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Interview with Trevor Shields (of the Beltones) – Part 2

by | Aug 15, 2018 | Articles, Interview

Trevor Shields

“LORD KNOWS I’M TRYING”

When: Unknown

Where: Toronto, Canada

Reporter:  Peter I

Copyright:  2010 – Peter I

In part 2 of the interview, Trevor Shields talks about Reggae in Canada, lack of respect, producer Harry J, some of his songs, the Rock Steady era, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and much more.

LORD KNOWS I’M TRYING

Why do you think that is? Is it weak, production-wise, the Canadian stuff, or what’s the reason?
I don’t know. I try to figure out myself. And most say they have respect for England, because they respect reggae music in England, but I don’t think it made an impact on North America, up to now. Because they don’t show respect for their local talent, people from… they big up anyone who’s from Yard then, and they have a packed house. They used to pay them visits, and you pay them that. But here now – they know you when they have a local event going on and they say ‘OK, you can come and do something for us’, that’s the way it happens here. What they’re trying to tell you is that ‘Oh, we’re trying to help you out’, people will see you. And you never know who might be there. But that’s all you hear. After you do a show, people come up to you and say nice things to you: “Man, yu wicked”. You know what they’re saying in the reggae scene, ‘yu wicked’ and ‘yu bad’ and dem stuff deh.

(Chuckles)
You know, “I’d like to produce you”. They give you a number or they take your number, and that’s it. You don’t hear from them again until you do another show and you might see them again and they come up and shake your hand and big you up again. That’s what happens in Canada, nutten much happens. To be honest, I’ve done lots of shows here, lots of shows. People come and ask you to do this because they’re having a this or they’re having a that, and they put you on. So it’s not that I haven’t been doing anything.

Good.
I know if you save enough little money to rent it and go to the studio and go record something just for the heck of recording it, and you have no means of gettin’ it out anywhere. You have no producers here.

The Fantels (w/ Trevor Shields) rehearsing

The Fantels (w/ Trevor Shields) rehearsing

In the sense of being able to back it up.
Exactly, ca’ you need to back it up. You can’t just have the produc’ and you don’t have any way to get it out there to the public. I mean, it’s a hip-hop and RnB country. But reggae is – everybody seems to love reggae now but I don’t know, it’s not gettin’ the exposure here, like, especially for the local guys. ‘Cause they see the guys coming from abroad as the big artist, so they give them the respect or they give them the money, or whatever. But we here, y’know, I’d say we only get used. You know (chuckles)? It was a little different in Jamaica, because then I had a name and so. But when you have to pull up your roots and go somewhere, you just have to do it out of the circumstances. That’s how it goes, y’know. Yeah. ‘Cause when I came here I wasn’t really planning to go into the music thing, but then, as they say, it’s in your blood.

Yeah.
People always say to you “Come on, Trevor, man, wha’ yu doin’?”, y’know. Blah blah blah, as the saying goes.

It’s like saying ‘I can leave Jamaica, but Jamaica can never leave me’.
(Laughs) I know, something to that effect, yeah. Because right now I have materials and I still do things to keep me going so I can hold my own still, like when doing a show I can still do it, y’know (chuckles). That I have it in me still. But it never reach to a level that I should’ve gone to, it didn’t reach there. I’m the first to say that. And I was reluctant to do the things you’re supposed to do. I see a lot of my friends workin’ hard, take their hard earned cash and they go to the studio to spend, like thousands of dollars to record this and that’s all they do. They put it out and it might sell a few copies to the friend you walk with, but you can’t make money back that way. If that’s the way I’m gonna do it I’d rather just do what I’m doing and spend my money elsewhere.

Let me contradict you here in a way. Not that I really disagree with you, but to put this what you just said into some kind of perspective. You came to Canada after tasting success in Jamaica and nothing was longer available in the same way as it was in JA. But to reflect upon your ‘Jamaican story’, is it really fair to say ‘I’m bitter’ of the turnout when you obviously had someone to give you the opportunity to get out there in the business and get established, to get a name and reputation. That was at least a start. The only real setback was (the lack of) compensation, as usual, but to be bitter when you must’ve heard one or two things regarding how the powers that be practiced their affairs, how the business itself worked… It’s either you’re a part of the game or you ‘stay at home’ (chuckles), y’know what I mean?
Yeah, I hear what you say still. But I don’t know, maybe there were other factors still.

Sure, I simplify the whole thing a bit, but…
Yeah, there were other factors, you got married and started a family. And the family think that you probably wasting your time with the music, doing this and doing that. So I mean, I think that’s part of it also. Because as I said, in Jamaica, when I was in Jamaica it was kinda more grounded, like. But you know, when you come to a foreign country it’s like starting over, and especially when you come with a family. So you have to – financially it’s like, y’know, using your money to do that when… If I was single, probably it would be different. But with a family, it’s a different thing.

It’s that pressure from early on to achieve something, or otherwise ‘don’t even try!’ (chuckles).
Yeah, what the family would say is ‘it’s either we or the music’ (laughs).

Yep, absolutely.
You know that saying (laughs)?

What’s the word… ? Ultimatum?
(Chuckles) Yes, ultimatum. And then you, like, cross between the two loves you have: because you love your family, you love the music, so which side do you decide you gonna take? You see what I’m talkin’ about.

Yes. A common story for a lot of artists?
It was a common story, yeah. Some people chose – I don’t know, it’s kinda hard. You don’t want to let go of any of them. But still you side to one more than you side to the other. You have to go home to your family in the end (chuckles).

'Beltone' Neville Francis (Photo: William J. Ingalls 2008)

‘Beltone’ Neville Francis (Photo: William J. Ingalls 2008)

Definitely.
You see what I mean. Yeah. But I think that was mostly then. Now in a sense the family has grown and a lot of stuff has happened. I’m on my own again, as the saying goes. I should probably write a song that way: ‘I’m Alone Again’.

Yeah (laughs).
(Laughs) You know what I mean. So now that’s why I – I started to kinda checking out certain things and the thing is, it’s never too late. I’m willing to take any help I can get now.

Depending on how and from where you measure this, you are like the third or even the second generation of Jamaican artists if we go back as far as the mento in the 1940’s, then you had jazz and R&B, evolving into ska and then rock steady, so maybe you are like the third or fourth. So, today, being a cornerstone of the music business, a part of the foundation of the industry, do you think you get the kinda respect you deserve from contributing your ‘share’ back in the 1960’s and seventies?
To be honest, I don’t think I get the respect that I should get, but I think I’m part of the cornerstone. Because, as I said earlier on, I think we kinda made a difference then. Because the music was kinda jus’ changing at that time, and we were one of the people who gave it a new sound, to the kind of music that was coming out then. So we played a great role also there. But as you say ’bout respect, I don’t think I get the respec’ but… I’m not bitter about that.

There’s so many singers, musicians and groups in general from that era who never got the proper promotion, press and exposure as they should’ve, nothing in comparison to what today’s artists get… But times have changed a lot, no doubt.
I know. Because there’s artists now with lesser skill than we had then and they’re making it big time, they’re making something out of it. One cheque that they get now was probably what you got for a whole lifetime for us.

Yeah.
That’s true.

And to pick up the question of ‘skill’, what you just said, what’s the main difference as you see it, the kind of demands you had to live up to back in those days, and how and what it has developed into for young upcoming artists nowadays?
Well, in a sense I would say… If you noticed in those days, if you take a look back and reflect upon it, and if you look back in those days, there were certain sounds that people clamor for, and when you have that, that’s what they like. Like harmony, if you notice how the groups in those days sounded, the harmony had to be a certain way. If you can’t sing harmony it wouldn’t work, you had to sing real good harmony. Another thing again, appearance and entertain, they want to see that – when you go on stage that you can entertain and that you look really good. Like when you’re entertaining people, sometimes when you go to these shows you see people walk off the street in their shirt and pants and they’re going to do a big show, and that’s how they do it. You can’t see the big difference. I don’t know, it’s really different now. You see a few people who try to live up to that expectation, you gonna do something important, you have to look classy. You’re an artist, you’re supposed to look a certain way. They may not make that kinda money, but no matter – they only know that if you tell them. When you go in front of a live audience you’re supposed to look a certain way. So when you look a certain way you carry yourself a certain way as an artist, after that someone might see you on the street and then you look like the same person they jus’ saw a while ago, ten minutes ago. So there was – I mean, as I said, back in those days you had to be a certain way, sound a certain way, look a certain way. Now it doesn’t matter. You’re going to the studio, you get a riddim, you do something on it, and you get pushed. They put it on a compilation, now something like fifteen artists do the same thing and they’re saying you’re a big star too because so and so is also on the riddim, you get money from it and you’re a big artist over-night (sighs). In those days you do your thing and that’s another thing, when you have to go through all your emotions, go up the charts and fight other songs, y’know, to reach somewhere. That’s a difference.

It does make a huge difference with, as in those days, live instrumentation, the communication and interaction between members of a live backing, you compare that, if possible, to recording on a computerized track…
Well, exactly, yes. With a computer, one person just sit down there and jus’ do that thing and listen for certain things and get the sound you want, and that’s it. But as I said, in those days you had to rely on the keyboard man, the hornsmen, the bassman, you have to work it out for hours. Yeah.

And then you’d probably nail it in one to three takes when it’s time to record.
Oh yes, definitely. When it comes to the recording part, you would really have to nail it. So what you do as a group, you practice so when you go in there you know you can take the first cut, but they always do two or three cuts just to be safe.

Harry J & Sheila Hylton

Harry J & Sheila Hylton

To choose between, yes.
But you as the artist, you have to be ready. You don’t go inside there and do as they do right now, do several takes and put them together.

How active was Harry when it came to production, he threw ideas at you or basically left this to the musicians? He was more than a ‘financer’?
Oh yes, he was. Yeah, in a sense I’d credit him with that, he was at that time when he started out. He was, yeah. He wasn’t just a financer, he was a producer. He was there in the studio with you – especially before he got his own studio he would be there with you, all day, and if somebody not doing something right he’d say ‘No man, why don’t you do a little more of that’ or ‘Bring up this a little more’, ‘I want to hear more of that’. So he was definitely a producer. He would be there, doing the recording session. He’d tell you what he liked, ‘Yes, I like that’, ‘No, too much of that’. You know how it is. That’s how it is. But he was, yeah. I’ll give him credit for that. ‘Cause he was the one who actually listen to us sing first and said, “Trevor, why don’t you sing the lead, why don’t you switch around?” “OK, you do that”. He didn’t do anything about the melody or anything, but he just wanted… you know?

Maybe to boost it up a little?
Boost it up, yes. Mitch, Mitch who was the lead singer, he had a very melodious voice but it was very… it was too soft. As Harry said, it was too soft. So as a lead singer you need more drive so when we switch… he say “Yes, why don’t you guys do it da way deh?” So he had his ideas and it did work.

As the Beltones, did you record enough material for Harry to complete an album? And things that didn’t even see the light of day, unreleased up till now?
I should think so, I think we had enough songs that could be an album.

At least up to twelve tracks.
Yeah, maybe about that. Because in those days, as we said, we had flipsides, so if you do six singles you get twelve. You always had a flipside with it. Yeah, I think we had… enough songs could be there. As a matter of fact, I think he had an album out, it was kinda an All Star album, and we had the most on it (possibly referring to the ‘No More Heartaches’ compilation of various artists released in 1969 by Trojan). That was on an early LP. I can’t remember what it was called, but we had the most songs on it. But in these days you could have a CD with twelve to fifteen tracks, depends on how much you’d want to include. I don’t remember what that was called, but I know he had one album.

I would assume a compilation with ‘Liquidator’ and tracks like that.
I’m not sure. But there could be, I’d have to do some search to see if I could find it.

Yeah.
‘Cause I – I don’t know if you’re thinkin’ what I’m thinking, ’cause I was saying… if I could find all my songs, most of them, I wonder if I could put them together, a compilation.

That sure would be nice, a Beltones collection of tracks. Would be long overdue.
I think that could be done.

The rights to these recordings should revert over to the songwriter after a certain period, so it shouldn’t be ‘impossible’. Lots of artists now are taking care of that.
Yes, that’s what they do.

Clean it up properly. Not that well in some cases, but it depends on the sources at hand I guess.
Yeah, and put them all together.

To count them down, for Harry you had ‘I’ll Follow You’, ‘Moon Is Playing A Trick’, ‘No More Heartaches’, ‘Home Without You’, ‘Please (Stop Your Crying)’ and ‘Rough Road’ solo, ‘We’ve Got To Part’ and ‘Why Pretend’. Those came out on 45’s at least, but he may have more in the can, who knows.
Right. I think there’s more too, but as I said I can’t remember right now. But I think there should be more that weren’t even released, to my knowledge. Usually, as I said, we go in and we do songs and I know there was more. But I hear sometimes they’d credit other artists with your stuff. You have some fake names on it.

Yeah (laughs).
(Chuckles)

Especially if they put it out in the UK at the time, common practice.
Exactly, so you wouldn’t even know (laughs).

How close did the artists in Harry’s stable work together, did you provide harmony and assist in songwriting with other people he recorded at the time, say, late sixties especially?
No, not really. The only other artist I was close with was like Cables, or Keble, yes. We were quite close.

‘Cause you had people like Winston Shand (confusing this with a Mudies recording artist).
And Joe Gibbs was with him for a little while. I think I did some stuff there.

Lloyd Robinson was cutting ‘Cuss Cuss’ at the time (’69).
Lloyd Robinson? Yeah, I know Lloyd Robinson well too, yes. We were kinda – I didn’t really sing with them, but we were all, y’know, we meet there and we were good buddies, yeah.

Winston Hines.
Winston Hines, yeah. He played keyboards too.

No, no, not what I know anyhow, but I think you refer to Winston Wright? Winston Hines was a young upcoming singer for Harry at this time.
Oh, Winston Hines. He was a singer, yeah. I hardly remembered. He got a lot of other artists after a time, but then again, as I say, we kinda jus’ disappeared from these people after a while.

The Fantels (w/ Trevor Shields) performing at Tastee Concert in Kingston, Jamaica

The Fantels (w/ Trevor Shields) performing at Tastee Concert in Kingston, Jamaica

Can you recall the inspiration for a track like ‘Rough Road’? Even before the term ‘roots reggae’ was invented, this was the perfection of it, the style itself, to my ears.
Yeah, I think I wrote that because of what was happening. I mean, in like Jamaica at that time, if you listen the lyrics, I was kinda relating to what was going on. ‘It rough, it tough, it rough, but the Lord knows I’m trying, even though people are dying, I’ll never give up…’. So you see, I was kinda – in a sense it wasn’t really me alone, I was talkin’ about what was going on, ‘it rough, it tough…’.

They had elections in the country in that year when it came out, ’72, which the left thankfully got the victory to. So I guess with a topical theme like that, you could expect some attention above the usual. A lot of ‘politicised’ songs hit at that time.
Exactly.

‘Joshua and the Rod of Correction’. Even the ‘Prime Minister-to-be’ had a 45 out.
(Chuckles) Yes. The Manley period.

Yep.
As I said, most of the songs that I’ve written, like I wrote them because of what was going on around me. If it’d be a love song it would have something to do with some affair, and it fits like a reality song like that also.

A song like the magnificent ‘Life’ is similar in content to ‘Rough Road’; the reality of existence and the hardship of it.
‘Life’, yeah.

‘If life was a thing that money could buy, then tell me why can’t a man be free…’.
‘Can’t a man be…’, exactly. I know, well… (laughs).

Excellent lyric.
I know (chuckles).

It was an original?
Yeah, all those songs that I did, I wrote them.

What was the sequence there, for those songs? You did some stuff for Harry and in-between, in the early seventies, this recording came about at Coxson’s, or what happened?
Yes, yes. I was kinda back and forth in a sense.

So what was the feedback?
To be honest, some of those songs were released and we didn’t know about them until later on, we didn’t know first that they got released. Some of them weren’t released locally. We didn’t know about them.

I believe ‘Life’ came out in Jamaica, and ‘Rough Road’ was released in England through Junior Lincoln’s Ashanti label. Both came out in JA and the UK, actually.
Yeah, they came out there but they didn’t get the push. They didn’t get the push in Jamaica like the previous songs. Yea, they didn’t get enough push.

Right.
They got fair airplay, but they weren’t really pushed as such.

You remember a song called ‘Soul People’ for Coxson too?
(Sings) ‘Come on soul people, come and walk with me…’. That wasn’t too bad also, it got good airplay too. But it wasn’t a hit really. That’s the time when things kinda start changing again.

At the time with Harry J, did you link up with Sonia Pottinger about then, to do ‘I’ve Got To Go (Going Away)’?
Yes! (hums the melody)

Released ’69.
You’re bringin’ back those, because I didn’t even remember all those songs, yeah.

‘Mary Mary’ was another one for Sonia, and ‘Broken Heart’.
‘Mary Mary’, yes (chuckles). And I did something for Delano Stewart. You know Delano was a part of the Gaylads?

Yes.
But he was doing producing, I think I did something for him too. But I don’t remember which song I did for him, but I know I did something for him also.

Wow.
Yeah, Delano Stewart. You know, in those days we did a lot of songs for different people, ’cause I even did something for… Well, that’s how it was. Because we weren’t under any contract, so we could always move from producer to producer.

Freelance.
Yeah, we could do that then. Originally we had a contract with Studio One and then we broke it. We broke it, ’cause nutten was happenin’, we just recorded the songs. As I said, there were so many songs recorded, I don’t remember all of them. But usually we just go in, make use of the studio time and record the songs, and that’s it. You know, we don’t hear of them again. That’s why I forget so many of these songs. Because I thought probably they were just thrown out.

Yeah (chuckles).
(Laughs) Yeah. Even Harry J or whoever, some of these songs, you just forget them. Because nothin’ is happening, it’s like that. I know I did some stuff at the Black Ark.

Lee Perry

Lee Perry

Oh, for Lee Perry.
Lee Perry.

‘Scratch’.
‘Scratch’, yeah. We did something for him too.

As the Beltones, or solo?
As the Beltones? I think it was just as Trevor Shields. Yes, I’m not too sure but I think I did it there. Who else…? But we just moved from producer to producer.

If you don’t succeed somewhere, why stay there and waste your time…
Well, that’s it. That’s what we were doing. Then things took a turn and I came to Canada, and that was it.

When to be more precise?
Well, I came here in ’83 and went home back. And then I came here probably ’89. I was telling you about the Sattalites, I then hooked up with a band called the Bomb Squad and we did some local shows in town. And then I moved from different band to band, and that’s it. Yeah, I do mostly live shows, not no recording as such. As a matter of fact, I did one recording, it’s called ‘You I Love’. I think I put it on Youtube.

Possibly.
Yeah, something could’ve happened, I think that way. But I don’t know, it wasn’t meant to be.

Mmm.
Yes, so after a time, after that happened now then I decide to go solo. But then there were other little groups there who wanted me to be a part of them. There was this group named The Fantels.

Oh yes, yes.
Yeah, I did a stint with them too. Even one time we wanted to call ourselves ‘The Beltones’, yunno (chuckles).

Again!
Yea, we were kinda ‘in-between’, so we wondered if we should use the name ‘Beltones’. ‘Cause even on the internet I saw where someone had it as ‘Beltones’, I had to write them a letter saying no, it wasn’t really Beltones. Really, it was Fantels.

And this was like the mid seventies?
Yes. And there was even a time when Keble… his group was kinda, y’know what I mean, not going the way he wanted it and he kinda broke off. And Keble, myself and another guy called Bobby Dockeray got together.

Yes, yes.
I just did, ’cause at the time, as I say again, when I wrote that song I wrote that song for a reason again…

(Chuckles)
Yeah, now I’m gonna re-record it. I really gonna release it now. It wasn’t released really. I’m gonna do it over and gonna do it properly.

I recognise the riddims. Flipsides of singles, basically (Harmony House rhythms)?
The riddims that I used? The riddims were given to me by a member of a band that I work with sometimes. But that’s what they do now. People just go in and create riddims and artists just sing on them, if you like it then you could do something on it. They gave it to me and I decide to write something, and that was it. So it wasn’t like my production. But that’s what most people do now, they jus’ create the riddim and just sell it to you or give it to you, and it cost you less when you go to the studio.

As an original songwriter, you wrote everything from the melody, the rhythm, the structure, vocal arrangement and lyrics, how do you look at the practice of ‘doing over’ rhythms so much? Ten people on the same rhythm (laughs).
Well, to be honest, I don’t really like it. Because it kinda holds back the music, your creativity. And your creativity is everything. ‘Cause when I’m writing a song, what I do, it’s supposed to be coming from you. You originate the thing. So, as they say now, now everybody just jump on the same riddim. So it shows something, the lack of creativity. I don’t think that’s good for the industry, but it’s the latest thing now. That’s what everybody is doing. So if you’re not doing it it’s like you’re left behind, that’s what I’ve noticed.

Trevor Shields

Trevor Shields

Mmm.
Yeah, you go in to do a song, everybody give you a riddim and say ‘why don’t you do it on that riddim?’ That’s how they do it. You know, you write your song a certain way, and then you have to kinda adjust it to fit that riddim. Because when you write a song you have bridges and turns and ups and downs, and most of these riddims now is like a two-chord thing and they go ‘dom dom do dom dom’, something like that. And you’d have to fit in your song that you wrote already. And some doesn’t really fit in the right way. But I guess they try to cut down on chords and everything. So it’s not really a good thing. But I guess it’s the easy way out. And that’s what make some artists.

So the conclusion is that there’s a stagnation in the end.
It becomes stagnant after a while, exactly. You hear the riddim oooover and over, from the ninth or the tenth artist come, and it’s the same riddim until you hear a man say “OK, give ‘im the ‘Answer’ riddim!” (laughs). That’s why I decide to do cover music. When I say ‘cover’ I do a lot of ballads now. Yeah, like old ballads instead. So if you would see me do a show now you would find me doing stuff that you hardly ever hear. I do reggae still, but I mostly do covers.

Any gospel?
Yeah, I do gospel also. I do gospel, R&B, stuff like that. And people like it. But I seldom do ‘No More Heartaches’. Maybe I should think about doing it now though.

Yes, you should.
Yeah, I really think about it now and I think I should probably do that. And that’s why I really like to get this together, like a compilation. I mean, some people know me as Beltones, as part of the Beltones. It wasn’t ‘Trevor Shields & The Beltones’, like how Bob Marley change it to ‘Bob Marley & The Wailers’. In those days it was just a group. It was just Beltones, Wailers, Gaylads, stuff like that.

And you was just another member.
Exactly, that’s how we saw it then. It was no different, it was like Bob Marley, he was just (in) The Wailers until they decide to change up the name. So yeah, we was just a group. So most people know the Beltones, they didn’t know me individually. That’s why it didn’t really bother me, ’cause when they hear me now… when they hear the Beltones they go like… they didn’t know, you know? Like if it was ‘Trevor Shields & The Beltones’, that would stand out. But I have to create my own. That’s what it is now, the group is no more, so it’s just Trevor Shields.

What became of the other members, when you split?
Well, when we split they left even before me. They left me in Jamaica. One came to Canada and one went to the States. So they left before me, they left from early. As soon as the group split they decide that… ‘what we gonna do, something else?’ To go seek their fortune (chuckles).

Right.
They left long before me.

So Laing is in Canada and Mitch resides in the States.
Yeah, when I came here the first time we link up and went to parties together. But he’s a Christian now so he’s not really into those things. But then when I just came in the early eighties, then we linked up. We jammed together, not musically, only parties and things. But Mitch now, as we call him, I don’t really have any contact with him. But I know he’s in the States.

How do you look back on what was such a short-lived period in Jamaican music, the rock steady era? It is still so highly regarded in certain circles. How would you define the rock steady, what made it stand out? You were, as a group, part of that beat from the beginning, so…
Well, I don’t know how I would define it, but I can say what I know. I know it was a change and we became part of it when the change was coming. But it was kinda different then, because, as I said, the music was more creative in those days, you had an identity then. You do your songs, different from other artists. That’s what is really different now, now it’s different. But you could see that it was a change coming, before that you had ska, that was the earlier one. Or the earliest one. And then what came in was rock steady. So the beat was shaking up everything, it was different. And then what came along was the reggae, which was kinda slow still. I think it was good. Those days were good too, it was nice. I mean, people still listen to those songs, ’cause it’s different still. And those songs had more meaning then, I would say. It was more musicians around, to put more into it. Technology has changed all that now. Those were the good old days, may it rest in peace.

(Laughs)
Yeah, it was just the times. But then those days was the foundation of our music, we jus’ had it then. You have to respect all those people who created it, Don Drummonds, Skatalites, King Stitt and those guys. Scratch, those guys know how to whip up musicians to get what they want, to get a sound. Coxson again, yeah, you just have to give credit to them.

Trevor Shields

Trevor Shields

Deeper musical knowledge and interest.
Exactly, they did. They had that, they were real producers, ’cause they were there. In those days, the tradition was to get a sound. And it wasn’t just the artists they take the sound from, they take it from the musicians also. And I think that made a big difference then.

What was your biggest inspiration, vocally? Did Harry want to shape you into something?
Well, to be honest with you, I don’t know. I just had the sound, I probably sounded different from the rest, even now I sound different. When I sing I don’t sound like anybody. I have a distinctive sound. So I guess he probably saw that in me and decided to work with us to see what we could do. And even now, people say I don’t sound like anyone else. Even when I do a cover, I don’t sound like the cover. I try to create a way that it’s me you’re listening to. It’s my version of it. So I guess, even then in the early days of Harry J, that’s what he saw. ‘Cause everybody sounded kinda – all the harmonies sound the same and then, like, we were kinda refreshing, we were different. It paid off.

How would you look back on your artistic life in Jamaica? Not something you’re too happy about – to make a ‘living’ out of it, how it turned out – but from the artistic aspect of being a performer and recording act, how do you look back?
Well, it was a great experience for me, because I got great exposure and my talent was really put out there. We came along and we made a great impact. So I would say, in that sense, it was satisfactory. It was great, I have no regrets. If I could turn back the time, the Beltones would be there.

You would do it again, but this time with an arsenal of lawyers…
(Laughs) Exactly! I know. But in those days the group had a good thing going. If we were steered in the right direction, things might’ve turned out differently.

The Beltones made that insurance salesman into one of the most successful entrepreneurs ever in the Jamaican recording industry, but the reward was minimal. And the ‘payback’ was pretty much non-existent. However, the legacy of Trevor and the Beltones’ music is everlasting. What remains is a small but great body of work from a group of people who made some of the most enjoyable music of its day and they certainly made their mark on the early Jamaican entertainment industry as an entity of quality and taste. Trevor went on to produce the stunning solo cuts ‘Life’ and ‘Rough Road’; both so good they have to be heard to be believed and, naturally, crying out to be re-released. Music like this should never be gathering dust in a vault; that’s a ‘crime’, to put it mildly. Perhaps Trevor will be able to produce the long overdue collection when the opportunity present itself. And some of that new music too, please. The Lord knows he’s trying…

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