‘Familyman’ Barrett moved on to Zion

by Feb 4, 2024News

'Familyman' Barrett moved on to Zion

Tragic news has once again shocked reggae enthusiasts across the globe following the recent deaths of Pluto Shervington and Keith ‘Foundation’ Douglas. Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett, one of Jamaica’s celebrated musicians, has sadly passed away at the University of Miami in Florida. On February 3rd, he reunited with his brother Carlton, also known as Carly Barrett, and reggae legend Bob Marley in Zion.

Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett was born on Beeston Street in Kingston, where he was surrounded by renowned reggae artists such as Val Bennett, Lloyd Brevett, Jah Jerry, and Lloyd Knibbs. Growing up in this musical environment, he inherited a passion for music from his father and grandfather, both of whom played instruments. From a young age, Familyman was drawn to the patterns and styles of influential bass players like Lloyd Spence, Jackie Jackson, and Bryan Atkinson. Self-taught, he even constructed his own bass guitar.

Familyman’s initial experience in a recording studio was as a member of the band called the Hippy Boys. In addition to his brother Carlton on drums, the group also consisted of Alva ‘Reggie’ Lewis on guitar, and Glen Adams on keyboards. They collaborated on recording the song Watch This Sound by The Uniques, which took place at West Indies Studio under the guidance of sound engineer Syd Bucknor. Prior to this recording session, the Hippy Boys had been performing at various nightclubs in Kingston. Following their first recording with The Uniques, the Hippy Boys continued to work both in the studio and in nightclubs. As part of the Hippy Boys, Familyman later contributed to the recording of Lock Jaw for Duke Reid and Dr. No Go for Mrs. Sonia Pottinger. However, it was their instrumental track titled Liquidator (released under the name Harry J Allstars) that became a popular hit in the UK in 1969. It is worth mentioning that when the band performed as musicians, they were known as the Hippy Boys, but when they sang, they adopted the name the Reggae Boys.

After returning to Jamaica from his time in the US, Bob Marley discovered The Uniques’ song Watch This Sound and expressed his desire for the Hippy Boys to collaborate with The Wailers. Their first joint recordings included Black Progress and a rendition of Jr. Walker’s Hold On To That Feeling, both arranged by Familyman. The Hippy Boys’ initial collaboration with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry resulted in the track Medical Operation, but it was their hit single Clint Eastwood that earned them recognition as the Upsetters, as dubbed by the producer. The Wailers and the Hippy Boys, now the Upsetters, then decided to work with Perry. Their initial efforts included recording My Cup and Duppy Conqueror, which paved the way for the Wailers’ albums Soul Rebel and Soul Revolution. The band later achieved significant success with their own hit Return Of Django. In 1970, Familyman temporarily left Jamaica to join a cruise ship band but returned to the Wailers who had moved to the UK in 1971. There they came to the attention of Island Records. The rest is history.

The drum and bass section of Aston “Familyman” Barrett and his brother Carlton, was responsible for producing countless reggae songs, and could have made even more if they hadn’t spent so many years touring incessantly with Bob Marley & The Wailers. The great bass lines played by Familyman in songs such as Natural Mystic, Them Belly Full, Kinky Reggae, Crazy Bald Head, Heathen, Race Race and numerous other Bob Marley tracks are destined to resonate with future generations. There is no doubt that Aston “Familyman” Barrett is a fundamental figure in reggae music. Alongside other skilled bassists such as Cluet Johnson, Lloyd Brevett, Jackie Jackson, Leroy Sibbles, Fully Fullwood, Ranchie McLean, Lloyd Parks, Boris Gardiner, and Robbie Shakespeare, he will always be remembered as one of Jamaica’s legendary bassists. R.I.E.P.

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