Keble “Cables” Drummond: What Kind Of World (The Interview) – Part 1

by Jan 29, 2024Articles, Interview

Keble Drummond Interview Pt 1


Where: Somewhere in the US
When: 2004
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Keble Drummond, Trevor Shields, Pekka Vuorinen, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Peter I

‘Baby Why’ and ‘What Kind of World’ are two classics that has been recut over and over since its initial release back in 1967, but do you recall the group behind them? Not to say that The Cables are that obscure, but time overshadows the name behind even the most reused of rhythms. In any case, The Cables was and is a name that we connect with Coxson’s best period at Studio One in the late sixties, a time of enormous creativity and an impressive amount of hits done in a transition from the rock steady sound to reggae.

Founded by lead singer Keble Drummond, the group has split and reformed, as groups tends to do, several times over the years, performing at Sunsplash ’94 as perhaps the last notable appearance in public. There’s new projects in the offing though, including re-releases of vintage material as well as new recordings by the group. Now residing in the States, I hooked up with Keble in March, ’04, for a discussion about The Cables’ presence in Jamaican music; the past, the present and the possibilities for the future. Thanks to Keble, Lloyd Campbell, Bob Schoenfeld, Squeeze I, Tim P, and Steve Barrow. Honourable mention to the man Carl Gayle.

How did you grow up?
Oh, well, I was born in St. Elizabeth in a place called White Hall, that’s in the country, it’s more northeast because it’s not far from MoBay, really. That’s where I was born, January 1947. My mother had seven of us, I was the fourth one. I had a brother and a sister died. So I was born in St. Elisabeth and I went to Kingston at age nine, and I spent the rest of my youth in Kingston.

Where did you settle down in Kingston?
Well, in Kingston first – when I went to Kingston was Hannah Town, and from Hannah Town then to Jones Town. No – from Hannah Town to Ghost Town, you are familiar with Ghost Town? Yeah, then from Hannah Town I went to live in Ghost Town. Ghost Town then was really a ghetto area, people that don’t have nutten, you’d say poor. You know, you go there and you have a little one-room place, stuff like that. It’s just the ghetto, man. Rough life. It produces some really… I would say some of the great singers now and a lot of the good entertainers. Because, right now from Ghost Town after I left there and come here (Florida), they rebuilt the place and call it Jungle, Concrete Jungle.

Where’s the old Back O Wall located, it’s not close?
No, Back O Wall is further down to Tivoli Gardens.

Yea, they bulldozed that part and renamed it Tivoli, right?
Yeah, they did and they built a settlement there and called it Tivoli Gardens which is a rough area, just like how Jungle is rough. But they changed Back O Wall to Tivoli Gardens, Ghost Town changed to Jungle. You know, those places is what you’d call the ghetto, those areas rough. Then from Ghost Town I moved into Jones Town and then in Jones Town I grew up the rest of my life until I went to Maxfield Avenue area. From there to Allman Town.

Maxfield Avenue where Channel One was, Whitfield Town. That’s a pretty tough neighborhood back then, very violent compared to a lot of other ghetto areas.
Yeah, I used to live on Delacree Road. Delacree Road run down Maxfield Avenue.

So you had the country life and the city life.
I came at a young age so I wasn’t on my own. It’s the family who came up from the country, so you just have to find a way out. Life wasn’t a bed of roses, is a struggle. You know, my mom was a dressmaker, she make a little income from doing the dress. So, that’s part of surviving, y’know. With schooling I used to go to Chetola Park School and from there to Kingston Senior School, and that school again produces a lot of singers. You know, like Earl Morgan of the Heptones, you have Marcia Griffiths, you have quite a few who turn into singers. Talking about coming to Ghost Town, Ghost Town that’s where Rita Marley grew up. I knew her from those days.

Monty Morris
What sort of music were playing in the Drummond family?
Oh well, it was mostly listening to the radio, like the type of music we had in Jamaica, whe you say is like you have calypso and stuff was in Jamaica, before we created our own ska music. You know, it was calypso, soul music. All the foreign music and stuff, that’s what used to play in Jamaica. So, we used to listen at nights, like to Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Elvis Presley, Brook Benton, Everly Brothers, those type of people, all of those. We listened to those and the lyrics there it held you, it’s just good music and you sing them, and it keeps you going. All of them more time, those were the music playing in Jamaica. A lot of talent. When I started to be really interested in singin’ I was about seventeen and, y’know, we all sing in our local groups. I used to follow a few of them.

Like them time Desmond Dekker & The Aces and you have… a guy who used to sing with Byron Lee sometime…?

Um, Eric ‘Monty’ Morris?
Eric ‘Monty’ Morris!

Stranger Cole?
Oh, Stranger Cole, yes. Good ol’ Stranger Cole, y’know. And Prince Buster.

Oh, Alton Ellis? Then we’re talkin’ about Trench Town more, y’know. Those guys, some of them used to be there that we used to sing with. When I get to singin’ now – start playing the guitar – was I remember Earl from Heptones – no, not Earl from Heptones – it was Clarendonians, like Peter (Austin). From Peter, I learned to go to my first chords on guitar, he showed me the basics. He showed me like two chords, what follow what – like G, C and F. I remember that, and I hear a song. Then I got like interested in writin’ a song. There was an ad in a magazine about songwriting and I contacted them, called ‘Herb Moral Song Studio Training’. I did a course in writing and there came elder guys who knew about writing a song. And so I wrote my first songs, like ‘You Lied’ and ‘I Made Up My Mind’.

How did you meet Earl from Heptones, he was living there close to you with his family?
Earl? Well, when we start rehearsing and stuff, y’know, we were living in the same area, Ghost Town, and with Barry (Llewellyn) who were living there. You know, we’re all friends, and Leroy was living in the same area. So Earl, Barry and Leroy decide to form a group. And me and my partner then we were friends with them and seh, well, we’ll see what we can do. Me and Roy was friends and he say he knows this guy – that’s Elbert now. Met with Elbert, and we start rehearsing and we begin with singin’ other people’s songs, like Alton Ellis. Some more guys now, man. We were very good. Because, we met up with Bobby Aitken at that time – you know Bobby Aitken?

Yea, from the Caribbeats band.
The Caribbeats! Yeah, he had a band, and then after a while we start go around with Bobby Aitken, singin’ songs and it start take off. We start writing, writing. I remember one time when I went to Coxson they had Peter (Tosh) from the Wailers, he was taking audition. I remember I went and sang some songs and he look at me and told me that “Oh, come back in five years!” (laughs).

(Laughs) Well, how ‘nice’ of him!
But guess what happened? He felt threatened at the time, and I went back the other week, and I went back there with ‘Baby Why’. I sang that song and it was a different artist taking audition. But when we start singin’ that song, all them other guys there for audition, everybody circled around us, and the guy said, “OK, I can take the song, we can do some recording”. And from there, y’know, from rehearsing that music, man, is like it just tell its own – everytime we rehearse it I watch it coming back to me and… you know?

The Cables - What Kind Of World

Right. The Cables formed as early as 1962, with you and Vincent Stoddart as a duo, wasn’t it a duo from the start?
No, it was me and Vincent Stoddart and Elbert Stewart from the beginning.

Then you went to Lindon Pottinger at High Note in about 1966 – what happened to those recordings, this was prior to your Studio One stuff.
No, High Note was… that was the first recording we did, the music ‘You Lied’. Not Mrs Pottinger, y’know, I think she’s High Note, or her husband.

I think she took over the company in the later part of the sixties.
She took over. The only time I took her was when I did some producing for myself, and I gave her a few music to release for me. It was produced by me, but she was just distributing on her label.

So Mr Pottinger produced and released your first songs, I don’t think she produced around ’66.
She was doing some producing – no, in ’66 it was Mr Pottinger. I think it was in the mid or early seventies the song that – I gave her a music to distribute for me on her label. But ’66 was the first music there with Mr Pottinger, ‘You Lied’. You know, that was the first music. Oh yes, I have that record, my first 45 I did. Yeah, I have it. And you know somet’ing? It was twenty pound for a song them days. My first song I did and I didn’t get a dime, ‘cos Bobby was there an’ he collect our money and we didn’t know about it. Because that band was Bobby’s and, yeah, Bobby Aitken took our twenty pounds and we didn’t get a dime. And there was a third song released and I heard it being played and went to get my money and said “OK, for the other ones I didn’t get any money but…”. And he said, “What?! From the day we finished recording we paid back the money!” I jus’ “OK, alright”. We never got any. That’s how we start gettin’ ripped (chuckles).

But anyhow, with my group we keep rehearsing, keep rehearsing until we get down to Mr Dodd and we come up with only two songs, because they always like to abort you. You’re singin’ and they put you down and not taking you, and then you realise you always have to try and study the things that’s going on. You know, you hear what other artists they’re going through and stuff like that, you try not to get into that situation.

What were you being told?
Well, the stories are like ‘Oh, you’re not getting money’, and stuff like that. There’s always setbacks. And he hid our music. When we go to Coxson for money he… And them always have a crowd, there’s too much guys so you end up not getting money. He beat a lot of guys too! I tried not to come on too strong, but when we got conscious to get our royalty and stuff, the first offer we got, we got robbed. Because many music was a hit and we have an idea of how it sold ’cause, again, Earl Morgan was working in the place and (inaudible)… Those records they were selling so we had an idea of how it went, how many records were pressed. Because, I know I was robbed. But y’know, you can just go by telling him ‘Oh, I know how much because somebody told me so and so…’, but it doesn’t make much difference. We got payment about two times, which in them days was a lot of money. It look like a lot but it wasn’t, he sold like some 20 000 records – that’s five cents a copy. But you get some money. Foreign royalties, no, we never see any of that. Never see foreign royalties.

Were you even aware that he had much foreign business, like the main markets through Toronto, London and New York for example?
He never told us that, but after a while we figured out that it was selling in all foreign, because we get the feedback after a while what was going on. They tried to make it look like it was only a few records for export, but after a while we got feedback and stuff, what’s going on. But still it never work out that we are gettin’ the money because after a while he’s telling you ‘Oh, Jackson, come back soon, you have to come back soon’, or whatever. I never liked to be in that situation, to ask Downbeat for money. I tried to maintain a good relationship with him. As a man he was very determined, but to get what you were owed, it never work. It never worked. You know, I was independent still, doing my own race, y’know, trying to get a job, trying to get ends meet, support my family. You know, that’s how it goes. I think ‘Baby Why’ has been around now for some thirty-five years and, trust me, for some thirty years now I haven’t seen no money for it. Even though it was on LP, CD, and all a them stuff – 7″ record, we no get no money for them. At one time I told him, when Stewy (Elbert Stewart) was in Jamaica deh, and I told him that OK, well, other circumstances, y’know, things are tough in Jamaica too, you could get Stewy a money, and stuff like that. But he never give Stewy any portion of money. But he think that a 500 dollars them time he give to Stewy, y’know, he would get away with that. He take up a 500 dollars and give them to Stewy and think that’s a lot, but when it comes to our money, he say “Oh, I give Stewy some money, I jus’ gave him some 200 dollars”, and stuff like that. When Heartbeat had the CD out and stuff like that, he always tell me “Oh, it sell well, man! It sell really well”. So I say OK, fine. But for all these years Heartbeat hasn’t given me any money (the CD issue of ‘What Kind of World’ came out in 1991). So he tell me to get a statement through him for what’s selling from Heartbeat, and he tell me to call Heartbeat. So when I ask them about it them said no, they’re not getting any money and stuff like that. That’s just how it goes, but that don’t make me worse. You know, it’s life, because so many people sometimes their hearts goes out when they’re not in the spotlight anymore. They were popular and stuff like that, some made money, some others made more money than the rest of them, but then they never set their lives different, like they were hoping that they would make this thing big. Which is like saying their losses – they lose, they gamble, maybe two million to one (chuckles). Or so you make a way out, but you never. But like I mentioned, I’m alright.

That’s good. Who came up with the name,’The Cables’? I suppose that was you, it’s sort of linked to your name.
Oh well, I came up with the name because my name is Keble. Now, I look at something with a cable and wires, and I say, well, ‘Cables’ would be a good name because you could send a message across the world, and that’s how I came up with the name. And I said that’s supposed to be my name, with ‘C’. So that’s how I gave it the name ‘Cables’.

A pretty unusual name, isn’t it, I mean your own – ‘Keble’?
Yeah, it is, it is. My name is very unusual and I don’t know how my mom got it.

I like it, y’know. Because the type of person I am it’s really fitting on me because, y’know, I am a guy who really just – I don’t like too much excitement. I’m very selective. I don’t like to have stuff that everybody have, I like the best. And so the name, the name really – I love it, because it uncovered me, and it’s not a lot of people who have my name, very few.

You never checked other producers after the experience with Bobby Aitken and Lindon Pottinger’s Tip Top/High Note – it was Studio One next and nothing in-between?
No, because what I did or what we did was writing songs and rehearsing. We went to the producer that was Chinese…?

Leslie Kong, Beverley’s?
Leslie Kong, Beverley’s. Everytime we go, like how them time we go for audition, y’know, the leader or boss them never came or whatever, so there was no point in going there. So, we just went to Downbeat, we fit at the right time and date and the Heptones was there before so maybe we figured well, ‘OK, they’re doing all right so let’s go there and make some stuff’. And all the work we did was alright, some very good songs. But for some reason we didn’t get the push. Maybe we needed some manager or stuff like that, Downbeat was only thinking about making money off the sales. For some reason he got shows for like Heptones, and a portion of artists, but we never got it. And after that we leave for Harry J.

Some would suggest that the sound of the Cables owe a lot to the harmony arrangements of the Heptones, how you would shape the songs, that there is a common sound. Would you agree, if there’s that close soundwise between the groups?
No. In no way we are close to the Heptones. Did you see that, or listen that in our songs?

Personally I don’t really feel that way, no.
Yeah, because we have our unique sound. If you notice our sound don’t sound like the next sound, or a common sound. You know, they just don’t listen. I wouldn’t dare sound like the Heptones. Heptones they have their own style, and we also have our own style, ‘cos reggae is just not reggae. A lot of people think that all reggae sound the same, there’s no individual feel for what they’re listening for, what they hear and what they might not catch. That’s the way I feel. I would say we and the Heptones have a lot in common, how we sound like. I know with Heptones sometimes a guy is missing or so, during them early days I would just sit in and just do harmonies and stuff. They try to create their style, Heptones have a different type of harmony an’ stuff like that. Earl have a baritone there which is kinda different from the regular guy.

Of course there’s a difference, but still the comparison is there. The groups were at Studio One at the same period, and so on.
Yeah, because you see the reason why is the Heptones they have a unique harmony and stuff. You know, you don’t find a lot of group sound the way they do. And Cables have their own unique style in terms of harmony, stuff like that. So maybe when they’re trying to compare is that (laughs)… I wouldn’t say that I would say ‘OK, I sound like the Heptones’. I mean, I could sing on a Leroy song and it sounds good, but I still wouldn’t and still can’t sound like Leroy. You know, he has his own style, his voice is just his. One artist I know I could sing close like him is Slim Smith. Yeah, I could do Slim Smith and sound like him. Yeah. Because his style and singin’ I could just praise his style, his voice-style, because I practiced it. And he know that I listened to it and sound like him. When I sing it open like that people say ‘Wow! Is that you doing his music like that?’ Because I could sing him if I want.

There is something similar between your voices too.
We did a music together for Bunny Lee, me and Slim Smith.

Yeah? Which one?
Is a music name ‘Come On’ (sings): ‘I’ve never found a girl who is quite as nice as you…’, remember that music? ‘Ta dadatada da… from lovin’ that…’. I don’t – I forgot the words. ‘That’s why I’ve got to hold on to you… ta dada… so come ooon…’ – you remember that old music? ‘Baby come on, you’ve got to come home girl…’, something like that.

When would this be recorded?
Some long time, in the early seventies I think. In the early, early seventies. Or – yeah, in the early seventies I think, or maybe… How long since Slim died now?

He passed away in 1973.
’73. So maybe it was about 1970 me and him did that song.

What studio was used for this?
Oh, we recorded at Dynamic, for Bunny Lee. Striker Lee. Yeah, Slim Smith and all that music, my voice can sound like that, sound like him (sings): ‘Little did you knoooow, little did you know, oh my baby, oh my baby, when you told me you don’t know the man…’, y’know! I can make my voice sound like him, yeah.

Do you think Slim has received the true credit he’s due?
Yeah, I don’t wanna receive his credit. It’s just like, if I wanna do over one of his songs, I would do it like on the now-riddim, that would create a sound. You know, it could create something. I don’t wanna receive his credit, especially when it’s The Uniques, y’know. He’s good. I was one of his pall-bearer when he died, carried his coffin.

Slim Smith
How was the funeral, if you can recall? It was a big one for the public?
Oh yeah, I remember that.

He was still quite popular in Jamaica at the time of his death, he hadn’t lost it at that point.
No. But it’s just… that’s what love does to some people who can’t control their emotions, because he was in love with this girl, and this girl’s mother was my ex-wife’s friend.

So it was caused by a love affair, and the suicide, the accident or whatever, it was not related to the music business and the pressure from that as some would have it?
Yeah. No, it’s not music business, it was a love affair. He and the girl there was breaking up and stuff. Maybe she didn’t want as much as he. It’s not a matter of control but it’s just they were breaking up, maybe he love her more than she love him.

What was Slim like? Moody type of guy?
Not that I know of, y’know. What I know about is really when going to the studio and doing shows, and stuff. He’s just a quite, nice guy to me. Believe me, I never heard anything. Maybe he’s moody sometimes to somebody, maybe they’re annoyed and all. You know, maybe they’re stressed out or something like that (chuckles). I never knew him as one a them guys just like… he was a quiet, quiet man. Maybe people who were close to him knew it different, but I never heard anything like that about him. Never.

So he wasn’t ‘difficult’ in that way?
No, not that guy. Not to me. We talked, we did a music together, stuff like that. Go by Bunny Lee and hang out and stuff, y’know. I never knew him as – I mean, that guy would just be quiet until we’re going. He never do anything much.

Did he leave any family, any kids behind?
Well, I don’t know either. I never really heard anything about it. I just don’t know that part. You know, I think you would hear ‘Oh, Slim Smith’s kid’, or ‘Slim Smith’s that’, but I don’t think he had any kids.

And he died way too early, he wasn’t that old when he passed. Maybe about twenty-five.
No, he wasn’t. I think Slim Smith was in his early twenties. You know, he was young. OK, maybe he was a little more than that, I don’t remember if I’m older than him, maybe he was twenty-five or a little older, somewhere along that line.

What was his stage presence like, if you remember seeing him in action? I heard he was quite a performer in his time.
Stage presence you know… The Techniques them time was good, you would hear about them them time there, he was good. He had that unique sound and he had his songs and when he get that together it’s just ‘Wow!’, they go wild (chuckles)… you know? At one time I was going to be in Techniques’ group, before I form the Cables. And I went and I did audition and this was just before they would start go for rehearsal, and I didn’t come in. Because I think, y’know, my way wasn’t to be singin’ harmony. I forgot who was the leader, at that time Slim Smith wasn’t in the group as such.

He left the Techniques and formed the Uniques with Lloyd Charmers and Jimmy Riley at that time.
Yeah. Techniques wanted me, so I went for audition and stuff but they’re like ‘maaeeen’… But what I heard after the rehearsal, I didn’t bother. I thought to myself that I wanted to have my own group, so it felt like to be a giveaway to be in the Techniques, y’know. In them time also I wanted my own, so I form the Cables.

How did you find the environment at Studio One? Can you recall the first songs you recorded there?
Yeah, the first song I did when I went to Studio One and we got selected, and at the recording Jackie Mittoo was there and Roland Alphonso, those guys. It was a great feel for us because Studio One was producin’ all the hits and stuff like that. And the mainstays for recording was Tommy McCook, Jackie Mittoo. He was finding an excuse ‘No, I don’t have the time today ’cause I’m doing this stuff that isn’t finished yet’, and he come out of the studio and go across the street drinkin’ beer and stuff. Believe me, one a the time I got upset and say, “Why you deal with me like that?”, y’know. “We have something to do, so just do it”. I have to stop my work for this, and he’s still not doing it – “What’s up?”, y’know. And he’s kind of like a lickle jumpy guy.

Jackie was?
Yes, Jackie Mittoo. Yeah. And I curse him up one day, and he said, “OK! OK, OK!! Tomorrow you can definitely come, come and let me see what you have”. You know, like he want to intimidate (laughs)! So we went and our time to record, y’know, and me and Roy just said to sing our song and say it’s our time. And Jackie say, “OK, it’s a big t’ing to let me see what you have” (chuckles). I have a guitar and I start to play my chords. You know, when you write the song you created a horn (part) and stuff, y’know. ‘Ta dadaa ta da’, stuff like that. And you play towards the beat and then you start singin’. Man, I stand up – one of my feet up and the guitar restin’ on my knee, and then my knee start tremble (laughs)! That’s when Jackie Mittoo say, “Alright, let me see what you have”. So, we start singin’ and I blow like the intro with my mouth, like ‘ta dam ta da daa’. And he said, “OK, that sounds good”, and he sat around the keyboard, y’know, he catch on to the melody and he played it on the keyboards. He told the others standing around to ‘OK, play it’, and they start playing it. In just a few minutes or so they get excited and run it smooth and nice, and that was it. It was good, y’know. And Leroy was playing bass – Leroy Heptone.

And this is around ’67?
Yeah, ’67. No – early ’68. Early ’68, because we put that music down right in that time. Either late’67 or early ’68.

With the Sound Dimension band.
Yeah. Leroy played bass, Jackie did the keyboards, and right away they created a sound there. Jackie had his way with the arrangement. But it sound so different in them times because that’s when reggae started. When reggae started they created that ‘doo dom de’ – you know? So we did that song and then we did ‘What Kind of World’ the same day. And then we went back and did some more later on.

So Leroy handled the bass, but who was the drummer for you?
I forgot the guy’s name that played the drums.

Hugh Malcolm, Bunny Williams, Tin Leg?
No, it wasn’t Hugh. I know that guy’s name… Fil?

Fil Callender? He was later in the In Crowd band.
I don’t remember if it’s Callender, although I remember his name was Fil. Yeah, Fil played drums. ‘Little Fil’, man.

He played in the In Crowd band in the early to late seventies.
The In Crowd! Yeah, Fil used to play with the In Crowd too, yes. I heard Fil got sick though. You know, the other day I saw a guy, I forgot his name, and he was reminding me who he was, and he told me about Fil. In Crowd was the band that backed us on some music, I think for Hugh Madden.

Fil Callender
Hugh Madden, he was the guy behind the Electro label if I’m not mistaken, pretty unknown.
Electro, right. Hugh Madden, that was my good friend.

What happened to him, he’s not there anymore, in Jamaica?
No, he’s in Jamaica, he has a store on King Street. He opened a retail store on King Street, he’s had it a long time. Every time I go to Jamaica I see Hugh. He even said to me once that we did one of the music, ‘A Sometime Girl’ (sings the chorus): ‘A sometime girl, that’s what you are, you belong to a sometime man…’. It has a riddim, man. I know that riddim is good work now, man. Very great.

So how much was cut in that first session for Studio One, not more than two songs you said?
The first session? The first session we only did about two music, and then after that Downbeat call us in to do more. You know, we went in a few times and we do songs. I think we did about fourteen songs, we did not do more than that because we ain’t gonna load them up, because we’re not getting money so why load them up?

Then after that we went to Harry J. Harry J wanted us to sing although we had a contract with Downbeat for two years.

You had to sign with Coxson.
Yeah, we signed a contract with him at the time. We didn’t even know what we signed (laughs)! But his contract wasn’t anything big even in them times, it’s for two years. Then we branched out. Harry J wanted us to sign too, make it for him. I couldn’t. But one of his artists was Herbie Carter at the time, who did ‘Happy Time’. And he just couldn’t sing! So when they were about to voice it I went by, and while I was at the studio I just voiced it. I changed my voice a little, and I go in and sing the harmony. But ‘Happy Time’ is really Cables. We just let them put the name ‘Herbie Carter’, because we were on contract and stuff. And when I voiced it you wouldn’t think it’s Cables.

When I spoke to Prince Alla (Keith Blake) last year he mentioned a tune that was nicked from his first group, The Leaders. ‘Happy Time’ was supposedly written by them, and Herbie Carter just picked it up. But it’s origin belongs to the Leaders, they wrote it.
They did? I didn’t know that, y’know. They said it’s his and Herbie say it’s his song, but I heard somebody else had claimed the song. Somebody else claimed that song. All I know I did is just sing it, I thought it is Herbie’s, I heard it from Harry J. So maybe Herbie heard it while he was hangin’ out with them?

But somebody else claimed that song.

Yes, because apparently Herbie had passed them singin’ it somewhere and he got involved and ‘borrowed’ it. They were supposed to do it through him but he wasn’t heard from again. When he took in a sound system somewhere in Kingston, Prince Alla discovered that it was their track playing by someone else and later on he saw a gold record in Harry J’s office – ‘Happy Time’ by Herbie Carter. That’s what I recall being told then anyway.
And he didn’t even sing it (chuckles). He didn’t even sing that song, because he was trying to. So maybe it’s true, because he was trying to but he couldn’t sing, he just could not sing it and could not sound good. And that’s the time when we just voiced it. I mean, he gained so much popularity of that music, ’cause it was a hit and he gained so much popularity, man. And he can’t sing a line! It was later that Harry reprint it and put ‘Herbie Carter & The Cables’. It was like that. I have one of the records here, he reprint it now and put something different on it.

How effective was the Studio One band in those days – it’s one or two rehearsals at most, and then they’d cut it?
Yeah. Because, you see, musicians in Jamaica are so great… than a lot of other musicians, they’re not reading the music, it’s just stylistic. And you’re listening and you’d get it and you just improvise and somebody plays it and you feel something else and you say ‘Just play that there with that’, and the other guy try it and say ‘Yes!’ There they’d fit in something, y’know, and that’s how it goes. And you’d run it down two times and it’s there, y’know.

Another thing is that Coxson had his own studio to give musicians freedom to work longer, freedom to experiment, freedom to spend time on arrangements and fool around a little without having to rush it, looking at the clock all the time. You had that space and time.
Of course, you have the time. And sometime a guy come in there in the morning, say nine o’clock, and they don’t leave there until one o’clock the next morning. Also because they’re doing different, different guys recording, and with the music they’re not trying to make it sound the same way. You know, so you become creative. You’d become very creative, you’re trying not to make the same bassline, you don’t make the bassline sound like the other songs or stuff like that.

These songs come from a period in the music where you had to create something original and strong to be able to compete, unlike now (laughs)! It’s not just the same effort or even originality for that matter. But obviously I’m not knocking nobody that it’s an effort even today, it certainly is, but far off compared to those days.
Yes, you had to, definitely. Definitely. But, you see, in them time you will have different musician playing, so everybody provide something. The other guy will play his lead guitar, you will hear the bassman playing something and someone is coming to him and he say ‘Try this’. And he tried it, and it sounds good. If it don’t fit, they don’t bother. The keyboard man he may hear something that would sound great and he says it to the other guys. So, everybody work together and create something, and improvise and stuff, y’know, that the other guy play and t’ing and he may sound better, stuff like that. So you will have like lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and you have keyboards, y’know, you have the percussion and you have the hornsman. The hornsman they may hear something and say: “Oh, you should play that, the bass sounds better if you have the…”. So you have all these people playing, a seven-piece playing also. Now, with the electronic thing you have one man playing, and he’s playing the different stuff that he’d dub – overdub, so is just one man idea! You know what I mean? Is just a one man thing. So, is much creativeness more than just one creative one, coming out of that one person. Sometime it becomes so stagnated in a way that, I mean, what he’s hearing there’s not a thing that can make it sound better, but it can come out of it, alone. So, to me, the now music, it can never sound the way it’s supposed to sound. Because, number one: it’s all electronic, computerized stuff. You can’t get that warm sound now. But in some ways, it’s good too – in a sense, y’know, everything you need is there. But them days everything was coming from inside, everything was coming from within – it’s coming with the feel and the love. And both writing and playing a song – you’d have to visualise, it had to be alive, y’know, to get what you really want. You’re looking at the other person who listen the song, something that can uplift and do something to the other person. You’re playing an instrument, you try to build something that can push somebody, some way. Nowadays you don’t have that feeling, just like how the world change. Nobody cares. You know, people just live. People just war for something, that’s how it is now. That is how it is nowadays. No creativity, no lovin’. I don’t mean just definitely singin’ a song about love – I’m talkin’ about the love to sing. So it’s something special that come out of them days. You know, you don’t find that no more. But, what created this music in the seventies and so on, it had so much creativeness and love in it that it still touching people now. So, even the other person, the younger generation, or stuff like that, they’re hearing something. They’re still hearing a feeling, a feeling in that music that they had no choice but just to, y’know, react to it. You understand what I’m saying?

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Studio One, 13 Brentford Road, Kingston 5, Jamaica (Photo: Pekka Vuorinen)
Yeah, that’s the way I think. It’s just like for instance, Bobby Dockery is one of the guy that, with Stewy and Roy – I mean when Roy left Jamaica and stuff I brought in Bobby Dockery in the group, ‘Wanna join the Cables?’, y’know. This was from in the seventies, come up to now, and he’s talkin’ the other day when we decide to do some recording. We have a nice music we intend to release now, but then I just ease out. But we tried to put that creativeness in the music, and trust me it had and I know if it goes out it could do something, because it’s different with everyday music out there. And I laid the song, I sang it, I put harmony in, and it’s different. Very, very different. The people wanna hear that but then he’s a guy who’s jumpy, very difficult to get along with. And I put up with his ways too much. He start to (inaudiable) an’ stuff like that, and things that don’t get my approval, and I just said, “You know something? Forget about it”. And I just left everything there right in his hands. I don’t care what I spent, y’know, I just left it there and leave him alone. If he want he can put that music out, and it could be something. Because that song is different in it, the arrangement and stuff. You know, everything is OK, you hear it a different thing and stuff. When you hear a Cables song it’s original. Everything. And people wanna hear now because people wanna hear something new and creative. And we have that, but he messed up. Maybe all of this was for a good reason, because the good news is that I’ve spoken with my original guys, even though they’re in the church and stuff like that, I gave them time to think it over. And they think it over and, y’know, they decide that it’s something that they love – and not because they’re in the Church that should not stop them from continue with what we used to do, because we sing songs of love and stuff like that. They think that is good enough, and they decide that we should be together. The original, the true original Cables. So, they think about that and it’s in the making, it’s gonna happen.

Good to have the foundation of the group out there.
The foundation, yeah. It will be here again, it will be. I have two shows now in New York for the month of May. I go down to Baltimore where they live and do some rehearsal and stuff. One of them has equipment there, I could just lay a song there and let they do harmony. I could go down, maybe even once a month an’ stay there and do some rehearsal. So, that’s what we decided to do. After a while (chuckles) when he hear that ‘Yes bwoy, Cables will reunite’, I don’t know how he’s gonna feel because the world know him as one in the Cables, ’cause that’s what make him proud of the person he is. But then he just won’t calm down, he just won’t calm himself. And I’m a calm person, it’s a difference.

Meaning Bobby Dockery.
Yeah. At one time, man, in Jamaica his actions – and I just forget about him, and came to New York and I don’t see him for years, over twenty years. I mean, when I came to Florida here somebody told me that when they told him about it he’s going crazy. And when I saw him he was the happiest person, because he tried so much all through that time, and he just can’t make it. For improvement, I get another guy – no, Stewy used to come over here from Baltimore and we rehearse and do one or two shows and stuff like that. Everybody down here now know him as Cables and stuff like that, because he’s that type of guy, like, to build in the limelight and show himself, and so and so and so. Everybody knows. But he won’t calm himself, man. And I’ve told him, if he’d listen everything would be better. He has no principles. I’ve decided now that I will go with my group, and I’m part of the foundation, me and my group is part of the foundation. And I think now we need to inherit something out of it. We deserved better, we’re not ignorant, I think we have the popularity, we have the right appearance and stuff. We gonna do a few things and try to make something out of it. This year I’ve said, what, I’m gonna start off and do a few shows. I had to hook up with those guys, because people recognise the group so much – people rate the music, more than I thought at that time. People would meet me and people would say ‘Man, why you wasting your time so much! You’re Cables man, I wish I was like you, I wish I had the popularity like you’. You know, stuff like that. People curse me up sometime, they’re saying ‘You’re too late out, man. You ought to do something, man’.

The Cables – Fast Mouth

The Cables – Equal Rights

Herbie Carter (The Cables) – Happy Time

And now is the right time to do it.
Now is the right time. And y’know, I’m doing this interview and I hope too somewhere along the line it can hook up something too. I wanna look shows abroad, stuff like that. I wanna go back in the studio and do songs, we have songs and stuff. There’s so much I wanna do now. I’m gonna do it. I’m starting up, I’m doing shows, whatever, going out there again.

What input did Coxson himself have in the recordings of your album, in the shaping of the songs?
He’s just the producer, man.

So he wasn’t involved in the sessions? He left this to the studio band entirely.
The singers and the musicians, and all he does is the mixing. He wasn’t even in there when it’s recording, when the riddim is done. I (coughs)… forgot who was doing the board…?

Sylvan Morris probably, or Larry Marshall perhaps.
I think it’s Syl – not Larry Marshall, Larry Marshall never used to do no mixing. I think it’s Syl Morris, Morris used to do the board, yeah. Now, Downbeat he try to boost this and boost that and boost stuff. My songs them, I come in with my idea, my horn-parts. Even Beltones, ‘No More Heartaches’, the horns, it’s my creativeness with the horns. I blow the horns with my mouth even to the guy, I forgot his name – a slim guy, used to do trumpet.

Bobby Ellis?
I think so, I think it’s Bobby. And I took Trevor, Trevor’s group, to Harry J.

Trevor Shields
Trevor Shields, yes.
I rehearse Trevor then in my apartment and bring that group with ‘No More Heartaches’, played the guitar nicely, Harry J stood at my house, and I arrange that music. When we went for session Harry says, ‘OK’, because it’s Harry’s first music and he didn’t have much to spend money, so he say, “OK, you can run the session”. I work on those guys, I blow them horns so them see what I would go with, ’cause I was in charge them time. I told them what I want, them blow it and blow it until it sound good and laid that riddim. And the guys them voice the music and when they voice the music and stuff, I mean, everything was alright. But when Harry press the record and took it to the radio station and stuff, everybody is puttin’ it down, like ‘Why you spend money on this, it no sound good!’ So Harry get downhearted. I say, “Harry, let me tell you somet’ing, that’s what these individuals are for. They can’t tell the outcome of a song, all you do is you just play it for me and then let the public decide”. And he say OK. That’s how it goes. He was one of the luckiest dudes, that’s how it goes. His first song he recorded – watch that, and he make money off of it. That was the first recording that he did, the first hit song.

How did you meet Harry in the first place? He was a salesman for whatever, at the time.
Yeah, he was an insurance salesman. He used to work down King Street, used to drive a little Ford, Ford Escort. And guess what happened? Our group was popular at the time, and he wanted to go into the business. Then he wanted to see if we could do a music for him. He met me, told me what he wanted to do and that he had some money to spend on recording. But he didn’t have no idea how it goes, I showed him how it goes. He get to meet a few guys from the radio station and stuff, and I show Harry how it goes in doing the recording and stuff like that. Get the Beltones them and did that session and stuff. Me and Harry was good friends. Harry used to be at my house every night. Eeeevery night Harry used to be at the house. And I get Herbie Carter. Herbie Carter – he and one of the guys (Cables) used to be like close friends.

Tell me more of who Herbie was.
Herbie Carter is just one of the guys who hang out at the studios, and he used to come by me and feel like singin’, but he just couldn’t sing. He just couldn’t. He didn’t have a singin’ voice.

Flat voice.
Flat, very flat. Is just like Earl, Earl Morgan. He couldn’t sing.

(Laughs) Well…
I’m tellin’ you! He could not. But by practicin’ and practicin’ and practicin’ – because Earl used to hang out at my house, and when he’s singin’ and stuff – Earl just couldn’t! That’s why when Earl get into Heptones, with Earl singin’ harmony, I was very surprised. And Earl even end up leading the music and stuff, he didn’t solve it. He did stuff now. You know, it was very surprising – Earl couldn’t sing. He couldn’t. It’s the truth.

What became of Herbie?
You know, I don’t know what happened to him. I haven’t seen him over the years, I haven’t heard anything about him. I know one a the time when Harry, y’know, make it, Harry open up a nice record shop down by King Street, and Herbie was working in the shop. Sometime I would check him, I’m going into that shop and nobody knowing that, well, that guy isn’t the guy on the record (laughs)!

(Laughs) It was recorded at Studio One, Harry’s first session, wasn’t it?
Yeah. No – his first session was recorded at Dynamic. You know that Dynamic are Federal? I think is Federal, or one of those…

No. Byron Lee bought WIRL, West Indies Ltd, and renamed it ‘Dynamic’.
Yeah, one of them. That’s where the first Beltones song ‘No More Heartaches’ was recorded. But ‘Happy Time’ (was) recorded at Joe Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’ studio. It’s either recorded or voiced there, that’s where I voiced it anyway. After Harry start making money, Harry act like he don’t know me. This is after we start doing songs for him and stuff like that, and he start acting weird.

Swell-headed, like.
Yeah. When Harry travel the first time and came back to Jamaica, he came down the road with that car, man. And he made money. Then he had Bob Andy and Marcia (Griffiths) start doing music for him and he turn big boy. He had our music out and stuff like that, but I think he got a raw deal with (inaudible) for an LP though. ‘Cos he got soooo big and I don’t know what goes wrong. They released the LP up here, and I mean it should sell. We did do over ‘No More Heartaches’ too, it was a hit in New York. You know, we did it over for Harry.

In ’77.
And he make money off of it, so we didn’t get nothing better, definitely, off our version of ‘No More Heartaches’.

The other two guys from the Beltones, can you remember them?
I don’t remember the other two guys, trust me. I tried to remember their names. I know them good. One of them play the piano deh, I don’t know if both of them played the piano. Trevor was the one that I knew well. The other two guys they were OK, working guys, y’know. I knew Trevor well, and they did rehearse along so they’d come by. After rehearsal we went for the recording. Trevor is much… One a the time we formed together the group True Experience, after he and Beltones left.

After they split up.
Some groups never last. You know, some things with groups, if you are the leader and things are going well, the other guys think how it goes is because you’re getting all the attention, and it always bring a bad t’ing into our group. That was one of the things that broke up my group. They went and form different groups, they didn’t work and they came back and then they left again and say, ‘Oh, we can’t do’. That’s just how it goes. After the second time I took Bobby in the group, me and him and Trevor Shields formed this group until we go back and reformed the Cables.

True Experience, this was back in ’72?
’70, somewhere there, I don’t remember (laughs).

I think it was, and you did one 45 together, ‘My Girl’.
Yeah. I think we did another song, did another song too.

What was the label?
Esbonne (also on Ethnic in the UK, circa ’74).

This project, you hooked up with a producer or was the session self-financed?
Yeah, it was self-financed by the guy, he tried it but it just didn’t work.

So who was this individual?
He was some – I don’t know if he was a cop or something. He did shows too, tried to produce shows and stuff. Nothing ever worked for him. We’re doing shows – we, some other artists and John Holt, and he didn’t even make some money off the shows.

You said you rehearsed Beltones, did you write that song for the Beltones as well?
No, I didn’t write it. You know, a lot of people thought I am the writer of the original song, for some reason. For some reason people thought it too. I mean, Trevor’s voice is different, but that song has a little touch of Cables because of the way I arrange it. Then after a while when we did it over, when I did it over, mine was so popular again after that because the riddim was changed, y’know, it was a little slower and stuff like that. So a lot of people thought we are the original, y’know, people’s minds just twitched what they heard off the other song and then turned it their way. But still you have some people who – at one time you had Lloyd… Lloyd…? You know who I’m talking? Producer Lloyd, man.

Lloyd Campbell?
Lloyd Campbell. Yeah, he didn’t know we did over ‘No More Heartaches’ and it was a hit in New York. One night there was this singer on the radio, this guy – I forgot his name, some controversy was going down with ‘No More Heartaches’ because Lloyd made Sanchez do a thing over ‘No More Heartaches’, he did over ‘No More Heartaches’, Sanchez. There was a controversy about it and Lloydie didn’t know this but this guy on the radio, he’s a deejay, and he didn’t even know about Beltones now, he knew mine. Because in New York when it was a hit he used to play it, and he fell in line, “No man, it’s Cables, is Cables”. And Lloyd say, “No, it’s only one ‘No More Heartaches’ and Cables them never do that, Cables never did that music”. And I called up the guy and when I said who I was him say, “Oh my gosh, you have the record?” And I say, “Yeah, I have the record”. I loaned it to him and he got it played on the show. You know, you can’t know because it wasn’t released in Jamaica, it was only released in New York and it became a hit. Because I was in Jamaica when people calling me and I remember one a the time – how he got the number from me I don’t know, and he called and he said, “Man! You rich now!”(chuckles). “Man, your music hit, man! ‘No More Heartaches’ is number one, man! Number one here, y’know”. I said, “What?!” You know, we didn’t know nutten. Is just like in England, we didn’t know how much ‘Baby Why’ and them music was heating up the air and because them don’t want us to know they never give and show us, because they was just making the money. But, a guy say if they pay we more we could make it better, but then again it’s for a wise purpose. You know, maybe I could become famous, just like the other guy that got wasted too, y’know. I just look at it – everything is for a wise purpose. That’s not what God wanted for me.

(Continue reading Part 2)