Gilly Dread – Strong And Mighty (The Interview)

by Apr 3, 2024Articles, Interview

Gilly Dread - Strong And Mighty (The interview)


Where: London, UK
When: Early 1989
Reporter: Ray Hurford
Photos: Ray Hurford, and the respective record companies (labels/sleeves)
Copyright:  2024 – Ray Hurford

Gladstone Antonio Gilbert aka Gilly Dread, is known for his work with Ikus Music studio projects. He was acquainted with Bob Marley even before the reggae legend rose to international fame. Serving as Bob Marley’s chef and confidant during their years of touring from 1977 to 1980, Gilly Dread gained valuable insight into the music industry.

How did you came into the music?
I came into the music, inspired by Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers. It was the early ’60s. At the time I was listening to them and one or two other singers like Alton Ellis and John Holt, but my favourites at the time was the Wailers. I came into direct contact with them in the late ’60s. It was just a positive vibe. I was a good soccer player, they liked me for that. We was always playing soccer…

You had the same sort of relationship as Skill Cole did with the Wailers? Yeah, we was all close, we trained together everyday. So, Bob liked me a lot, and I started visiting him more often, checking out record stores for him, just moving around the music business. I was known in Jamaica, as a good soccer player.

Who did you play for?
The first team I played for was YMCA, and then Santos – the Jamaican Santos. Those days it was the Division One league, now its called the Major League.

Is it professional or semi-professional?
Semi-professional, we were getting paid. I played for Nascemento, a couple of other teams, Mona, House of Dread. I also represented the Jamaican Juveniles. I also get called for the senior team, but unfortunately I had some problems at the time. During that time I was seeing Rasta. In those days the administration was fighting against Rasta, we just couldn’t mesh at the time.

Smile Jamaica
How about now?
Yeah, they really accept it, cause the Rastafari movement is now worldwide. They have to accept it. So during that time now, with different clubs, I was involved with Bob and the Wailers. I was close to Bob. we were like brothers. I appreciated his approach to music, I watched him getting his act together, playing and writing songs. It was just beautiful. He had his musicians close to him, Family Man and Carlton Barrett. They understood him, they grew and grew, and got stronger as the years go by. I learned a lot during that time. I did some backing vocals, for the first time on ‘Smile Jamaica’, me and Neville Garrick. One day Bob just came over and said “Come Gilly, We’re going to Harry J’s studio.” It was during the time he got shot, we went and did the background vocals. A couple of days after, he went and did another cut at Lee Perry’s studio with the I-Threes. So he had two cuts, a slow version, and an uptempo version.

I know you have recorded Jackie Parris.
Well artists like Jackie Parris, they understand… they know about the business. We have also worked with Johnny Clarke, Lloyd Hemmings, Rod Taylor, I Kong, Hot Rocks, some great singers. I took the opportunity to record a couple of tracks with each of them. I have a showcase with Jackie Parris.

You also have an album with Larry Marshall?
Yeah, and one with a young singer called Lorraine. She’s one of Bob’s cousins, based in the U.S.A., she as a American vibe, which we will blend with the reggae. I’ve recorded a lot of different artists.”

What musicians have been working in the studio?
Well there’s Jah D, he plays keyboards and programs synthesizers and drum machines, and a guy called Trax, have you ever heard of a band called Food Clothes & Shelter?

They had music on Tuff Gong?
Yes, they work with me a lot. They are like the session musicians. I can always call them. And there’s a guy, he’s one of the engineers at the studio, Clive Jefferys, he’s a musicians also, he plays guitar. That’s my rhythm section. Then there’s Karl Pitterson, the engineer. Tyrone Downie comes in, he cut a tune called ‘Tribute To Garvey’, an instrumental cut of ‘Chase Vampire’. The Redemption Posse now, they have been to Japan, we were in Japan for six months.

How does Japan feel about Reggae now?
Well it was my second visit and it was beautiful. The people show us hospitality, very business like – discipline, no fooling around. During the time the band was in Japan, we got a lot of contacts. We worked at clubs, we did a couple of recordings in Japan for a company by the name of Tenarbe Music Publishing, they are interested in the band. We also did some recording – our own productions, about 30 songs on 16 track. We got a lot of mileage out of the Japanese tour and the guys got a lot of experience.

Tribute To Garvey
Can you tell me something about the deejays, Sancho and Colonel Lloydie?
Well, Sancho is a a guy, he was born in Manchester,Jamaica, attented school in Manchester, came to Kingston in the ’70s. He’s always been interested in music – hanging around sound systems and so on.

Did he work for any special sound?
Yeah, he usually work for SturMars. He did a couple of recordings with people like Skeng Don. He’s based now in Vineyard Towm in Kingston, that’s where I met him. It’s my hometown in Jamaica, I grew up in Vineyard Town. He knew me for a long time also, he also know me as an international youth – travelling all over. So he came to me one day and wanted to do a couple of tracks. So I said alright SHOCK OUT – right away, without rhythm or anything, this guy was shocking out, laughs. So I said, OK we’ll do something but with understanding, I don’t want to record you and then have problems. So in ’86 I did ‘Chase Vampire’. It was released in New York first, in ’87.”

How about Colonel Lloydie, I knew he’s worked with Tubby’s?
No, Colonel Lloydie he’s fresh, he’s never worked with Tubby’s. This guy now he’s also from Vineyard Town, he’s like in the same posse as Sancho, they call themselves the Mount Zion crew. Any artist from that area, they call it the ‘Mount Zion Crew’. So you have like Colonel Lloydie, Sancho, Cooler, Bertie Dan, Charlie Pride, all singers and deejays coming up on the scene. I record an an album with Sancho and Colonel Lloydie – they’re ready right now. I’ve only got two deejays that I’m concentrating on, I’m not really into this deejay thing, but I try and to do a little bit of everything, but I’m more concentrating on the singers.

Who do you have albums with?
Larry Marshall, Johnny Clarke, Lloyd Hemmings, Lorraine, Barry Murray – another one of our engineers – he’s a good singer, we call him ‘Sweet Barry’.

Ruffy & Tuffy what can you tell me about them?
Well Ruffy & Tuffy grew up amongst us, those kids grew up in our hands.

How old are they?
About twenty now, they were in the ‘Rockers’ movie, but they haven’t had any records out until last year when Augustus Pablo released ‘Take One Step’. They grew up with us – all those youths, and they try to do a little thing. They started the recording of the album ‘Climax’ before I even get involved. They had some money and started doing their production. They are upright youths due to the environment they grew up in – survival youth – aggressive through frustration and sufferation – understand. So you find they never get the break. A lot of people scared to even deal with them – they are rough.

When did they start recording the album?
They first started recording from about ’84, and they came to me in ’85. No one wanted to deal with them, but I check for the youth – personally. So I sat them down and reasoned, and tell them to listen – I’ll follow through – so record the album. It need some more overdubbing at Music Mountain studio, we mixed down a couple of tracks at Music Mountain, and then I mixed down two more tracks at Sound Lab, and then some more mixing at Tuff Gong. So it’s a showcase that I decided to put out, present them with a showcase. It’s 4 good songs.

Who else has been working at Sound Lab?
Pablo has passed thru, Gregory, Screwdriver did his No.1 song ‘No Mama’ there, Mighty Diamonds ‘Anti Crack’. Bunny Wailer did the song ‘Reggae Burden’ and ‘Botha (The Mosquito)’. Officially my label is IKUS, it means ‘Strong And Mighty’, it’s an African word.”

Ruffy And Tuffy – Take One Step

Bunny Wailer – Botha (The Mosquito)

Sancho – Chase Vampire