Hugh Hendricks of Hugh Hendricks and The Buccaneers
[Hugh Hendricks Interview – Rich Lowe]
I started my band in 1968. That is when we had Ska, going into Rocksteady. This was in New York City at the time. I first went to New York City in June of 1963 at age 20. I had to come to the U.S. before I was 21, so that I could come on my mother’s VISA, so I could get my green card. Actually I didn’t want to come to the U.S. and leave Jamaica! In 1965 I bought a house and there was a piano in the house. The lady asked if she could leave it because it was going to be too expensive to remove. That was the piano that we started to learn music from. I never did music in Jamaica as I was an electrician. I was about 21 year old and we got some guys from the local high school (Wingate High School) and started playing around and bought some equipment. This was in Brooklyn and none were professional musicians.
We did some Soca with The Mighty Sparrow. He was coming to Madison Square Garden and I was the only Jamaican member of a band that was with the local Union in New York and you had to perform at to Madison Square Garden as a Union band. They couldn’t use his musicians, so I had to perform with Phyllis Dillon and Eddie Lovette. I got into Calypso and Soca, but it was Calypso at that time. Some of Sparrow’s musicians came back to New York, so I got some of his horn men. My horn section was basically Trinidadians and then Lester Sterling. Lester stayed with me for a long time starting in the early 70’s. He’s an original from The Skatalites. At that time they didn’t put The Skatalites back together and most of them migrated to the U.S. I knew Lester when he used to play with Byron Lee. He used to do my arranging for the horn section. Because of him, we started to play a lot of Ska. Harry Belafonte had a studio in the west side of Manhattan in the 60’s and Eighth Avenue that we used to use. Johnny Nash had recorded in Jamaica and a good friend of mine – Bill Garnett, was the engineer at the session.
639 Sound Studio - Hugh Hendricks’ Studio
Eventually they had to close the studio and that’s when I decided to start a studio in my home in 1970-71. I went to the audio show with and bought an Ampex tape machine. They had one and at the end of the show they had one on display and they didn’t want to pack it up. I made an arrangement that the last day of the show I would purchase it with Bill Garnett. We had to make our own mixing board. I even had to use a file and a drill to make the slide for the faders. Everything was self-made in my basement. We had nothing like mixing boards like you have today where you go into Sam Ashe and buy one. I had a four-track half-inch. We would record on four tracks and then we would bounce them back down to two. Then we would record the other two, so we had six tracks out of a four-track tape. We always had that heavy bass and drum. When we took our records to master them, the engineers used to ask, “How you get so much bass on these records man?”
Buccaneers Band members (At one stage, worked as a 16-piece band):
Mc and conga player: Fred Tavares
Singers: Bunny Rugs, Honeyboy Martin, Bunny Palamino, Patrick Gordon, Emmanuel Springer, Valentine Steelie Whitaker (keyboardist who also sang)
Drums: Steve Hamilton (Jamaica, played for the Mighty Vikings), Junior Chambers (Original drummer, Belize, Drafted into Army and became a doctor), Bunny Palamino (Former Singer for HHB), Michael Tobias (Very good drummer that used to play with Sparrow. He was the guy who started the new drum beat for Soca. Hugh ended up giving him to Belafonte and he stayed for 8-9 years). “Water” from St. Vincent.
Bass: Hugh Hendricks
Lead Guitar/Rhythm Guitar: Joe Fry (USA), Emmanuel Hector (St Lucia), Lynford Karbi, Eric Frater, Emmanuel Springer, Julian Bevers (Original guitarist from Belize. He later became a doctor)
The Buccaneers usually had a Four Horn Section:
3 original brass players -
Tenor Sax: Wesley Bonito
Alto Sax: Headley White
Trumpet: William Rhodd
Other brass players –
Tenor Saxophone: Lester Sterling, Rudolph Glasco (good arranger, played alto and tenor sax), Joe Alexander (Josh’s brother).
Trombone: “Wayne,” Ron Wilson (From Jamaica), Josh Alexander (from Trinidad)
Trumpet: Anselm Scrubb, Oswald “Ossie” Lawson (who worked with Carlos Malcolm), William Rodd (first trumpeter), a man named “Reese,” Roy Cape (Trinidadian, maintained a big band in Trinidad for many years, also released a book), William Oxley (Sparrows guy, From Trinidad),
Flugelhorn: Shake Keame (Shake was also a poet. He was from St. Vincent, was working in Germany and was asked to be Minister of Culture in St. Vincent and he did it. The government changed 2-3 years later and he was out of job. Shake came to NYC and was a teacher. Hugh hired him and he was a great arranger).
Percussion: (Singers also used to play percussion) Juan Clouden (St Vincent), Patrick Gordon
Keyboard: Ricky Geourzount (Original keyboardist, Hugh’s Brother in law), Owen Romeo (Guyana), Valentine Whittaker (aka Steelie).
(Interview with Hugh Hendricks, 12-11-2016 by Rich Lowe)
Michael Johnson is the Jamaican dancehall dj (rapper) by the name of Lord Sassafrass, who is well known for his work on Black Scorpio Sound System. Early 1970s dancehall lyrics led Sassafrass into the direction of his favored activity in life - horse racing. Crowds loved his references to great Jamaican race horses and jockeys.