Roland Burrell is still recording

by Dec 16, 2023News

Roland Burrell is still recording
In an era when Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy and Black Uhuru were red-hot, Roland Burrell was an unlikely hero in 1982. That year, the journeyman singer from rural Clarendon parish hit Jamaican charts with two big hit songs.

‘Johnny Dollar’ and ‘Stormy Night’, produced by Alton “Tanka” Hill, were Burrell’s breakthrough singles. Recorded at Channel One, they featured Sly and Robbie and the Roots Radics Band, respectively.

Forty-one years later, Burrell is still recording and looking for a return to the charts. One of his latest efforts is ‘My Conversation’, a cover of the Slim Smith/Uniques rock steady classic from 1968.

Burrell’s version, produced by Earl Messam for Wildfire Records out of Philadelphia, features singer Tia.

“Is a song mi always love, mi listen to Slim Smith an’ dem kinda singer from mi yute days. Mi love how my version come out, ‘cause wi try wi best fi do di original justice,” he said.

Burrell’s finest moments are covers. ‘Johnny Dollar’, on which Burrell was backed by Sly and Robbie, was a monster hit, topping the Radio Jamaica and Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation charts.

His reggae take on soul singer Garnet Mimms’ 1968 hit ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Johnny Dollar’ also made a mark in reggae markets in the United States and United Kingdom. It was followed by the horn-hooked ‘Stormy Night’ on which he was backed by the Roots Radics, who were the house band at Channel One.

Prior to ‘Johnny Dollar’ and ‘Stormy Night’, Burrell had recorded songs as a member of The Rolands, as well as a handful of solo songs including ‘Dog tek The Pot’ and ‘Belinda’.

Burrell is from Pennants, a farming district in Clarendon, a parish that has produced a number of major artistes including Derrick Morgan, Toots Hibbert, The Clarendonians, Freddie McGregor and Barrington Levy.

Looking to break into the music business, he moved to Kingston in the 1960s and lived in Trench Town, then home to acts like Alton Ellis, The Wailers and The Wailing Souls.

“My biggest influence dem was man like Bob (Marley), Toots an’ Dennis Brown. Dem man dey mi used to sit down an’ listen to. D Brown was my singer, still,” Burrell recalled.

‘My Conversation’ is one of 14 songs he recorded for Messam, his cousin, who is also a Clarendon native. Another is a cover of Alton Ellis’ ‘Breaking up is Hard to Do’ with Maria Smith.

Johnny Dollar

Roland Burrell – My Conversation

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