonized on, what, a couple of those songs, right?

Albert: Yeah, two of them, we just harmonized for Toddy. But at the time Toddy was a part of the group now, but it came out as The Officials.

Clifton: Ahhh.

What year was this, when did you cut these for Wright?
Albert: These songs maybe about ’73, yunno. Yeah, was about ’73, going into ’74.

‘Happy Man’ and ‘Music Music’.

Albert: (Chuckles) ‘Music Music’, it was two songs on one 45, right?

Possibly, yes.
Albert: Two songs on one 45. Right, we used to call him ‘Boss’ Wright. What was his name, ‘Clint’ Wright? Yeah, that man deh, gunmen killed him, man. He stopped at the gas station to buy gas for his car, and they held him up and he put up resistance and they shot him, man. Killed him. I remember that man. Wow (chuckles). Our music have a lot of history, man.

Wicked A Fi Dress Back
What about the connection to Ossie Hibbert? You did ‘Wicked A Fe Dress Back’ for him.
Albert: Yep.

Clifton: Yeah. Well, that song too was about an evening what happened to me, right, Albert?

Albert: Right. Yeah, we just get the riddim, yunno, ca’ we got the riddim for it.

Clifton: Yeah, I can’t really remember in detail what brought that inspiration forward.

Albert: You know, I was the one who started a feel of making the song, ‘Wicked A Fe Dress Back’. And so when we got the riddim, me say: “Lemme try this song on the riddim”. And so we eventually made some changes to it in order to pick that riddim. But it was a song that we already had that we just eventually converted to that riddim.

And that rhythm was an old Studio One chestnut named ‘Please Be True’ (the late Alexander Henry), updated by Hibbert.
Clifton: Yeah, it’s on the ‘Please Be True’ riddim, yes.

Albert: That’s the riddim of it, yeah.

What became of the tune, it must at least have become a minor hit?
Albert: It was a hit, man. The song was a hit, but…

Clifton: I mean, it still mash up the dancehall! Up to a couple of weeks ago the guys was still playing it in a party over here, and the thing sound fresh and nice, man, like it’s just recorded. Fresh same way.

I think Ronnie Davis had a nice cut on the same rhythm, ‘No Weak Heart’, which you might remember?
Clifton: Yeah. I think I heard him on the same riddim, yeah.

And speaking of Ronnie, he and his co-producer at the time, Pat Scabba, they had a label called On Top. Albert, you mentioned doing that song, ‘Black Magic Woman’, and I believe they reissued this Earth & Stone cut a couple of years ago. I don’t know if there was any connection to them before?
Albert: We are the producer of that song. We went into the studio, rent it, we paid our money for the musicians to lay the track. I was the one who played the bassline on that song. But again, we didn’t really have certain knowledge of the marketing. And so we did press a few hundred copies, but because we didn’t have any marketing knowledge or to finance this, things did kinda come down to a halt, you understan’. We didn’t die for hunger, it’s not the money we have, but the lack of exposure. We’re the producers, but it was basically useless. And now we see how it end up; other people making money off of it and we are not.

Clifton: And it was produced by us as you were saying.

Albert: You know (chuckles). We had another song we produced for ourselves, a song named ‘Slave Driver’. Have you ever heard of that?

Yep. It was put out in the UK on the Cha Cha label.
Albert: And you know what, I remember, yunno, how the song reach out there. You know, we had the stamper to start press it and we didn’t. But then I remember though that the disco that we did for Cha Cha, one of the songs and the other song – you remember the two songs we did on a disco for Cha Cha?

Clifton: Mmm.

Albert: Man, I just remember now that it was one of the songs. Yeah. Cha Cha didn’t even tell – Jo Jo’s lickle down-payments didn’t turn back.

Clifton: Right.

Who was this guy again, Cha Cha?
Albert: Well, I must be honest, brethren, we only know him as ‘Cha Cha’.

OK (chuckles).
Albert: We didn’t know him personally, we only met him twice. But I guess inexperience have a lot to do with it, y’know. Ca’ we spend our money to record the songs, and give it to this guy to distribute it in England first. And we didn’t take any real information based on anything other than Cha Cha label and the lickle down-payments that he gave us. We didn’t have any documents signed, we were so naive (chuckles).

Clifton: Yep, we were.

Albert: Yeah, we’re so naive, man, and these guys took advantage.

ad1979_july
A common story. In popular music overall, these dirty rip-offs. You will always get back to that when telling musical stories somehow.
Clifton: Yeah, well, that was the main reason why we start recording for ourselves. One of the main reasons.

And you set up the Rockstone label.
Clifton: Right.

Albert: (Chuckles) Rockstone is our original label that, yunno, Clifton. It was our original, official label. As Earth & Stone, our label was the Rockstone label. I just see that we had plans, yunno, we just had to break away from these pirates, man. You know, from these guys, ’cause these guys wasn’t treating us the way we believed we should be treated, man. These guys was all about themselves, right. But let’s blame ourselves in the sense that we didn’t come to the knowledge that we have now, first we should’ve found out how the marketing work. We just believed that – bam! – record, press this song, and people buy it, y’know. We didn’t look into the international, how big the market was. We just see the market as Jamaican. That was where we fell short.

So you never got the opportunity to do shows overseas?
Albert: No.

Clifton: But they attempted to. At one point they attempted to give us a show in England. But it never matured.

Albert: You see, we should’ve gone on many tours, brethren, but as I said these guys didn’t want Earth & Stone to do certain things, and it’s just clear. And if you get a chance to understand how certain things work you realise how much people knew the group, then it a go expose certain things and then you make certain demand and if people can keep you in the dark then they have the upper hand, and I believe that is what, the strategy that they had to get rid of Earth & Stone.

What about this album now, was that something Hibbert compiled behind your back, the ‘Back To Africa’ combination album with Phillip Frazer?
Albert: Well, they didn’t really call them album in those times, they was puttin’ it out as discomix, yunno. Like one side you have the song and the riddim, and the other side you have the dub of the riddim. Ca’ we did a song for him, actually quite a few. We did ‘Sweet Sweet Africa’, ‘Migrate’/’Can’t Stand This Life of Living’, that one we did for Ossie…

Clifton: ‘Wicked A Fe Dress Back’.

Albert: Yeah, we did ‘Wicked A Fe Dress Back’ for Ossie, plus we did background song on a riddim for… wha’ the guy’s name, man? He was on the British charts, ‘OK Fred’.

Errol Dunkley.
Clifton: Yes, Errol Dunkley.

Albert: Yeah! And that song mash down the place, man. And all them songs, we no get no money.

Clifton: That was a big hit!

Albert: Big hit, man.

Even a pop hit at the time (’79).
Albert: Yeah, yeah, it was a big hit. We were just one of the groups, my brother, who had the talent, the ability, but didn’t get the rewards. No reward, man.

Earth & Stone – Ring Craft

Earth & Stone – No Wicked In Zion

You did some one-off tunes for Winston Riley’s brother Buster, ‘She Want It’ and ‘Raindrops’.
Albert: Yes, and ‘Ain’t That Loving You’. ‘Raindrops’ too?

Clifton: And the Heptones song there, Heptones and John Holt…

Albert: Leroy Sibbles and John Holt did do a thing… Oh, God… da-da-da-da… da song deh, man? ‘Build Our Dreams Together’!

Clifton: Right.

Albert: Yeah, ‘Let’s Build Our Dreams Together’. It’s a two-part song, you lead, me lead a part of the song. Yeah, well, he release it on an LP, ‘Earth & Stone Meets Phillip Frazer’, yunno (chuckles).

Clifton: Yes.

And no payment for that whatsoever?
Clifton: None at all. Not even a dime, man.

Albert: None at all. Not even one red cent there (chuckles). You just gotta laugh at these things, brethren. You hear we laugh, but these are painful situations.

Of course.
Albert: All we’ve been through… I can tell you, I and Clifton, we made so much sacrifice for this music, man. We rehearsed. Rehearsing was like our daily job, man. Nine hours, ten hours a day. No joke.

Clifton: Twice a day sometime.

Albert: Twice a day, sometimes three times a day without break. Something to eat and come back and it’s just music, y’understan’.

You both kept your daily jobs in the Channel One period, or you focused on the music, fully?
Clifton: At one point when we were recording often, then… not really ‘quit’ the job but I was like doing side-jobs an’ t’ing like that.

Albert: And as for me now that was basically everyt’ing, ’cause everything was just music now after a while. Every dollar that we get was basically from music in the sense – even though when I say ‘dollars’ don’t think it was any big money (laughs). These money that we got, man, was just chicken feed compared to what these guys were making. Nevertheless, of all the producers we’ve recorded for, we still feel that if we should rate them, I would rate Channel One’s producers the best. ‘Cause he was a man we could’ve found and we could approach him with a situation and he would try to assist. That was one of the best things with Jo Jo.

Back To Africa
The first album now, I don’t even know if ‘Kool Roots’ came out prior to ‘Back To Africa’ or vice versa, but ‘Kool Roots’ was pretty unique or unusual at the time in the sense that it was released as a double album. A dub version was included in the package. Was that your idea, something you had in discussion, or they put that together?
Clifton: That was the first album.
Albert: I think that double thing was basically Cha Cha’s idea.

And it was never released in Jamaica as far as I know.
Albert: Never released in Jamaica. All of those songs right now on ‘Kool Roots’, apart from ‘In Time To Come’, ‘Jah Will Cut You Down’/’Jailhouse Set Me Free’, ‘Three Wise Men’, those are the only three songs that release in Jamaica. Until this day Jo Jo… Maybe now, I don’t know what he is doing because they released it on another album.

Clifton: It’s on CD now.

Albert: Yeah, on a CD now, but he held all of those songs in Jamaica, man.

How did you feel when the album turned up on a British CD on the Pressure Sounds label? What was your involvement in that, any notice from either Jo Jo or the company beforehand?
Clifton: No notice, and we got just a little compensation. Well, I’m still waiting for mine (chuckles).

(Laughs)
Clifton: Yeah man, but with no knowledge, we didn’t know about it.

Albert: Well, I guess it was Clifton who discovered it.

Clifton: Yep.

Albert: We know it was on 45s but we didn’t know they re-released it on CD.

Clifton: We know it on the vinyl, but we didn’t know that they released it on a CD.

But did it feel good somehow, even if they didn’t give what they ‘owed’ you so to speak, did it feel good that this long-unavailable work was reaching a new audience?
Albert: Yes! We’re glad to see that in a sense. We realise that… You see, based on our knowledge of this music, yunno, we know that this music was not just for one generation. This music is for every generation that comes to listen to this music. It’s not a music that is gonna fade away, that’s for sure. So that shows us that, yes, there’s a market out there for us. If there wasn’t a market then they wouldn’t choose to put it on CD. So people was still buying it.

Have you both even realised what sort of impact Earth & Stone made over the years from what people have told you, what you’ve read and heard?
Clifton: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we realise that we had a pretty good audience out there because of the feedback. We realised. I’ve heard people compared us with Bob Marley an’ t’ing like that.

I mean, I hear and read people talking about the ‘Kool Roots’ album as being some sort of masterpiece from that era, even. That’s quite an ‘accomplishment’ if you look at it that way.
Albert: Yeah. You see, I’ve heard that comment. And I can’t forget something on the internet that featured a couple of top songs where Earth & Stone was featured. So we know that people regarded the group very highly. Our producer didn’t really, as I said, he held us back. He blocked our future. And we didn’t have the finances. We tried other producers, like Joe Gibbs.

Songs like ‘Why Girl’ and ‘Ring Craft’.
Albert: ‘Why Girl’ and ‘Ring Craft’ we did for Joe Gibbs. But when at these studios, y’know, I felt that the vibes was really at Channel One, and we regard that as where we got the break from. And one of the big problems too, we kinda put a lot of confidence in Jo Jo, in Channel One, and we were waiting believing that we would get our break from Channel One, and that was one of the things that held us back. We sit back and was waiting, because, honestly, if we had a push forward and break away, things would be different, man.

You stayed for too long.
Clifton: Yes!

Albert: Yeah.

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There was a label in America called Glory Gold, you had tracks like ‘Jolly Man’ and ‘Midnight Woman’ on it.

Clifton: Oh! Oh, Albert, those are the two songs that I did for your friend there.

Albert: OK.

Clifton: Yeah, I did them without Albert for…

Albert: Colin.

Clifton: For Colin, yeah. I did those two songs solo.

For a guy called Colin Sampson?
Albert: Colin Sampson, that was his name. Colin Sampson, yeah.

Clifton: Right.

Albert: He was the cousin of Cha Cha, yunno.

Clifton: So I did those two songs for him. But still waiting to get paid…

(Laughs)
Clifton: (Chuckles)

I think I’ve heard that before!
Clifton: Right (laughs).

There was even a tune called ‘Repatriation Is A Must’, but it wasn’t released as Earth & Stone, it came out as by the Heptones, for Channel One.
Albert: Maybe some mix-up with the name. I don’t remember that song, ‘Repatriation Is A Must’, no. Maybe somebody tried to use the name. Because, as I said, there’s songs with Earth & Stone which we know are not our songs, but they’re even using the name still.

Speaking about Rastafari, throwing this question out to both of you, what was your connection to the faith at the time?
Clifton: Well, no affiliation. I mean, I never think about being a Rastaman. But for some reason maybe some of the songs, they might come out that way. But I never really influenced by the idea.

Albert: (Chuckles): Well, as for me, right… You see, we were young men who were focused, we felt positive. You know, we kept positive. If you notice our lyrics we didn’t sing about any of these negative things. Some of these x-rated type of lyrics, we didn’t go in that channel. We kept it positive along the same line among most men who are Rasta would be thinking. People assumed that Earth & Stone maybe dreadlocks of which none of us never wore dreadlocks (chuckles). But we were positive, we were real rootsmen, yunno. We were conscious of Africa, we never forget that. Conscious of our African heritage, we were very conscious of a time to come when we would be… Well, as for me, and I know Clifton share the same feel, we used to see ourselves, the whole repatriation idea of going back to our roots, these used to be things that influence us. And if you noticed songs like ‘Come With Me To the Holy Land of Home (Where There’d Never Be Any War)’, we are thinkin’ of the whole thing of going back to our roots. So lyrics like those, people assumed that we were Rastamen as they called it in those days, or dreadlocks, but basically we never wore dreads, none of us.

Earth & Stone
What became of the group in the change between the seventies and eighties and the first two albums, what happened then? Not many heard from Earth & Stone in that period, say the early eighties. The group vanished more or less from the scene, what happened then is not that known, if known at all.
Albert: Yes. Now, I became a convert, a Christian, and I had moved on in the church to the point that I became a pastor. In 1987 I became a pastor. Clifton was now living here in the United States, I was still at home, a pastor in the church. So things kind of just broke down from there. But my life had made that change. I was still doing a lot of singin’ in church. Even until this day, man, I’m still singin’. I never stopped sing, that’s a part of me. Go ahead, Clifton.

Clifton: Yes man. Well, for me, I migrated, what, in ’85. I came to the States. By this time I was a plumber already, I was like steady in plumbing for fifteen years already. So I came here – I went right into plumbing. But the music never leave my mind at all. And I’m still writing. Right now I’ve got a lot of new lyrics, music that really put together, just waiting to be recorded. So I’m looking at least for somebody like a promoter, a good promoter, a guy who I can do business with an’ t’ing like that to do this music. And I think I write better lyrics than before now. So I still don’t gone away from it. I mean, I think I’m even deeper into it now than before. But, as I said, I’m doing plumbing right now.

I’m pretty sure that, when the group vanished in the early eighties, parts of the industry, as well as your audience, felt a big loss. I suppose you felt – and it’s obvious – a bit disillusioned and didn’t want to spend more energy on something that didn’t ‘pay off’. That was basically the situation, a disillusioned group, ‘lets split and see if we can reform later on’? It never happened, but that’s how it was?
Clifton: Well, I always think that, even though Albert is not singin’ in the group no more, the group would go on. Because there’s another guy that is here in the States who did a couple of good songs with us in the earlier days. We used to do rehearsals an’ t’ing like that for a few years. But I did a couple of demos an’ t’ing like that. But no real serious recording. Because I’ve been holding back from that time, from Albert had left, holding back saying that ‘I’m waiting to find the right person’. And I’m still holding back. But I never stopped recording – I mean I never stopped writing. I’ve got dozens of songs here that I know they could make a hit. But I still don’t run into the right person yet where I can say OK, lets go and do some business. So I still got a voice for it and I still got good lyrics. So I’m just waiting for that break right now. It never leave my mind.

And in your case, Albert, I suppose you won’t consider singing secular songs again, would you?
Albert: I personally, y’know, I must tell you right now, I’m still singin’. But as you said, the secular music now, to me, is of the past. And I don’t really see myself going back to secular music. I still have been encouraged by a lot of people to do some serious gospel music. A lot of people is encouraging me and I recorded one song on an album, a gospel song. But I believe I’m going back in the studio right now to record some gospel. You know, that’s me.

What about the unreleased Earth & Stone material that I know exists, things you have on mastertape laying about down in Jamaica?
Albert: Yes, the unreleased material you are talking about is the same ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Slave Driver’. We have those tapes, because those are our personal productions. And if somebody wants to do a t’ing, we would do a t’ing, right, Clifton?

Clifton: Mmm.

Where was the sessions?
Albert: ‘Slave Driver’ was done by Channel One studio while ‘Black Magic Woman’ was done by Harry J studio. While we laid the riddim tracks at a new studio at the time and then we went and do the voicing at Harry J.

So that’s about it, two tracks laying about in JA?
Albert: Right. Yeah, we have them eight-track tapes. The tape is just kinda dusty but I believe the mastertape where those songs were mixed down on, they got kinda mislaid. We have to get them from the eight-track.

So, hopefully, you will link up with the right person to put them out soon.
Albert: Hopefully. Hopefully we’d meet somebody, if Clifton and me come across somebody ’cause I have the tape here, right, so it wouldn’t be a problem.

When you look back with some kind of perspective on ‘your’ era, the 1970s, and if you put it beside the music being made today, what is your reflections? How do you feel about it, what was made then and what is being made now?
Clifton: Well, for me, it’s a different generation. So they have their own style. But I think there’s no message in the music no more. To me it’s really like just a jump-up thing now. Youths are having fun, that’s all there is. But as far as sitting down and listening to lyrics an’ t’ing like that again, I don’t think that that is going on no more. I don’t think people sit and listen to lyrics as they used to. That’s how I think about it.

They don’t get motivated by lyrics in the same way?
Clifton: Right.

Albert: And as for me, the music of that time was more professional. If you look at how the music industry turned, they are saying some things in the music right now based on – we never used to hear that type of thing in the music. In other words, in my era musician played skillfully from the heart. In this era, any guy can go on a computer an’ just jam up some things, and they call that ‘music’…

So much has changed from the time Earth & Stone hit the charts in Jamaica and elsewhere, but when they did, the group provided us with some of the most solid roots reggae music ever committed to wax. It is music that will be played repeatedly in oldies dances and on the airwaves where any reggae selection of note is drawn. It is that solid, it is that timeless, it has such a high quality that you can’t get around it. Songs like ‘In Time To Come’ is like a musical fist in your face, or should I say ears, from the first time you hear it. Channel One ruled at the time, and Earth & Stone benefitted – as well as the Hookims on their side, through sharp songwriting and the typically energetic vocals that characterized the duo – from the combination of the crisp studio sound that was Channel One and the strong rhythms by the Revolutionaries. ‘Kool Roots’ was the perfect testament of the enduring legacy of this group. Hopefully there are new things to come, and just as hopefully, a collection of long unavailable singles bearing that unmistakable Earth & Stone sound.