We listen to songs over and over when we find them enjoyable. Repetition will draw interest to music that does not immediately attract. Proper ingredients, carefully arranged, and then revisited can become masterpieces. Harry A. Mudie (HAM) is a producer of Jamaican music who uniquely revisits his creations. As he returns to his creations, he improves and refines them with vision. Adjustments are made and the music is rereleased. In one instance, the original vinyl pressings were crushed up for use on another project. It was the original release of “The Drifter” that was crushed into pieces and later resurrected. “The Drifter” is just one example, HAM has used repetition throughout his career.
Harry A. Mudie grew up with Jazz music. To this day, he maintains his extensive Jazz vinyl collection, which includes Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonius Monk. In 1955, while still in school at St. Jago High School in Spanish Town, HAM connected the love of Jazz and music to a sound system called Mudie’s HiFi. Eventually, this sound played throughout the island of Jamaica. HAM attributes his success to his personal address (PA) system. This system was very sophisticated for the time period. Harry A. Mudie recalls how Mudie's HiFi was configured, "Three individual microphone inputs. We used the best quality microphones available. We positioned the output speakers on stands, with complimentary output speakers on the floor." The design produced a reliable sound which was deep and rich and it drew the interest of Byron Lee. In his early days, Byron Lee worked with HAM to rent HAM’s system for his big band events.
In 1961 HAM visited Federal's Two Track Studio to complete his first recording. Vocal and Instruments were both balanced and simultaneously recorded HAM's first production, featuring Count Ossie. The engineer was Graham Goodhall This recording resulted in the “Remembering Count Ossie” album on Moodisc Records. Count Ossie is an icon of Jamaican culture. HAM and Count Ossie became fast friends from their first meeting. HAM describes when Ossie took him to Warieka Hill, “It was like a cut-off, because not everyone could go up there. You had to have a password to get in there because of the weed. Ossie was someone that the Police respected because he used it, but not on the street. He used it for religious purposes. He never smoked a cigarette. A very, very great guy. They used to have sit-in and play music. I used to go up there pretty often and we decided we would do an album together. That was my first recording.”
In January 1962, HAM left Jamaica to live with his Aunt Hazel in England. During this period, HAM studied electronics and photography. As a result, HAM learned the skills to mix, engineer music, create album photographs, and how to process album jackets. HAM commented, “I try to do everything." HAM really does do everything, often with the assistance of close friends and family.
After his return from England in 1965, HAM opened his own Electronic repair store and Record shop at 39 Young Street inSpanish Town. Harry A. Mudie worked under a service contract with Stanley Motta to repair Televisions, Radios, and Appliances. Motta’s business worked with photography, prints, television sales, parts and repairs. That business was good as the contract allowed for a specific dollar amount to be paid for repairs. Next, HAM revisited the recording studio with a collection of artists and musicians that he had befriended from his work on Mudie’s HiFi. The rhythm track instrumentals were completed on one weekend day and the following weekend HAM brought in the vocalists for another one day session. The rhythm track instrumentals were recorded by a group HAM named "The Rhythm Rulers." This group consisted of an amazing collection of some of the most skilled and influential musicians in Jamaican music history. Without hesitation, Harry A. Mudie recites the lineup for "The Rhythm Rulers," "Winston Wright on Organ, Jackie Jackson on Bass, Joe Isaacs on Drums, Hux Brown On Guitar, Eric Frater on Guitar, Theophilus "Snappin" Beckford on Piano, Val Bennett on Tenor Sax, Carl "Cannonball" Bryan on Alto Sax, Rico Rodriquez on Trombone, and Denzil Laing on Percussion." The vocals were laid the following week and included G.G Grossett, The Ebony Sisters, and Dennis Walks. HAM had rehearsed the artists at his repair shop in previous weeks so that he and the artists were ready for the coming recording session. This session produced vocals and instrumentals, which would dominate Jamaican music to present day. The music created includes “The Drifter" & "Heart Don't Leap" (by Dennis Walks), "Let Me Tell You Boy” (by The Ebony Sisters), “Run Girl” (by G.G Grossett), "Mannix" (by the Rhythm Rulers), "Run For Your Life" (by Carl Bryan & The Rhythm Rulers), "Waking The Dead" (by Carl Bryan, "Musically Red" (by The Rhythm Rulers), "Mudies Mood" (by Lloyd Charmers & The Rhythm Rulers). Despite the aforementioned impact of the music, ”The Drifter” did not sell and HAM crushed all of the singles that he had pressed and put the recorded tape to the side. HAM describes this event:
“Yes. Sometimes you put a song out and it’s too early. It’s ahead of its time. I found that out with some of the songs [I] release. When I find it that way, I just relax, put it down, and then reintroduce it. Maybe with something else mixed in or change along the way. "Sometime force we go back." They want a new version, so I try to see what we can do to make it fresh. We do DJ, we do instrumental, a different version, a dub version, while keeping the rhythm section tight just the same. It’s because the people love the stuff so much that they want more of it! As they say, ‘You can't get too much of a good thing.
Vin Gordon plays the trombone as is often referred to as “Don Drummond Junior.” Mr. Gordon played with the top historical bands The Soul Vendors, The Soul Brothers, and Tommy McCook and The Supersonics as well as The Skatalites. Mr. Gordon plays a King trombone with a 6 and one-half Vincent mouthpiece. He likes a silver trombone with a large silver bell (not brass). JJ Johnson also used to played a the same manufacturer’s product, a King trombone.
Under the supervision of Alpha Boy’s School band master Lennie Hibbert, Mr. Gordon played the “blow bass” tuba or the string bass. It was not until he left Alpha in 1964-5, that he took up the trombone, although he did sample the trombone the week before he left Alpha Boys School. The first time Mr. Gordon played the trombone, he had to adjust to the smaller mouthpiece of the trombone as the tuba mouthpiece is significantly larger. Fortunately the trombone was the same bass clef instrument like the “blow bass.” Mr. Gordon commented, “it’s very easy to leave from the blow bass to play the trombone. You get a rounder, better, sweeter sound because you read the music the same way. They are in the same clef, the bass clef. All I had to do was learn the positions and there I go!” Although Mr. Gordon described the transition as easy, he also states, “I had to practice hard! Very hard, hard, hard. I used to practice eight hours a day.” It was after this that Rolando Alphonso took Vin Gordon to Studio One. The nickname “Don Drummond Junior” was coined at Studio One.
From Bellevue Hospital, Don Drummond himself sent Mr. Gordon a message. A friend by the name of “Seedie” who worked at Randy’s Records on North Parade was a very good friend of Don Drummond. Seedie was very familiar with all of Don’s music and met up with Vin Gordon after Mr. Gordon left Alpha School. Seedie would travel with Mr. Gordon when he played in Franklin Town and surrounding areas. One day when Vin Gordon was dropping off some records at Randy’s, Seedie had a message to relay. Seedie had been on a recent visit to see Don Drummond at Bellevue Hospital on Windward Road and delivered the message from Don Drummond, “Tell him that he is good!” Gordon commented, “He (Seedie) could talk with Don Drummond very good, y’know.”
Vin Gordon recorded “Heavenless” at Studio One. Mr. Gordon describes the release, “I did ‘Heavenless’ as a little boy in Studio One and Coxsone Dodd say Don Drummond play it. He put it on his album. He told me that it’s a mistake he made.” The critical issue is that Don Drummond was committed to Bellevue Hospital a short time after the incident occurred on January 1, 1965. Heavenless has a Reggae beat and Reggae was first used in song titles in approximately February, 1968 (Daulke, “Regay To Reggay”, 1994). While at Studio One, Vin Gordon also composed and recorded the dancehall anthem “Real Rock.” “Real Rock” was first known as an instrumental. Gordon recorded this music at the age of 19 with Jackie Mittoo. Gordon wrote the melody and Jackie Mittoo wrote the remainder of the rhythm.
Mr. Gordon also recorded with Dave Madden, Glen DeCosta, on horn work for Bob Marley’s music. As a three-piece horn section, they recorded “Natty Dread,” “Rat Race,” “Natural Mystic,” “Guiltiness” and others. Vin Gordon was at Channel One when Sly Dunbar just started. Gordon recorded as a member of The Revolutionaries with hornsmen Tommy McCook and Herman Marquis. Gordon commented that Marquis’ alto sax helped to supply a unique “intonation” to the tracks produced.
Presently Vin Gordon is working on a new solo album. He is also composing “pain music” for ill people to medically treat their pain. There is also the 2012 album titled “In The Garden,” which is available for purchase from I-Tunes. Much of Mr. Gordon’s musical work is playing live. He often plays his signature songs, which are now considered hallmark Jamaican music. Mr. Gordon describes these live performances from his uniquely historical perspective: “As a featuring horns specialist, they put you there ‘an you playin’ the tunes when you was young. You play “Real Rock” ‘an dem song, but it’s not your songs. It’s not your album. At that time you was so young and you did it because you were in practice. You didn’t care about watching it. You didn’t know how great you was, so it didn’t matter. Now when you listen back, you say, ‘Oh my God, if I knew!’”
Below are a series of ”mutant singles” by Luciano. Mutant in the sense that they are all 7” releases not thought to be widely distributed (not on albums or major labels). In the late 80’s – early 90’s, Luciano recorded dubplates for neighborhood sounds until he and Ricky Trooper crossed paths. Trooper recognized Luciano’s singing ability and took him to the Aquarius recording studio in Half Way Tree Square.
Fatis Burrell of Exterminator Productions managed Luciano along with Sizzla and Turbulance at a time of dramatic growth of the Bobo Dread movement. Over time Luciano expanded his recording limitlessly, recording on singles, albums and under contract with International labels. Luciano clearly does not believe in overexposure. In the early 1980’s when Yellowman and singer Don Carlos released volumes of singles and albums, some felt that recording and releasing too much would be harmful to an artist. Overexposure appears to be a thing of the past as the baritone voice of Luciano has benefitted from recording widely, now with over 40 albums in his wake.
*Thanks to the Central Village Crew from Cleveland – Survivalist, Sparticus, Willpower, and Tan Tan.
World Peace – John John – Lloyd James Junior – 7”
Hail Rastafari – Reggae central – 2006 – 7”
Good Times – Mac Dada – 7”
All Fruits Ripe – Junk Yard – Scarkmooch – 7”
World Leaders – Roots Rockers Music – 7”
Rock and Come In – Thompson Sound – Kevan Thompson – 7”
Fire and Ice – Main Frame Records – 7”
What Is Man – South Block – Michael Sterling – 7”
When Will Things Change (with Tony Rebel) – Big League – 7”