“Come Let Us Reason” – Interview with Larry Marshall
This interview with Larry Marshall is one from the long list of conversations Jim Dooley had with reggae musicians, singers and producers. He conducted two interviews with each participant – one to gather information for his on going Culture project and another to highlight the additional merits of the interviewee.
COME LET US REASON
I want to ask a bit about your earlier days. I understand that you originally recorded for Top Deck – Philip Yap.
Yes. The first song I recorded with Top Deck was in 1962. I don’t remember exactly the month. I think it was in, like January or February month. And then later on up, it was independence, in August Jamaica was independent. The first independence in Jamaica, 1962, that song was out. Yeah, that song was out a couple of months before independence. It is a history in that time, until now.
So your career and Jamaica are the same age?
Yes. When I actually started recording in that time, but practicing concerts and all these things from younger days, you know.
You are from St. Ann’s originally.
Yes, I born in St. Ann’s, a place called Lawrence Park. It’s a way from Kingston – like in the middle from Kingston To Montego Bay.
Right, it’s on the north coast, I’ve been there.
Yes, Discovery Bay – I’m right on top of Discovery Bay, and next to Brown’s Town. I’m right in the middle of the globe there.
So, what brought you to Kingston?
When I was younger, about 16 years of age. I love Kingston from when I was a little boy, because my father used to live in Kingston, and then he took me up there most times, to spend time with him and so forth. That was like ’47 – when I was 5 years old. Because I was born in ’41, the seventeenth of December, 1941. I was going back and forth up to ’47, when I stay in St. Ann’s now – where I was born and go to school. And then when I was 16, going on 17… just 16, in December month, when I leave and go back to Kingston. My cousin take me up there. Because I always like to go to Kingston, where is more than down there, you know.
Of course, yes.
Because Kingston was the capital city, it have a lot of radio fusion, and all these things, in then times. RJR and all them things… the radio stations used to have the Redifusion.
‘Redifusion’ you said?
Yes, it’s a box, you hire it, but it go by wires. When they play at the studio now… when you pay your bills, you know, it’s like the telephone. It was coming like telephone.
So you had to be connected.
Yeah, you had to be connected – like cable, the cable box and things, just like that.
You had to be connected, and then you pay your monthly fee.
So how did you become connected with Top Deck?
Well, in Barbican, I used to be working with some people in St. Andrew as a boy. I was working with them, planting flowers and gardening, and all them things, because I love to plant. I was working with them, my cousin, she work with the people, and then I go there. They asked me, “Do you want to work?” I say, “Yes, want to work.” So I started to work with them. But every evening now, when I go down to Barbican… that was like the city part of St. Andrew’s then. Some guys down there, one named Ferdie Nelson – he’s in Canada now, and Joe Henry – he’s in Jamaica. They are two cousins, and they play guitar. I didn’t play guitar… I play just a little when I was writing my songs. I can back my rhythm up, that’s why I make my own rhythm, because I as well have that beat inside me… and then that is how the songs come out. So, I met those guys, you know, and one named Sangie – Nettie Spencer. Those guys loved to hear me sing, and they as well joined me, to play for me.
One of them played bass, and the one played lead, and one played rhythm. And it was so nice that everybody crowd we. So Top Deck now, he was a Chiney guy in Barbican, he know us, and then he decided to set up a recording business. Ferdie and Joe was the first who recorded with him, because I didn’t like, push up or run down the people… and say, look I would like to sing a tune with you. what brought me to him now… when them guys was rehearsing, and an Indian guy – he’s a classical guitarist – I don’t know what happened to him for years, because he leave Barbican and go away. I don’t know if he is in England or where, but he is good – named Harry Bantoulou. That guy was a guitarist man, let me tell you.
When Top Deck, he heard me singing this song – the first song I recorded named ‘Too Young to Love’. It was a ballad like Ben E. King. Because, me and Ben E. King… he did a show in May of last year, and I go there and I take picture with Ben E. King. I was telling him that he was one of the men that inspired me, you know. And this lady named Barbara Lynn… (sings) “This is a letter… If you should lose me”. That one, and then Ben E. King with ‘Don’t Play It No More’, ‘Stand By Me’, and all these songs – they draw me out man.
So Top Deck now, he heard me singing ‘Too Young to Love’, and then he said, “Larry, I would like to record that song.” In them times, I wasn’t talking about money with recording, because I didn’t know what it is, as a country boy. I didn’t know in that time what it was going to be, or what it was in music. You know, they asked me, and I said, well OK, and I go and record this song. Anyhow, when it come out now, it stopped the one Ferdie do, it stop the one Joe do… (laughter). Then Philip Yap went to America, and he bought this song named ‘Snake in the Grass’, and he took it back to Jamaica. It was a song done by the American Paul Martin. When Philip took it home, he get a lot of guys to try sing it, you know, re-do it, and they couldn’t manage it. He finally had to call me, and then I took the song and I go and run it down, and I go and recorded it… and it went number one. It was number one on RJR, and Paul Martin’s one go to JBC, and be a number one. So the two of them was playing on the radio at the same time. But, they believe my one was the foreign one.
You know, a lot of people buying my one, my voice, and believe it was Paul Martin’s one. Anyhow, I moved to Coxsone. You know, when you do a number one song, you have a lot of…. people can’t sing and they jealous. Some guys, you know, two guys, they play guitar – one named Jackie, and one named Rudy. They are brothers-in-law. And then, when me take them there, and a girl named Dora… I don’t remember their last names, but I took them as a group to Coxsone, with about 3 songs to sing, and they spoil the songs. Because, in those days, it was one cut. You had to sing the thing live, you know, it was non-stop.
No, well, actually I am the one responsible for the dub line, you know. I’m going to tell you. When I was… I do a song named ‘I’ve Got Another Girl’, Prince Buster have it on an album and called it ‘I’ve Got A New Girl’. But, it’s my voice on everything, my arrangement, because he didn’t want me to do the song with him, you understand? He didn’t want me to do the song with him, but it’s him I record it for. The old Drumbago, that was one of Jamaica’s drummers, he played for a lot of people… he died. All the good musicians them, they are gone. And that is why you see so much copy-cat, you know?
Everybody copying the music that a lot of person before me… and they copy every one of them.
You stayed at Coxsone’s for a quite a while. You recorded a lot of songs for him.
Yes. Most of my songs is with Coxsone. Because I spend three and a half years right there. Doing recording, and doing operating on all these songs. Because a lot of number one songs, like ‘No Man Is An Island’ with Dennis Brown, ‘Skylarking’ with Horace Andy, and Freddie McKay with ‘Picture On The Wall’. That ‘Selection Train’ with Mister T, and all these things… ‘Crabwalking’ with Prince Jazzbo. In that time, if I wasn’t in the studio, Coxsone declare there mustn’t be any recording. Because, the engineer, that is Sylvan Morris, he was jealous of me. He told me he didn’t want to show me anything because he was the chief engineer there, and operator. I was an assistant, practicing. But I was good on it. He said the reason why he don’t learn me the thing… because Coxsone want him to learn me, and show me the thing…. him say me is too smart. You know what I mean, too swift to learn things, you know?
Because even when people come to record their song and thing like that, they have a nice little song and come to Coxsone, I have to be the one to pass that song. And that is how him make money, and then him say me is a bright engineer. But, I’m telling you now, Coxsone wasn’t paying me. He wasn’t paying me , and I have children them to raise up. He hold back me a lot of things, because he say I shouldn’t leave him. I still love him, because he was a good promoter, and he knows songs. When him tell you that you are good, you’re good.
But you still couldn’t make a living.
Yes. And him show me a lot of things on the machines so that I could really get the balance. The balance of the recording is the greatest thing. Because a lot of the songs I’ve heard… I see where it could be more.
You understand? It could be a lot more, because a lot of people they just jump in the business, but they wasn’t going that way. That is why I want to do my own things from a long time. I know what I want. You see, that is where it comes. When I hear a song… I’m a dancer. I like to dance. I go out there and people like to see me dance. So it’s not even the record alone – I love music.
Were you working mostly with Leroy Sibbles and Jackie Mittoo?
Yes, in that time. Leroy Sibbles was the bass player of the Sound Dimension band, with Jackie Mittoo as well. You see in 1970… from 1970 go down, Leroy was there from… I think it was ’68. He was there playing bass before I do ‘Nanny Goat’. At the same time… Leroy and the Heptones them came there, because I wasn’t actually working with Coxsone, but I was with him. Because from the first day him see me, him like me, and him always said to me, “Larry, come on, stay with me… come stay with me man, and learn certain things.”
Well, I think Leroy and Jackie are probably the two most important guys in reggae.
I’m going to tell you… alright… When I go and do ‘Nanny Goat’, with Jackie now… Jackie was in the Skatalites, with those guys like Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, all of them guys like Brevette, and Lloyd Knibbs that played the drums. From those days – at the time Jackie was about 16.
Yeah, he was a really young guy.
Young, young Jackie Mittoo on those times. So you see, and Richard Ace, you know where there was the Rhythm Aces, with Boris Gardiner, and this guy Tinga Stewart…. or one of them guys. The guys who were with the Rhythm Aces in them times. Those guys were musicians. They are musicians, because they play most of my music at Studio One… come down the line to Soul Defenders and all these guys, to the last of it. When I leave, when it get deteriorated, and Coxsone is in New York – because like him don’t trust anyone but me to be there, because I’m an honest person. All the record, and all the tape, and all of this and that. If I’m working with you, I ask you for what I want. If you say “No”, I say “OK”. I’m not stealing anything. I’m a straight forward person. I don’t like people who really steal from people. That was the honesty of me. If I see the things going wrong, and I’m working with you, I’m going to say, “Look, make we fix this thing, or make this thing work so.”
I’m trying my best to make the thing right, because I have the feeling that when it’s right, I will get my reward. But these men, they used me. I’m not lying. The most of who I recorded with… because I didn’t sit down with him and set a price, and say, “Look if you don’t pay me this, I’m not going to do it.” The way they come to you, and talk to you…. their tongues is so poison. All of them swindle me. This guy now, this Motion record man, him is the only honest person. The reason why: him reason with me, and God tell me to trust this man. Because if him was not a good person, he wouldn’t even call me, and make me know what is going on. So, you see, I truly glad for him, and I hope everything go right, as I know it is going to be…
So you see, King Tubby. Tubby used to come to Coxsone’s place and buy records. I used to look for everything, because I was the man who responsible for every dub business, every tape. If I don’t go there, certain sections, people can not go there. But I wasn’t getting any satisfaction. I wasn’t getting, man, I don’t even want…
I understand. I spoke to Leroy Sibbles last year, and he had exactly the same story.
Yes, because we work together, and we know we supposed to get paid. Leroy played a lot of bass… the amount of music! I see where it came to a clash already, where I heard him tell Leroy certain words, and I said to myself, no this isn’t right. Because this is a guy’s justice him talking about – and him persuade through Dennis Brown. We raised Dennis Brown. It was me, Alton Ellis, the same Leroy Sibbles, who take care of Dennis at Coxsone’s place. From when he was a young boy, and we same ones stay there, and Sylvan Morris, there were five of us… look after Horace Andy, Freddie McKay. From the 1970’s, we are there for every artist that came to Studio One. All of them number one tunes. ‘Hello Carol’, and these things. I help arrange that with the Gladiators. I arrange this song, ‘Declaration of Rights’, with the Abyssinians – the Heptones, Leroy, Barry and Morgan, are the ones who harmonized that song. I sit down and tape that song with then on a Sunday.
I’ve heard that before.
Because, I used to work most Sunday there. It’s my time when Coxsone really show me certain things on the machines. Then he would leave me to work with the artists and musicians, and I do. I sit down and make a lot of rhythms, and even instrumentals. I recorded Ernest Ranglin… name them. Because when them come, everybody like to work with me. But I didn’t get any encouragement, and then I back away from it. I couldn’t take it man.
Were you doing a lot of dub plates in those days?
I was selling the plates… selling the business, you understand. Because when a man come and want certain dub – I was the man they called Mr. Coxsone, you know. Nuff people from the country pass, hear these music play, and go out a country and play all about – people have set all over. It’s me them used to call the dub master at Coxsone’s place. So that is where King Tubby… him come for his dub, and him sit down and watch we. Him and Jammys, because Jammys used to come with him. That’s because Jammys used to work with Tubby. Jammys learned at Tubbys.
Right, in Waterhouse.
A lot of things happened, you know, it’s not everything good. You see, Tubby tell the guys, say “Look, it’s Larry Marshall.” About ten youths from Waterhouse, bad youths them, walk around and a look things, and beg people money and things. And them come a Tubby’s, and then Tubby and them round there, we round there, so Tubby look upon them and say, “Hey, let me tell you something. You see this man here, Mr. Marshall, him is the one who make me name King Tubby.” When him say these things, they say, “No Tubby man, what you say that for.” Him say, “Yes youth, and I will tell you”, and him tell some certain things. Bob Marley… Bob tell him set a youths the same thing too. Yeah, him tell them. Most people didn’t know how close me and Bob was. As brethren, you know. Because that man a pass me, and we reason… and Bunny and Peter them. The Wailers, because the same place, Coxsone’s place, all of we was.
But them get help before… Because, as me, it was so tough. I would rather go work for my living. I didn’t really want to pest people for things. They cursed me on the work place some times – “Why don’t you go and do some recording man?” Because I may be singing tunes, and everybody gather around and them don’t want to work. Even up to right now, this is still happening.
Yeah, you know, sometime a man request a song for me to sing it to them. I see it – the youth them come and them eat bread through the reggae music. So when I was with Prince Buster now, and me sing that, him never want to put it out, or call my name on it. But it on the blank label in them time, and sell. So Coxsone, he heard it now, and called me… Some guys used to record with him, they come and be promoter, like Lee Perry, Clancy Eccles, and a couple more of them. They turned out to be their own producers. So Coxsone had a hard time with them down the street. So, the only man him could call in that time, to revive him, is Larry Marshall. And then, when I go to him, he said to me, “Larry, what happened?” Me say, “Nothing.” Him say, “You do a good tune for Buster, you know, what happened?” Me naw get no money really, and that tune sell. Everybody know it sell. But it was a white label, press it out and sell it. But at that time only people who know me, knew it was me. Dancehall and them things – them tunes stop all dancehall. You have not talked about dancehall business, you know. When you talk about dancehall – Ska and Rock Steady. Everyone of them songs was in the dancehall playing.
So when a man talking about them making dancehall rhythm now, it’s craziness. Because it’s the same thing, you understand. And the way they mix them, what them say them mixing, can’t go to the original mix at all. And the machine them is mostly computerized and all these things. Those things were natural things!
That is why the original Studio One rhythms are still played in the dancehall…
…unlike the digital ones, they last.
I didn’t sing much on the digital now, because I don’t like it, you know. I like the original things. That is why, most times, I slow down off the recording. You see, my children them, when I leave Coxsone I make a tour and thing, and go back to my children. Go raise them up before I go leave again. So, I was out of the business for a while, taking care of my children… and I glad. I glad because them grow up big and learn this and learn that. If I did leave them, I don’t know what would happen to them. They are big people in their professions now. I glad man! I again on the road, because me have a new CD right now – 14 songs. I only do about 2 foreign songs, like ‘For Your Precious Love’, and this tune ‘Someday…’, that song. I’m looking forward now to do some producing with it, because I feel like it is time now for that to go out.
This is a project that you recorded in Miami recently?
Yes, I record it over here. It’s good. You see, it’s the person who is behind the record, and what you are recording. If people don’t like my songs, I don’t go too far with it. A couple of people listened to it on the demo, and said, “this is it!” They are asking me why I put so much number one song on one cassette – one CD. But, it isn’t in me to do a bad one and a good one – I want every one to be good. All these songs are good. Everybody like all of them songs.
Great. I understand that Motion Records are about to release a dub set from ‘I Admire You’. King Tubby.
Yes. Well, you see, the mix… Most of those songs I recorded on ‘I Admire You’, it’s King Tubby who sit down and tape me.
Right. Because the album itself is outstanding. I think it might be better than your Studio One material.
Yes, yes. A lot of people say that. That is what the problem Coxsone now have with me, with those things, because he claims Sylvan and me go and do those songs them, and this and that…. I say, “Look, I have to do these things.” I have ‘Nanny Goat’, and most of those songs on the CD which me has – ‘Presenting Larry Marshall’. Between then and now, on ‘I Admire You’, I do another version of some of them, and other songs, and everybody like it. So, it’s really 2 CD’s I have now. Because, you see, them songs which he has, he don’t own the rights of them songs. It’s between him and me. I have a paper to show that contract, where he signed back to me, with the performing rights. So it between him and me, not him alone. Him own a lot of artists. I was so lucky – the performing rights send me back to him with a new contract, and then him sign back the rights to me. So that is the lucky part for me, and I don’t sign none of my rights to nobody at all.
So have you got any compensation for the Heartbeat release of ‘Presenting Larry Marshall’? They still have it in print. Are you getting any compensation for that?
No, I don’t get nothing from Coxsone, I don’t get nothing from Heartbeat. The only thing, I ask for a few copies of that tape, and they send me a couple of copies the other day. I don’t get no money. The Heartbeat people pay Coxsone, and Coxsone don’t pay me. Because they told me they gave him… they paid him, and I know… my mind tells me that Chris Wilson is not lying to me, because that is a man who loves my music.
Heartbeat put out ‘I Admire You’ as well.
Yes. I supposed to be… this Glen Darby. I’m going to call his name . This guy Glen Darby go to England, try to…. he took… When I have this recording, ‘I Admire You’, Chris Wilson and Duncan Browne, they came to Jamaica when Coxsone have his anniversary that time – his thirty-fifth.
That was where they meet me, and then they say, “Larry, we like that album. We want to put it out.” I said, “OK.” I didn’t have the tape, because I give it to this guy Gilly at I-Cus Records, to do some business in Finland. And it seven years before I get back the tape, and it’s up here – I get it. And then Glen Darby, I give him a cut of that ‘I Admire You’ album, to release in Jersey – between Jersey and New York. Not in England, not in Canada. You know what he did – he sold it out in Canada, he sold it out in England, he sold it out all around. So that’s the dub part of it, when Heartbeat send him to me in Jamaica to run back that tape. We run that dub off. I thought he was taking it to Heartbeat, but he switched and he go to Jersey.. If it wasn’t for James at Motion Records, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. He is a good man, and I hope the best for him. Because he is trying to help a lot of artists, and I know that he is going to make it right. He is not a fool. He look upon the good music, like myself… a lot of times I have to lock off the radio, because I can’t listen to it. I said to myself: look at what is coming from my people them, and all these…. And it’s them making the money. You know what I mean? Because this type of music that come up right now – you leave for two weeks and it die. Because it’s chaos. They doing peoples songs, and peoples music. Their voices don’t even fit the song!
I understand what you mean.
They are singing different things from where the feelings of the song is. They are trying to over-power people, with their own songs that they write. ‘The First Cut is the Deepest’, man, that song is a good song that that girl sings – Studio One.
Yeah, I know the song (Norma Frazer). Tell me a little bit about Tubby, and what he was like to work with. When he had his own studio.
Yeah, Tubby said we must come up there and look for him man. A lot of them man, like Jammys, they want me record for them things. So sometimes me go there and look for different things. A lot of people don’t know, because I’m in America, and the people who do business now – if you don’t contact them from yard, them don’t know anything. Because, I don’t do there and show no card or nothing, or so forth. Because, you see, in Jamaica right now, a lot of people are bawling to see me come there now. I’m supposed to go there next month and do the Heineken Star Time and something else…
Everybody tells me positive things about that series, the Star Time series. It’s very popular.
And then, what happened now, we was up there in Canada last year, you know. I think it was August month, or October – one of them. Me, Derrick Morgan and Monty Morris. We do a TV show at the City TV, downtown there.
Yeah, Toronto. And then we go to Montreal, and you know what happened? When we go to Montreal, Derrick and Monty go to a different venue, and me go to a different venue. Where I go, this venue now, the guys them… to play ‘Nanny Goat’ and all these things – they run and hide. The bass player and the keyboard player they hide. The rest of them was there, so they waiting on them, because them on the way coming. Everybody wait out of patience. Never see them guys. And the reason why, I heard, they told us that they cannot play ‘Nanny Goat’, and they cannot play certain of my songs. They was practicing it, but they couldn’t manage it.
So your show in Montreal never happened?
No, with me in Montreal it didn’t happen. The crowd come down, but you know, I couldn’t sing to them without music. I’m not a sounding system singer – I don’t like that.
You don’t want to sing over a dub plate.
If I sing… a lot of people want me to do those things, but I didn’t try it. I sing with the band. I don’t want no computerized singing.
You like the live feel.
Yes. Like all the foreign songs. I have a couple of foreign songs, like, ‘For Your Precious Love’, and ‘He Don’t Love You’…. the Temptations. I have a couple of them where I sing. People ask me to sing them, and say, “Larry man, you got the voice, sing them, sing those songs.” And, you know, I am. I get the rhythm, I buy the rhythm at the karaoke shop, and then I go out there. As a matter of fact, it’s my wife’s sister. She good you know. Every night she out there man – she have a band. So she buy those things, and she push them on me. It’s successful, because like parties, wedding receptions, some people call me more times – come sing two tunes for them, like Thanksgiving and Christmas time. I’m occupied those days. I go and sing two songs for them, and things like that, and make everybody feel good.
Do you have a band right now?
I tried .. this is twice now. I tried to put a band together, for the road, but what is happening is everybody hungry. Everybody hungry, can’t sit down. They don’t have no time to sit down and rehearse the thing, and learn how fi earn. If a gig going to happen tomorrow, everybody want to play just to get 2 dollars. The right thing is to go out there and get the job on the road, because people waiting, and they be telling me, “What happened? What happened? You don’t have a band?” I say, “I have to leave it because of misunderstanding with people.” I would have to be paying them weekly, because a lot of guys work differently from the music business. In the evening part now, everybody gathered and then you do your thing. Now, some want to make a living off it, and cannot even play the music. That is what the trouble is. These guys are opportunists, and them just want to get something on it. A lot of singers don’t know scale. When I was going to school, as a young boy, I get an ‘A’ for that. We had a lady named Ms. Christian, old enough lady, a teacher. She was a very, very strict teacher. You had to learn. She learn you! She don’t beg you to learn, she learn you. When you cannot learn by that lady, you are not going to learn so easy with other people. I’m telling you. She is a very nice lady, and she very courteous, but when it come to music – stern. When she exercise we in the morning, when we go to school after prayer. We go outside and we exercise, and A chord stand up… whatever she tells us, you know, drill us. We had to take a deep breath and go up the scale, and come down the scale. A lot of kids tried, you know, they tried, but I was the top of them in that time. Over twenty-five of us in the class – I was the top of it. From when I was a little boy, that was my aim, to go back to Kingston, where the music is.
I love music, and it was in me. When she said, “Take a deep breath and go…” Everybody go through the scale, you know. After a while now, she said, “silence”, and then she said, and then she said, “What was that last ‘do’?” Then you have to say “Do”. She say, “You good, you remember.”
Your voice has a very time-less quality. Even the stuff you recorded when you were younger, it’s hard to tell how old you are.
That’s right. A lot of people say me sound even better now.
Yeah, it’s true. you see, when you grow you understand. I was younger then, you couldn’t have known in that time what you know now.
Even something like ‘Throw Me Corn’, I can’t even guess how old you were at that time.
(sings: ‘Throw Me Corn’) Yeah, you see, if I don’t sing those songs on stage right now… because it’s those songs everybody is calling for – what they want. When I finish, I have to be singing, they say, “No no no, you cannot leave.” I do a concert with Derrick Morgan, a Birthday bash show, last week. Saturday night.
Derrick lives in Florida as well.
Yeah, somebody planning a tour between me and him and Monty Morris. But it will have to be after I go to Jamaica and come back.
That would be nice.
We work man – that’s what the people talking about now, we older artists… like we on the front-line of it, you know. We do a couple of shows over here, and then… they are doing something for him in Jamaica… November. They ask for us to give a signature on paper, that means we will come and do the show for him. I’m a person where I sometime go and do a show for people and, you know, it wasn’t properly arranged, and so… Miami area is short of musicians, and most of the musicians them, they back home, because that is where the business is going on. Everybody leave and go where the work is.
There are a few of them hiding up here to.
Yes. I hear that. I come up there, and there is so much of them.
Lynn Taitt lives up in Montreal – the guy who did all that stuff for Duke Reid in the 60’s – Rock Steady sound.
I came up there, and certain musicians I see up there, because of musicians business. But, you see, they won’t write proper songs – sit down and create even two good songs. They would rather play over peoples things, and they can’t reach nowhere playing peoples things.
You have to create something and… even one song, and make the road for yourself then. But, nobody writing anything for themselves. Everybody singing other people’s things. If they don’t use the rhythm, they use the song, and if they don’t use the song, they use the rhythm. But what they did, they use the rhythm to do other people’s song on it. It’s you who compose and write your thing, and they don’t give you no recompense for it. You know what I mean?
They don’t even… they step past you. The last time, you know, Dennis Brown, we go down to Amphitheater, and record… when the Reggae Boys was up here for the tour. They requested me as a Godfather, to come down and help them out… as the first reggae man. Then, when I go down there Dennis Brown, before he passed. This guy who is looking after the show in Jamaica, Derrick Barnett…
I don’t know who that is.
Yeah, he is the one who organized it. So he came up with a contract, they told me a few nights ago…. I was supposed to go and check him this evening too, before he goes back on Tuesday. So, he have this picture with me and Dennis Brown, and Kymani Marley, you know Bob’s son. Because he say to Bob’s son, say, “This is Larry Marshall, the Godfather. He is the man who is responsible for the reggae business.” He was talking to him, and telling him. You know, we greet one another there, you know, and me feel good about it.
The other person, beside Dennis, who we lost last year, was Augustus Pablo.
Yeah, he drop out. He was a nice guy, you know. He was a nice guy, but, you see, all those guys now, like Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson, Freddie McKay and Augustus Pablo. The first time Pablo came to Coxsone’s place, he was trying to play the keyboards, the organ, you know, he was trying to play the organ in a song, which Ken Boothe sing… I think it was .. or maybe it was one of Heptones songs, I don’t remember exactly. But, I was trying to record him on it, but what he was playing, it was weak. He couldn’t really – him didn’t have the emphasis with the playing, you know. Not like Pablove Black – he came in and then he come and finish up right there, you know, learn certain things. Because for everyone coming in there, there was an opportunity. When you can do certain things, they will get on the weekly pay, you know, whatever it was. A lot of guitarists, Leroy Wallace was playing drums. A lot of guys come from the opportunity that they get there from us. Because we always help them, and curve then to do certain things while we could get something good out of it. A lot of people, they speak the truth, and talk, and tell people. But, a lot of people hide these things around the corner.
The other album I wanted to ask you about is the showcase album called ‘Throw Me Corn’.
Oh, from England. This guy named Jah Woosh.
It’s a really nice album.
Yes. I was at home, I was in Jamaica at the time when Jah Woosh came there to me, and him want something off me. At the time I was broke, and didn’t have any money, and nobody was giving me any money or things like that. When I asked about my royalties from Studio One, and all them things, is like… him not paying anybody no money, and not dealing…. and Heartbeat have business with it, and then give him certain money, and then… About 700 dollars him take to Miami here, and give to me. But that was when he was giving Heartbeat the acetate of ‘Presenting Larry Marshall’ album. It’s running on the internet. I see it selling still. When this guy in Miami here, he see it, and it was the last copy he buy. Sold out, you know. And them, how I get it at the time, it’s the cassette this guy make for me. That’s how me know it’s there. Anyway, that ‘Throw Me Corn’, those things make me feel… This guy, him come to Jamaica, 12000 Jamaican dollars, I get from him, for them songs. Because I kind of do-over. Him rent the studio, and say, “Larry man, me want a version of ‘Throw Me Corn’ for me.” Everybody start to do it too – on that rhythm. And so, I do it over…
Some rhythms never die.
Some other songs I have then, you know, I just make it up to an album, and give him. I make him go with it.
There are some nice songs. I really like ‘Ark of the Covenant’, with that Nyabingi flavor.
Yes, that’s right. So, you see, that is one of the things where Heartbeat now, and Coxsone, must be looking into that, and say this and that, and the devil knows what. All the while him do these things, and a man go hunt over them songs and things like that. And him supposed to be selling it, because nobody else sells Studio One. Nobody. When them buy it, they always want Studio One songs. But, anyhow, I do it for Jah Woosh. I feel glad I do it, because Jah Woosh was on the corner with us. I try to help everybody, Prince Jazzbo, everybody, name them. When they came to me… Gussie Clarke, Carlton Patterson, all them guys I do things for. Clancy Eccles, I sing one for him. I sing one for Lee Perry. I help them, you know, they ask, and I do it. But when I supposed to get some… I don’t get no money from them. I don’t! Lee Perry is the man who tell Coxsone, say, he should pay me some money – because me worth it. Him come and do an album up there, and want me to do two songs. I go and voice the two songs, on some old rhythm him have. Him give Coxsone certain money to give me, and Coxsone don’t give no money. I don’t worry about it. Him tell me Lee Perry don’t give it to him. I know Lee Perry give him the money to pay me. Because it was two songs he produced. Lee Perry come and do his songs up there, hire the studio, and was running things for Lee Perry. So I don’t get no money. I don’t get nothing at all, and Lee Perry… I don’t even see Lee Perry from that time, to say, look, I don’t get no money man. I heard that they put that album out to some company. I didn’t hear it.
I’m not sure about that one.
No, I never hear it. Because, you see, sometimes they put the things out, and don’t put people’s name on it. A lot of songs I do with Coxsone at Studio One, you heard them on the various albums, and you don’t even know it’s me. Because him call me Brother Marshall, Underground Vegetables…
….him call me Freedom Singers, Brentford Road Choir. Gospel songs, I do a lot of gospel songs. I do harmony on a lot of songs.
Sometimes I think Coxsone didn’t want to have peoples real names on stuff – that he intentionally kept people’s names off stuff.
He has him certain way, because he is a man who if he heard you are good, him will want to turn you out, so people will hear it. If down the line, and you want to go and do certain things after… him still feel bad, because you should stick with him. But, meanwhile the grass is growing, and the artists are starving.
You have got to eat in the meantime.
Yes. The reason why I left Studio One in that time… I can’t even explain it. Certain royalties was checked up, because the government used to come to those studio people to pay tax. So him hire some people to write down all those tapes, and put them down in calenders and books. And weeks by weeks and months by months… to check up the sales of all of those recordings, because they want the tax – or shut him down.
Anyhow, so my one now, my statement, was high. ‘Nanny Goat’, ‘Throw Me Corn’, ‘Can’t You Understand’, ‘Mean Girl’, ‘Your Love’, and all these songs down the line.
Not even counting the versions of them.
I sell so much dubs. You know, when people supposed to have conscience. I see a little house. At that time I had my children living in a house we rent – one room with me children them. I said to him, look, I see a little house next door they selling cheap. At the time it wasn’t even 200 dollars the man want for the place. But, you know, I could extend on it, and build on it and so forth – fix it up. Because the people in the place they… are growing. The children them want to leave from the old people, like their grandmother. Because, anything happen, she used to call me, and talk to me, and say to me, “this is right”, and so on. I used to explain out everything. A lot of people call me, married people, people with quarrels and fight and all these things. I go and make amendments with them. I get them back together. A lot of people. Up until now it is still happening.
They call me to pacify these things. For I, as well, give them good reasoning. I used to be there if the musicians not playing right – I would say, “Look here, play it that way.” Or I would bring him up this way, or put him where he is supposed to be – that will get the best sound. Because, that was my experiment from when I was a little kid. I used to be outside, where the kitchen is. You know, in Jamaica we build our kitchen away from the house.
So, when we in the kitchen, and the rain is falling, everybody in the house sleeping and resting. I am listening to the raindrops. I set the can, I set the pot, I set the spoon – I set everything to get different sounds. When the rain stop fall, and then the water coming off the top of the roof – tip, tip, ping, ping, pop, pop, boop, boop, boop…
Natural rhythm. That was my music. My people used to be peeking and watching me. I be setting up the big pan to get the portion that is coming down heavier. That was my experiment. That is the way I come to talk about drum and bass. Because there was… Ska and Rock Steady, but when you look up on the music charts it was pure foreign song on the top 10. You may find a few Jamaican songs on the top 20, you know! So I say, “What is this?” Because the music was too fast. They have them too fast. People dance them, and like the vibe of them, and what is coming… you have to take what is coming.
Ska works really well for instrumentals, but once you start putting words on it, it gets a little crowded.
Right, you see, because it was 2 chord music. It was one track, and then when you put too much things to it, it don’t work. At the last part of them now, was like when Coxsone get in the 2 track machine, and record a portion… like a year or so, call it 2 to 3 years time, when he get that. They work with him come down the line, you know, and then that’s where it is. Down the street now, them guys have him going crazy, because a there was a lot of number one songs down there. Coming out from the guys them. Lee Perry one say, “Why, why, why, people funny boy.”
(laughter) I know the song.
You remember that song? Like a mento style, and then it took off and become a number one. And it’s him who own it – where him used to work with Coxsone. So, Niney now, another one, named Observer, him too get big in the business. I have to stop all them from beat him. All them guys, they should have respect for me – They penalize me. Because when people like… Channel One, because I opened the doors, made Channel One sign good musicians, like Sly & Robbie, Skin, Flesh & Bones – Lloyd Parks, all them guys, and Ranchie them. These guys tough.
Some serious players.
Yes, they was down the street… and so with Bob now, with Family Man and Carley them, they get together now as Tuff Gong. Because they used to be named the Hippy Boys, and then they changed to the name Tuff Gong. That was when Bob Marley moving away from Lee Perry. At the time now, Chris Blackwell come in and start to feed him with the… they move away.
‘Catch A Fire’.
…Give him the money, and then him could walk away and set up for himself, and then he could with a certain portion of business. That’s how movements go, and it was successful. There was an advertisement, that Chris Blackwell put up for Bob, that was great. Big pictures and them things, have it in all them stores. Have like a two year contract to keep it there. He pay the money for that to happen, because that is where they get back their pay. When you have the money, you do what it’s supposed to be. I tried to get some bands together, but, they confuse me because they are not up to date. I lose them musicians, you know. The musicians that can play my music now, they are at home. They come to Miami, but they don’t stay. They go home, because that is where the business is going.
What is this album called ‘Dance with Me Across The Floor’? I’ve never seen it. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never seen it.
Yes. This guy, Glen Darby now, he come to Jamaica after he make certain amount of money off the ‘I Admire You’ album – that time, sell it up, carry to England, carry to Canada everything, and sell it. He came now, and say he would like me to do another album with him. Make me and him do it together, you know, like half and half. I got some music that I do already and so forth, and them him , you know, a little money he spend with that, like the studio work and things like that. The musician side is me, you understand? Him pay the studio time, and me pay the musicians side. Now him put it out, and the way him put it out, I didn’t like it. Because, you know, him go and do it on his own. Some good cuts on it man. Some good songs.
Who was the producer of that record, ‘Come Let Us Reason’?
It’s a guy named Jimmy Entwistle from down in North Carolina.
Did you record it in the U.S., or in Jamaica?
No, we do it in Jamaica, and send to him. Him send the money to Dynamic Studio, and to Sylvan Morris – because Sylvan run the business down there. None of us know him at the time. It’s when I come to Miami, him leave North Carolina and come look for me. We spend good times before he go back. Because, he loved my music. He loved it. Because out of the money he spent, my music is the only one that turn him back certain money in that time… and he got a portion. He gone to jail because certain things…. some people like to enjoy themselves with certain things, and don’t know it’s against the law. I’m sorry what happened, because he called me, and told me what is happening to him. He’s a nice guy. If I sent to him, and say, “Jimmy, look, I’m broke, I need money man”, sometimes him send 300 or so. So, I’m sorry what happened to him, but I can’t help it. I’m 58, you know, and I didn’t go to prison man. I didn’t even get charged for nothing in the world.
You are too old to be somebody else’s father – to be his father.
A guy in England named Java, where I give the ‘I Admire You’ album to release over there, you understand. You heard about Java Hi-Power?
Yeah, they are a sound system.
Yes, Java Hi-Power. And then, he died. His assistant now, go and collect those money, because he spread the album out, you know, people love it – they buy it. When he go collect the money now – because Java say he wasn’t going to collect no money until all of it sell, you know. That’s business. then, he died, just as he supposed to go and collect. Because people were calling him, and say they want more. So this guy collect the money and so forth – give Java brother a sum of money to give me. He don’t even tell the portion of money, but it’s nice money him give. He came there to buy some 45 records, because you know they buying out the 45’s. The foreign people, they are smart. They buying it out because they soon stop the vinyl.
Exactly. They will be real collectors items.
Yes. They don’t understand these things is going to happen soon. So them putting out vinyl things, and it chart up too. With the computerized things coming in now, it’s not as good as the first set of music. These are duplicates. Because the amplifier with the tubes, they were better. But people replace different things now, and buying out the 45’s for collector items.
The thing about tubes is the same thing as digital rhythms – Just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s better.
(laughter) It no better. It worsen the music. Plus, what you see, they come now with 2000 different artists wanting to sing on the same rhythm. It’s monotonous. I don’t want to hear it. Crazy, you know. You are talking now about reality, but I more observe, you know, watch people – through all walks of lives, what they is, what they do. I’m a sharp eye to watch people. They call me bird-eye. From when I’m a small youth, them say me see too fast, you know.
Yeah, they call me bird-eye. They say my eye look like the bird. I have a kind of brown and red eye. The burning eye, you know (laughter). Yeah man, some call me the fire. As a youth man me love to play with fire – they used to call me fire (laughter). A lot of names they call me. Me a serious youth. I fight children, if they… we playing marble, or playing games, and then them tear my shirt, or dirty it up some way. I don’t even look on it, I dirty back his own… and it may come to a fight, and sometime head bust up and cut get cut. Fighting and them things. Me get out of them things. Me grow out of them things, you know, music me really deal with. Me no really fight with people.
I think one of the things that is really interesting about your songs is… ‘I Admire You’, and the Coxsone album as well – there is a very good blend of reality songs, love songs, but also the way the economics of it all affect your personal life. You know what I’m talking about?
Yes, I understand.
‘How Can I Go On’, for instance. That’s a perfect blend – of how your surroundings affect your day-to-day life.
(sings), “One single dime, won’t shine my shoe, that’s what they told me baby, on Broadway baby, can’t you understand…” You see, the people requesting it now, and say you have to sing… Right now in Jamaica, the songs the man have on the paper, on the contract, is ‘I Admire You’, ‘Can’t You Understand’, ‘You Mean To Me’, ‘Throw Me Corn’, ‘Your Love’ and ‘Nanny Goat’. Just Studio One songs. I cannot go there and sing another song unless I sing the originals them.
What about ‘Keep On Pushing’?
Yeah, that song… My wife was listening to it the other night. She say, she is American you know, “All of those songs are reality. When I listen to them, I see these things happening every day.” I say, “That’s how the songs go.” You have got to be some things before the time it happen. Like you feel it in the air. Then you make this song, because you know down the road it’s going to happen. Somewhere along the line it’s happening.
‘Keep On Pushing’ should be your theme song.
Yeah, what it is, I make a couple of errors down on the last part of it. When I listen back to it a couple of times, I say I’m going to re-record it because… I sing some words down there, unpronounceable, you know, and then I see. A lot of people is not fool, you can’t fool the people all the time. that song wasn’t finished when it come out, because I decided to go correct the errors. But they put out the song before I even know about it. That’s what they did. They grab what they could to put out. So I have in mind to go re-do it one of them times. I have another one on another album I made in Jamaica, with this guy named Jumbo. Him named Errol Geraldine, but everybody – he just got the name Jumbo.
I don’t know the label.
He’s in Jamaica. He don’t travel out to release it with people out there, but he had it down there. People buy it, but you have to go to Jamaica to get it to buy.
You did a whole album with him?
What’s it called?
That album named, ‘In Jah Corn Field’.
What year did you record it? What studio?
I record it at I-Cus Recording. He was in Jamaica. He didn’t stay down there too long because, after I recorded that album, and him mix it, then he move on. He demolished the studio because the place was rented, and they want the place. So he give up everything. Some of those machines, I think it was for somebody else, so they came and take it. So he migrated. He have a studio down in the south – South Florida.
Is that album still in print?
Yes, I heard about it. Ken Boothe told me that he do a song on one of my rhythms. The one that say, “Them raid my vineyard, them wicked men, them Babylon…” That song don’t come out yet, you know. I have an album here right now. We call it ‘One One Coco’. Because I have a song on it called ‘One One Coco’. Everybody love it. It’s my grandmother who say, “One one coco full the basket.” So you say, “Pick them up son, and don’t you leave them, because one day you going to need them.” Everybody ask where I come up with these words, everyday words, and put it together, and the voice and everything. They excited. They like it, and the rhythm behind it too. It have a bouncing rhythm man.
So this is the one you have recorded in Miami.
Is it finished?
Yes, it’s finished. It’s ready for the road now.
Do you have anybody who is going to put it out?
No I don’t. I was saying to James, but him say it would be later on, because him coming out with ‘I Admire You Dub’. Some other people, if I choose for them to do these things, they could do it. I need a producer who will produce it. what I have to do is send some cassette out – some copy out, and let them listen to it. And then, whoever, you know.
See if you can find somebody. It’s tough to know who to trust.
Yes, that is what I’m saying. It’s finished. What I really want to do… I don’t really want to go ahead and cut the master for it, but I would like to send out a few cassettes. I want to do it because, there is a guy who spend a little money with me in the studio, and I was planning to give it him to produce…. I was trying to lease it to him, but him don’t have no money. So I decided to get it done myself, you know, put it out to some company.
Good luck with it. I’m sure it’s difficult to find somebody to put it out… not only put it out, but promote it properly, and package it properly. Anybody can put it out, but it’s to put it out properly that is the tricky part.
No matter how good it is, if you don’t promote good, it’s going nowhere.