By Rich Lowe
The following includes excerpts from the forthcoming book titled “Two Kings - King Edwards ‘The Giant’ Sound System.” *Also refer to “Jamaica Way Reggae Podcast at Soundcloud” for a King Edwards Podcast:
Any Jamaican involved in music in the 1950s is now - at minimum, in their late seventies. Many artists are now in their eighties and nineties, and others have passed; Toots Hibbert, U-Roy, most of The Skatalites players, Coxson Dodd, and Bunny, Bob, and Peter. The music from Jamaica in the 1950s and 1960s is often considered a Golden Era of music. It has now been sixty-six years since King Edwards – The Giant started playing sound system in Jamaica.
Many years ago, I found an old photo of King Edwards on the Internet. The photo displayed a blurry, black-and-white image of George “King” Edwards sitting in a chair, out in the Jamaican sunshine. This image appeared ancient. George looked very old, and I imagined that he must have long since passed away. Years later, I read an article posted on the Roots Knotty Roots Jamaican music website by Michael Turner with an interview he conducted alongside filmmaker Brad Klein, with King Edwards himself! Vincent “Vin” Edwards was alive and living in Jamaica. It struck me that Turner and Klein had spoken with Vin Edwards, so the photo I saw must have incorrectly listed King Edwards as “George.” It was not uncommon for names to be listed incorrectly. With further research, I realized there were two King Edwards: Stanley George Edwards and Vincent Lorenzo “Vin” Edwards.
With considerable preparation, I made a pre-COVID visit to Jamaica to meet with both brothers and take the ride of my life as we moved throughout Kingston’s roads and lanes, touring famed dance halls, lawns, and yard locations where they played music. We spent two weeks - with Vin’s expert driving, visiting Foresters Hall, Jubilee Tile Garden, Chocomo Lawn, Carnival, S-Corner, and many others. Vin said – “Record everything! I want you to know everything, and I want you to see where we played music.”
When asked about George’s nickname of “Big Man,” Vin responded, “Him did fat y’know. At the time, he weighed about two hundred pounds. George is the best man I could have dealt with because our relationship was so great.” With this response, there was an inkling that the brothers had a special relationship.
In time, King Edwards assembled five complete sound system sets and played throughout the island of Jamaica. When King Edwards began their sound system in 1955, rhythm and blues music from America was a sensation. King Edwards played the most exclusive records by artists that a Jamaican ear preferred. King Edwards was the talk of the town, and they were loved by their followers and feared by opposing sounds. As the sound system evolved, tracks by Shirley and Lee and Roscoe Gordon were playing, along with recording sessions by the pre-Skatalites and Higgs and Wilson. From here, George and Vin Edwards pick up the conversation:
(George Edwards) I love American rhythm and blues, but I didn’t deal with much of the white stuff anyway. You have Shirley and Lee “Feel So Good” and “Got You On My Mind.” Smiley Lewis “Ooh La La” is another good one. You remember “One, Two, Three Boogie?” that was a bad tune here in Jamaica. Ya have one called “Hen Pecked Papa,” but only one man in Jamaica has it, man! Those records was the records we used to play until we couldn’t get no more, and we have to make it out here. “Feel So Good” by Shirley and Lee was a big hit here in Jamaica. All the jukeboxes used to play the good artists like Shirley and Lee. There was a jukebox in every little bar all over Jamaica. Remember Nat Cole? Them is the best singer in the record business. So, Jamaica just imitate. I’m a Jamaican, but I don’t like Jamaican records so much. Rhythm and blues – that’s my stuff. Mi love the American tune, man! Good music is good music, though, so I am not biased. If you listen to the instrument blowing on Louie Jordan songs, you will understand that the Americans feel their saxophone and trumpet instruments more than Jamaican men. Jamaica a little lighter. Most of our music is the same Louie Jordan style of play. When our boys go to America in 1943, Louie Jordan was a popular man. When I was young, I go to Alterry Beach in Saint Ann to listen music played by sound systems like Michelin and Howell, and I go to Bournemouth and Silver Slipper. I go to all of them, cuz I wouldn’t get the music experience if I don’t do that.
(Vin Edwards) My favorite music is jazz. Reggae is our music in Jamaica, but the whole concept of reggae originate and come out of the American culture. Definitely. Our music was influenced by all of those artists and musicians, like Louie Jordan, Joe Turner, Shirley and Lee, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Big Joe Turner - who was the first rock and roll man! They can’t argue with me on that. Duke, Coxson, and King Edwards were the authors of reggae. The tunes that I was looking for were made as early as 1940, and we establish them with the Jamaican audience. We moved music from English classical music to American rhythm and blues. There was a transition, and Coxson, myself, and Reid did it.
(Vin Edwards) When I get my visa on 14 October 1954, I was twenty-one, going on twenty-two. It didn’t have anything to do with sound. My sister Evelyn – we used to call her “Tiny.” She passed her exam, left school, and went to live in America for the rest of her life. She and George were near in age. My sister send for me, and I went on a vacation, but I didn’t have sound system in my mind.
(George Edwards) While Vin was in Philadelphia, I keep listening to Tom the Great Sebastian, and that inspire me to bring Vin into the record business with me. But him never respond to me, but afterward, him get to like it. Him say no, but two month after, I get the sound an’ he say yes man, we ah play out the records man! Vin bring down the first amplifier.
(Vin Edwards) With every letter George wrote - every time saying, “Bring me down a sound. Bring me down a sound. Bwoy when you come home, the sound thing ah make money.” I say what kinda sound? George say, “Bring a hundred-watt.” In those days, our guys them used to make the power transformer on the output and a fifty watt an’ a twelve-inch and bruk up this house. They move from this tube to transistor in America, so I buy the hundred watts, believing I bigger than the rest. I bought it at a radio shop on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. At that time, it was only black and white television, no color television.
(Vin Edwards) When we came on a Sunday, we stop out at Bournemouth to test it out. George brought a roll of speaker wire, and we plug it in. When George hear the amplifier I bring from America, he say, “Boy, this sound not too heavy, y’know.” A sound can be good in a room, but it doesn’t have the weight when you’re out there. I said, “No man! This is a new thing – this is an American thing.”
(George Comments) “We doubt it, man!”
(Vin) When we carry it home and put it in the house, it sound nice! We give our new sound the name “Rock and Roll.” That night we first play out as a sound system; Chung’s Cavalier Sound play first, and it was advertised as a “Cavalier” dance. When you have a double sound, you play from start to twelve, and then the next sound go from twelve. The first to play is always the heavy [superior] sound. That night Cavaliers played first because, at that time, he was more popular than us. We didn’t play against Cavaliers; we play with him. This was not a clash. Them no know how good my sound was, but they know we have some good music.
(George) It’s raining here in Jamaica now, and my health is not good, but I’m still here. I’m the older one, and I’m proud because it’s through sound system where I know my wife. It’s through sound system where Vin met his wife of sixty years now. Sound system get us popular. Everybody know King Edwards. It wasn’t a bad life, although money-wise, I don’t get much.
Rich Lowe, May 2021
The forthcoming book titled “Two Kings - King Edwards ‘The Giant’ Sound System” has an expected release date of December 2021 with distribution via Amazon.com.
Ranford “Ranny Bop” Williams is a tall man at six foot, three inches. He is soft spoken and humble, and has played guitar on hundreds and hundreds of recorded songs that have rippled through the entire world over the last sixty years. There is a degree of consensus that Ranny Bop created the reggae sound on his guitar. He is an originator, and went on to play with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Johnny Nash, on the Harder They Come soundtrack, for producers Leslie King, Duke Reid, Bunny Lee, Coxson Dodd. Ranny is also a story teller. His reports of events are very consistent and accurate when compared with the historical reports of others.
The following is Ranny Bop's telling part of his story as it relates to Bunny "Striker" Lee. Written in his words, this is a subject that was very important to Ranny Bop. Ranny and I discussed this story and worked it into a formal presentation, so the story is told from the perspective of Ranny Bop himself.
(Ranny Bop) Byron Lee owns Dynamic Recording Studio. So much record we do there. Lots of recording we did as session musicians, but not with his band The Dragonaires. We never count Byron Lee as any musician, because we think he couldn’t play. That’s how we see him in those days, like him can’t play. We wouldn’t even put him in our category, but he had his band and he did what he was doing. Most of what we remember is what make a hit. If it didn’t hit, we don’t know it until we hear it back. Lots of album that we record with our input at one studio – Dynamic. Twelve per LP, so just imagine what we do for a week! Bunny Lee had me playing and arranging his music with the expectation that Palmer in England gonna send the money down for all of us. Bunny was the Executive producer of those songs when I arranged music for him. That money never come to me for all Bunny Lee stuff that I arrange and play them. Him sit on them in England making money.
This is not a certainty, but we hear that many songs that we play in the studio were passed on from Bunny Lee to Byron Lee. I have no proof of that, but one of them that I am aware was “Stick By Me” by John Holt. I think he did pass that on.
I had one tape of music that I personally produced and owned. I call that tape, “The Heart of Ranny Bop.” I could only get the studio at night (Dynamic Sounds Recording Studio) and had been recording before I start with the big band in 1967 – that is The Supersonics. Those days we don’t have many tapes with recordings. We just have one one-inch tape that we carry with us. It was an eight-track tape that I mix the music and sync it, so there was more space. When you buy one tape, you just keep bouncing back songs to have as many as you want.[i] We call that type of eight track tape, “The Big One.” A whole lotta song would be on one. That tape can take between eight and twelve song, because it can do LP. When you overdub, it can hold twenty-four songs. I don’t know how much was on the tape, maybe twelve songs I had, because I give away track to people to try recording. These were people who had more money than me, but they couldn’t afford to do a session and pay like the other guys, them. They would axe me for a riddim and I would give it.[ii]
I spend nights and days in the studio doing the arrangement, make up the music, and playin’ these songs. All my stuff was on that tape. When I came back from England in 1969 and went into the studio, we did the song “I Got A Heart” which is known today as “Shocks of Mighty.” You see, when he went into the recording studio late that night, Reggie Alva Lewis had said to me, “You got a heart.” In response, I titled one song that night as “I Got A Heart,” and this is where I got the title for the tape itself – “The Heart of Ranny Bop.” Other songs on my tape include, “Better Must Come” and “Cool Operator” with Delroy Wilson, Pat Kelly “How Long,” “Dig It Up” by The Sparklers, “Shocks of Mighty” (which Ranny called "The Art of Ranny Bop”) and he took away my version of “Throw Mi Corn” too. “Throw Me Corn” get number one in Jamaica. That’s my cousin’s baby father Winston Shan singing, with me on harmony. We were there in Spanish Town and I took him to Kingston and make the song. Jackie Jackson was there on bass, Jackson Jones guitarist, and Tony King on percussionist. That day we play like crazy on “How Long,” and that song did have to make a hit. Pat Kelly could sing, too! If you listen to my arrangements, most of the time I back the lead because I am the reggae mon, and the rhythm is reggae. When we play with the Hippy Boys I overdub on the lead guitar or just play lead alone and have Reggie Lewis play the rhythm, because I was teaching Reggie to play guitar at the time. I teach him reggae; when to phrase and when not to phrase. When you are getting ready to hit a bridge, you have a sustained note or an accented note, to let the listener know that something new is gonna happen. It’s hard to explain, but it is a sound to indicate that something is gonna happen. He really could play good rhythm.
I never give Bunny Lee my tape - The Heart of Ranny Bop, but he grabbed it from my hand y’know, at Dynamic. He knows I have a lot of stuff on it. All of us used to carry our tape with us, because the tape as our property. I didn’t know his intention. Most of Bunny Lee stuff I arrange and play them, like the songs by Johnny Ace that John Holt sing. Some of the tracks on my tape were a mix between he and I, but he grabbed the full tape. I start to hear my songs playing in the background in England. I heard this years later on a Bunny Lee collection radio program and these earlier songs were playing in the background. They don’t call my name and don’t say anything about me. All this happened after 1967.
Bunny Lee gave a copy of my tape to The Upsetter, which is Lee Scratch Perry. Perry puts Dave Barker on it and calls it “Shocks of Mighty.” I didn’t name it “Shocks of Mighty,” Upsetter named it and then he release it. All of those songs were released and many of them make a big hit. If I had known to register all of those songs, but I didn’t know! When I went to Jamaica to get my royalties from all of these songs, they say I already came and took my royalty already. I say, “How can I take my royalties if I’m not even in the country?” That was at the Performing Rights Society on King Street that collect royalties for singers and musicians. Those days, if you can’t beat a man and throw punches in his mouth, and stop him from do things, there’s no way of stopping him. That’s what used to happen in those days. They will take your things and do as they like. You can’t do nothing about it. That was what going on during that time.
I always try to live up and stay up. I stay with the law and I am a person like that. Bunny Lee taking all my music on the tape and getting wealth from it, cripple me. My name he wouldn’t call because he tried to set me up, so I couldn’t ask for the music. My tape – my songs, them. He even came up to Canada and call me to use me for more sessions and I say no.
What happened was when I left England in 1976, my passport was expired, but they flew me to Jamaica on that expired passport. When I get to Jamaica, I went to get my passport, fast. What we do in Jamaica is get a friend to help you out, and that’s why I went to Bunny Lee. Bunny Lee was pulling a string and take me to a justice of the peace. I suspected right there and then that I shouldn’t do this because it was all happening too easy. The justice of the peace didn’t know who I was and didn’t ask me nothin’ about my passport that I had right in my pocket. I knew something was wrong and I just want a way out, so I write incorrect name on the paper and left. When I went to the passport office the following day with my old passport, Bunny Lee had a woman waiting there for me. This lady came over to me and say, “Come here man. This place full. Me carry you go somewhere you get this thing fast. Come with me. ” Bunny Lee was so powerful, that he had that women there waiting for me and I feel that they were going to lock me up for fraudulent documents. She took me right to a policeman, and she walked away. When he asked for my paperwork, I didn’t give his the papers from the justice of the peace, I gave him my old passport! I could see on him face that it is something that is not what he wanted to see! He couldn’t do nothin’ because I left Bunny Lee with the fake documents. What they do in Jamaica, is if you are wrong, ya get caught, and they divert you to a police that is waiting at the office. That woman was there to wrong me. I truly believe that they were trying to put me in jail. Because I had done nothing wrong, the police sent me back to the passport office and I gave them my expired passport. They took my picture and gave me a brand new passport for Ranford Williams.
I want the world to know that my music was taken from me and sold all over the world and made riches, and I get none.
Many years later my friend Markus is Switzerland encouraged me to call Bunny Lee, which I did. Even that I was afraid to do. I was very much afraid of the man. He’s powerful and I know that, because if they can remove my money without me, I know there is some strong arm there. When I call Bunny Lee, the first thing he says to me, “So you get a Canadian now.” So my passport was still on his mind! Then we talked about the John Holt song “Stick By Me” that I arranged. During that call, I didn’t get the chance the really penetrate our disagreement. That’s the only time I get to talk with him about my music and my money.
Written with the assistance of Ranford Williams from numerous interviews throughout 2020-2021,
© by Rich Lowe 2021. www.reggaejamaicaway.com
*Special thanks to Markus of Reggae Fever and to Ray Hurford of Musik Tree for the assistance.
[i] Bouncing tracks is a term applied to multi track audio recording where audio is recorded on numerous tracks with one track remaining empty. Upon completion of the live recording, the tracks are mixed and loaded onto the remaining “empty” track/s. This frees up the other tracks to be deleted as a mix is retained. Ranny is referencing the use of bouncing with the goal of freeing up space for additional recording. It was not easy for Ranny to obtain blank tapes for recording, so he made maximum use of what he had.
[ii] Ranny Bop added, “I did give one track to Winston Merritone. He try it, and start to become a big producer and same girlfriend Cynthia Schloss start become a great singer. I was the first one to give him music to try with. Merritone was a very powerful guy with sound system in Jamaica. The last time I saw him, he glad to see me. Glad to talk with me. I gave him the recording and that’s why he greet me that way when he see me.”
Frederick “Freddie” Campbell
(Writer, arranger, musician – conga drums, drum set, keyboards)
Compiled with the assistance of Fred Campbell from numerous interviews throughout 2020, © by Rich Lowe 2020. www.reggaejamaicaway.com
Small group, band, and orchestra memberships:
Noel Seal (mentoring and teaching)
The Caribs (first live performances)
Kes Chin and The Souvenirs
Carlos Malcolm and his Afro Jamaican Rhythms
Leslie Butler Trio
The Granville Williams Orchestra
Ernest Ranglin Trio
Freddie Campbell Trio
The Skajamz Band
Frederick “Freddie” Campbell is a Jamaican musician best known as a drummer. He was first trained on the conga drums and moved to “traps” - commonly known as a drum set. Campbell played the top drum manufacturer at the time, Ludwig.
I didn’t work with the earlier bands from the 1940s. I came in at the tail end of the greats – the Bertie Kings, the Aubrey Adams, the Taddy Mowatts, and the Ernest Ranglins. For instance, I didn’t know Eric Deans or his band, but I heard about him, a lot! Those guys told me about all of their experiences – the eight hour gigs and all night gigs. They laughed at me when I told them playing on a four hour gig was too long. I came into it working at hotels for four hours and whittled it down to an ideal three hours.
As a youth, when these things were happening you never think that someday, fifty years from now, people would be interested in what we did. I understand more now because the music was the soul of the people. These people give up their jobs, to go and sing. I grew up with my aunt and when I told her I was gonna do music, she said, “Well you can now my Fred, but you can’t live here. You gotta go find somewhere to live, because I didn’t spend all that money on school to have you become a musician.” I had to leave. I packed my bags at night and left and I had no idea where I was going.
When I was in school in the early-1950s, there was this guy named Noel Seal and I was hearin’ him practice as I would pass his gate. I would stop to listen as he was playing his conga drum. There was something that caught my attention, it was very striking, as if the sound of his playing was amplified to my ears. It was as if there were no other sound – other than the sound radiating his drum. I wasn’t even a teenager – I was twelve or maybe even younger. I remember because it was before the entrance exams at high school. I took my exam at age eleven and passed. I passed, but didn’t get a scholarship, until the second attempt. Me being that age, Noel was also still a young man - he was probably twenty-six, and not married yet. I stood at his gate and was so excited to hear him playing his drums. One day he saw me out there leaning against the tall metal gate and say, “Come on in! Come on in!” I went in and he taught me how to play the conga drum over a period of years. Noel’s conga drum? He taught me all of the basics, the different rhythms from the rumba to the meringue, and the cha to the mambo, and the samba to the bossa nova. These were patterns that were basic patterns. Noel said if you can play these, you can work in any band, and that was true! Noel learned from working on the ship and going to Cuba. I still think that as far as conga playing is concerned, he is still one of the greatest conga players that Jamaica has produced. Larry MacDonald is another great and is one of the best conga players around.
It was Noel Seal that encouraged me to play a full drum set. He knew there were more jobs for the full kit, as compared with the congas alone. Not a lot is known about Noel because he is such a laidback fellow. So relaxed and easy going that people took advantage of him. I’m sorry to say that, but I found it to be true.
With all the training from Noel, I still had never played in a band or anything. A few years passed and by the time I reached age seventeen I was still practicing with Noel. There was a time where Noel got a boil on his hand when he was playing with The Caribs, and he couldn’t play. He told me that if he didn’t play, he would lose his job, so could I sit in for him. I was surprised and said, “Noel I have never played.” He said, “You know enough, man. Just keep the beat. You don’t have to solo or anything.” For two weeks I sat in for Noel with Dennis Sindrey, Lowell Morris, and Peter Stoddart. When I was done and Noel had healed, he said to me, “Y’know, I can’t give ya everything, because I have still have bills. I can give you something, so hold this and thank you very much.” With what he gave me, I thought this is a lot of money!
When I left school, I was making six pounds a week as a junior accountant at a big firm down in Kingston. I made twelve pounds per week sittin’ in for Noel, so I thought about which I prefer and decided to do both.
In 1960, at age nineteen, I joined Kes Chin and The Souvenirs. Earlier, I had heard them rehearsing in my neighborhood. I went further and look, and I saw two guitars, a bass, and a drum set was there, but no drummer. I walked in and told them I can play the drums for them. They asked if I was sure. I told them “Sure – I can do that,” even though I had never played a drum kit before. I sat in and got by, and I got the job. I worked with them on Friday and Saturday nights at parties and weddings. Again, I was making more money than a whole week working as a junior accountant. I stayed with that band and met Winston Turner, Ska Sterling, and I already knew Boris Gardiner from home because he lived near where my girlfriend lived. I asked Boris Gardiner to join Kes Chin because they really needed a singer.
My mentor – who is still my best teacher, is Carlos Malcolm. I’ve taken music courses at El Camino in California, it was just a little college at the time and I was one of the early students, but no matter how much studies I do, Carlos continues to be unsurpassed in knowledge and advice. We talk often and I share my work with him, and he makes suggestions on arrangements. From those suggestions, that’s the equivalent of a whole semester at a university!
After I left Carlos Malcolm, I was playing with Leslie Butler on the north coast of Jamaica. I had worked with Leslie Butler in Jamaica for quite a while and when he traveled to The Bahamas for a three-month thing, he just brought me with him.
My next big move was when I became a member of The Granville Williams Orchestra, but I’m not quite positive when I starting playing with Granville Williams. I think it was Ernest Ranglin that called me to play with Williams after Carlos Malcolm and after I came back from the Bahamas with Leslie Butler. I got into that circle because Williams’ brother Audley Williams played bass guitar with Carlos. I had known both Ernest and Audley, so I was a natural to be the drummer. Williams was an organist who played the top of the line Hammond B3 organ, made famous the jazz man, Jimmy Smith. Williams was a white Jamaican from Spanish Town, tall slim, attractive. His brother was also a musician - Audley Williams, who played bass for Carlos Malcolm and the great Ernie Ranglin. When I was with Granville Williams, Ernest Ranglin played guitar and did all of the arrangements that the group played. As a result, our music was upbeat and bouncy. We also covered this tune called “Night Train” by Jimmy Forrest, and that song was one of our hit tunes. Additionally, we played songs by Glen Miller and Artie Shaw, along with some mento and a lot of ska. We did not play much American music.
I want you to know about the first time I worked with Ernest Ranglin. I was so amazed when he played, that I stopped playing and just listened. He walked over and said, “Fred, ya can join in y’know.” That’s when I realized that I wasn’t even playing. Other players would have gotten mad at me, but not Ernie. Ernest used to regularly keep a cigarette in his mouth, but he would never light it. He would say, “Fred, this is temptation. It’s building up my confidence.”
One of the first recording that I did was with the Jiving Juniors. It was Derrick Harriott singing alone on one called “John Tom.” If you get a copy of the original recording, you can find out everyone that was in the studio, because he was calling out all of the names of the people that was in the studio – Larry, Trevor, Freddie, Keith. I was playing drums on that song and it wasn’t ska drums yet, it was more mento. I played on recordings by Owen Gray and Derrick Morgan and also recorded for producer Sonia Pottinger. We were recording at Federal when it was just a little one-house thing, before they built the big studio.
When I was working with Granville Williams, my friend Cedric Im Brooks got an offer to work with Teddy Greaves. Greaves was a popular singer and band leader that played at the West End of The Bahamas. Cedric was a little upset that he’d be leaving the band and he didn’t want to break up the band. I say, “Man go! Cuz I know you’re gonna call me when they need a drummer” [laughs]. I just threw that out there y’know. It wasn’t three months after that, I got a call from him that they need a drummer. Teddy is Jamaican, a very good entertainer, but never really did anything in Jamaica. When he was in Jamaica, he made barrels as a cooper, and somehow he ended up in The Bahamas as a singer. We played at The Jack Tar Hotel in the West End, Grand Bahama. Jack Tar was a hotel chain, but that location in The Bahamas no longer exists.
I worked with Ernest Ranglin on and off quite extensively over the years. Much later in my career -in the 1970s, I played with the Ernest Ranglin Trio. The formal name of the trio was “The Ernest Ranlin-Hedley Jones Trio” and it was just Ernie, Hedley Jones, and me. We played hotel gigs, like the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay.
I assembled my own Trio in the 1970s. It was the Fred Campbell Trio and I was playing drums. Our trio would play one set and then they had entertainment like crab races to get the people involved. Afterwards we did another half hour set to clean up. My last job before I left Jamaica was at The Trelawny Beach Hotel. Trumpet player and pianist - Billy Cooke, was another great that played in my trio at the Montego Beach Hotel in 1977. He could play trumpet and piano at the same time! He would play the chords with his left hand and thereby accompany himself. This is challenging because the trumpet was in one key and the piano is in another key. Of course, if someone else was soloing, Cooke would play the piano with both hands.
After I came to the US, I did one tour playing American music standards with some old men affiliated with the US armed forces. We toured Las Vegas and played at area gigs out west in the US. I also worked with Cosmic Force Records in Miami in the role as C.E.O. In collaborating with Cosmic Force owner Paul Chin-Quee, we successfully opened international distribution for our music.
Having been in the States for so many years, I stated to get bored and began to write more music and make some musical arrangements. This is how my band, The Skajamz Band was developed. I play keyboards with the group and we have recorded a number of singles “Run for Cover,” “Wood and Water,” and “Simmer Down.” I like good players that site read, interpret the music, and are familiar with the genre. Just like language, certain words in one language don’t mean the same thing in another language. Music is similar, so you have to get musicians that are familiar with the genre. We do a collage of music, a little ska, reggae, mento, and African music. It’s not just one thing on the album, it’s what I have to say.
Originally my key people with The Skajamz Band were Richard White and Arthur McCloud – both on bass. They were both excellent bass players. Arthur was so good at reading music, that if a fly pitched on a line or space on the sheet music, he would play it! We also had Devon James on guitar, and he played with The Skatalites for twenty-two years. On trumpet I had a young fellow named Yamin Mustafa, whose father - Melton Mustafa, played with the Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Woody Herman Orchestras. There are a couple of young guys playing trombone and saxophone that are fresh out of college. They were with the Florida A&M University Marching Band, “The Marching One Hundred.”
Freddie Campbell continues to play the drums and is writing and arranging new music. His goal is to be back playing on the north coast of Jamaica with his Skajamz Band.
Bobby Dixon a.k.a. “Bobby Digital” passed away in May of 2020 and it’s another great loss for Jamaican music. Not yet reaching the age of sixty, Bobby Digital was young and equipped with both talent and work ethic, and would surely have continued to produce exceptional Jamaican music. Bobby Digital grew up on Waterhouse and as a youth attended dances by Stur Grav and Socialist Roots Sound Systems. He began his impact on the music of Jamaica repairing equipment as an electronics technician. He soon moved into sound system work with Heatwave sound, and next in 1983-1984 as a dub cutter and engineer for King Jammy$. While with Jammy$, Bobby Digital even recorded to disc – impromptu artist performances live on the mic.
In 1984, an important development in Jamaican music was to transform Bobby Digital’s career. This development took the form of Noel Davey’s “Sleng Teng” riddim, exploding with lyrics. The “Sleng Teng” riddim was a marking point where digital music began to surge from Jamaican recording studios. In 1988, Bobby Digital began to produce music in Jamaica and then opened a small recording studio that was situated at Rons Road in the Hughenden area of Kingston. Although the studio was small, the sound was big, bold, and crisp and Bobby Digital maintained this same studio throughout his career – working with loyal colleagues like Spragga Roots.
At Digital-B Recording Studio, thousands of tracks were recorded that hit the charts, rocked the dance halls, and earned Grammy awards. Generations of artists grew out of Digital-B from the 1980’s, the 1990’s, and into the first two decades of the twenty first century. Bobby Digital introduced new artists to Jamaica like Shabba Ranks and garnet Silk and raised the bar on existing artists like Sanchez D and Cocoa Tea. The musical output includes, “Dem Bow” and “Peanie Peanie” by Shabba Ranks, “Black Woman and Child” by Sizzla, the “It’s Growing” album by Garnet Silk, and the “Kette Drum” riddim.
The following is a selected discography of Bobby Dixon productions.
Bobby Digital – Digital-B 7” Singles:
Risto Benji – Girls Kid – Digital-B 7” -
Shabba Ranks – Paid Down For It – Digital-B 7” – 1989
Daddy Screw – Love Yuh Till Mi Fool – Digital-B 7” – 1993
Bryan & Tony Gold – On and On– Digital-B 7” – 1989
Leroy Smart – 100% Love– Digital-B 7” – 1992
Luciano – Get Down On It– Digital-B 7” – 2003
Gregory Isaacs - Yesterday– Digital-B 7” – (no date listed)
Derrick Parker – My Heart Is Gone– Digital-B 7” – 1989
Marcia Griffiths & Morgan Heritage– Digital-B 7” – 2000
Dean Frazier - Saxdelero– Digital-B 7” - 1991
Gregory Isaacs and John Holt – Body language – Digital-B – (Gregory careful with his singing)
Gregory Isaacs – Wailing Rudie – Digital-B (Poor “Johnny” - a man with a wrong path in life or pathetic quality, which was a reoccurring Isaacs song writing pattern)
Sanchez D – Give It A Chance – Digital-B – 1990
Jimmy Riley – Chat Chat – Digital-B – 1992
Jimmy Riley & Anthony Red Rose – Changes In Life– Digital-B – 1992
Red Dragon – Cock It Up High – Digital-B – 1993
Ninjaman – Number One – Digital-B -1990
Ninjaman – Fulfillment – Digital-B – 1990
Ninjaman & Gregory – Cowboy Town – Digital-B – 1991
Gregory Isaacs – Lead Me – Digital-B – 1992
Shabba Ranks – Hot Like Fire – Digital-B – 1988
Shabba Ranks – Just Reality – Digital-B- 1990
Shaka Shamba – Reggae Fight – Digital-B – 1991
Lady G & Sugar Minott – Love Yu Fi True – Digital-B- 1992
Clement Irie – Know How Fi Walk – Digital-B-
Louie Culture – In A Yu Waist – Digital-B – 1993
Shabba Ranks & Leslie Thunder – What Can You Do– Digital-B –
Shabba Ranks – Hard & Stiff– Digital-B- 1990
Shabba Ranks & Morgan Heritage – Dem A Bawl – Digital-B-
Ninjaman – Glad Mi Release – Digital-B- 1987
Ninja Ford – Step Aside – Digital-B – 1992
Ninja Ford – Boast -– Digital-B – 1993
Johnny Osbourne – Roots Man Come – Digital-B – 1989
Johnny Osbourne & Chaka Demus – Few Dollars More – Digital-B
Sanchez – Player Hater – Digital-B – 2004
Spanner Banner – Mary Brown - – Digital-B – 1990
Ian Sweetness – Give Them A Hand – Digital-B – 1991
Daddy Screw – Sweet Type of Lover – Digital-B – 1993
Ricky Stereo – Original Lover Boy – Digital-B
Tony Rebel – Sweet Jamaica – Digital-B - 1991
Shabba Ranks – When You’re Up - Digital-B -
Shabba Ranks – Gal You Good - Digital-B - 1990
Shabba Ranks – Dem Bow - Digital-B - 1990 (link to Reggaeton style)
Dem Bow – B-side version with vocals
Power Man – Statue - Digital-B – 1993
Cocoa Tea – Lonesome Side - Digital-B - 1987 (with cock crow in riddim)
Wayne Wonder – Someone To Hold - Digital-B - 1993
Sanchez D – Unchained - Digital-B - 1992
Singing Melody – Groovy Kind of Love - Digital-B
*Anthony B - Raid The Barn -
Yami Bolo – Hot Stepping - Digital-B - 1993
Morgan Heritage – Blackman’s Paradise - Digital-B
Garnet Silk – Splashing Dashing - Digital-B - 1994
Singing Melody – In This Love Together - Digital-B - 1989
Josey Wales – How Yu Mouth Tan So - Digital-B
Tiger & Anthony Malvo – How Do You Do - Digital-B
Cobra – Tek Him - Digital-B – 1991
Thriller U – Ribbon In The Sky - Digital-B - 1990
Wayne Wonder – When I’m With You – Digital-B - 1991
Digital-B 12” Singles:
Shabba Ranks – Girls Wine – Digital-B 12” –
Johnny P – Winery – Digital-B 12” – Digital-B 12” –
Penny Irie – Condem – Digital-B 12” –
Buju Banton – Good Looking Gal – Digital-B 12” – (1993 Promo 12”)
Daddy Blue - Video – Digital-B 12” – (with “Digital Crew”)
Shabba Ranks & Thriller U – Real Real – Digital-B 12” –
Bunny General – Me A Beg Oonuh – Digital-B 12” –
Courtney Melody – Live My Life Alone – Digital-B 12” -
Coco Tea & Johnny P – Come Love Me – Digital-B 12”
Daddy Lizard - Inaculator – Digital-B 12” –
Sugar Minott & Anthony Malvo – Can’t Control The Feeling – Digital-B 12” –
Ninjaman – Things A Gwan – Digital-B 12” –
Ninjaman – Test The High Power – Digital-B 12” –
Ruddy Thomas – I’m The One – Digital-B 12” –
Cobra – Mate Ha Fi Move – Digital-B 12” – (VP Records collaboration)
Shabba Ranks – Are You Sure – Digital-B 12” –
Dirtsman – Trailer Load Come – Digital-B 12” – (*Most of the 12” releases are collaborations
with Steelie & Clevie).
Shabba Ranks - Hood Top – Digital-B 12” – 1992
Josey Wales – Every Man Tun Ginal– Digital-B 12” – 1989
Joesy Wales – Chanty Chanty – Digital-B 12” –1995
Echo Minott’s 40th Anniversary in The Music Business - Lord Sassafrass reflects on his lifelong friendship with Echo Minott
Noel Phillips a.k.a. “Echo Minott” was born and grew up in Maverley and he attended my mother Gertrude Dixon’s basic level school that she started when she lived in Trenchtown. Lord Sassafrass’s mother started a school at their home called Maverley Basic School. Mi know Echo’s mother and the family name was Marshall. He used to live five houses around the corner from me on Amsterdam Road first, and I lived on Denver Crescent. He was younger than me and I know Echo as a lickle baby. Me give him a hard time growing up because he say he want to be a DJ. I tell him I don’t want to see no DJ around me – all mi want to see is singers. So him come and sing and I say that no good! Every time him sing, I give him a hard time. I tell him the song is no good. When him tun big, he tell me, “I know what you was doing! Every time you would run me, I’ll come back harder Sass.” He say he know, and that’s why he’s where he is now. Up to this day, he still call me Teacher.
I gi’ Echo Minott the mic on Black Scorpio Sound System man! The first song he buss in a dance was “Farmer Man” that he recorded for producer Junjo Lawes. Echo was a little tough kid that always run competition with me. Him say he can play soccer better and him can run faster than me, so me and him always clash from him lickle – that guy. One time he thief my lyrics book, where I write down all the songs I sing. I go over his house and find the book. I wasn’t mad! Great him a go get great now man! Echo Minott go to Black Scorpio, Jammy$, and Volcano Record label as a singer and got big singing songs. He was one of the first singers to record at Jammy$ after Jammy split off from King Tubby. His voice is unique because he used to sing in a calypso style on reggae songs. People would even think that he come from Trinidad. You can hear this style on his song “What The Hell The Police Can Do,” when he sings the phrase about how he and his girl were fighting. Minott created huge dancehall hits like Lazy Body,” “Been Around The World,” “Cheo Cheo” with General Trees, and “Cool and Deadly.” The Black Scorpio super hit by Echo Minott called “Lazy Body” was recorded by Chris Meredith and Paul Blake’s Drummer. Surprisingly, there is no guitar in it at all. When first asked to voice the song, Echo Minott did not want to sing on it at all. He did not want to record for Jack because he was much more interested in working with Jammy$. The song became a monster hit for Black Scorpio. Now Echo Minott is a producer, and he works on big stage shows, and travels the world.
The Matador - Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music book is now available in the form of "expanded distribution" for order at Book Stores and distributors via Amazon - worldwide.
Check it out using the button below !
By Dan Polletta
PUBLISHED - February 7, 2020
TOPICS - Arts & Culture
In 1982, Rich Lowe was a student at John Carroll University hosting a reggae program on the campus station, when a recording he had purchased at a record convention caught his eye.
“I was playing some of these Jamaican seven-inch singles. One of them had a hand stamp that said, ‘Daley’s Television and Radio Repair Service.’ It was just very, very intriguing to see a hand stamp on a record. I didn't understand what that was until years later,” Lowe said.
Lowe, who spent nearly four decades as the host of the weekly reggae program, “Night of the Living Dread,” on Case Western Reserve University station WRUW, began looking into the story behind the name stamped on the recording. Lowe discovered that “Lloyd,” was Lloyd Daley, an important sound system operator, producer and electronics engineer, who, beginning in late 1950s, was one of the first to document Jamaican music during what was known as the “shuffle period.” Lloyd continued to produce recordings into the 1980s and worked with many important performers including Dennis Brown, Count Ossie and Alton Ellis.
However, Lowe found that almost no interviews existed with Lloyd himself. Lowe learned why, as he began the research that led to his new book about Lloyd, "The Matador" (Jamaica Way Publishing).
Lowe described Daley as a "middle-class, clean cut well-dressed guy who produced deep Rastafarian music," who became disillusioned with the music business. Daley said others had pirated his work, as well as that he feeling that he didn't receive the credit he deserved as an important figure in Jamaican music. There were also numerous run-ins with powerful figures who tried to eliminate Daley from the scene, including destroying his equipment, according to Lowe.
Daley’s strong personality often led him to butt heads with others, which earned him his nickname.
“He was feisty. He was the type of person who had great willpower, so that's where he got the name, ‘The Matador,’ because he was this young guy taking on these other powerful people, like a bullfighter would take on a bull,” Lowe said.
Despite numerous requests from major music publications, Daley retreated from public view, refusing to do interviews.
Though he knew Daley wasn’t amenable to interviews, in 2014, Lowe sent a letter to Daley’s home in Kingston asking for the opportunity to speak to him in the hopes of writing a book about him. To Lowe’s surprise, he received a reply a week later.
“I don't know why he opened up to me. In some sense, I think he was waiting for the right person to come along with what he called ‘the vibes.’ He said ‘it was the vibes that caused me to open up to you more.’ We talked for four years almost on a daily basis. He told me just about everything,” Lowe said.
During their frequent phone conversations and email correspondence, Lowe witnessed firsthand why Daley was known as “The Matador.”
“He was always feisty. If I asked a question the wrong way, he might get really mad at me. That's who he was, and that's why he didn't open up to others. He would flatly refuse to communicate with other people,” Lowe said.
Lowe came to understand quickly the best way to speak to Daley.
“I was polite. I was honorable. I never did anything to offend his position in music. I was very delicate in how I dealt with things, but also, conversely, very honest and open and blunt sometimes. I would ask him the direct questions, Lowe said.
In addition to his extensive conversations with Daley, Lowe interviewed numerous musicians as well as Daley family and friends for his book. Time after time in those interviews, Lowe’s subjects told him they couldn’t believe that Daley was willing to speak with him, given his reluctance to share details of his life.
Although Daley died prior to the completion of “The Matador” in 2018, Lowe feels the reggae great appreciated the opportunity to share his story.
“He was pleased with the progress of this book. I think he got a chance to share his history. I think he was very happy about it. I know that this is part of his legacy,” Lowe said.
"The Matador – Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music" is now available internationally via Amazon in paperback, Kindle and eBook formats.
(January 14, 2020)
Lloyd Daley, reclusive and prolific Jamaican music producer, featured in
revealing new biography - The Matador, by Rich Lowe
Lloyd “The Matador” Daley passed away on March 18, of 2018. Now - two years after his passing, a new book The Matador – Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music reveals the impact he made on Jamaican music that continues to this day. Author Rich Lowe revisits Daley’s memories of building some of the most powerful amplifiers on the island of Jamaica, forming the Matador Sound System, and becoming a top selling music producer in the golden eras of Jamaican Boogie-Shuffle, Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae music. Daley spent the last four years of his life working on this book project with Rich Lowe.
Lloyd Daley produced Jamaican music that was consistent and brimming with quality. He recorded artists of the era who have come to be recognized over time: Members of The Skatalites, Dennis Brown, The Gladiators, The Wailing Souls, The Heptones, Little Roy, Freddie McKay, Alton Ellis, The Ethiopians, The Hippy Boys, The Abyssinians, Count Ossie, The Viceroys, and many more. As a sound system owner, Daley battled with giants of the day like King Edwards, Coxson Dodd, Duke Reid, and Bells the President.
Unlike many other producers of the era, Daley was deeply involved in many of the technical aspects of Jamaican music production. He was reclusive, and in later years, reportedly angry over violations and piracy that he had experienced. Rich Lowe shares, “I was aware that even after sixty years since the start of his musical journey, that there was the possibility of speaking with Mr. Daley directly about his music. I decided to attempt contact. It was a long shot, and I don’t know what made him decide to engage in a dialogue. Much later, he would describe it as ‘vibes.’”
Mr. Daley put his trust in this book. Sound system owner Prince Jackie Robinson noted to the author, “You must be a special person for Mr. Daley to share this information with you. He never does that.” Robinson then laughed heartily and continued: “The Matador was The Matador. Is a man that never stand for no foolishness.”
The Matador – Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music is now available internationally via Amazon in paperback, Kindle and eBook formats.
A new book about Lloyd Daley, The Matador – Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music is available internationally via Amazon in paperback, Kindle and eBook formats.
Lloyd Daley – “The Matador”
Lloyd David Edward Daley (born 12 July 1939, died 18 March 2018), produced Ska, Reggae, Rock Steady, and Dancehall music in Jamaica under the title of “The Matador.” In addition to music production, Daley was an electronics engineer and he operated a dance hall sound system in Kingston, Jamaica, starting in the mid-1950s. Lloyd Daley operated this dominant sound system in the city where dancehall music was born – Kingston, Jamaica.
At a young age, Mr. Daley formed his own electronics business where he repaired televisions and radios, built amplifiers, repaired motors, and installed video cameras, among many other projects. Over time, Mr. Daley created his sound system“Lloyd’s The Matador,” by employing sophisticated engineering techniques and selecting specific songs for play, and this system, with its tremendous capabilities, would ultimately play in every parish in Jamaica. As Lloyd’s The Matador Sound System played, Mr. Daley “clashed” with greats of the 1950s and 1960s, such as like Duke Reid, Sinclair “The Lion,” Bells the President, Count Boysie, King Edwards, and Coxson. Mr. Daley was always in search of something more, and he was a determined man who often sought out challenges and competition. Defiance often led to conflict, and The Matador—by definitionas suggested by his name—was prepared to manage this conflict to his advantage.
Mr. Daley operated at the center of the sound system eruption in the mid 1950’s in Jamaica, recording as a producer in the golden eras of Jamaican Boogie-Shuffle, Ska, Rock Steady and Reggae music. As a producer, Daley had consistency, quality, and was selective. Lloyd Daley recorded artists of the era who have come to be recognized over time: Members of The Skatalites, Dennis Brown, The Gladiators, The Wailing Souls, The Heptones, Little Roy, Freddie McKay, Alton Ellis, The Ethiopians, The Hippy Boys, The Abyssinians, Count Ossie, The Viceroys, and many more. As a sound system owner, Lloyd Daley battled with giants of the day like King Edwards, Coxson Dodd, Duke Reid, and Bells the President.
In addition to Daley’s music accomplishments, he also had a close connection with iconic Jamaican orchestra leader Eric Deans, whose daughter Deanna Deans, married Daley in 1967.
The “Deans” name is legendary, Eric Deans was a multitalented musician who earned a reputation as the top orchestra leader in the 1940s and 1950s Kingston club scene.
A new book about Lloyd Daley, The Matador – Sonic Pioneer of Jamaican Music is available internationally via Amazon in paperback, Kindle and eBook formats.
“One of the unsung heroes at the time of course was Lloyd ‘The Matador.’ He was very, very good because Lloyd used to build all these sound system amplifiers.”
- Graeme Goodall, Federal Recording Studio Engineer
“Big sounds were never, ever friendly with each other. They only pretended until they meet in the same dance hall and then it is a different thing.”
- Lloyd “The Matador” Daley
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