Carlton “Tetrack” Hines: Let’s Get The Story (The Interview) – Part 1

by Mar 4, 2024Articles, Interview

Interview with Tetrack Part 1


Where: Somewhere in the US
When: About 2011
Reporter: Peter I
Photos: Courtesy of Carlton Hines, Beth Lesser, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Peter I

The late Augustus Pablo assembled a camp of loyal artists, groups and instrumentalists for his Rockers International stable, among them three childhood friends and spars from school; Dave Harvey, Paul Mangaroo, and Carlton Hines, more known as Tetrack. Perhaps it would be fair to describe the group as ‘the Chi-lites of Rockers’, more than a strictly roots orientated vocal trio. Their 1979 debut album ‘Let’s Get Together’ is now regarded as an essential piece of harmony group albums the late seventies produced out of Jamaica, among records like ‘Marcus Garvey’, ‘Heart of the Congos’, ‘The Same Song’, and so on. Tetrack split in the late 1980’s when members decided to migrate to the States. Now they’re back, a 7″ is out and an album is expected soon. Read more about the group’s adventures and the only remaining member from the original line up, Carlton Hines, and his involvement as a songwriter, singer, and now a producer for the Artistic label. Thanks to Carlton (mi spar in words), Teacher & Mr T, Norris Reid, Beth Lesser, and Steve Barrow.

To begin, I think what is somehow ‘important’ or, like, significant in the Tetrack story is a certain mango tree in Franklin Town, isn’t it – that’s where it all began?
Ah (giggles), it wasn’t a mango tree in Franklin Town, y’know, it was really a mango tree in Vineyard Town. And that was in… that was where my girl – who is now my wife (chuckles) – lived. In Vineyard Town. And that’s where we would congregate. That’s where the group actually started, right under that mango tree. But then, there’s also another mango tree that came into the picture, an’ that mango tree was a mango tree in the Saunders Lane, Mountain View area. That mango tree was in Dave’s front yard. And Dave, as you know, is a founding member of the group. So that mango tree was there, and we used to sit in that tree an’ jus’ observe the whole t’ing, observe the runnings. Often times you had Tetrack Hi-Fi playing across the street. It was jus’ a nice vibes when they were playing, it could be the middle of the week, could be a weekend, could be a public holiday – it doesn’t matter, whenever the vibes come, they jus’ string up an’ play. That is where we’d sit, Dave and myself, an’ listen to Tetrack Hi-Fi, listen to the songs an’ harmonizing with the songs, an’ so on. So that mango tree – well, that was the FIRS’ mango tree (chuckles).

But at that time it wasn’t a group. The group came together then under the mango tree in Vineyard Town. Now that came to be the mango tree, y’understan’. Yeah. The group formed an’ came together under the tree in Vineyard Town.

When I first came upon the name, ‘Tetrack’, it sounded a little strange. So you picked that name from the neighbourhood then.
Well, Tetrack was the name of the sound. We took the name Tetrack out of respect for that sound. The guy who used to run the sound and own the sound, his name was Owen Archer. Owen’s sound was just a wicked sound, a really wicked sound. As a result of that sound, that’s how I firs’ came to see a lot of the artists of the times who were happenin’, because they would come by bringin’ a ‘sof’ wax’ they used to call it, they call them ‘dubplate’ now. They’d bring a sof’ wax, an’ they’d give ‘im [Owen] their soft wax to play, like a pre-release t’ing. It was jus’ like the dubplate you ‘ave now. And people like John Holt would pass through, Max Romeo used to live in the neighbourhood, a couple of the Melodians used to live in the neighbourhood too. You had all type a people, man. You had BB Seaton, all type a people, Robbie Shakespeare – an’ this was even before Robbie Shakespeare start playin’. He’d just hang out, come into the neighbourhood an’ just hang out, check some idrens. He used to live down the road in an adjacent neighbourhood. So, that was really the background. But that set was the wickedest set in the east, as far as I can recall at that time, Tetrack Hi-Fi (chuckles).

So what kind of set was it, a smaller disco or a bigger type of sound?
No man, it was a big sound. In those days the sound system set up the bigges’ sound box at the gate [the entrance to the dancehall]. A big box. Sometimes at least over five feet tall, easily, and wide. I can remember the joy I would feel as a youngster when you know that a dance (is) going to be held an’ see the bigger guys come aroun’ an’ you see them climb a tree an’ put up the steel horns, and so on. An’ I remember the sound systems. Back in those days when the sound an’ the dance is about, is suppose’ to start, the firs’ song they used to play was their “theme song”. Yea some sounds had their theme song, whatever it is – but they had a theme song (chuckles). Yeah man. An’ when you hear that now it’s like the excitement start to bubble. After the theme song they start to play some serious music. Yeah. So it was really a pleasant experience.

And this was, like, in Franklin Town?
No, no, no – Mountain View, it all started in that neighbourhood. Let me tell you how the Franklin Town thing come into the picture. I was born in Franklin Town. All the neighbourhoods I’m tellin’ you about now, Vineyard Town, Mountain View, Saunders Lane, Warika Hill – all of that is in the eastern part of Kingston, including Franklin Town. I don’t remember living there, I was too young, but I remember living in another lickle section in Central Kingston, called Brown’s Town as a youngster. And from Brown’s Town area you have people like the Gaylads, but that’s a different area. So I came to Mountain View, East Kingston area, when I was about eight, or nine years old. That’s about when I went there.

Like this type of ‘government yard’?
Where I was livin’ in east Kingston, Mountain View? No, no, it wasn’t, yunno. You had a lotta private homes an’ you had, y’know, people rent, they lease or they might own a piece of land an’ they build a house on it. Where I was living, my dad had actually leased a piece of land from a landlord who had a big piece of land. And there he built a lickle t’ing, built a lickle house there. It wasn’t anything special, not anything special at all, not by a long stretch (chuckles). But that was where I was living. It was a typical poor/working class neighbourhood. In fact when my family moved to that area from Browns Town, to me it felt like we had moved to the country side especially being so close to Warika Hills.

‘Humble beginnings’.

(Laughs) Yeah.

Higgs & Wilson
It was clear from the beginning that you guys loved harmony, trading verses, that sweet rock steady feel. Later on you got an interest in conscious messages. But would it be accurate to see Tetrack as a sort of ‘post-rock steady’ group in terms of your arrangements and approach in general, not necessarily hard roots?
What happened is… let me tell you now. The overwhelming influence on Tetrack came through ska and rock steady. We’re comin’ through that time, ’cause given my age I was like from the beginning of the Jamaica music business, not as a participant, but as a consumer. Hearing the music from the earliest days, ‘Easy Snappin’, ‘Sammy plant piece a corn dung a Gully’ by Monty Morris an’ all them songs. As a youth comin’ through, you’d hear all these songs. Now, coming after independence, after ’62 comin’ through, you’re listenin’ an’ it start shift from the ska to the rock steady, and you listen to all the main stars. So you get influenced by all of that, Techniques, Wailers, Stranger Cole, Higgs and Wilson, the Heptones an’ the Melodians, an’ everybody you’re hearing. But you’re also hearin’ a lot of other music. ‘Cause Jamaican people love all types of music. If you go to a dancehall, you basically get Jamaican music, one hundred per cent. You go to a house party in Jamaica and that’s a different story. You get a variety of music, you’d get a combination of local music an’ every kind of music, calypso, R&B an’ everyt’ing. So I remember as a youngster, you’re listenin’ to the Drifters, the Impressions and Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King , Otis Redding an’ Chi-lites, Delfonics, all of that, so you’d actually hear all these things. I think you synthesize all these things and it is reflected in your own music. So, I really don’t know where you put Tetrack as a group, y’know, I really don’t know where you’d put them. But these are some of the influences that really affected or guided and shaped our sound.

At that time, can you recall the general vibe or atmosphere in Jamaica, did you people look upon it as something worldwide acceptable, on a wider scale, or was it seen as more of an ethnic, ‘internal’ and national thing, something we keep to ourselves, basically?
Well, I’m glad you asked that question, ’cause that’s a profound question. Let me quickly see whether I can put it in a nutshell…Post-independent Jamaica was essentially a country that looked outside of itself. Looked outside, looking abroad for the things to shape it and that would basically set the standard, in terms of music and basically everything. It looked outside of itself. Now, as an ex-colony, Jamaica also suffered from the problems that you find in a lot of ex-colonies, where you’d have a certain privileged class of people that came out of this colonial period who found themselves in a certain position. And what they did in order to show how advanced, how privileged and how better off they were from the “poor” majority, they’d adopt all these things from outside, they’d adopt everything from Englan’ an’ America, and they tried to be like that. So Jamaican music wasn’t looked upon kindly by these people because the music was coming from the poor people of the land. Also the “upper class” had the greatest influence, on the radio, and so on. So what would happen though, once they [the upper class] saw that there was a market for the music, some of them would get involved in the music, as a business. But generally speaking as a “social class” that same music could not be played in their homes. It was a very ironic and hypocritical situation. Y’understan’ (chuckles)? And their children were not encouraged to listen to that type of music. They were supposed to listen to the Patti Pages and the Frank Sinatras and all these people. They were not supposed to listen to no Bob Marley or no Bob Andy or no Heptones or Derrick Morgan an’ all these people, that music was generally looked upon [by them] as ‘Yawd bwoy music’. When you are referred to as a ‘Yawd bwoy’ in Jamaica, it’s really a derogatory term, used in reference to the uneducated, the poor, the under privileged.

Class thinking.
Yeah, it’s a class thing.

What has happened though, I dunno how much I can go into this, but what happened is, with the rise in popularity of Rastafari and the formation of the 12 Tribe of Israel in the late sixties and the effects of the changes in the educational system in Jamaica, where you have a lot more kids from the lower class now attending high schools with the children from the more privileged class or people with better economic background, people developed friendships. You’d have a guy who for example, attending Jamaica College [JC]. In Jamaica it was one of the top high schools, still is. Several prime ministers of Jamaica went to JC. Now, guys from Jamaica College now start to socialize because of the educational system, with guys from the poor/working class communities. And as a result of that socialization some of these guys start to visit their friends in these areas. Areas now where they wouldn’t normally go. And they begin to get exposed to the music, ca’ they couldn’t hear it on the radio. ‘Cause these songs, very rarely you’d hear a few of them on the radio, you might hear a Toots, y’know, you might hear a lickle Maytals sometimes, but there wasn’t much support for local music on the radio. But when they go down to these areas now, they start going to dances, they start feelin’ the music. And they meet people, they start meetin’ girls and so on. They start going back even more frequently, getting exposed to the whole Rastafari roots vibe. And it spread like a virus ca’ they took it back uptown.

(Chuckles) That’s how it became what it is now.

Perhaps for acceptance in general it had to take a route uptown, the upper sections so to speak, and back, to become more established in most corners of the society.
Well, no. What happened is, yunno, the poorer people is the majority, it was already accepted by them. But it was not recognised by the people in the position of power. They didn’t recognise it, they didn’t give it any respec’. That’s why you had the lickle thing about even Byron Lee & The Dragonaries going to the World’s Fair, and not the Skatalites. There was that lickle debate that came up. Byron Lee was a highly respected musician, and great contributor to Jamaican musical development. But at no time Byron Lee and his Dragonaries ever rock Jamaica like the Skatalites, no time! That’s a whole different vibe. I remember when the Skatalites was comin’ on the tv in Jamaica, you had a program, the ‘Jamaica Bandstand’, as a youngster, an everybody found their way to the few televisions in my neigborhood!

Jackie Mittoo - The Keyboard King At Studio One
Probably one who could afford a tv in the neighbourhood, or two.

In black and white.
Yeah, and everybody, they’re tellin’ you, while they’re watchin’ it, they want to hear them play songs like ‘Man In the Street’, ‘Ball of Fire’, they want to see Lloyd Knibbs doing drum rolls, seen? They want to see Tommy McCook, they want to see ‘Dizzy’ Johnny (Moore), Roland Alphonso, they want to see Lloyd Brevett on the bass, Jackie Mitoo – they’d tell you exactly wha’ they want to see now! Y’understan’ (chuckles)? So, there was no time that if you talk ’bout bands in Jamaica, one of the firs’ bands you mus’ mention is the Skatalites. That is the impac’ that they had. But they didn’t get that kind of recognition, ’cause dem man deh was some roots. You know, they didn’t come from the ‘right circle’ so they couldn’t get the support.

And that is some kind of ‘threat’ to the life of uptown, the whole attitude to life, as they see it?
Yeah, they just couldn’t deal with it. But just to expand the point a little, based on what I described to you before, if you look now on the situation in Jamaica, generally speaking the music is viewed in a much more favourable light. People realise that reggae music has spawned a real business. One of the main factor that contributed to that change of perception was the death of Bob. The death of Bob Marley was like a revelation to certain people in Jamaica. Because first of all, they realized that Bob was an international superstar, and they also realized that reggae is an international music and serious money was being made from it. Some people who never paid attention to the music became reggae experts and fanatics overnight. Also because of the whole Rastafari movement and what I would call the social revolution in Jamaica, there was a wider acceptance of the music especially among the youtes in general. The same social blending that I told you about that started in the schools in the sixties going forward, was being manifested in the music also. It came down the line like that. Now you have uptown youtes who probably wouldn’t think of getting into reggae music at one time are now involved and with the support of their family. Up to a time that wouldn’t have happened. So a lot has changed, it’s more of a widespread acceptance.

So you and Dave knew each other from early, but how did you get linked up with Paul?
OK, hear this now. Dave was my next door neighbour. Dave an’ myself started to sing, not as a group but we’d sing along with the songs being played and also just sing them by ourselves whenever we felt like it. Now, some people would hear us harmonising sometimes an’ they’d say “Hey, you guys sound good”. You know, we used to laugh, an’ so on, and one day we just said “Hey, lets get a group together.” But we needed somebody else, an’ we decided to check Paul because we knew that Paul can sing. So we jus’ walk up the road, literally walk up the road to Paul’s house. We knocked on the gate, his grandfather looked out, we asked for Paul, Paul came out an we said “Yo, Manga, we waan form a group”, an’ him seh “Yeah?”

An’ he jus’ turn back inside an’ came back out with his shirt, [Manga is always without his shirt] an’ say “When?” (laughs). And we say “Right now!” And we just walk back up the road to Vineyard Town. I can tell you the firs’ song we ever did as a group, tryin’ out the three of us together for the firs’ time, was a song called ‘Ebony Eyes’ by the Stylistics [Manga had a wicked falsetto]. That was always our sound, yunno, that high sound, that was always our sound.

High pitched.
Yeah, that high pitch tenor to falsetto sound, that was always our sound. Ca’ our voices naturally fall into that range. I remember Paul started to sing the song and we just start harmonising, and that was it. Three, four evenings each week we would be there, under that mango tree. (Chuckles)

(Laughs) Just like that, and it was fun! We just sing any song, we just sing and harmonise. Nobody played the guitar, just a’capella singin’.

And sing along to the songs on the radio, and stuff like that?
No, when we’re rehearsin’ we don’t deal’ with no radio, we jus’ sing. Everybody know the song, so we jus’ siddung [sit down] and we start singin’. All type a song.

You remembered lyrics that well?
Yeah! Because, you see, Jamaica is such a musical place and you hear so much music, and you hear the songs over and over, so you’d know it. I can tell you this. We went to Pablo because of a guy who’d hear us at rehearsals sometimes. He was a classmate of Pablo, his name is Denzil Gooden. I knew Denzil from a previous school we attended together, but he and Pablo ended up as classmates at Kingston College [KC]. And he would always say “I can link you up with Pablo. I can take you to Pablo! You should be among Pablo”, an’ so on. We say “OK, we need to do it, we need to go to Pablo.” So Denzil said “All right, tell me when yu ready”. Now, we used to rehearse on weekends at a school called Excelsior High School. That was the high school I used to attend. It was also the place where Dave and I would study privately on weekends. It was the weekend study and rehearsal spot for us. So we tell Manga – that is Paul, we call him ‘Manga’, we say “Manga, rehearsal Sunday, two o’clock”. Manga shows up an’ we jus’ find a classroom an’ sing and try to choose the songs we would present to Pablo. Now every man was nervous but still excited, y’understan’. This is the first time we’re going to let anyone hear us, like an audition, and we’re going to Pablo. We did three songs a’capella on an old tape recorder: ‘Born To Love You’…

Slim Smith.
Yes. A song called ‘Never Had It So Good (And Felt So Bad)’ by the Chi-lites, and a song called ‘Sweat For You Baby’ (chuckles), a Smokey Robinson song that was done in reggae by the Heptones. So, you see wha’ I’m sayin’ bout the range of music that we knew and rehearsed. So the first time we met Pablo that’s what he heard.

Micko McKenzie, Jah Bull, Augustus Pablo (Photo: Beth Lesser - 1983)
I get the feeling that, at this point, you took it more for fun than a serious attempt to enter the recording business, everything else – apart from the joy of singing together – was a bonus?
(Chuckles) Well, in a way you’re very right, yunno. ‘Cause Tetrack I think is an unusual group in that regard. We, at no time, ever really envisioned music as a ‘career’ or work – it was a hobby, for fun. An’ part of the reason is, unlike many of the people involved in music in Jamaica at that time, despite comin’ out of a poor/ workin’ class community, we had the opportunity to go to school, y’understan’? We went to school and we did what we had to do. We were in a situation where our environment encouraged that, even though it was a tough environment. One of the things I remember about my neighbourhood was that a lot of the youngsters used to go to school. There were some strong parents and elders who used to really put an emphasis on that. And so actually, when the group started, all three of us were in school. It worked out that during the time we were recording for Pablo, Manga was workin’ as a lab technician in a large factory that made soap, edible oil and so forth. Dave was working as a mechanical engineer at an industrial plant. And I was working in the Central Bank.

Yeah. I went to UWI [The university of the West Indies] and studied economics. So, the music, we didn’t see it as our means of survival. So our approach to music was different from a lot of other artists at that time. For us it was just fun, it was just like that.

What was your first impressions of Pablo, and what year are we talking now, specifically, like ’73, ’74?
Oh, no, we met Pablo in ’74, yunno. The group started in ’72. We had been rehearsin’ for like two years, jus’ rehearse an’ sing an’ blah blah blah. We met Pablo in ’74, or it could be late ’73. But I know we did our firs’ recording in ’74. I remember the first time I saw Pablo he got arrested. The firs’ time I saw him was in a place, a club named Blinking Beacon [on Mountain View avenue, East Kingston] and there was a sound clash. I think it was between a sound called Sanatone and a nex’ set called Soul Tone. Yeah man, and ‘Java’ was mashin’ up the place an’ everything, and Pablo was there with his crew, Geaechy , an Miko an’ them man deh. And I saw Pablo in a corner holding a vibe. We didn’t know each other so I jus’ gwaan cool and observe the runnings. Pablo was blazing a chalwa, yunno (chuckles), jus’ a blaze him chalice wid him brethrens. Unfortunately, police raid the place an’ Pablo get bite [arrested]. That was the firs’ time I saw Pablo. When we finally met, he was not a very talkative person and he was a bit reserved.

Yeah, introverted. I wouldn’t even say ‘introverted’, ca’ if he knows you he’s off an’ runnin’ if he has something to say, y’understan’, he’s just quiet. He is more introspective.

Insecure among newcomers?
Ah, I wouldn’t say insecure, but he’s just a quiet person. Even if you know Pablo well an’ you come an’ say “Wha’pn, Pablo!”, he’d just say “Yeah, wha’ gwaan?” Yunno? He’s the quiet type.

He’s jus’ easy. He wasn’t much of a talker, but when he gets going he gets agitated. That’s definitely how he was star (chuckles). Yeah, so when we gave Pablo our cassette, he jus’ listened the songs an’ then he said “Yeah, it sound good. Bwoy, a long time I-man waan ‘ave a lickle group yuh no. Yuh busy?” We say no. An’ Pablo say “How you come?”, an’ we say “Drive”. Pablo say “A’right, come”. We all got in the car. I-man jus’ drive, an’ Pablo directed, an’ we ended up at a place named Black Ants Lane seen? Now, Black Ants Lane is a tough little place off Red Hills Road [uptown] where a guy called Street lived. He an’ Pablo’s brother Dougie, the one who died, used to run a sound together. The name of the sound was Rockers International, that’s where the label come from.

Dougie? Is that the same as Garth? I know he was involved in the set as well.
No, no, that’s another brother. Dougie died before Pablo. He had a motorcycle. He was riding one day and met in an accident. He died. Yeah. Garth still runs the Rockers International shop on Orange Street. Yeah, so we go up this lane now, and we go in the yard. If you drive up this lane you ‘ave to reverse out, unless you can back into somebody’s yard in order to turn around. You ‘ave to know what you’re doing (chuckles). Yeah, so we jus’ park an’ Pablo go in a yard and check Street. Pablo called us into the yard and introduced us to Street and then he started to search through some records and play some songs on the sound. He played ‘Let’s Get Together’ an’ he said “Yo, I waan the man dem learn this song”. He also gave (us) a riddim to write a song. I can’t remember for sure but I’m inclined to think that the first, very very first song that we ever did, was the song called ‘I’m Not Satisfied’ on the riddim Pablo gave us. I think Jacob Miller also came down on that same riddim.’ I think it’s a riddim called ‘A Girl Name Pat’.

‘Pa pa pa pa da daaahh’, da riddim deh, yunno. ‘Do bi do bi do bi’ – that song, right. Yeah, an’ that was the very firs’ song – it was the first song I wrote that was recorded. And it so happened that the very first song I wrote that got recorded was written on a riddim. So, that was how that went.

Perhaps he didn’t want to lose too much by giving you an established rhythm, familiar, and so that would be the public appeal?
All right, that could be part of it though, that’s probably part of it. But another part of it is that a producer generally likes to test – and feel out – an artis’ on a riddim. It’s more economical, y’understan’. If you ‘ave a riddim an’ it’s a nice riddim, it’s cheaper for you to say “Hey, write somet’ing ‘pon dat riddim.” So you get a sense of what that artis’ is capable of, how they sound an’ so on, instead of bookin’ studio time and pay four, five musician’ jus’ to find out that you don’t want to work with the artist. So that used to happen. Coxson used to do that too. Coxson used to do that with Sugar Minott an’ Freddie McGregor an’ all these people, who were like the second wave of artists, after people like Alton (Ellis) bust out of Studio One, an’ other people. So, that’s how they used to do it.

Rockers Showcase

How do you recall, now, the working methods of Pablo? You mentioned to me once, contrary to what one might think, Pablo’s music was ‘always on the clock’ so to speak, the work had to be done efficiently while achieving certain standard.
Budget was always tight. And no matter how tight the budget was, when you go to the studio with Pablo, some of the budget, that studio time (laughs) always go in the way of some herb smokin’, y’know, the chalice haffe bu’n. Going to the studio with Pablo was a whole t’ing in itself. It’s like ‘three or four cars’. Tetrack drive up an’ Pablo come with two taxis. You’d have man like Ricky Grant with a container with some irie Ital stew, you’d ‘ave Jah Bull come out with a chalice, you have Mundell, another man come out with some jelly coconut an’ cane [sugar cane] an’ orange, an’ some other people jus’ there to support the whole thing. And when we got together it was just a irie vibe, idren and idren. We used to use Harry J’s studio a lot. Pablo never had the money to really finance studio sessions the way he would have liked. The good t’ing is that Pablo was a musician, so he was able to get good work done very quickly. And part of the reason is that, when Pablo came to the studio to do a recording, he already had the chords worked out. He also had the bass and drum track set, y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’. So the riddims get straightened out real fast. Sometimes we record a song and we would like to make a lickle change here an’ there, but we couldn’t do it because the funds jus’ wasn’t there, so you have to do the bes’ you can. When we did the ‘Let’s Get Started’ album, wow, we voiced like the majority of those songs in one session! One session, song after song after song. There was no opportunity to do several takes of the song. You have to just rock it, run it, jus’ like that.

Did he dominate the session totally or he gave you free space to add or shape it the way you wanted, to some extent, to ‘follow up’ your own ideas?
Well, in terms of the vocals and the harmonies an’ so on, Pablo basically gave you, as an artist, a lot of freedom, but in terms of the instrumentation, he was very clear about what he wanted. With regards to the vocals, that was your thing. His major concern was whether or not you’re in key. We were really free to use our ideas from a vocal arrangement point of view. For the instrumental part of it, he had a tight grip on that, on the basic riddim. For example, Pablo would play the bass line a certain way seen? If you’re not getting it that way, you have to play something that’s close, or you ‘ave to play something that he’s feeling (chuckles). Yeah, so if you don’t ‘ave it exactly like him, but what you have is nice an’ him love it, that’s good. If what you’re playin’ doesn’t appeal to him, it’s not where he wants it to be. Not that it’s wrong yunno, but he’s not feeling it, then you have a problem. To his credit though, Pablo is one of the producers who – in some ways, you could say – one of his missions, whether he knew it or not, was to bring some unknown musicians to light. One of the firs’ persons I know who used to use Cleavie (of Steely & Cleavie fame) as a drummer was Pablo.

As a drummer?
Yeah man!

He had Benbow, Cleevie as drummers also?
Yeah man, also Albert Malawi, a drummer who was also a selector for Jah Love sound. I remember in the studio one time, we did a song an’ the drummer was Jacob Miller (laughs)!

Jacob Miller?!
Yeah (laughs)! Jacob Miller was full of energy. He had a whole heap a vibes an’ energy. Manga was like that too. Yeah, they did a rehearsal with him [Jacob/Jakey] in the studio, a rundown of the song, although he wasn’t the official drummer. But that’s how Pablo was. If Pablo was satisfied, then that would have been the drum track. I think Horsemouth ended up playing the drums on the session.

(Laughs) Y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’. Yeah, that was Pablo. Pablo had bass players like Lef’-hand, Sydney Guissine (aka Junior Dan), as well as man like Myrie.

Oh, from Myrie & Marshall?
No, Myrie, a guy, we call him ‘Myrie’. He was another musician. One of Pablo’s idrens.

Testing out a different feel, from all those individuals, and he got it out of them it seems.
Yeah, that’s true. And I remember (Hugh) Mundell coming in. Mundell bringin’ in Junior Reid, and also Lacksley Castell. After that you’d ‘ave people like Yami Bolo, White Mice, an’ so on. Pablo was like that. Bunny Brissett comin’ in from the States, people like Sister Frica, Sisters Jam. And I brought in people like Norris Reid, Ricky Grant, and Ricky Grant brought in Delroy Williams. That was basically the whole Rockers stable. You had man like Jah Bull, you have man like Ras Menelik a tuff percussionist, you had man like Theo, a lot of people, man, it was a nice lickle crew.

I'm Not Satisfied
Barry Reid?
Barry Reid, I remember Barry Reid, yes. We had a irie lickle session down by Channel One, Barry Reid was on the session too. It was a nice lickle t’ing with Barry Reid. Besides Pablo, I don’t think he really got a chance, but I think he is a talented singer. Yeah man.
I guess you just have to take it as it comes, but I can imagine in those days, with the amount of competition surrounding you, that you felt things didn’t move as fast as you had – perhaps – hoped, with the record on sale and all of that. Did you ever get an idea of what the album sold?
Let me tell you. During the time when Tetrack came on the scene was a good time, for that type of music; roots music and that type of ‘message music’. However I really have no idea how well the album did in terms of sales. I honestly don’t think that I will ever know that. Anyhow, I would like to digress a little and say something about ‘roots music’. ‘Cause, to me, ‘roots music’ is not necessarily a music that is speaking about social injustice or truth and rights. To me roots music is a feel. A feel – the content is a different t’ing. Some of the wickedes’ roots tune a come out of Jamaica don’t carry no message about social injustice or anything like that. Songs like ‘Ten To One’ (by the Mad Lads) ‘pa pa ta da daaa’. ‘Ten To One’, classic roots tune, seen. Tune like ‘spa ba dap spa spaaa ya’ ‘Please Be True’ by Alexander Henry, some tough tune, ‘Drifter’ by Dennis Walks and a whole heap a Heptones tune ‘Pretty Looks’, one of the wickedest riddim. Must also mention ‘Queen of the Minstrel’ by the Eternals. These weren’t message songs about social injustice or economic and political struggles. It was the feel of the music, the vibe you get from these songs. There was somet’ing ’bout the music that is so different an’ it’s so authentic. That to me, is roots music. And at the same time you’d have roots music also that would ‘ave the whole social comment t’ing, fighting against ‘downpression’, the MESSAGE, like the ones you get from Burning Spear for example and Wailing Souls and nuff other artists in that time. So you ‘ave it all kinda way. Yeah. That is how I see roots music. It’s the music, the feel, rather than the content/lyrics of the music that makes the music ‘roots’.

A combination of the current trend and that individual feel…
Personal t’ing to get the roots music?

What I think happen, yunno, is that the roots music has a way of jus’ capturing the essence of the people. Now, the people have different aspects to them, you ‘ave the part that has people struggling daily to survive. People sometimes live in a house an’ whenever it rains, it’s like they’re outside. But you have the other side of it too, where a man love a woman an’ a woman love a man. It’s the same person, but they also have that dimension to their life. So whenever you capture any of these dimensions, musically and authentically, then you get that ‘roots feel’, seen. You listen to Bob sing a song like all ‘Bend Down Low’, y’understan’, (chuckles), that is no joke business, is some serious t’ing. You listen to all a tune like all ‘Funny Feeling’. If my memory serves me right, you ‘ave so many songs come offa dat riddim. You see that bassline (hums the melody)? Is a Gaylads tune (sings) ‘Baby when you hold me, oh baby when you squeeze me…’ – y’understan’, wicked wicked tune! That was a ‘lovers rock’ an’ so many things come offa dat. You know, that is how it is, that is jus’ how it is. It’s just a vibe, man, in the way it works (chuckles). You listen to Pat Kelly do a song like ‘How Long’, you listen to Heptones do a song like ‘Party Time’ or any of the myriad of songs. ‘Party Time’, is jus’ a fun song. ‘We’re having a party tonight and everything will be all right’. If you listen to a song like ‘Fatty Fatty’, it was the Heptones first hit. ‘I want a fat girl tonight’. Or Alton Ellis “Breaking up”.

Sometimes people [journalists/radio dj’s etc] they jus’ focus on the survival aspec’, because it’s such a visible aspect. The same man who’s pushing a handcart or a man just fighting for survival is also a man who see a girl an’ like her, an’ check her. Yeah, deal with her, an’ that’s how it is. Another aspec’ of his life. So the music captures all of this. What happened to Tetrack as a group now, we got a break, an opportunity early with Pablo. We had several songs that went into the reggae charts, Top Ten in England. ‘Only Jah Jah Know’, ‘Lets Get Started’, and ‘Isn’t It Time’. ‘Lets Get Together’, that was like an underground hit song, too. These songs were in keeping with the roots/message music of the time. So there was a nice wind of opportunity for Tetrack. But Pablo was more of a musician than a businessman. Pablo is more a musician and in tune with his own spirituality than the business. Because the ‘Lets Get Started’ album didn’t come out until probably about a year after those songs created a big impression.

It was almost like a five-year time span from the first 45, ‘I’m Not Satisfied’, a record Pablo put out in New York on Brad Osbourne’s Clocktower label in 1975, and then the year after he issued ‘Lets Get Started’. And then some other 45s, the ones you mentioned, too.
Yeah. It was a while!

Yes (laughs)!
But I tell you what. First of all, Pablo was not the kinda producer who would tell the artists what’s happening, in terms of how the song is doing. Pablo wasn’t like that. Generally you’d have to tell Pablo what you’re hearing about your song. You ‘ave to check Pablo, and sometimes pressure Pablo to know what is happenin’. How we found out that ‘Lets Get Started’ was such a ‘hit’ and made such an impac’ in Englan’ was through a magazine out of England named Black Echoes. We checked Black Echoes and we see it at number ten. The nex’ issue the chart had it at number one. And we check Pablo an’ Pablo say “Yeahhh, you know, is a lickle t’ing, not a big t’ing”. At that time he was working with a guy named Hawkeye (Roy Forbes, ex Trojan salesman and also involved with the short lived Klik label before he started to import pre’s from JA, which eventually developed into his own Hawkeye label in 1976), a label name’ Hawkeye out of England. We never got any details about the whole thing between Pablo and Hawkeye. Pablo never felt that he had to push anything or make any special effort regarding the promotion of the music. That was Pablo’s ‘approach with all his artists. It was a very passive approach in terms of the whole business. In my view, if Tetrack had followed up on those early successes in a serious way or was working with a more aggressive/business minded producer, Tetrack could have and would have had a much bigger impact. In my view, we had everyt’ing. We had lots of material, an’ we had our own sound. (Chuckles). Yeah, we have a whole heap a material even now. Material was never a problem. Always have a lot of material. I used to write songs for other artists too, as you probably know, I even wrote songs on Norris’s [Reid] album “Roots And Vine”.

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I see.
I will never be able to do all the songs that I have or develop all the little snippet, ideas that I get all the while. Just today, this morning I pick up the guitar an’ fool around. I fool aroun’ on the guitar an’ strum two chords an’ I jus’ hear some things – some magic – an’ my wife start laughing bout something, and she said “Sorry, sorry, sorry, Carlton” – ca’ I had my lickle tape recorder out and she thought that she was disturbing me. Over the years she knows that when the tape recorder is out there can be no noise. It’s like that. Songwriting comes naturally to me. I never stress ’bout writing a song. I give much thanks for that.

How does inspiration take hold? Are you the sort of hands-on songwriter, like someone said ‘two chords and the truth’, and that’s about it?
No. I tell you something now. When I just start to rehearse my songs with Pablo, the guys used to tell me, “Yo, the man ‘ave some nice melodies seen?” I used to just take it lightly. Pablo used to say “Yo, Carlton, it look like you ‘ave dat t’ing fe write tune”, cause I just kept comin with songs. And to answer the question, to put it into perspective; the first songwriter that I knew was my father. Yeah, as a youngster I remember he used to write songs an’ sometimes he would sit at the table an’ sing some of these songs. Many years later when I accompanied my father to his village in the country, an old lady told me that as a youte my father was one of the “big singers “in the village. (Chuckles). My father comes from the same place as Jimmy Cliff, Somerton, St James. Yeah, and he was the firs’ songwriter I know. But, aside from that, I always love creative writing. Sometimes, when other youtes would make kites and stuff like that, I would write things like short stories. I always like to write like that, I like to express myself . Having said that, my inspiration for writing, I cannot pinpoint one specific thing, however, I am sure that my father was definitely an important inspiration and also my first exposure to songwriting. I used to be fascinated by what he did. A song comes to me anywhere, any time. Sometimes I have to “turn off my head” – I have to pull down my ‘antennae’, so to speak, just ignore the vibes. At times the song, the vibe, comes fast an’ furious. It’s just a thing I can’t really explain it. A guitar is a natural songwriting tool. Pablo gave me my first guitar. There’s a story ’bout that guitar, too. That guitar belonged to another guy who was also a producer. He died. He produced an album with Horace Andy, called ‘In The Light’.

Everton DaSilva, Hungry Town?
Everton DaSilva, same guy, right. Anyway, Everton DaSilva died, Pablo gave me the guitar, he said “Carlton, hold this guitar, ca’ its good fe a man who write songs”, and I took the guitar and struggled with it, tried to learn a few chords an’ so forth, an’ so on. I can pick up the guitar and I have no intention of writing a song, just pickin’ it up and foolin’ around with some chords, ca’ I’m not really a guitarist. I play a couple chords, ‘thram’, and those chords just trigger something in my head! Just like that, like wha’ ‘appened this morning, just triggered something in my head, and I jus’ hear a melody. To me, a melody is essential in any songwriting. To me, it’s one of the mos’ critical ingredients; no matter how your lyrics strong, if the melody weak, nobody no even waan [nobody wants] to hear your song if they don’t feel the melody. Because the melody of a song, it’s like an attractive woman walking down the road.

If you see her and you are attracted to her, you want to get to know her. That is how it is, that is the melody of a song. After you get to know her, you start to know what she’s about, that is like knowing the lyrics of a song. And that to me is how critical the melody of the song is, very critical. And if you think it’s a joke, nine out of ten individuals who tell you that they like a song, they can hum the melody, but they don’t know the lyrics. It’s just a basic thing. Now, when you go to the studio to record, the musicians don’t care what you sing about, that don’t mean nothing. Initially, they want to hear the melody. Because the melody contain the chords that they’re going to play. The bassman is listenin’ and hears the chords that they’re playin’ and where the melody is going, and he starts to develop the bassline to accompany that melody, not to accompany the lyrics. Later on you might do a lickle t’ing, further arrangements to complete and complement the whole thing. Y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’, but initially that’s how it is. So, to me, honestly, I don’t even know if I really write the songs. I tend to see myself as more of a receptor or a conduit, because that’s the only way I can explain it. It’s like melodies are always there, in the air, but not everybody can hear it. It’s always there, but some people can’t hear it until it pass through the conduit, who now present it in a form that anybody can hear and maybe appreciate the song. If it’s not in that form or reach that stage, they would never hear it, but you [the conduit] hear it. That’s why an artis’ can go to one producer with a song and the producer might say “You ‘ave a wicked song.” Y’understan’ (laughs)? If he goes to another producer, that producer might not be able to hear/appreciate the song at that stage. I’ll give you a quick story. There’s a song name “Deceiving girl”. I wrote that song and it was recorded by Dennis Brown and produced by Gussie Clarke. And I remember it was around 1982 World Cup [soccer] in Spain. My wife and I were visiting one of her friends. While there I got this irie vibe for a song. I was watching the soccer game while doing everything I possibly could not to lose the melody, the vibe of the song. I couldn’t wait to get home. As soon as I got home, I picked up my guitar. The first chords I played where the right chords for the song. Everything started to flow like magic. As soon as I finished the song I excitedly called a member of the group. As soon as he came over I said “Yo, me ‘ave a new song Iyah. Hear dis!” And the man wasn’t impressed at all! You hear me, Peter? The man wasn’t feeling the song. The man said “Bwoyyy, I don’t even know, yunno”. Soon after I presented the same song and some others to Gussie Clarke for a project. Right away as Gussie hear the song “Deceiving girl” he said “Me want da song deh”. We went to the studio. I did the demo and so on. Dennis Brown did the song and it was a hit. The point I’m making is, that some people can hear the song from early in it’s basic stage and recognize the potential. Some people can’t hear it, until it’s all dressed up. Again it’s like a irie girl who’s not dressed up. She gets overlooked. The man with the discerning eye sees her potential and make the move. Later on nuff man start wonder how come they didn’t see what that man saw. Y’understan’ (chuckles)? Yeah, that’s how it is. Some people can see it, some can’t, some people can hear it, some can’t hear it (chuckles).

Sometimes it takes a long time to reach that girl.
Yeah, yeah.

And to dress up a proper melody.
Yeah man sometimes it’s like that. It is a unique joy I tell you. It is a unique joy to ‘ave a song idea and to develop that idea and actually see it as a finished work. I still get that feeling after so many years of writing songs, I still feel that thrill today when I write a nice little song. I remember Robbie Shakespeare said the same thing to me, of the song name’ ‘Let Off Sup’m’. You remember ‘Let Off Sup’m’?

Tetrack – Look Within Yourself

Tetrack – Isn’t It Time

Tetrack – Trappers

That was on the Dennis/Gregory combination…
Yeah, the ‘Judge Not’ album. I remember Robbie said to me, seh: “Bwoy, da lickle song turn out nice Iyah”, it was a hit. Yes, there is a lickle story pertainin’ to that song. You remember that I told you that sometimes you get ideas from seemingly nowhere. ‘Let Off Sup’m’ at the time was a regular slang in Jamaica, like someone would say “let off sup’m nuh”. And I said to myself “this feels like it woulda work nice in a song”. Normally I am not a “topic” writer. I don’t choose a topic to write a song. When I start write a song I don’t know beforehand where the song is going. I don’t even have a name for the song until it’s finished. The songs just evolve, I let it lead me. But somehow this song came to me like that. So here I am in a taxi, going to work one day, and I’m talking to the taxi driver. About half-way to the job, I jus’ stopped talking ca’ the song ‘Let off sup’m’ start to come at me really fast. And the taxi man say “Wha’pn, star? Yu a’right?” I said “Yeah man! Me cool”. But I stop talking, because I waan absorb the whole vibe of this song. Ca’ the lyrics an’ everything start run crazy in my head and I want to absorb everything. As soon as I got to work I jus’ pick up a sheet of paper and I start write the song fast. Sometimes you can’t write the lyrics as quickly as they come to you. I remember a guy stopped by my desk an’ said “Yo, wha’ dis?” And I said “I just a write a lickle song” an’ the man start laugh, the man laugh so hard (laughs). You see he doesn’t know me as a person who writes songs. He knows me as an office man, y’understan’ wha’ I’m sayin’. You know, he didn’t believe I was involved in music. One day the phone rang, and the caller said “This is Barry Gordon from JBC” [at that time Barry G was the baddest radio DJ in Jamaica], and we started talking. My co-worker said “Yu talk to Barry G?!” And he looked so surprised, and said “the man deal with music fe true.” I just smiled and said “Yeah man!” But I’m always that kinda person who don’t really talk ’bout that. If you don’t know me in music you don’t know me in music, ca’ that is just my way, not into the hype thing (chuckles).

More than thirty years has passed since ‘Lets Get Started’ got released. How do you look back on this album now, it’s become something of a classic. But perhaps you don’t really view it as a ‘classic’ as such, just because it had something to do with Pablo, and his golden period?
(Laughs) No, let me tell you this, my brethren. I like to put what we talk about into some sort of context. Some time ago, about a year or so ago my son convinced me to let him set up a MYSPACE page for Tetrack. Shortly after this was done, I was pleasantly surprised when I began to realise that the ‘Lets Get Started’ album, and Tetrack, were much bigger, much more recognised than I thought. You have to remember that we weren’t into music as a career thing. But, to answer your question, lookin’ back at the album and the conditions under which it was done, y’know, I must say that I feel both humbled and proud by the fact that it has stood the test of time and it is viewed so favourably all over the world. I got a message on my Myspace, from a man in Russia, and he told me that the first reggae album he ever listened to, was ‘Lets Get Started”.

A man in Russia told me that (chuckles)! How did he even get that?! I get messages from all over the world, and they know so many of the songs that we did an’ you can’t help but wonder “how do these people know all these things?” And it forces you to have, at least me personally, a healthy respec’ for all those people all over the worl’ who, in their own way, support reggae music. They love the music, they embrace the music and they’ve introduced the music to their kids. I would love to be able to capitalise on that foundation that has been set.

I’m sure you will.
(Laughs) That is what I want to do. I want to capitalise on that and go on the road now and do some work. Yeah, with the new Tetrack line-up.

Tetrack - Trouble

Did you record a second LP for Pablo, or did he shelve it, the few recordings you did, if so?
No, no, but we did some songs for Pablo. OK, really fast, here’s what happened now. After a while, Paul left the group for personal reasons. Through Hopeton Lindo, my brethren [a tuff writer], I met a guy called Dennis Creary. Dennis came into the group and we did a couple of songs for Pablo, songs like ‘Wrap Up’. ‘Wrap Up’ was on the ‘Every Tongue Shall Tell’ riddim, Horace Andy. It was a song with some dancehall lyrics (sings the verse) “We no wrap up, we no skin up, we no romp”. Dennis did the lead on that track. It was a sort of ‘edgy’ song, dealing with some lickle boastin’, toastin’ type a t’ing. That is also part of the yard vibes. We also did a couple other songs but we never did another album for Pablo besides ‘Let’s get started’. Our second album called ‘Trouble’ was done for Gussie and that was before Dennis came into the group. It’s funny, yunno because when I checked Gussie about producing Tetrack, he was interested in the group, but he was also interested in my ability as a songwriter. So Gussie got like a two-for-one deal. He could do some work with Tetrack and at the same time he could get some songs for his projects. So that is how the ‘Judge Not’ album, the ‘Private Beach Party’ album came about. I and Tetrack did a lot of work on those two albums. We did the ‘Trouble’ album for Gussie, which was released. Gussie wanted us to do another album. We recorded about ten tracks for Gussie, yeah, roughly ’bout ten songs. But at that time the music started to change. It started to get more dancehall. The project got shelved. Eventually Gussie took a couple of the songs from the album we were recording and gave them to the Diamonds for their ‘Real Enemy’ album, for example the song ‘Chant Down War’.

I was one of the principal writers on ‘The Real Enemy’ album. What Gussie did, he changed the lead singer. Tabby Diamond sang over the lead, but he kept the same Tetrack harmonies. When you check the ‘Real Enemy’ album, you see that Tetrack get credit on the vocals?

People wouldn’t know that it’s not Diamonds on those tracks. It was really Tabby and Tetrack [chuckles]. It’s funny, but the two groups that people often say that Tetrack reminds them of the most are the Diamonds an’ the Abyssinians. And I think it’s because of the sound, the similar sort of high sound. But, that is how that went. So we didn’t do any recording that was released after we did the ‘Trouble’ album.

Yeah, but you cut some digital tracks for Pablo?
Yeh, we did some lickle t’ings. A song name’ ‘She Loves Me’, but that was jus’ me alone. Pablo had the riddim, and I just wrote the song and recorded it. That wasn’t the way it was planned, but that’s how it turned out. You see I was never ever interested in a solo career. There were also some songs like ‘You’re Gonna Lose’ and so on, you know that song? Yeah, that was a Tetrack recording.

At least I’ve heard the dub or instrumental of it, if it came upon the ‘Rockers Comes East’ album?
On a compilation.

Mmm, and the ‘Rockers Comes East’ as far as I can recall.
Yeah. Some stuff like that, we did a lickle t’ing here an’ there, but it wasn’t anything consistent with any real purpose or objective as such, not really. The group was in the process of splitting up. We all migrated eventually.

And this was back in ’85?
No, I migrated in ’87. But the group was essentially done from probably about ’85. I was no longer interested in the whole group thing. So after I came to the USA , among other things I taught in the New York Public School system for a few years. Afterwards I was the director for Program that serviced ‘At Risk’ adolescents, did that for few years. I eventually got involved in the restaurant business for a few years. And so, some people who know me they call me by the name of the restaurant. When a man and calls me ‘Tetrack’, I know that he most likely knows me from my time in music. You have a nex’ man who call me ‘Teach’, ca’ he knows me from when I was a teacher (laughs)! So that is how it is. Based on how the person addresses me, I get a sense of what phase of my life he knows me from. But during all this time I was still dealing with music, but not singing. The very first label I had in NY was the Deh-Deh label. This label was operated by me and an Idren from youte days, Paul Patterson, who I re-connected with in NY. I wrote and co-produced some songs with John Holt, Bobby Melody and Junior Delgado on that label. The next label was Artistic label. This label is my foundation label. This label, Artistic, was founded by my brother Jimi and I. The name Artistic comes from a sound which Jimi started in the 70’s while in high school [Kingston College. KC]. It was a tuff little sound. This sound played everything, from Soul music/ R&B to Duplates. We used to play against other sounds in and around our neighbourhood. Again it wasn’t a serious thing, just doing it for the love of the music. Jack Scorpio used to come and listen our sound before he even launched his own Black Scorpio sound. In those days it was tube amps. We had to keep a fan on the amp to keep it cool. We also had to have the technician, Jubby Danny, who built the amp close by. Fortunately, he was also one of the selectors. He always had his soldering iron in easy reach. At times he had to solder stuff on the spot when the amp start run hot and things burn off. For our reverb, we dropped a reverb spring on a piece of sponge to get the effect, woh, woh, woh [chuckles]. It wasn’t like now where you just touch a button and you get reverb. [laughs] Dem days, yunno?

So that is where the label came from. We did some productions.

You did some stuff with people like George Nooks and Anthony Red Rose.
Yeah man, we did some things on our label, the Artistic label. And produced some albums in the 90’s. We produced an album with Dennis Brown called ‘Limited Edition’, produced an album with Gregory Isaacs called ‘Unlocked’ – that was the firs’ album he did after he trimmed, cut his locks.

It was Greensleeves who titled the album ‘Unlocked’, it got to be the perfect name for the album, ’cause he was no longer wearing dreads. We did an album with the Tamlins, ‘No Surrender’. It’s a group I have a lot of respect for, they ‘ave a wicked sound.

The album called ‘No Surrender’, yeah, I am particularly pleased with that album, I love the vocals and the songs, the overall production. I think the very first artist on the label was Bunny Brissett, a sistren from the Rockers/Pablo crew. Another early artist was Cobra. We worked with different kinds of artists. We have some irie recordings. Sooner or later we hope to release some of the songs we did in the 90’s as compilations. We also produced and released a few compilation albums like ‘Reggaemuffin volume I &2’ and another album ‘Special Request’. During our most active time in the 90’s, Jimi and I were working in collaboration with another idren, Victor Goulbourne. For the most part it was a very irie and fruitful relationship. So I did some work during that time, but Tetrack as a group, that wasn’t even in my mind. I was happy jus’writing and producing songs with my little team. After a while that collaboration with Victor came to an end. You know how it is in the music business, any business as a matter of fact. Right now all the production that I do is in collaboration with my brother. We have done some good work including an album with Fred Locks ‘Keep On Trying’. That takes me up to this time.

(Continue reading Part 2)