Roy Black Column
To the well-reputed 1960s Kingston College headmaster, Douglas Forrest, it is almost an unforgivable sin for a student with a talent for singing to not find himself in the school's choir. The choir, which at the time was rated as the best in the Caribbean, produced several
outstanding vocalists in Jamaican popular music. The story goes that a popular Jamaican morning-radio presenter, while being a student at Kingston College, made the impolitic mistake of not offering himself as a chorister, and was severely reprimanded by Forrest, this after it was revealed that the radio presenter, a schoolboy at the time, had placed second on the very popular Vere Johns Opportunity Hour talent show.
The cool-voiced crooner, Dobby Dobson, his schoolmate and the man of the moment, surely didn't find himself in that situation, as he was numbered among the choristers at the institution. It was indeed the Kingston College Chapel Choir that gave Dobson his first real exposure to music, and provided an important vehicle for his journey into the realms of musical stardom. But that wasn't his first exposure to the entertainment business. Just before entering Kingston College and while attending Central Branch Primary School, which also schooled Dennis Brown, Dobson performed a lead role in the play, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves, at the Ward Theatre in Kingston. His schoolmate, Madge Sinclair, of Trapper John MD fame, co-starred as his wife. According to Dobson, "While I was attending primary school, I was chosen to play the part of Ali Baba in a play. A part of the play required me to sing, and I thought I did pretty well, and from then I thought I could sing." The thought seemed to have inspired Dobby to try for the very popular talent show series - Vere Johns Opportunity Hour - at which he won a few contests, beating some very well-known names.
At Kingston College, Dobson's talent was identified by Headmaster Forrest and the legendary choirmaster Barry Davies, and he was placed in the choir. By the time he reached the 'D' or Delta stream, he had written his first song, a gentle doo-wop song, titled, Cry a Little Cry, as a tribute to his shapely biology/history teacher, Ms Serrant. He decided to record the song with Livingstone 'Sugar' Hart, Howard Barrett, who later became a member of the Paragons, Fuzzy Byfield and Dennis Gayle, all members of the Delta stream, hence the name they gave themselves - Dobby Dobson and the Deltas. According to Dobson, the recording became an instant hit for Lyndon and Sonia Pottinger's Tip-Top record label in 1959 and went number one on the RJR charts, where it spent some six weeks.
After leaving school in 1959, Dobson, who possessed an extraordinary talent for writing tear-jerking love songs, recorded in duet with Charles Josephs as 'Chuck and Dobby', a series of such songs, beginning with a slow R&B number, Sweeter Than Honey, for Edward Seaga's WIRL label:
'Sweet things we do, sweeter than honey,
nice things we say worth more than money.
You hold my hand, I'm in heaven
We're going home, cloud number seven'.
Other recordings with the duo followed. But as a result of Dobson's growing popularity, he decided to go solo by the early 1960s, making the biggest impression with his self-penned Loving Pauper, for producer Duke Reid. According to Dobson, who spoke with Steve Barrow, the author of the book, Reggae, the Rough Guide, "I know the words would be popular, because who in Jamaica at that time had money to be a sugar daddy? What you had to offer a woman was just love." It was a proposition that would never be taken seriously by any nowadays woman, but Dobson was adamant as he sang:
'I'm not in a position to
the way that you're
Can't take you out to fancy places, like other fellows that I know can do.
I'm only able to romance you and make you tingle with delight.
Financially, I'm a pauper, but when it comes to loving I'm alright.'
Producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, who lived a few doors away from Dobson along Mark Lane in Kingston, was spurred into action upon hearing the recording - another number one for Dobson and his biggest hit ever. Dodd wanted a piece of the action: "You need to do a recording for me," was his proposal, according to Dobson, who I spoke with from his Fort Lauderdale residence, the insinuation being given by Dodd that neighbourly propinquity was enough reason for Dobson to grant his request. Dobson responded with an immortal gem, titled Seems I'm Losing You, which became another big rocksteady hit in Jamaica in the mid-1960s. Dobson claims that his involvement with one of his deepest lovers, Beverley Dixon, led him to write the lyrics:
'Seems to me I'm losing your heart to someone new
I can see it in your eyes
I can hear it in your sighs,
win back your love what must I do'.
Chuck and Dobby also recorded for Dodd and Reid the popular blues numbers, Du-Du-Wop and Cool School, respectively, in the pre-ska era.
In the meantime, Dobson worked as a proofreader for The Gleaner Company, a labour officer in charge of recruitment of workers to Guantanamo Bay, and brands manager for both Colgate Palmolive and Cadbury Foods in Jamaica.
Dobson proved his versatility when he reworked the very
affable ballad, That Wonderful Sound, for Rupie Edwards' Success label in 1970, had a number one song, titled Words, for the Penthouse label, and recorded the Sweet Dreams album for Federal Records. He also worked as vocalist for
several local bands and produced Barrington Levy's first single, Fi Mi Black Gal, before migrating to the US in the 1970s, where he continued to record several chart-topping hits. On August 61, 2011, Dobson was given the Order of Distinction, and in later years, he became a born-again Christian and released several successful gospel albums, including Those Days Are Gone, Tomorrow and You Raised Me Up, but still found time to sing and record secular songs while performing at gospel events across the globe.