Derrick Morgan Interview
One of the most consistent hitmakers in Jamaican music must be the one and only, Derrick Morgan. He came up at a time when there was no such thing as an ‘established’ music industry on the island – he was part in shaping it from the very foundation with people like Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker, childhood friend Eric ‘Monty’ Morris, Owen Gray, Jackie Edwards, Laurel Aitken, and many others. He had that special something which appealed to the common Jamaican that kept him in the public spotlight for many, many years, longer than most, even though his career slowed down sometime in the late seventies. But he has since made his way back and is a popular live act again among the so called ‘skinhead’ and revival crowd. My thanks to Derrick, Trish (Roots Rockers Promotions), Donovan Phillips, David Corio, Carlton Hines, and Steve Barrow.
FIRST STAR OF SKA
You’re born in Mocho, that’s in Clarendon?
I was born in a parish named Clarendon, a district they call Mocho on a settlement named Stratton. That’s in Jamaica.
You didn’t stay there for too long, soon you moved down to Kingston.
Yeah. I moved to Kingston about age three because we found out I was suffering from night blindness, so I went to Kingston with my mom. When I become a big man and travel I get to find out the right name for it, retina pigmentosis, y’know. It is a common eye disease but I don’t know anyone from my relatives coming down from my ancestors who really have it though.
Your father was a deacon, he taught you the rudiments how to sing, didn’t he?
My father was a deacon, he didn’t taught me to sing but he was a great singer, and my mother had a strong voice and sang in the choir. We used to sing in church a lot.
So what made you approach it, that you wanted to develop it a bit more?
Well, when I was about those age about three going five, I used to sit at the house in Mocho there and make my own song. I used to make a song off… they have a lickle bug whe ‘ave light in the eye, and every night we used to go around and light up the place – they call it peenie-wallie. It was there I was with my mom and my grandmother and I was doing songs off it. So me start doing it at that age, you understan’. So when I was in school now, I sing about from eleven, they used to have a concert every Friday, and that really taught me to sing proper. After school I could not take the work I liked, I used to like a job they call stenography, which is book-keeping.
Yes, and I couldn’t take it, so after that now I decide to try singin’. I heard of this that they were taking audition, that was at Vere John’s. So what I did was – ‘Monty’ Morris and myself, we lived in the same yard…
In Allman Town.
Yes, he and I were living in the same yard, it was a big tenament yard. Alright, and we heard of Vere Johns having a competition called ‘Opportunity Hour’, so what I did was to do songs that were popular, like I did Little Richard songs, I performed with those… and we go down there and get the audition, and on the night of the competition I came first. Bim & Bam took me up and said I was number one in the competition. And they had a show which travelled around the island, and they took me around with them, so it really started my singin’ officially in the public at the age of seventeen. And going on and on an’ going aroun’ and singin’ like Little Richard…
Impersonating him, right.
Yeah, and somebody told me after the tour about Duke Reid the Trojan, he had audition for recording. So I went there, I did two songs that I wrote, I did ‘Lover Boy’ and ‘Oh My Lovely Darling’ and there, I recorded them. Those two songs I did for Duke Reid.
How did you find him, he was on Bond Street even then? How was Duke gathering his artists, he was taking auditions in his store at the time?
How I find Duke? He was on Bond Street at Charles Street corner, someone tell me about him and they tell me where to go, and that’s how I get to find him. Ca’ when I go aroun’ to Charles Street and I do find him an’ he took me, everything was right.
And Mr Reid himself?
Oh, what do I like about him?
Well to me Duke was a nice man, he was a man… he was jus’ a stern man, him nice. When I go in for recording, we audition for him, and I said “Good morning”. An’ I heard he lookin’ an’ him say “Oh, can you sing?”, an’ me say yeah, so him say “Well, sing”. ‘So well, sing’, that’s the type of man, just tell me to sing right away. Like he was a liquor store man, and while he’s selling he was listening to me too. So he say OK, do another one and do another one, and he say yes, you can come to the radio station for rehearsal. You know, he was just an outstanding… outspoken man, very good man. Nice man to deal with. Straight-forward and demanding. He had his guns at his side an’ you know, he was an ex-policeman. So when he’s in the studio and the musicians are not playing what they do, like the drummer not sounding good, he take away the sticks in the middle of the session and start clapping the sticks his way so he’d sound good. He was a very good producer, because he tell the musician what he wanted. He didn’t allow the musician to just want to play music as they’d like, they have to play what he want. That was very good.
A rough man, but I guess he had to be.
Yeah, the reputation of being rough is not just… He could be pretty rough and fire his gun and, y’know, run his jokes, but they don’t mean nutten.
Didn’t it scare you off a bit?
Yeah, once it scared me, because… after I start recording for him for a while an’ I left him an’ go away, he sent some men for me, y’know, hard men – it was some badman who used to hang out at his place, an’ them demand me to come back to him. I came back to him an’ start recording for him again. After that he put on a studio at his shop, which you might’ve heard about, so his studio is like… And I recorded ‘Wet Dream’ – that’s the Max Romeo riddim, ‘Hold You Jack’. I recorded ‘Hold You Jack’ and ‘Shower of Rain’, I do a lot of songs at his studio – but not under his production, under Bunny Lee’s production. Yeah.
What was it like growing up in Kingston during the forties and fifties as you recall it now?
Yeah, growing up in Kingston in the fifties was very nice, y’know, you had one or two men who would like to pretend that they are bad men or… you know? But we never mixed with them, so we had nutten to do with it. But we could walk anywhere we wanna go, any time of night and throughout the day. So we didn’t have much trouble in the early days. When they come and take you to the shows, people come up and you talk, everybody… you know? No problem. Different now from the late sixties time, it was different. Big change, y’know. But we didn’t use to have guns an’ t’ings in the early part, yunno, policemen never walked with guns, only battons. Batton they used to walk with. So it was a lotta changes going up.
Times will change, but not necessarily for the better.
Well, cycles you know, what you say ‘the now generation’ and the generation change. An’ in my young days I couldn’t whistle on the road, because if I whistle past any elder, older person, they could hold me an’ give me a flogging for that. You understan’? Now, I couldn’t wake up in the morning and see someone out there an’ them say ‘good morning’, anybody passing don’t pay you no mind. It’s a far different thing, from a more trained manner in the earlier days than it is now.
So you lived with Monty in the same yard back in those days, Eric Morris, that’s how you met.
In the same tenament yard in the early days, young, the two of us grow up in that yard. And we become friends, and we would sit down with friends and sing. The both of us liked to sit around old cars, beat them like drums an’ sing. And we used to go to the old street, Deeside, and the two of us would push our head up in a hole and hold a harmony up in there and mek it sound trembling and mek it sound nice. So that was Monty and myself, it was nice growing up. And after a while, we decide… He and I – I beat him in the Vere John show, and I start record and leave him alone now. But when I start record with Smith, which is Lickle Wonder…
Hi-Lite. I took him with me and we recorded a song called ‘Now We Know’ and ‘Nights Are Lonely’, and that become a number one seller for us again, after I had ‘(Hey You) Fat Man’, it was the first number one seller. Then the one with Monty and I become a number one seller also. And that’s how I met Monty, and he and I go a far way up ’til now. Then Monty seckle down and start doing mostly nursery rhyme songs, and they were big hits for him. Yeah. But right now we would like to have Monty on tours, but I don’t know what happen. I haven’t met up with him, if him never want it or I don’t know if him don’t want to move or something. But it would be nice to have him around doing the work on stage, because he has the songs an’ he’s very good at dancing.
What sound systems did you follow in those days?
I used to follow a sound called V Rocket, V Rocket sound system. Duke Reid, Coxsone and (King) Edwards was the three big sound. Big sounds, whe yu call big sound… it would tremble the whole worl’ when they were playing. But the sound that I follow, V Rocket, was a hi-fi sound. They used to play at parties, when they played they play for, y’know, selected parties. I used to follow those sound. They played different from Coxson, Duke and Edwards and (Count) Bells The President, those people play different.
And the main difference?
Heavy duty. T’ings like these it look like, when you stan’ up sometime an’ Duke is playing an’ dropping all two Derrick Morgan, you really heard about it. Or Coxson, I used to do a recording with Coxson called ‘Leave Earth’, an’ he would draw that an’ put them among Hi-Lite an’ Derrick Morgan, an’ play other songs. You know, it’s nice listening then beca’ you ‘ave crowd a people following those sets. But the one I follow now is like I say, selected parties, like house parties an’ so on, and I like to go to them places where you can hold onto a girl an’ dance, but with Duke Reid and Coxson you jus’ stand up outside an’ listen the deep bass and drum, y’know? I used to follow those lickle sets. Ca’ I’m a lover bwoy, I’m a girls man! I love girls, yunno. Yeah.
What type of music did you listen to the most at this time?
I listen – well, in the young days I listen the rock’n’roll songs, like Fats Domino or I listen to Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, y’know, mostly rock’n’roll and Rhythm & Blues. I listen to man like Professor Longhair, Roscoe Gordon an’ those kind of things. Shirley & Lee, I loved Shirley & Lee. I used to listen to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, I listened to Jerry Butler. I listen to him a lot, he was my favorite. And there was so many nice songs to listen to in those days.
And Presley of course.
Elvis, yes! Elvis was my man. You know, I liked to follow his shows too, I used to go up and view the Elvis Presley shows.
The band backing you up on the ‘Fat Man’ song for Hi-Lite, this was a band led by someone called Trenton Spence. Who was this guy, if you could tell me more? An overlooked musician.
Yes. It was more like a calypso band, never really a reggae band if you listen to the style of ‘Fat Man’, it was more a rolling type of beat. You know, that was the type of song. And he was a man, Trenton Spence, he was very nice, he was an alto player. He played the alto and he used to play around in clubs in them days. He was a very good man. I loved that band.
What became of them later on?
Died. Yeah, they all pass.
Old at that stage, seasoned guys.
Big names, they were big in my days. You know, they pass.
You worked with Frankie Bonito too.
Yeah, Frankie Bonito was the one that played for Vere John. I only sing with Frankie Bonito on the Vere John shows. I never worked with that band after beca’ I never really enter no more contests. So, the band that I go around with Bim & Bam, it was a pick-up band, those band didn’t really have a name. Roland Alphonso used to play in that band, plus the… the guys weren’t named as a band, they jus’ a pick-up, a stage band. But Roland Alphonso, ‘Rola’ was the man, as the tenor man there. Beca’ I can remember, Bim had a son, they call him the ‘Bona Sera Boots’ – ca’ we used to listen to Louie Prima, used to listen to Louie Prima’s song ‘Bona Sera’, an’ he tear dung the place. So we used to call him ‘Bona Sera Boots’.
And he would sing the song, and Roland would answer with his tenor an’ so on – all those things would get Roland popular, ca’ Roland wasn’t popular until Bim & Bam get him popular, y’see wha’ I mean? Until him start record like regularly.
Around 1960 you teamed up with Prince Buster.
Yeah, while I was with Duke, recording with Duke an’ Lickle Wonder, I met Buster. I met him on Orange Street an’ he called me, and he used to work for Coxson – in them days they do some work, I don’t know. But I met him, I didn’t know him until he called up. In those days I was getting popular and my songs them going up in the charts, and that’s how I get to meet him; he know ’bout me but I didn’t know him. And he called on me an’ want me going to the studio to do some studio work, if I could help him out to do some songs, an’ so on. And I told him yes, we get together and we go to the studio, and that’s how we started. We do a duet also, I give him ‘Shake A Leg’ and carry Monty to give him ‘Humpty Dumpty’. And he get Rico Rodriguez to do ‘Let George Do It’ an’, y’know, me an’ him do about thirteen hit songs. That’s how we started.
What type of material was discussed among you when going into the studio at that time, what could sell and what was the taste like among the public?
What kind of record would sell?
In terms of lyrics, beat, everything – the public appeal of the time.
Well, the record that sell… Well in our days, those type of record that was put out, anyone would sell. What they do, what the producers or the promoters them was doing now, they didn’t release the song on a public label, they are released on a white label, and everybody was trying to get a pre-released song. Like ‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ from Monty Morris was a pre-release from so many… Buster wouldn’t release it, he was making big money o f f the pre-release, ca’ people want to buy it and don’t want to show the label. And there, it started the release officially, when them print the label and name the artis’. So those men – any song would sell, as long as it sound good to the public. But with ska music, well, we started… before we started ska it was just Rhythm & Blues. It wouldn’t even go so hard, as the tempo, it wouldn’t be so hard.
Did you and Buster write together, collaborate on the material?
One song I did with Buster, wha’ it named… ? ‘Ska Day O’, I helped him to write that song. I sing with Buster, I still recorded with Buster songs like ‘Lulu’, an’ them type of songs. But Patsy and I do a thing called ‘I Got A Dream’, ‘(Last Night) I Got A Dream’, she and I sing it together. We didn’t really write it. Buster write his own song, I write my own.
And it got so successful at one point that you occupied the first seven positions on the chart, didn’t you?
Yes, yes. In those days when we work, we worked for… it is just a ten pound. We make them pounds for each song we recorded. So I make a lot of hits. I go around, I sing for any producer. So everybody was releasing them songs, making hit songs out of everyone. So with everyone releasing it’s in the chart. It’s two radio stations, so y’know I dominated the stations with the songs that sell, on both stations. From one to seven, all hit songs: number one, two, three, four, five, six, seven – I would have songs coming in at fourteen, fifteen and sixteen, an’ so on – they had a label, the other ones they come into the top ten. I was dominating those days, because the songs them I used to sing, you see, the people them really loved them. Love songs, I use to write songs offa what’s going on around me. They used to love it, and I used to get a lot of hits. They used to call me ‘The Hitmaker’, also ‘The Hit Person’, ca’ I used to break my own hits. I used to steal the chart away from everyone.
The competition then, at that early stage, what was that like?
In those days, there’s no competition because what happened; a man jus’ come with his good songs, an’ if it sound good it sell, and it get radio play. We didn’t have no problem getting radio play too. So, from the song is good the song play, and it will sell. So there weren’t no competition really that I know of.
You became one of the first big names in the industry, but how did you handle fame?
Well, I didn’t know what was fame, beca’ it didn’t come to me as anything real. Because all I know is the same Derrick Morgan an’ people hail you up and they love you, an’ so on, I didn’t take it as no… up until this day, fame don’t come to me as anything, it’s just the normal me, Derrick Morgan. I always stop an’ have conversation with anybody on the road, everybody jus’ cool. Up until today, anyone I will talk to, don’t care how you are down, and I try to help you out. If I can help I give whatsoever I can. I didn’t put fame on my head an’ seh well, then act as some man, no. I am the same Derrick Morgan. That is what save me up until today. Because I can remember I stop by a bar in Jamaica, I would try to buy (inaudible), yeah. And when my children grow up now, a man – it would bug some people, an’ I know of one of my son who go into a store in America, an’ the man know it’s my son, he take nutten from him beca’ I had been good to him, beca’ I helped him an’ so on.
Then there was the famous ‘war’ between you and Buster.
I used to sing for Prince, right, and then I heard of Leslie Kong. Jimmy Cliff came to my house and seh – at that time Jimmy Cliff no start sing yet, he called me there and said this gentleman want to find me, and he had a song called ‘Dearest Beverly’ and he wanted me to take care of it, take it back to Leslie and say ‘this song sound good’, an’ so on. So I listened to Jimmy and his song and it sound alright to me, but I didn’t like the slow song, ca’ he had another song called ‘Hurricane Hattie’. After he sang it I say OK, yes it sounds good, and from that we tek it to Leslie Kong. And when I find Leslie, Leslie wanted to go into the business also, and he asked me what he should do. I told him about Drumbago an’ the All Stars band and about Jimmy Cliff, that Jimmy Cliff was soundin’ good. Jimmy was at that time James Chambers, it was Leslie Kong who named him ‘Jimmy Cliff’, yunno. So after bringin’ Drumbago to Leslie we start to record then, and Prince Buster didn’t like it when he hear about that. And 1962 I made ‘Forward March’, the Jamaica Independence song, alright, and Prince Buster heard that song and he said the solo in that song was his, he claimed it was a part of one of his songs, the melody whe it come from, that he do (referring to ‘Deadly Hedley’ Bennett, the alto sax player who created a solo near to Lester Sterling’s solo in Buster’s ‘They Got To Come’). So he wrote a song of me called the ‘Black Head Chinaman’, because Leslie Kong was the Chinaman. And that’s where he and I start the musical war, it was just a musically war. I wrote ‘Blazing Fire’ off him, and then him came back and write ‘Praise and No Raise’. And then I would say, ‘when I was there I wasn’t taking praise much less raise’, y’know (‘No Praise No Raise’ for Beverley’s).
And so it start, the rival t’ing, it went on an’ on an’ on. Then I came with ‘Tougher Than Tough’, it goes on an’ he came with ‘Judge Dread’ songs, we had those against one another. No war, just musically.
You never spoke with Buster that you had a selling concept there, ‘let’s keep doing this because it sells fast’ or whatever?
No, no, no, we never really sit an’ talk over it. He was a producer and Leslie Kong was a producer, so might be the two of them jus’ talk, they never reach out to me, yu understan’. Ca’ when I was with him Prince Buster was a producer also, alright, an’ he go ahead an’ he do his t’ing, so that’s how he get to beat me out because he was producin’ at the same time. I was only singin’ and collecting a lickle pay every now an’ then, y’know. But a so Buster an’ I come in, until it get big and bad in Jamaica now. Because the man fight one another over Buster and I, some gangs defended Buster and some defended me. So it would get bad, in bars man would cut up them one another, and the government would have a problem. The government would have to come in to ask us to do something about it. Now, it was Buster’s plan or Mr Seaga, he was also a producer an’ doing recording before him become a politician, well, he tell us to go to the Gleaner, and they took pictures of us together and on the picture we hugged, and it said on the headline that we are best of friends. So that’s how it all calmed down when they saw that in the Gleaner.
I think you said somewhere that the whole ‘rude boy’ cult started there, the wave of increased gang violence started from that war.
Yeah, yeah. Yes, well, I made a song – the ‘rude boy’ business, songs start come out. The one Alton Ellis sing was a different one called ‘Cry Tough’ (a stance against the gang culture of the time), you had Desmond Dekker come out with songs like ‘Rude Boy Deh ‘Pon The Circuit’. Even this rude guy now come to me an’ say him want me to mek a song of him.
His name was Busby, yeah. And I was afraid that he would come an’ cut me, I tell Leslie that he threatened me so I mus’ mek a song for him and bring it for Friday. So I take it to the studio and I write it and recorded it on a acetate. Desmond Dekker did the harmony for me, and we recorded it on the Thursday. And Friday night he didn’t play it until about eight or nine, and when he listened to the song: ‘strong like a lion, we are like iron…’, he had a box of beer and fe that record there he had a box of beer, and when it play ‘strong like lion, we are…’ he blow out the beer an’ crush it against the wall. Some girls was there in their red and white outfit, you take it that those girls was from a group called Spangler, or something like that, ca’ it was a gang. You was against those gang, so what you do you move on, beca’ the man wet the girls them and they walk out of the place an’ go away. That was the Friday and on the Saturday it was a dance at Waltham Park Road and the Spanglers them come an’… it was jus’ as simple as that, the song I wrote for one man.
You became one of the first Jamaican artists to sign with an English company, back in the early sixties you did this with Emile Shallit, Melodisc.
Yes, I signed with Shallit through Prince Buster. And when I was working for Leslie Kong, I don’t know if he get a sick or… beca’ I was the hitmaker out of Leslie Kong, pure hit songs. So, Blue Beat Records in England, which is Shallit…
Melodisc Records, they would want to – Buster come an’ tell me seh that he (Shallit) would want me to start do songs for him. I say alright, and I go up to England. Well, it was the first time in life that I get to travel. So I was there and signed the contract, and Leslie Kong was against it, he said: “Don’t sign it, I’ll give you more money”. And I said to Leslie Kong, seh: “You never tell me seh you want tek me to Englan’, and I want come a Englan’, yunno”. And I go away an’ I signed the contract, and I come to England. I only spent six months, beca’ I didn’t like the atmosphere, I didn’t like the weather, I didn’t like anyt’ing. So I told him: “Sorry, I’m going back”. When I come back now I sing about two or three songs back with Prince Buster. I sing a song called ‘Hold Me’ an’ I do one called… I do five songs and the same night Stranger Cole do ‘Bangarang’ and ‘Rough & Tough’. And I heard Patsy, which was my partner, singin’ songs with Stranger for Duke Reid, too. So I was mad! There we had some issues, y’know, so Patsy left. So I say all right, I gonna try and go back to Leslie Kong. When I go back to Leslie Kong, Leslie didn’t want to work with me, he say I’m on a contract. I can’t work for him when I’m under contract. So I went to form a group called the Blues Blenders, Derrick Morgan & The Blues Blenders, and I went to Coxson. And I do quite a few songs with the Blues Blenders for Coxson.
Like ‘No One To Love’.
Yes. After doing that now, I was trying to get out of the contract meanwhile when I was at Coxson’s, just to keep me going. And Mr Seaga was more knowledgable ’bout finances, so he call up on Shallit an’ he tell him seh the man have to release me from the contract. He released a song with me and then all I wanted was to go back to Leslie Kong, all I really wanted was go to Leslie. Go back to Leslie. And I go to Leslie, that’s how we started again. That’s how he get the tune ‘Rudies Don’t Fear’. And I was with him for a few years until I start doing my own production.
That was the Hop label.
That was my production label. And then after that I leave to England and do some production for Pama Records, which was the Crab label. I used to handle the Crab label for Pama and the production, all the songs that come out on the Crab was produced by Derrick Morgan.
Do you still control all those recordings for Crab?
Yes, on the Crab label.
Do you think you could release some of that music again?
Well, we released… most of the records them, we can put them together and release them. I think (Reggae) Retro released some for me, and Pressure Sounds put them together also. So some of them is out there now, on the Hop label.
Tell me about the success with ‘Housewife’s Choice’, which was a pretty crucial song for you.
‘Housewife’s Choice’ was a very… when I did ‘Housewife’s Choice’ – I had a song for Leslie Kong called ‘You Don’t Know How Much I Love You’, that’s the name of the song. It was out on pre-release first on a blank label, we send it up, send it up to the radio stations. They put Derrick Morgan & Patsy, ‘You Don’t Know How Much I Love You’, that was the title, and Marie Garth was one of the main radio announcer at the time, the dj, and the song used to get a LOT of requests, it was the most requested song on the radio. They changed the name and call it ‘Housewife’s Choice’, that’s how that song get the name ‘Housewife’s Choice’, was one of my best and biggest seller – ever.
You made a lot of money there?
No, no, no. It was one of the biggest sellers, but the thing is, is only twenty pounds I get. Because that was the outright money.
No, I wouldn’t say it was robbery, that was what we got. So it couldn’t be robbery, that was what we know of. We didn’t know about performing rights, we didn’t know about mechanical rights, an’ so on. So, I wouldn’t say the promoter robbed me, because that was the deal and what we knew at the time. Yeah.
Have you ever thought what it was that kept you for so long on the top spots on the charts and all that, what do you think now if you look back, your abilities, etc?
Ah, I wonder that too, because up to now I reach the age 66 and still going strong in the music business same way, and when I did a stage show I would really dominate the night, and so on. I don’t know, I don’t really know what keep me so long, but (chuckles)… I’m thankful for it. And also the fans that keep me up. Yes, because a promoter would say “Bwoy, nuff a your fans them die out”, but the young ones want to see me still.
Speaking about someone like Shallit again, not much is known about him but did you feel at the time that he had a genuine interest in Jamaican music?
Shallit was the man who made Jamaican music very popular in Europe, because if you know Shallit came out with a label called Blue Beat, and that was the biggest selling label in Europe towards Jamaican music. Any music on Blue Beat would sell a LOT. That mean Shallit used to put out the Blue Beat – almost every promoter in Jamaica, Shallit would have them. All those producer in Jamaica would come, and Shallit get those songs fe put out. He was a white Jew, he’s dead now. He used to manage Prince Buster.
You didn’t record too much for Coxson, how come?
I don’t know, because when I recorded the song ‘Lover Boy’ with Duke, when I started with Duke, then Coxson, and Duke would play against Coxson and play my songs when him no even heard of me, and him call me an’ ask me fe do a song for him name ‘Leave Earth’ and one name ‘Wigga Wee Shuffle’. But then he start to play that. Duke wasn’t so happy to know that I start to work with another promoter. Well, what I did was, I go back to Duke and stick to Duke. I stick to Duke for nearly… about a year and a half, recording for Mr Reid. I was there nearly every week. That’s how Coxson didn’t get much songs off me.
What was some of your productions for Hop? Lloyd & Devon was one of your acts.
I had songs like ‘Red Bum Ball’, Max Romeo with ‘Let The Power Fall’. Garnet Silk, I produce Tony Rebel, I produce myself, Pauline. I produce Delroy Wilson, Cornell Campbell. There was a lot of tunes on Hop that I produce. Hop is really my label.
What about Lloyd & Devon? Devon Russell is gone now unfortunately, but Lloyd Robinson is still around. Not much is said about him these days but he was a talent above many, that’s for sure.
Yes. Lloyd, well, that’s the first… I record them in the early, I take them in the studio and they say them want to record as Lloyd & Devon. I say alright, I record ‘Red Bum Ball’ with them and I think Lloyd went out, he was in England…
No, that was Devon, he settled in London.
Yeah, but Lloyd was in England before I recorded him (1968). And then I guess he get deported and come back to Jamaica, and that’s how I recorded him in those early days with Devon, and then Devon leave and reach England till he pass here, right. So, there’s nutten much ’bout Lloyd Robinson and Devon, because they didn’t do much. Just ‘Red Bum Ball’ and I think Lloyd do one other tune. There’s nutten much about him.
And you had the Viceroys too.
Yes, I recorded the Voiceroys. I do a lotta songs with the Voiceroys. Yeah.
In the seventies, did you cut an LP for Bunny?
For Bunny Lee?
Yes, because you had string of songs like ‘Rasta Don’t Fear’ (a revamp of ‘Rudies Don’t Fear’) and ‘Under Heavy Manners’, ‘Babylon Is Public Enemy’ for him.
Bunny Lee is my brother-in-law, I did a lotta songs for Bunny Lee. That’s my wife’s brother, I did a lot of songs with Bunny Lee, lot’s and lot’s, ‘Seven Letters’ was a song for Bunny Lee, it was also a big hit up here, London. A lot of songs, ‘Hold Yu Jack’, all those songs was Bunny Lee songs.
What about the material you did for the Imperial label in Canada?
Imperial, yes, with a guy called Horace (Elliott)… When I was in Canada I met him an’ he wanted to do some recording, so I start do some recording. But that guy is no good, it was a guy that was a pimp too. He used to like to put out music, and nutten behind it. Up to the other day I made him two albums, ‘Value of Man’ and ‘Two Hand Clash’, and those album I get to understan’ that Horace took them and pirate them and I can’t find him, I cyaan buck him up to collect anyt’ing from him. He’s no good, that’s a man that is no good, Horace from Imperial Records.
You did some new stuff as well as compilations of some of the 1960’s material for a UK label, Unicorn (the ‘Blazing Fire’ album), about sixteen years back now.
Oh, Unicorn is a guy, I met him in London. I give him the rights to put out new songs, an’ so on. He took off also (laughs).
He took off to Perth I heard, I never buck him again.
Then there was the Pressure Sounds anthology, ‘Red Bum Ball’, like a ‘Best Of Hop Records’, it came out a few years ago.
OK, yeah. I gave them the rights to put out that. I gave the rights ca’ they’re good people. Pressure Sounds are good people, they treat me right, so they’re good.
I almost forgot to ask you about the Island LP you cut back in the late sixties.
Well, Island used to release for Leslie Kong in the early sixties, so they used to give everything to Island because in those days, remember, we didn’t know about performing rights and my mechanical rights, so Island then get obliged to do those t’ings, so we couldn’t get no royalty, an’ so on. So it’s just another thing where I didn’t get royalties after I made ‘Moon Hop’ for Pama Records, and I found out that ‘Moon Hop’, Trojan, they get another group to do over ‘Moon Hop’. That is where I find out about publishing, and I start to get to learn about publishing.
How do you find Jamaican music today?
Well, reggae music cyaan done beca’ you know seh it never really leave our island, it lives in our island and it’s the best, from Laurel Aitken coming down to Bob Marley. Reggae music today is number one, the world’s number one music.
And the digital sound?
Well, it’s music, y’know. The digital music is the new music, I love it. I love some of them, I do a lotta recordings with it too. But it’s best to have the live band behind you, I prefer the live band. But you know, the digital still work, because it’s a thing of the now generation. You just have to go with the time.
What do you have coming up, in terms of records, any projects in the pipeline?
Well, I’ve never been in the studio for the past year now and a half, I don’t get in the studio. So, I’m planning, after I leave this tour and back to Jamaica I will go back in the studio to get some tracks that I didn’t release yet, put them together, do some mixin’ an’ so on, and then start put them out. Because really, what is happenin’ when you put out music now, it’s really hard because there are so many pirates about the place an’ the technology steal from you. When you spend your money, another man do things and take it from you and master it offa that record, it’s terrible.
Yeah, it is.
So the music business kinda mash up now, I don’t know. But the older music, I made so much that I could live off it.
True, there is a treasure trove of stuff that you could collect and put out from the early days, music that haven’t even been on CD or even any extended format beyond the 7″. Please make an attempt to put them out again, whatever you could get your hands on and clean up. Would you do that?
Yes. We always re-release them and they’re doing good, they’re better off to release the old records them beca’ the people them want that. The public want the old record more than the new right now. So what you haffe do is just put them together and re-release it. The young generation is following them now, so it will be forever and ever, amen.
A silly question, perhaps, but how do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as one of Jamaica’s greatest artists – ever, and the teacher. I’m teachin’. I teach them, I teach Bob, I teach Jimmy, I teach Desmond Dekker, I teach Prince Buster – I teach them. I AM the teacher. I want to be remembered as Jamaica’s number one teacher in doing music and recording. Yeah.
Not much to hold against this man regarding such a statement. He’s been around for so long and, as said in the beginning, so consistently – recording-wise at least up to the mid-seventies, performance-wise up to the present day – that he could rightfully be described as the teacher, a true veteran, a solid performer, singer, entertainer, he embodies true Jamaican showmanship, no-one can deny him that. Like most of his generation, Morgan is steeped in boogie, perhaps this has kept the roots crowd away from him, in America, Europe and other places where hard rhythms is the order of the day, and ‘The Hitmaker’ is considered too soft, too lightweight to reach them. The thing is, he adjusted to the roots format so well under his brother-in-law Bunny Lee’s guidance in the mid seventies, tunes like ‘Rasta Don’t Fear’ and ‘Under Heavy Manners’ springs to mind, that they probably missed out on a lot of great music in this vein during the era. It’s a shame that so little has been reissued of his recordings from those years, say 1974 to ’76, but that is hopefully ‘to come’. Naturally his skinhead type recordings are what still sells, much of it can still be found on various CD releases. But there is way too much records which Derrick could dig out from the vaults and put out there again which haven’t ever made their way onto those CD’s. That should change. Meanwhile, don’t miss out on him when he’s on the road, Morgan is known for being ‘the’ show stealer, something you can’t afford to miss.
Sounds – Clips
DERRICK MORGAN – BLAZING FIRE
DERRICK MORGAN – MISS LULU