Interview with Jackie Robinson of The Pioneers

by Jan 19, 2020Articles, Interview

Jackie Robinson


When: 2014
Where: Unknown
Reporter: Ingmar Hugen
Copyright:  2020 – Ingmar Hugen
Author | Website: Pressurebeat | Soundcloud: ColdSweat

The Pioneers

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The Pioneers, hitmakers and chartbreakers from Kingston, started their career in 1965, recording for various producers and releasing records on labels like Island, Rio and Caltone. The early line up consisted of Sidney Crooks, his brother Derrick and Winston Hewitt. Glen Adams was a member too, for a while. But it wasn’t until Sydney teamed up with Jackie Robinson and George Dekker that the group started making serious waves. This new version of the Pioneers penned and recorded an impressive string of hits, that benefitted both the careers of Joe Gibbs of Amalgamated, Leslie Kong of Beverley’s and Lee Gopthal of Trojan Records. The Pioneers’ records not only tell great stories of everyday life; about racehorses, dances and backstabbers; they were also instrumental in establishing and expanding the reggae sound that came up during their early days of reign. Never afraid to break some rules or to try something different, The Pioneers’ discography looks (and sounds) very impressive. It brought them to every corner of the world, and it still does. “Fun is the key factor,” Jackie Robinson says.

His lovely wife Indiana agrees wholeheartedly. The couple first met at Beverley’s, when Indiana went there with a friend to pick up a record. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Although a few hurdles tried to get in the way, they are still smiling at each other today. Halfway through the interview Indiana gives me a tour of the office. Her art is hanging on the walls, just below the framed Pioneers’ album sleeves that cover the upper side of them. That’s all her doing. Holding a doctorate in education, she published two books on the escapism theme. Currently she’s working on a Pioneers discography book (The Pioneers Record Sleeves Over The ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s), a play based on the Pioneers’ songs and, if time permits it, she would love to write Jackie’s biography.


Mr. Robinson, however, is not that much interested in his story being written down. Proud of his career in music, he seems genuinely happy digging up stories and talking about the past, present and future. It’s a pleasure to talk to him. But he’s also a very humble man and won’t take credit for an effort collectively made. Sipping from a glass of fine red wine, often singing and with a smile that never leaves his face, he tells his side of the story.

Jackie, with your permission, I’d like to go way back to the beginning. Please tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I was born in Kingston 14, a section of Kingston called Denham Town. That’s where I grew up and that’s where I went to school.

What was the area like in those days? Did you grow up around any sound systems?
Oh, yeah. In those times there was Sir Coxson Downbeat, Prince Buster, Tom the Great Sebastian, yunuh? El Suzy a-go-go. Many, many others you know? Too many to mention.

Did you follow any of them?
At that time, when I was growing up… As a matter of fact, where I was born, in front of my house, across the street was what we called, you call it a club, but we used to call it lawn. They used to keep dance, right in front across the street from me! [chuckles]. So at Saturdays, sometimes on a Sunday, they would have a big dance and there’s a lot of people and I would hear all the music. So, from that time I was aware of music and I would stay up late and listen to the music.

Jackie Robinson (London circa 1971)

Jackie Robinson (London circa 1971)

I reckon they played R&B, jazz and…
Ok, those days was not R&B. Doowop stuff. Those older days was like the Moonglows, The Flamingo’s, The Drifters, The Platters, yunuh? And then in Jamaica, we had ska. In the early sixties [we had] ska, and I think we got a little influence from some of the old rock ‘n’ roll stuff that we used to hear. From America. Lloyd Price, some people like that. This was the early 1960’s, so maybe ’62, ’63, ’64.

Do you remember the name of the lawn?
Carnival. It was called Carnival Dancehall.

So, all this music was blasting through the speakers right across from your house. I reckon that must have been a huge inspiration?
Yes, a lot of idea, a lot of music.

Did you pick up on music from a young age or did you come from a musical family?
No, I am not from a musical family, let me get that out there right-away [chuckles]. But, those days, when I was maybe about twelve, thirteen I was just into playing football and something we call cricket, yunuh?

Yes, I know the game.
Yeah, but in those days I didn’t know I could sing, to be honest with you. That happened later on in my life. Not a long time later on. I think it was when I got to the age of about fourteen, fifteen when I was in school and this teacher would come around and ask about talent. For those who can recite a poem, or sing, dance… whatever your talent allowed you to do. And [chuckles] I don’t know why I tried to sing. I had a friend called Louie Dyke and sometimes we’d sing together. But I’d try to sing. I remember one day I was in the woodworks department, they had a concert over there. I don’t remember the song, trust me, and I sing and everybody was going crazy and was looking at me. They said: “Bwoy, you can sing, man!” and even then, I still didn’t take it that serious.

It must have felt good, though?
Yeah, but it was like, “What are they talking about?” I didn’t realize that I had a talent to sing or that people would pay money to see me and sing all over the world, yunuh? I didn’t realize it.

When did that change? You kept on singing, so was it like a hobby?
Fun! It wasn’t anything serious. This wasn’t thinking “I can sing and make money”. It was fun doing it at school and I remember there was this cinema, called Queens Theatre, where we used to go and watch movies, American movies. And they had a singing contest. I don’t know, I can’t remember all the details, but I did it. I went to Queens Theatre and they had an audition. In the day they had this guy, one guy with a piano, and, well, I was brave enough. If you would audition and they think it wasn’t good enough, the people would laugh and say: “Go home! You can’t sing!” I was gonna sing a song, this Tony Bennett song called “I will live my life for you” [sings], that’s the song I remember singing. And them say, “yeah, man come back, you’re in the contest.” I went into the contest and I got second place.

Joe Gibbs

Joe Gibbs

Was this the Vere Johns contest?
No, it was something like that. It’s not far from where Vere Johns used to be. Vere Johns used to be Majesty Theatre, which is, like, a couple of miles away from where Queens was. Queens is in Denham Town and Majesty was over at a place called Greenwich Farm, which is not very far, like a couple of miles away. But I was going to my local cinema. They had another show and they asked me to come back and sing. They were paying two pounds and in those days two pounds was ‘money’, you could do a lot with it. I remember I came out and I was looking at the advertisement with my name of Jackie Robinson. And I would look up in amazement and be like “that’s my name up there, that’s me!” The night when I came up to sing, a lot of the guys that I grew up with were in the cinema and they’re were laughing and saying “Jackie, why you’re up there?” And before I went on I was nervous, yunuh? Nervous! And I conquered the nervousness and I went and sung and I got second place. And I think I got two pounds for second place. At the same time my father would tell me that I should try and learn a skill, a trade. And I would go up to this place to learn electrical welding. In Jamaica people have grill on their houses for security reasons and you would weld the grills together. I went to one, two, three, four different places […] but I wouldn’t come to work when I was supposed to, because I was off chasing this rainbow, this dream, called singing. And some other guys say “You’re an idiot, man. You can’t make as much money as I make as a workman with a singing thing.” Singing, in those days, nobody took it serious. You couldn’t live off it. No, it was like a hobby to some people or a singing hobby, yunuh? So, anyway, I started pursuing my dreams and I went to these different studio’s at the time. There was Beverley’s Records, Duke Reid, Studio One…

You auditioned at all these places?
I went to these places for auditions for them to record me and… [chuckles]… “No man, no you not ready.” Treasure Isle, Coxsone, Beverley’s… those were the main ones. A friend of mine told me there was this place called Amalgamated Records and this guy was looking for new artists. And I went, I remember it was in the night, and I was singing with another guy called Ajax. We went and we sang some songs that we wrote. Mr. Gibson, Joe Gibbs, said “Bwoy, I don’t like none of them songs. But I think your destiny is your destiny.” And for some reason I started singing this Billy Stewart song called “Sitting in the park, waiting for you” [sings]…

A classic.
Yeah, and I sang the song and Gibson say, “You know what, I love your voice, man. You have a beautiful voice. I have a song that I am going [to record] in the studio soon”. And there was this other guy, who got very famous, but I am not going to call him name, let’s just leave that alone. But he was singing this song and he had it for weeks. And Mr. Gibson say, “I want you to come to the studio. If he can’t sing the song, I want you to sing it.” I have this blessing, I would say. Unlike most singers, who live with a song for weeks, maybe a month, and learn it and then go to a studio and become comfortable and do it. Now, for me, I don’t have to hear it. I go into the studio now. They play a song a couple of times and I sing it like I knew it six months or a year ago. I always had that, and I still have that, because I have that ability. I went to the studio and the guy couldn’t sing the song. And I recorded the song. I think it was “Let the little girl dance” [sings]. That’s the song I went to sing for Mr. Gibson. And it was there, while I was recording my song, that’s where I met Sydney Crooks. I was outside, practicing my song and he said to me “I have a song that I would like you to help me sing.” I said, “alright” and I sung my song and recorded the song with Sydney Crooks. It was a song called “Gimme little loving.” That was 1967 and that song came out as the Pioneers. Because Sydney Crooks had already had his brothers as the Pioneers, but they didn’t have any success. They had songs that came out, but none of them didn’t go anywhere. And this song that him and I work on, called “Gimme little loving”, which was my first song as The Pioneers, went into the charts. And from there we started recording songs like “Long shot bust me bet”, “Jackpot”, “Catch the beat”, “Tickle me”… Sydney Crooks and myself, 1967, and all those song went into the charts in Jamaica.

Did you record more songs on that first session?
No, it was two songs. “Let the little girl dance” and “Gimme little loving”. But after “Gimme” came out and went into the charts, Mr. Gibson wanted more songs because we had a success. The success was “Gimme little loving” as the Pioneers, but “Let the little girl dance”, as Jackie Robinson, didn’t go anywhere. So we follow the success.

But you did become the lead singer, right?
That was long after.

Long after?
Yeah, even though we had some songs that I lead… No, when I said it was long after, it wasn’t really long after. It was the following year when we invited George Dekker. We all knew each other and we became friends and we say “Why not turn into a trio instead of a duo.” So, we came together and wrote and recorded a song called “Easy come, easy go.” The very first song George sang as a member of the Pioneers and that song went into the charts. We had the song, we recorded it ourselves, but we couldn’t release it. We didn’t have the money to bring it out on the street. We had the money to record it, but we couldn’t go no further. But, everybody wanted the song and we gave it Beverley’s and we sign a contract and started recording as a trio.

Legend has it that Leslie Kong was a super friendly character. One that took care of his artists.
Leslie Kong was a human being and he treated us like human beings. He used to pay us a weekly salary, so we didn’t have to do nothing else but sing. Plus George and I used to perform with a band, as vocalists. At clubs where a lot of tourist go. Club Rexo in Ocho Rios on Monday nights and on Friday nights at Club Bronco in Kingston. So we didn’t have to do anything else than sing, write songs and make records.

Leslie Kong

Leslie Kong

Was it different from when you worked for Joe Gibbs?
It was not like Leslie Kong, no. [chuckles] Leslie Kong was much more business wise, because he took us to his lawyer, I think his name was Ian Ramsey, and we signed a contract. Further on in our conversation, when we had a big hit that went international he paid us royalties. And I’m talking about decent money. We didn’t get what we were supposed to get, or what we were entitled to correctly, but we got more than most people got.

So, is that why you left Joe Gibbs? Because you had hits but didn’t get any money?
No, the reason we left Joe Gibbs was because of a conflict between Joe Gibbs and Sydney Crooks, which had nothing to do with me. And that’s why I talk to you about destiny. Because, for me, I was also part of working with Mr. Gibbs and I was getting a weekly salary, and so was Sidney Crooks. So when he and Sidney fell out and he fired him… I would say, if I was smart, I should have stayed with Joe Gibbs. If I was smart and arrogant and selfish, then I should stay because I still could have recorded as Jackie Robinson and I was getting my pay check. But I think it was my destiny that told me to leave, also. With Sidney Crooks and that’s where we invited George to join us.

And then your success became even bigger.
Yeah, yeah. Then we would have go to, what I would say, is part of reggae history. And I apologize to no one when I say this: “Long shot kick the bucket” is one of the most important songs to the industry called reggae. Because it came out in 1969 and it went into the pop charts in England and other places. I don’t know how old you are, but that is a long time ago!

Well, I wasn’t born yet back then, but I do have the album. “Longshot”.
Yeah, that was our first album as a trio.

Joe Gibbs released a Pioneers album prior to “Longshot”. But “Greeting from the Pioneers”, as it was called, actually features a wide array of vocalists. Do you consider it to be a Pioneers lp?
Joe Gibbs released an album before “Longshot”, but it was Sydney Crooks and myself. The guy you see in the picture is not George, he was just there for the photograph. It had some nice songs on it, but I am not happy for getting credit for things that had nothing to do with me. It was Joe Gibbs, he did it his way, it had nothing to do with us.

You were also releasing solo records through Gibbs’ imprint.
Yeah, like “Let the little girl dance” and there was also “Holding out”. [credited to the Creations on its UK release]

And there’s “Over and over”…
Right! You remember that? [chuckles] Yeah, I remember it now! [starts singing]. You remind me…

You mentioned earlier that “Let the little girl dance” didn’t go very far. Did your other solo records do better. “Over and over”, maybe?
They were only minor hits. My major success in Jamaica was as a member of the Pioneers.

The first time I heard “Over and Over” was through Cornell Campbell. His “Dance in a Greenwich farm” is almost an exact copy of the original.
Yeah, I remember his version. I think I heard it in the mid seventies in London, because I went to London in the early seventies. Cornell Campbell is a good singer! He does the same melody, but the words are different.

The flip side was by a group called the Spanishites. Do you happen to know anything about them?
Well, in those days, artists from different groups would be in the studio and they would have an idea and just do a song. It wasn’t really a group, per se. It was just a name, they would grab a name and call it the Spanishites. As far as I know there are no Spanishites. Everybody know everybody, ’cause Jamaica is not that big. Gregory Isaacs and I, we used to live on the same street, Milk Lane. As a matter of fact, before we both made it, he and I used to be on the same street and we sit and sing together. We born in the same months, like maybe two years apart, a couple of days different. Yeah man, I know Gregory from long time. Ken Boothe the same thing. Delroy Wilson…

Talking about mystery groups… Reading liner notes and books I learned that the Pioneers were involved in quite a lot of other projects as well. You or Sydney are believed to have sung on tracks credited to groups like the Reggae Boys and The Soulmates. Is that true?
Yes, in some cases it’s true. There’s songs that we used to sing… But the Soulmates is George Dekker, Glen Adams and Reggie “Alva” Lewis. Well, you can say the Pioneers, because George Dekker is a member of the Pioneers…

But not at the time, right? He was a member from 1969 on?
No, 1968. George was part of the Pioneers from 1968, so… yeah! George was a member of the Pioneers then. But, we used to do things like that sometime out necessity, you know what I’m saying? Like we would be somewhere and a producer would say: “Do this song for me now, man?” and he pay us. But we can’t use the name of Pioneers… Like “Nana”, the song called ‘Nana?”

By The Slickers, yeah. That’s you, right?
Yeah! But there was no Slickers, that’s a name we just grab out of the air. Even though afterwards you have the name Slickers, for ‘Johnny too bad’. That group consists of Sydney Crooks’ brother by the name of Derrick Crooks. But it’s our name. We used it to do the song called ‘Nana’ and then we just left it.

Andy Bassford
Andy Bassford
Andy Bassford

In 1969 you went on your first tour to the UK.
Yes, 1969 November 22nd we went to the UK for the start of a six week tour, which turned into six months. “Long shot kick the bucket” was in the charts.

Had you ever visited before? What was Great Britain like?
No, this was the first time. I was only eighteen and this was the first time traveling out of Jamaica. So, we left Kingston Airport; at the time it was called Palisadoes, now it’s called Norman Manley International Airport; and we landed in New York. We were supposed to catch a Caledonian [an airline operator], which I think was owned by Scotland, to Gatwick. And the plane had some mechanical problems, so we end up spending three days in New York. Jamaica at the time had maybe only one television channel, and in America we had all these channels, and our own rooms, and say “What you watching, man!?” [chuckles]. And then, after three days we took off, landed in Gatwick and were met by the music press. You know, they came to interview us. As a matter of fact, we travelled with the Upsetters.

Right, and they stayed for six months as well, right? Recording an album and such.
No, they had to go back. Our tour was very successful. To be honest, everywhere we went, people wanted to see us again. Because, we were professional and we had a plan. Before, we were talking about me becoming lead singer? Well, … let me just go back a little bit.

In Jamaica, then and now, Jamaican people love reggae music, soul music, they love R&B, that kind of music. So, around ’68/’69 Otis Redding, a great singer, he had a song called “Dreams to remember” come out. It was a big hit in Jamaica and everybody wanted to sing it. Ken Boothe, who had a style like Otis… We wanted to sing it, but remember now, I wasn’t the lead singer. Mostly George Dekker was the lead singer then. Otis Redding is like Mr. Soul. Sydney Crooks couldn’t even attempt it. George could attempt it, but he don’t have that kind of voice. So it was up to me… The dreamer!! [chuckles] So, I start the song, “I’ve got dreams to remember…” [sings]. And we sung that song, we did it on a live broadcast on RJR, which was one of our main radio stations. And people were like, “Who’s that in the Pioneers, man? I thought all of these guys were gimmick singers!” They called us gimmick singers, because of songs like “Never see, come see” [sings: “Easy come, easy go”]. And people say: “Soul voice! R&B song and voice, man!” And it was then that people start saying “this man should be the lead singer of the group, because this man voice take it to a different level”. So, when we went to London, 1969, and I could sing these kind of Temptations [sings] and Marvin Gaye [sings] songs, I became lead singer. And this was 1969 and we had a very successful tour, going out to England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales… We came out to Amsterdam and Germany to do a television show. I can’t remember, it was a show called “Hits a go-go”… It was either Holland or Germany. [It’s a German show.] So, we would come out to Germany, do television for the weekend, fly back to London. So, we were coming out to the other countries in Europe. This was 1969 / 1970.

Then you went back, after six months?
After six months we went back to Jamaica. And we recorded for a while. We made new records for Beverley’s Records, came back to England and started touring again. I think we came back in May 1970, so a couple of months after that we returned to England. And then, early 1971 we did our tour of the Middle East. We went to Egypt and Lebanon. Which was a different thing again.

Jackie Robinson w/ dancer Valerie in Lebanon 1970

Jackie Robinson w/ dancer Valerie in Lebanon 1970

Wow, that must have been the first reggae tour to the Middle East ever?
Yeah, but we didn’t go to do reggae. When we got there we realized there’s some different things we got to do. “Longshot kick the bucket” and stuff like that, it wouldn’t work. So we started doing, like, some more American type stuff, and we were out there for months. In Egypt we performed in the Sheraton Hotel, which is right on the banks of the Nile and then we went to Lebanon. We spent a couple of months in the Middle East and then we went back to London. This was early 1971, and at the time there was Trojan Records, who released most of the reggae songs. And Lee Gopthal [owner and founder of Trojan] played a song for us and he said he thinks we should record it. It was a Jimmy Cliff song, and I didn’t like the song. I don’t know why… But we came back and… You see how I keep talking about destiny? Lee Gopthal played it again, and I say “Alright, let’s do it.” That song was “Let your yeah be yeah”. Big, big hit record for the Pioneers. It went to number 5 in the national charts and it took us to another level again.

And that was recorded at Chalk Farm in England?
Chalk Farm was where we used to go to make records, where the recording studio was. Chalk Farm was where we did the voicing. “Let your yeah be yeah”, the riddim tracks were recorded at Dynamics in Kingston, Jamaica.

And stuff like “Papa was a rolling stone”?
That was Jamaica. That was when we went back to Jamaica, we did another session and did “Papa was a rollin’ stone” and “Feeling High.”

‘Feeling High” is a superb tune featuring sounds of chalices ablaze. It’s ‘out there!’
It’s funny. That was the b-side, and, I don’t know, somebody started playing “Feeling High” and it just took off. [sings] Everywhere we go, yunuh? In Europe, it’s popular. We sing it in Brazil when we go there.

In a similar vein is a track called “Smoking”, which was featured on the flipside of Donna Dawson’s “Money can’t buy love”. A great track, also. But that’s a UK recording, right?
No, Jamaica. The tracks. Most of our tracks were recorded in Jamaica. If we even recorded the voice in England, the music was done in Jamaica.

You also recorded a cover of the Chi-Lites “Homely Girl”. I love the Chi-Lites and can see the comparison between the Chicago group and the Pioneers. What made you pick this song?
We used to sing it on stage. I just wanted to do it and the other guys weren’t to fussy about it and the company said, alright, you do it, go ahead. And I just went and did it. So that started my Jackie Robinson career in the UK. It was a big reggae song. Very popular. And I had to start singing live as Jackie Robinson on stage. After I did “Warm and tender love”, which was also popular for me, I just started sing all these songs.

How did the UK recording industry treat you?
A lot better. We had a deal with Trojan Records, they paid us an advance. We were doing alright. We were making more money and going back to Jamaica… At that time we would send the tracks down to Jamaica, the records we want and they would make it and send it up back. Sometimes Lee Gopthal would go down with the songs. Give it to the musicians and they laid the riddim and then he would come back so we could voice it at Chalk Farm. That allowed us time to tour, in those days. In 1975 we went to Japan.

Sidney Crooks

Sidney Crooks

Also as one of the first reggae groups, I reckon?
Well, I don’t know. Some lady told me… I was doing an interview one night and she heard me saying that we were the first reggae group to go to Japan and she call and contradicted me. Telling me about Ernie Smith, but he didn’t go to do reggae, as far as I know. I know he did some folk songs and some song competition, so I don’t believe there was any contradiction. It wasn’t that important to me. But, there are people in the business, journalists and other people who believe that the first song with the new beat, reggae, is “Long Shot Buss Me Bet” that Sydney Crooks and I recorded in 1967. It was the change from rocksteady to reggae, because they say the first time they hear the change was with “Long Shot.” It’s possible. If someone would ask me, I would say “Yeah”, ’cause I don’t remember hearing any song before with that beat.

I was thinking about The Beltones’ “No more Heartache” as the first reggae song, but that was 1968.
“No more heartache”, yeah man! But that was 1968. So was Larry Marshall, who said it was “Nanny Goat” and then somebody was telling me: “Mumma no want bangarang.” [Stranger Cole & Lester Sterling] and I say “No man, that was 1969.” It just happened, but nobody cannot tell you that ‘it was my idea’. It was the band’s idea. And we just express it. But, nobody can make a claim and say “I did this or I did that.” It was all of us.

That’s it, right? The musicians played a big part as well. Do you remember who played on “Long Shot?”
Yeah, man. Jackie Jackson on bass, Hugh Malcolm on drums; he was also a singer; Hux Brown on guitar and I think, I’m not sure, but I think Rad Bryan, who we call Dougie, on guitar. I think it’s Gladstone Anderson who played the piano and then the keyboards were played by Winston Wright. I’m trying to remember who did… [mimics the saxophone part of the intro] Could be Lester Sterling or Val Bennett… I think it was Lester Sterling.

And the studio?

It wasn’t called Wirl at the time?
No, this was after the name change. Or… No, sorry, no man… It might have been West Indies at the time. But it was definitely West Indies or Dynamics.

We’ve drifted off topic a bit, as all the questions I had left cover the late ’80’ and the ’90s, but I do like chatting about the older days.
That’s alright, that’s why we still tour and travel Europe to do so many shows. Because when we come to concerts, all the young people, they have the knowledge that you have. As a matter of fact, some of them surprise me, because they ask me and they know what they know. They ask about these things, so long ago. Wow…

It’s because of the internet. Information is out there.
That still blows my mind, sometimes. That somebody can ask me about quadrille and things like that. A young person in their twenties…

Well, your music is still very much alive. Even the music from the sixties. There are ‘boss reggae’ parties…
Exactly, I know it. And we come and do Ska Festival in Spain, or the Melkweg in Amsterdam, Germany. Some years ago, we did a three day festival in Groningen.

Up north (of Holland)
Yeah! yeah! In the north. That was good!

You’re also very popular in Brazil. You’re working there with a producer by the name of Ronnie Green. Please tell me about that?
You know about Ronnie Green?!

Well, to be honest, I didn’t. But when I prepared for this interview I found out about him. I saw a video of you performing “Feelin’ High” and “Nosey Parker”, as well as new material.
Ronnie Green. Yeah, he shot that video. But he did not produce… We produce ourselves. He’s a Brazilian reggae singer, so he’s glad to be around us, because he learn a lot from us, obviously. He is a nice guy.

The Pioneers circa 1970

The Pioneers circa 1970

Is he connected to your popularity in Brazil? How did you become so popular over there? As it doesn’t seem to root back to your legacy like it does in Europe.
The Pioneers is popular in Brazil, because of… all the songs, except for “Feeling High” that I just talked to you about, they’re not interested in those songs. It’s a different set of songs. So we went down there and did a tour in 2005, and I went back a couple of times and I started recording. Yunoh, going into studio and doing stuff, and people started buying the record for sound system. In Brazil, sound system, the sound clash… that what we had in Jamaica, in the early days, it’s like… “Wow!” It’s crazy. So, people would come to the studio and they wanted to make a record. They call them ‘exclusives’, so they alone can play it on the sound system. And this is popular. The crowd loves it. So, when they are playing, the people are going crazy and there are some that can play the song. Because, exclusive in mind., Super Intamaraty, Estrela do Som, Natty Nisen, Black Power or; That’s some of the biggest sounds in Brazil that would buy exclusives from me. So, now when I go to Brazil I do shows, but also I do a lot of exclusives. And then, you have people who sell the music on the internet, so I can stay and live while I make music. I have several hit songs on the reggae market in Brazil. Songs like “Oh Mama”, “You wear the same clothes everyday”, “Jah Jah send them come”… I mainly pursue a solo career over there and not so much as the Pioneers.

But you are still together, right? As The Pioneers?
Yes, yeah man. George Dekker and myself work as the Pioneers. Sydney Crooks is in Brazil, but we don’t work with Sydney. George and I work as The Pioneers and we enjoy working, have a lot of fun and there is no problem, no issue, no nothing. Everything alright.

After 40 odd years in the business, you’re still having fun.
Yeah! No problem, no issue. I could say; “George, mek we do this song” and he would say “Alright, let me try this.” And I’m not worried about George Dekker getting more applause and vice versa. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander. If it makes the group sound better, who cares?

That sounds very healthy. I think that might just be the key to the reason why you’re still enjoying success.
47 years! And we have no problem deh.

Is there anything I haven’t asked, but you would like to add?
Yeah, this: When we come perform, we just come to give to our hardcore fans. And, you were saying before, that, you think we’d be spending a long time talking. It’s not a problem, it’s my pleasure. Sometimes, when were performing, and there’s a lot of people and they come for autographs, they ask “Can I take another photo?” and I say “Yeah, man!” Because without you there is none of us. So, it’s our pleasure. I hope to see the fans in Holland. And in Europe. Bring us over soon!

Thanks a million to Jackie & Indiana Robinson for both their time to talk to me and their tireless effort in making this interview happen. It’s been a real treat.

(Originally posted on on May 29, 2014)