Interview with Wesley Tinglin (The Viceroys)
At age 75, Wesley Tinglin died from lung cancer on September 18, 2018 at the University Hospital of the West Indies. Here’s the interview Peter I did with the founder, lead singer and songwriter of The Viceroys.
The tradition of harmony singing has brought us many enjoyable moments in Jamaican music over the years. But as this is no longer a part of what the young Jamaican audience are looking for artistically, harmony groups have been on the way out for several years now, with only a few left maintaining the tradition from reggae’s classic era. Groups like the Itals, the Meditations, Culture, the Mighty Diamonds and even the Heptones are still going in one form or another, and so do the Viceroys. Perhaps one of the most loved and respected among them, the Viceroys have also been one of the longest going vocal trios apart from the Heptones, but at the same time – which is a great shame – one of the most underexposed even though there’s almost a plethora of releases on seven-inch vinyl by this group as well as a few album releases, although it never broke them bigger than having a hit for Sly & Robbie with ‘Heart Made of Stone’ in 1980; but no tour came out of it and the group only recorded on and off since with a lack of consistency in their career due to bad management and the typical ‘bad luck’ in the business.
A BUSINESS MADE OF STONE
Wesley Tinglin has been the foundation of the group from the inception back in the mid sixties, then the group also consisted of Daniel Bernard and Bunny Gayle, sometimes spelled ‘Bonnigale’. On different occasions in the Viceroys’ history they also had Norris Reid and Chris Wayne in the line up. With new recordings on the way and promise of a wider tour around Europe, these days the group consists of Tinglin, Neville Ingram on lead vocals and second harmony by Michael Gabbidon. They’ve found a new life among the audience in France and broke a long silence by doing their first appearances in Europe ever back in the spring of 2004. I hooked up with Wesley after the first tour of France supporting Clinton Fearon was finished later that year. Naturally, he is very tired that morning after a hectic schedule on the road but obviously happy to be in front of an audience which he never got to see during the heyday of the trio. It seems like the career is finally going in the right direction of this group, even though there’s a lot more to accomplish. My thanks to Wesley, Ernest and Kareem (Sankofa), Cat (Reggaelution), Donovan Phillips, Teacher & Mr. T, Michael de Koningh, Tim P, Russ Bell-Brown and Steve Barrow.
You were born in the countryside, right?
Yes, I was born in St. James, that is Montego Bay area. And I moved to Kingston.
You moved to Ninth Street in Trench Town, in the fifties.
What brought you to Kingston at the time?
Well, my sister was living there, and I went to stay with her. And then I leave to West Kingston down at Spanish Town Road, and then from there I start in the music business at Spanish Town Road.
You were one of those sitting in on Joe Higgs’ ‘informal music classes’ in his yard in Trench Town, that was how you started?
It was then I met Jimmy Cliff, I met Ken Boothe and those guys in those days. I was there among them when they were singin’, Alton Ellis and those guys, and then I started to try. I got a lickle guitar and started. Then I went on with Bonnigale and Daniel Bernard.
How did you bump into them?
Well, they were guys in the area, y’know. We were living in the same community and we started a little group.
Was the Viceroys your first name for the group?
Well, it was ‘The Viceroys’ at the first time, then after a while we change to ‘The Interns’, we did a couple recordings with Winston Riley, an album and a couple 45’s. And then we went back to the name Viceroys.
What was some of the first songs you wrote for the group?
OK, the first song I recorded at Studio One was a song called ‘Lose & Gain’. Then we did one named ‘Last Night’, then ‘Ya Ho’, and they’re after, y’know, the rest of them.
So these are the first you penned down, those are some high quality songs for a first batch.
Yeah. You see, by playing the guitar, yunno, trying to play the guitar you get a lickle idea, a lickle melody, and then I put lyrics to it, and then everything develop from that.
What did you actually learn from Joe Higgs’ vast knowledge of the craft of singing and songwriting?
Well, in those days Joe Higgs was one of the leading recording artists…
Higgs & Wilson.
Higgs & Wilson, yes. And I used to love listening to their songs, y’know what I mean, and then it just develop. And I started to…
Joe wasn’t behind you learning the guitar?
No, I’m a self-taught person. Yeah. And then I never stop, I went on until Bonnigale and Daniel Bernard leave the group and I was left alone.
Did you approach other producers before entering 13 Brentford Road in ’67?
Yes. I went to Duke Reid.
He was the first one you went to?
How did that go?
Well, I did two songs for Duke Reid, but they never materialise in any way that we could speak of, y’know.
What was the songs?
One was… I tell you, the first one was ‘Teardrops Don’t Matter At All’, and then after that I did one called ‘Boneyard’. Then we went to Coxson. But it was nutten to speak of, y’know, you’re just trying and some things they never get on top, so…
‘Lose & Gain’ was the first recorded song for… was it Coxson or someone else?
For Studio One.
Right, for Coxson. Who played and arranged those at the time, it was the obvious line up with…
OK, Jackie of course.
Yes, and Skatalite band.
Can you even recall the audition you had for Studio One now? Who took care of that?
Yes, that was Mr. Dodd.
So no ‘right-hand man’ then, just Coxson himself.
Yes, he was there. But Gladstone Anderson was the man who play the piano at those rehearsals.
But he mainly took care of auditions at the Treasure Isle studio, right?
Yes. But he used to leave Duke Reid studio and go to Coxson for audition, because a whole lotta guys used to be there waiting to try their t’ing, y’know wha’ I mean. So they would rehearse every artist and the one who sound the best, they would put them one side an’… you know what I mean? And they come to recording, like during the week or so. Yeah, but the guys doing the best songs always get through.
You recorded songs like ‘Fat Fish’ for Studio One too, and ‘Ya Ho’, a true classic – what’s the inspiration for that one?
Well, I used to read a book, ‘The Caribbean Reader’, where I read about the pirates, Morgan the Pirate and those people, and I really put everything together and make a song out of it.
What became of those songs, they went well on the charts in Jamaica?
Yes, that song ‘Ya Ho’ was a good one. Up to now that song still sell a lot.
It’s been covered or remade several times over the years (by the Gladiators for Prince Tony Robinson’s T/R Groovemaster labels as ‘Jah-O Jah-O’, to name one).
Yes, it was later re-recorded by a group called the Jays.
That was a big song for Channel One at the time.
And I suppose you didn’t get a dime for that?
No compensation whatsoever.
I assume you went there about it?
What did they say?
Nobody pay me any mind about it, and because I never know about the business end – y’know what I mean, like copyright and those things, I just let it be.
In later years now, you have done some adjustment about this, to get your publishing and all that?
Yes, but I haven’t got any reward for it until this day.
That’s a big shame. That song has sold thousands and thousands of copies throughout the years.
Yes man, I have never collected… I cannot show nobody a royalty statement from those music. Just the other day, before the death of Sir Coxson, he came back to Jamaica and was trying to straighten out with the artists. And before I could get a royalty statement, he died.
So there was some talk about it prior to his passing? Not bad.
Yes. And he was looking about the papers and the royalty statement. Because this company in America called…
Heartbeat, he must’ve sold them the album, Viceroys album (‘Ya Ho – The Viceroys At Studio One’), and up to now I cannot get any royalty from them. At his funeral, I saw the Heartbeat manager (Chris Wilson), and he told me that he paid every royalty to Studio One, so I should deal with them. So I went to them and ask about the royalties, and they told me that they would look about it. But Mr. Downbeat, Coxson died, y’know, so his wife is in control now. So when I go home I still gonna check about it.
You should, it’s your creations. Hope it goes well.
So naturally you didn’t stay long at Studio One the first time round there, you didn’t get the little something what you hoped to get at least?
Yes, just a lickle pocket money. I have never seen a royalty statement.
Just some pennies after the recording finished.
So hardly any money to speak of at Coxson’s. That’s when you went to Derrick Morgan?
Yes. I went and I recorded a couple of songs for Derrick Morgan.
Such as ‘Rebel Nyah’?
Yes, and one about… this one, I saw it in France, selling in France right now.
I should tell you… ‘Lip & Tongue’, that one is still selling in France. A guy bring a copy and come show me.
On a CD?
It’s on a 45.
Ah, right. I saw Morgan had repressed a few of those on singles.
Plus he released those songs on a UK compilation CD on Pressure Sounds, there’s some Viceroys on there.
Aha, yes. All those copies, all those music, I have achieved nutten.
After that you went to this guy, listen to this (playing ‘Take Yu Hand From Mi Neck’ off Heartbeat’s Matador anthology ‘Matador Productions’, released in 1991).
OK. (Chuckles) Well, that one…
You remember it?
Yes, that one was done for Lloyd Matador.
This is also on a CD, I don’t know if you are aware of this one?
I don’t know nutten about those.
The same Heartbeat label released this CD about thirteen years ago.
I have collected no recompense, no nutten at all from those music.
Have you involved a lawyer to take a closer look at this, your publishing and all? To try and do it on your own is perhaps not the best approach, if that is what you’ve done?
Yes, I tried but it never work. Right now there’s a company in Jamaica there, Cameron Music, a publishing, and I signed up with them to collect royalties, publishing. And from the day I signed with them I never get a statement until this day.
Yes. So I need a lawyer now to look about those things for me, if it’s not too late.
Matador is particularly fond of the Viceroys it seems, holds you in high regard still.
He’s what? Yes, but those are the people that never pay, they never give me no money for all those songs.
You didn’t know anything but pocket money in those days.
Yes. I waan tell yu, if it was for the love of money, I wouldn’t be doing music now – because I’ve got none. It’s just the love of the music why I continue to write songs and record them, y’know.
Creatively speaking, if we’re talking recording the music, the recording process from those days, what do you feel you learned from working with those people in the early days? Would you say they had an impact on your work, creatively, the producers?
OK, they weren’t involved. They just hire the musicians, they listen your song and they liked it. And they hired the musician and record you, they had nutten to do with it ’cause they’re not musicians, you understand. They just spend their money, and after they get your song they take it away and release it abroad, and because you don’t travel you know nutten about it. And when they come to Jamaica and you see them, they don’t even want to speak to you. That’s been going on for years and years and years. Until I came to France, when I came to France and see what’s happening, it was like I was shocked! The reception I get from the people is like over the years the people been listening to my song, and they never see me.
Unlike most of the ‘major league’ of groups, the Viceroys never seemed to get off the ground to do a tour, if we go back some twenty to twenty-five years in time. What is the cause of this, you never hooked up with a proper management at the time?
Well, the producers. Because they do not want to give you money. Alright, I tell you: a guy come to these part of the world, and them hear you going on with a t’ing, yunno. They hear that you have plenty music out there and nice and t’ing, they come home and seh – they come and look for you and seh: “Man, gi’ the I a lickle money an’ come record an album”. And after they get that, they leave. You don’t see them for a long time an’ dem kinda t’ing, y’know what I mean. And when them come back to Jamaica, they would even stop to talk to you.
‘Hiding in the bush’, like (chuckles).
Yes. There is one now named Linval Thompson, him record two albums for me, one name ‘We Must Unite’ and ‘Brethren & Sistren’, and from the day him move out with those record, they release it in France, they released in England. I look at a magazine one day, somebody show me a magazine, and I see my two LP advertised in the magazine. So I say ‘wait’, and I write the company in England and them say is long time them would like to hear from me. They send me copy of the record, and money too.
What company are you talking about, would that be Greensleeves?
No, not Greensleeves.
OK, probably CSA then.
CSA, that’s right!
Clive Stanhope’s label, no longer in existence.
No. And as far as I see here now, them music is going on good, and I ain’t gettin’ no recompense for it. I came to France and I see how the people react to me, y’know. It’s great, they love the music. People come to me and say: “Bwoy, we grew up with dem music ya now, man!” When we come off a stage, man, the amount of autograph I have to sign! And people say: “Man, we grow amongst dem tune ya”, y’know what I mean?
It make me feel good, but (chuckles)… I have nutten to show!
It took so long before something like this could happen.
(Laughs) It took so long.
Back to the early days, after you passed through and subsequently left Morgan and Matador, you went to Lee Perry next?
And there you recorded ‘Fancy Clothes’?
Circa 1970 or thereabouts?
OK, about those times. And we did…
What became of that track for Perry?
I don’t really know what he did with it, because he never release those songs in Jamaica. I did one a them named…
By the way, listen to this one when we’re speaking of Perry (playing ‘Babylon Deh Pon Fire’, credited to Truth Fact & Correct, which is actually the Viceroys in full force circa 1975).
Remember that one?
This he had as ‘Truth Fact & Correct’.
‘Truth Fact & Correct’, that’s the Viceroys!
I called you in Jamaica in April when you mentioned something about this song.
I’m sure there’s several out there who are a bit puzzled about this track, wondering who they really are.
(Laughs) ‘Truth Fact & Correct’.
This was cut a few years after ‘Fancy Clothes’.
I took it from a Trojan CD entitled ‘Public Jestering’, came out about fifteen years back or so.
Ahh, man oh man!
There’s tracks all over.
All over, and it seems as if I can’t do nutten about it.
What was it like to work with Perry?
This year I saw Perry come to Jamaica and I ask him “What about the songs?”, and he told me that… he asked me if I never go inna him yard and take up my tape, I said no. Him say him throw everybody tape inna the yard and all the singers come and tek up them tape, why me never take up my own? (Laughs) And I never know nutten about that.
I know he buried some tapes in the ground, but not that..?
Him say every artist come and tek up them tape. Why me never come tek up my own, ’cause him throw them inna him yard.
He’s lying, I know that.
It might have happened to some of them but I suppose Pauline Morrison got several of those tapes.
I know he has them.
Then you moved over to Randy’s to try something, with ‘Chuckie’? For Clive Chin I think it was, or his uncle, Keith, or perhaps Miss Pat, whatever.
I believe the Slickers did something similar with ‘9 Millie’ some years later.
Do you have it?
I have so many songs I can’t even remember.
Are you aware of a ‘second Viceroys’ out there, because as far as I know the Pioneers used that name for some releases in the mid seventies, for songs such as ‘Marcus Marcus Garvey’. Can you recall ever recording a song with this title?
‘Marcus Marcus Garvey’?
Produced for Joe Sinclair’s Klik imprint in England by Sidney Crooks.
There are so many songs I can’t even remember some of them, if I hear them…
I believe this is just a name rip-off by the Pioneers though.
Oh yes. If I hear it, y’know… I can know if it’s the Viceroys or not.
Right. What happened when Bonnigale left? This separation took place before the debut album for Phil Pratt was recorded?
Yes, ‘Consider Yourself’. Yeah, Bonnigale left. That is after I recruit Neville Ingram.
What was the split about?
Well, them time, yunno, the politics t’ing was bad in Kingston and they must’ve fired shot after him, so him leave. Him have to leave the area.
What area was that?
Wellington Street, West Kingston. So he almost got killed, because him haffe jump a fence (giggles)… when them bwoy fire shot after him, yunno, so from that him leave the area. So I have to start with another guy, two other guys.
Ingram was one.
Ingram and Norris Reid.
Where did you hook up with them?
Ingram was a neighbour to me, y’know. And we were learning trade at the same place, like we was jewellers, make jewels. So we were working at the same place, L.A.N. Richards at King Street them time deh, and we start rehearsing together.
That was the income then, jeweller.
Yes, I work as a jeweller for many years. And when working as a jeweller, when I get a sparetime we go to the studio, that’s why them gwaan like that, yunno. Beca’ when I record a song I have to be on the job, I have to leave them with it. And I have to be on the job making jewelry for L.A.N. Richards right through his store, and I have no time – you understand – to monitor that, so they just take it for granted.
What was the name-change to ‘Voice-Roys’ about? I assume this was in the hands of Coxson?
It’s a mistake, it’s ‘V – i – c – e – r – o – y – s’. But they put ‘V – o – i – c – e’, yunno. It wasn’t my idea, but because they was up to some trickery they do that. I saw the record, yeah.
But what was the use to change it to the Interns?
To Interns? You know, it was because (chuckles)…
That could be a step back in the career when you already have a name established.
Yes, but at one time we decide, because we say “Man, look like the Viceroys name na gwaan with nutten, ya know, mek we try a new name”. And we did a couple of songs and an album under the name Interns, and then we just seh the old name sound better, yunno. (Laughs) So we just go back to that name.
Tell me more about the first album project, ‘Consider Yourself’ for Phil Pratt. It took some time before you finally had an album out.
Hmm, Phil Pratt now is another one, he was in Jamaica doing some producing and he knows that our t’ing is good, so he called us to do it. We never even get an advance. He call us to do some music, and because I have all these songs written down, I said “Come man, gwaan we do it”. And he went away to England and he live there, never return. He had that album in England, living offa that album and never give us anything for it.
He did a Jamaican pressing titled ‘Consider Yourself’ on Chanan-Jah though.
And there was the UK release entitled ‘Detour’ on the Burning Sounds label.
You learned a long time after about the ‘Detour’ pressing?
Yes, the ‘Consider Yourself’? I don’t know about the ‘Detour’ album, I know him have an album name ‘Consider Yourself’.
The same album was retitled ‘Detour’ for the European market.
Never know about it.
So there was no Phil Pratt in sight after that?
Never saw him again.
Moving up to around 1980 now, you hooked up with Sly & Robbie’s Taxi label for ‘Heart Made of Stone’.
A: OK, I did seven songs for Sly & Robbie and so far one a them I know him release in Jamaica, and it’s ‘Heart Made of Stone’.
It took off in a big scale for the group or what became of it? It did only some good for the producer again, didn’t it?
That song? I hear that Island Music have it in England, I have never collec’ not even a dollar for that song, they have never paid me nutten! Sly & Robbie, they have never paid me a cent for those music!
The same rip-offs you mean? Sad, if that’s the case.
Yes, my whole life in music is rip-offs.
To stay in business after so many setbacks, you gotta have a great love for the music making process, like you seem to have? Perseverance is what it’s about in the long run.
The love for music runs deep.
Yeah man, I have a great love for music. And every time I say ‘Alright, I going stop do it now’, I get a better idea. Every time I say ‘Well bwoy, me na get nutten from it’, my wife quarrel with me every time, ‘Leave it alone’. And I have a lickle guitar at home and every time I tek up the guitar and play it, it’s like it tell me something. I have to keep writing songs, writing songs, yunno.
You wrote the majority of the songs in the early days for the group?
Ninety-five percent! If not a hundred. Because, any guy in my group come with a song, I still have to help him to bring it out. He may come with the first verse and cyaan go no further, and I have to help him. And I na going take no credit, I just give him credit.
You did some work for Winston Riley too, even before the album you did with him.
That is another crook.
Yes, and I did an album for him named ‘Chancery Lane’.
That was later on.
Yes, and that was in the eighties. And believe me you, that man malice me from him come back from England, him malice me. Him give Greensleeves my album, and he sell it out to Greensleeves and all now I cannot collec’ a cent.
So it did nothing more than keeping the name out there?
Nutten, nutten whatsoever.
The name is out there but there’s no reward from it.
Any reward at all for those music. And I’m in Jamaica, poor, and they are living big.
What about harmony work for others, you backed up Max Romeo on that ‘Gun Court’ track for Winston Riley.
You did a lot of this for other artists?
Do you recall doing anything specifically?
Well, I back-up for Delroy Wilson, I back-up for Max Romeo, and a couple other people that I don’t even recall. I do a lotta harmony sometime for people.
Circa ’75 you decided to try produce yourself, you set up your own label Deliver I – you had the first version of ‘Consider Yourself’ on that one.
No, ‘Consider Yourself’… OK, OK! Yes, yes, yes. But as I said before, I didn’t know the business end, so them outsmart me and take my t’ings out. ‘Cause I never travel before, so I don’t know what they do outside, y’know. It’s just now I discover certain t’ings, because I leave Jamaica and can come to France, and France is the only place I’ve ever been.
Never to the States?
Never the States, never to England.
That’s just too bad. But I truly hope you get the chance to tour around Europe and see the response from your audience, they are more in actual numbers than what you would ever believe, I’m pretty sure about that.
Yes, I think I have a Europe tour coming up.
Apart from the Deliver I imprint, you had another outlet for the group named Nigga Star. You recall what you had for that one?
Nigga Star? No, it wasn’t my label.
Did you do anything else, any other producing on your own at the time?
Yes, I have an album now.
But if we’re speaking about the seventies still?
OK. I did one, a song called ‘Children Children’ on a label – it wasn’t really my label, it was a friend label and he let me use it, song is called ‘Children Children’.
That one is on… yes that’s the Nigga Star label I mentioned.
That’s the Nigga Star label? OK, yes.
But it was your production anyway.
No other songs was taped for that session, just this lone track?
Yes. I did another song called ‘How Living Blues’, have you ever heard that one?
OK. Well, I did that one. I don’t even know who has it. At one stage of the game I get fed up, y’know, and seh well, bwoy, fe eight years I back out, and then I go back again. This time I have a new label now, named Vice Label. I produce this new album called ‘Love Is All’.
When did you start work on that album?
That album, I start record this album from about 1984.
At Channel One?
Yes, with Roots Radics band. And it’s like for nearly twenty years I have that album, and the first time I come into France that was January since this year, I finish it and bring it with me.
So there’s recordings on it even up to now.
New harmony, instrumental overdubs and all?
No, well, that album has never released, I have those songs put down for years. And then, it’s like a new album anyway because nobody has ever heard it. Yes, and I just put a couple more tracks to it and then bring it to France, it release in France now.
Something blocked it originally because of… you simply didn’t have the finances?
Yes. But my money was limited so I put it to rest, y’know. It’s done now and out there, and I start producing another one. Now I’ve got four tracks, hope to finish it when I get back home.
What about Norris Reid now, when I called you earlier this year you replied that he wasn’t dead. This is a rumour that has refused to die – no pun intended – since he moved to the States in the eighties and passed away in the early nineties.
No, he’s not dead. He’s living in Pennsylvania, USA.
You’re still in touch?
No, he’s never contact me. From he left Jamaica (chuckles), people only tell me they see him and I have a friend in America who met him, yunno, and talk to him.
Yet some insists he is dead (laughs)?!
He’s not dead, man. I heard that he had a lickle band over there an’ t’ing.
Speaking of members who came and went again, what happened to Daniel Bernard?
Well, he (chuckles)… the last time, you see… Well, it’s a long story, ’cause when he was living in Kingston, he was sleeping one day, and them run dung a man, gunman come run him dung and come kill him right inna him yard. And from him wake up and see that it’s like him get delirious (?), yunno. Went away to the country, and it’s like he’s not himself from that.
Really paranoid, shocked?
Yeah, the shock – the shock whe him get from seeing that is like… him head not that good.
He has never returned from the country, still there?
Yes. I went there and look for him, and I take him to the Studio One 35th Anniversary (’91), and we did some stage show. But he went back and say he’s not coming back to Kingston.
Why did Norris leave? He had his solo career going simultaneously, right?
Yes. And after him joined the group, he had this plan to go away to America, yunno, and eventually leave.
When you recorded those albums for CSA and Greensleeves…
That’s the same Linval Thompson album, yunno.
Right, the one reissued in France on CD (‘We Must Unite’, originally out on Trojan and also now a Thompson Sound repress)?
You clearly felt the swing or sway for vocal groups when those LP’s were recorded that harmony trios was on the way out, didn’t you?
Yes, it was hard but we still do our old time stuff whe we know, we didn’t change. Yeah man.
How did you find working with Linval and the Radics in those days?
Well, at first those guys go on like they’re good people and you expec’ them to do something for the group, but eventually they didn’t.
So what happened, they came out and nothing fruitful became of it, the old story?
They just want to rip you off, that’s what ‘appen. From them get your song, it’s the hardest thing to see them to talk to. Yeah.
Who took care of your arrangements in those days, was Linval instrumental in doing this with the group?
No. I arranged all my songs, I played the guitar. When I go to the studio I start playin’ my guitar and singin’ my song, all the band have to do is listen what I have and then they fall in. Yeah, because I gave them the idea, I played the guitar for them, showed them the chords I have, and I play and they follow. So the arrangements is mine.
Is there any future at all for harmony trios in Jamaica, as you see it?
Well, I would say in Jamaica, yes. You know, in this respect, these guys now and deejay music – you understan’ me, them rap music an’ t’ing, well, they still got the roots rock reggae, yunno. But I waan tell yu, the roots rock reggae cyaan fade out, beca’ there are people who love it. Still people who love it. But for the younger people, they love the rap music.
Some things goes in circles, and some just turn out to be something of the past, petering out. I hope it’s coming back with vocal groups in Jamaica, but the future doesn’t look very bright, I’m sure you can agree with that to a certain extent. If there was more of that in America, perhaps there would be more of harmony singin’ in Jamaica as well. It is so much of Jamaican music that reflects the (current) US music.
OK, that’s true. But I mean, you see in Jamaica now the rap music is still going on and you have the roots rock reggae still going on, yunno. But when I come out of Jamaica and like come in France, I see how much the people love the old roots reggae music.
Speaking of live performances in JA, is Heineken Startime pretty much the only scene for the traditional music, vintage acts only get to play there, or there are new waterholes opening up for those artists?
Yes. Yes, we have a new company in Jamaica now named JAVAA, all the old artists… they see that nutten is happening for all of the old artists, so they are trying to provide work now for those kinda t’ing, yunno, for us. So most of the old artists join that organisation, JAVAA – you ever heard about it?
Yes, I’m familiar with it.
It’s the same people who control Heineken Startime, those are the same people who have JAVAA, Keith Brown…
Yes, those… Michael Barnett.
If we move up to the early nineties now, you did a recut of ‘Heart Made of Stone’ for Leggo.
Yes, him is another one. From the day him get that album (chuckles)…
Right, there was an album out as well.
Yes. From the day he get that album, he went away to England and live there, never come back to Jamaica.
That’s not nice.
(Chuckles) That’s all they did. That’s why I said now, I do not want to deal with a producer anymore. I am recording my own album right now, I started that a couple of years ago.
The rights to your songs reverts back to the songwriter after a certain amount of years, one good project for the future would be to compile a bunch of those 45-only releases you’ve had over the years, songs that never made it to even a compilation album, and put them together for a Viceroys retrospective.
Yes. Right now what happened though…
These days you can get a decent sound from cleaning even old vintage singles.
Right now I’m searching for all the old copies I can find, and right now all the old music that I have done – even those from Greensleeves Records, Linval Thompson and those guys – I put them on CD now, yunno, and have somebody release them in France now. And I’m looking to see who will come to me to say anyt’ing to me towards them, you understan’. Yeah, I have done that with four albums already. And right now when I go home back, I have another one to put on CD and send to France same way.
What would the content be?
This album that I have?
Yeah, the compilation you would do?
OK, that album what named ‘We Must Unite’, the one that named – the one from Studio One, all those album, I get them together and put them on CD and I give it to a company in France to release. That’s what helps me with all these tours and all these t’ing. Yeah.
You’re not expecting to go to court for it?
I would love that.
That is what I’m hoping they would do.
You mean to counter-sue if it shows they have no statement to show? Which it would probably turn out to be anyway.
OK, yes. Yes, they have to show me some statement, they have to show the court some statement. That’s what I would like them to do! But I’ve seen nobody surface yet.
You have just finished the first tour ever for the group, in France. You did a one-off show with Max Romeo and the Ethiopian earlier this year in Paris. What’s ahead for you in the immediate future? There was the album you had started.
I have a new album doing, I’ve done four tracks already, and when I go home now I want to finish it.
Where did you start recording it?
This was recorded in one new studio in St. Thomas.
You’re using digital backing?
No, I no want the digital, I no really want the digital. I want the drums and the bass and them t’ing.
Who did you recruit for the recordings?
Well, I work with a lickle band up there named… forget whe them call themselves, but they’re good musicians.
No well-known names among them?
No, they are new musicians. And I t’ink four tracks gone already but I’m going to use well-known musicians on the rest.
Who did you bring alongside yourself and Neville for this tour in France?
OK, it’s Michael Gabbidon, that’s Max Romeo’s cousin. Yeah, him joined the group now.
Alright. So what about Chris Wayne?
Chris Wayne is (chuckles)… he’s not around, I dunno where in the world is he.
He joined the Viceroys for a short period, like on the ‘Chancery Lane’ LP.
Do you recall a song titled ‘Every Woman In This World’ for Flabba?
‘Every Woman In This World’…? For Flabba Holt?
No, I’ve never recorded for Flabba.
There was another 7″ on the Nice’n’Easy label called ‘Are You Lonely’.
Yes! Well, that’s (chuckles)… that’s two songs, ‘Join The Club’ and ‘Are You Lonely’. Those two songs I did for Nice’n’Easy label. Nutten from those two either.
Linval put out a compilation of his productions during the early dancehall era titled ‘Can’t Stop Us Now’ on the Easy Star label.
That is one of the songs from the album ‘We Must Unite’.
Linval have it on this US compilation anyhow.
‘Chariot Coming’ too?
Yes, that was done for Luddy Pioneer (Sidney Crooks).
So there was a ‘Pioneers connection’ at least?
Plus the tune I mentioned for you, ‘Chuckie’ on Randy’s.
‘Chuckie’? I don’t really remember how that tune go, yunno – ‘Chucky No Lucky’.
Roots Knotty Roots, the documentation of Jamaican singles, has ‘Come Dance’ included in their discography as well.
Yes, ‘Come Dance’ and ‘Give Me Good Love’ for Sidney Crooks.
I think so.
‘Come On Over’ for Sidney Crooks too, although I suspect these are all Pioneers again under the Viceroys name. I haven’t heard them. Then there’s one titled ‘Four Seasons’…
For Roy, yeah.
That’s for Pat Cooper.
Yes, ‘Four Seasons’… OK, OK (chuckles)! That is with this band that’s named Fabulous Five, we were the first artists they ever recorded. You hear ’bout that one?
No, unfortunately I haven’t.
And ‘Give A Helping Hand’ for Randy’s?
Maybe, I don’t remember. There are so much songs, yunno.
You did ‘I’m Righteous’ and ‘Jump In A Fire’ for Matador.
I think so.
An early recording for Joe Gibbs back in the sixties titled ‘Jumpy Jumpy Girl’.
‘Knowledge of Now’ on the Victorious Steppers label, plus another one there called ‘Shaddai Children’.
Is that Norris’ production?
No, it was Norris lead that one, but it was written by a man called Ras Levi. It was a Rastaman who love to hear the Viceroys sing and he write that song for us, ‘Shaddai Children’. We call him Ras Levi. I think I hear that he was in prison.
‘Love One Another’, ‘You Are The One’ and ‘Poco’ for Byron Lee, Dynamic?
Yes, we work at Dynamic there. Yeah.
‘Power Control’ is for Luddy again but that is most likely the Pioneers. ‘Promises’ for Matador was another one.
For Matador, yes. You have all of those?
No, no. These are compiled in a book of Jamaican singles.
Yeah man, OK.
There is a tune – or tunes, don’t know if that’s two or three different songs with the same title – called ‘Freedom’ with production credited to Lee Perry, Clive Chin and Lloyd Campbell on various labels.
Another one came out as by The Brothers called ‘Every Day’ for Derrick Morgan too. The list of songs goes on and on, some of those I’m sure are worthy a reissue, on a 45 or if you could gather them on some sort of anthology.
Yes, and all those are 45’s?
Yes they are.
Yes, I would like to get my hands on all those songs, clean them and put them on CD.
You have some at home still?
No, in the storm that name Gilbert I lose a whole lotta records, a whole lotta records I’ve lost.
How did this connection to France come about?
Well, it’s a lady (chuckles)… her name is Helene Lee, she is the lady that check us up and know about us and our first tour, she set it up.
How was the show then with Max Romeo and Ethiopian, that was the comeback that excited a lot of people when it happened, like you popped up from nowhere.
Great man, that’s what cause me to be back here too (laughs)!
(Laughs) Would you consider working with any new or old artists in the future?
Yes, like a group name Silvertones, those guys never get a chance to go out, yunno. And a group named the Jayes and those guys.
That would certainly be a treat for long time fans, the Silvertones and Wesley Tinglin working on future projects. Wesley also made the Studio One recordings available on the Sankofa label out of France with the same ‘Ya Ho’ album, but now retitled ‘Slogan On The Wall’ which came out on CD a couple of years ago. The same label also has the ‘We Must Unite’ set out now on CD in ‘benefit’ of the group, and an excellent album it is. There shouldn’t be any necessary words here to express how good this music is, both are heartily recommended, let’s just say that. What is missing presently is the ‘Brethren & Sistren’ album (the title track was also done in an excellent version for Gregory Isaacs and can be found on his ‘Togetherness’ compilation for Heartbeat, circa 1982) as well as the debut set for Phil Pratt, ‘Consider Yourself’ AKA ‘Detour’. CSA did a re-release of that album twenty years ago as ‘Ya Ho’, now credited to the Viceroys and not the Interns as it originally was. But even that pressing is almost impossible to obtain anywhere these days. As with so much of the group’s music, it is worthy a second chance on the market. About time that someone – and hopefully supervised by Wesley himself – gathers and cleans up the majority of the old 45’s and put them on a CD for the rest of the vintage-hungry world to hear. ‘Love Is All’ (Vice Music/Sankofa) is the long-delayed release a lot of Viceroys fans had been waiting for, and it does not disappoint. Especially ‘In My Father’s House’ carries Neville Ingram’s honey-drenched vocals to other heights and Tinglin’s songwriting is as focused as it has ever been. There are some truly fine Roots Radics playing on these rhythms, but clearly the sound was on its way down by the time these recordings took place and it lacks the sharp mix from a few years previous.
Lately a dubious CD entitled ‘Ghetto Vibes’ popped up in record stores but the overall impression is that this is another group and not the Tinglin-led Viceroys. A better investment would be when the group is surrounded by an acoustic environment in the ‘Inna De Yard’ series of unplugged Jamaican music from the Makasound/Soundicate stable out of guitarist Chinna Smith’s Kingston veranda. The group delivers several classics in fine style and it is already hailed as perhaps the best effort in this ongoing series of ‘wooden’ albums so far. If Sankofa did such a great job by gathering the cream of uncollected singles by Winston Jarrett and his Righteous Flames, then I see no reason why they couldn’t do the same for the Viceroys. It could happen and it must happen, because the Viceroys’ music is a testament of quality songwriting and superb harmonies throughout and that in itself would create a stunning retrospective package for future generations to hear. Jus’ gwaan do it, hear sah!