Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Bob Andy experiences success and exploitation

Published:Monday | March 14, 2016 | 3:00 AM

Being at Maxfield Park Children's Home brought Bob Andy into contact with not only the piano, but also his earliest musical collaborators. He attended Kingston Parish Church and was in a choir. Also, while in the scout troop at Maxfield Park, he met Tyrone Evans, who was fascinated by how the boy he knew as Keith Anderson played the piano. They formed the core of a group called The Binders.

As he got older, Bob Andy ended up working at Bellevue. The Reggae Talk audience laughed when he said, "If you ill, Bellevue is not a place to go to."

It was about this time that he fell in love with Sam Cooke's voice, after hearing Darling You Send Me. Cooke is still Andy's favourite singer.

Sound system pioneer King Edwards the Giant lived across the road from Bob Andy and the sounds of Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte and Frank Sinatra, among others, were literally music to Andy's ears.

Reid and Andy had a stint with producer Duke Reid and they recruited John Holt, then later Vic Taylor. Holt had left and Andy told Reid that he would leave if Holt returned, eventually doing so.

"You a go a Studio One an' turn Sam Cooke," one group member commented.

He did not.

In addition to singing, Andy asked Dodd if there was anything he could do to earn a salary and soon started delivering records. At Studio One, Andy said, "Seeing music come alive around me, that was my first experience of what heaven was." Andy credited pianist Jackie Mittoo for the Studio One magic.

SONGWRITING

He started writing songs for people like Ken Boothe and Delroy Wilson, then recorded Crime Don't Pay for himself. One morning, he came to the studio early, smoked a spliff and sat in front of the piano, feeling heavy in his heart. Out of that came one of Andy's signature songs, I've Got to Go Back Home.

His first hit was Games People Play, done through a connection with Luther Dixon.

"That is how I became a popular artiste. The work had been done, so he (Coxson Dodd) started releasing the songs," Andy said.

Then producer Harry J came to him with Young, Gifted and Black; Andy took Marcia Griffiths along to the session. It blew up in England and they went to do the 'Top of the Pops' programme and tour with people like Elton John and Gilbert O'Sullivan. They were still not getting any money and, when the tour ended, the people in England said Harry J had got the cash.

However, back in Jamaica, Harry J said the money was in England.

"When we left Jamaica, Harry J did not have a studio. When we came back, he had a studio and a brand new Benz," Andy said.

FIRST ROYALTY CHEQUE

Still, Andy got his first royalty cheque for Games People Play (£675) bought a Ford Mustang and hit the clubs. He went back to England on his own. Pied Piper was recorded and Andy got Griffiths to come up and they started touring again.

However, Andy said, eventually Marcia started singing with the I-Threes and he was disillusioned with the music business and explored other things, like creative dancing with the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) and acting in the movie, Children of Babylon.

In 1972, out of the Michael Manley experience in Jamaica, Fire Burning was created. Check It Out came out of the socialism experiment with Cuba. In 2005, he went to Africa on his own and had a wonderful experience in Kenya.

"That country embraced me as I have never been embraced before by any geography," Andy said. He found his way to Ethiopia and ended up performing on the Marleys' Africa Unite concert.

Bob Andy said that at 18 years old, he felt he wanted to make a Molotov bomb and drop it on Gordon House when the two sides had convened.

"At 71, I still have that fire," he said.

- M.C.