By Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
THE TITLE of Saturday night's show at the Mas Camp Village, Oxford Road, St. Andrew, gave a hint of its calibre, but the proof of the legendary Studio One's depth was in the music.
The tribute to Sir Coxsone Downbeat was billed as 'Studio One and Jamaica's Music 50th Anniversary', the 'Jamaica's Music' emphasising that Studio One was in the beginning. The approach, however, was not to trot out a collection of standout artistes singing Jamaican music standards, but to have a mixture of the lesser known and established artistes, capped off by a couple bona fide stars in Sugar Minott and Frankie Paul.
The result was a slew of relatively fresh vintage faces, along with a liberal dose of the relatively 'regulars', doing short performances to an appropriately large audience into the early hours of yesterday morning to the music of the Unique Vision Band.
There was a short history lesson as well from Scully of Bunny & Scully, the duo which at one time went by the name Simms and Robinson. "Simms and Robinson, Bunny and Scully, is the first in Jamaica to put voice on plastic, before any Bob Marley, any Peter Tosh, before nuff a oonu modda an' faada born," Scully said, going on to invoke the names of some great sound systems, such as Lord Coombs, Tom the Great Sebastian and Nick.
"Nuff man not even know when the first sound system was, in a ol' house dung de bottom a Orange Street," he said, he said, as Bunny got into the first lines of Let The Good Times Roll. Scully wasn't quite finished with the lessons yet, as he spoke about 1953, when there was one studio in Jamaica, at the corner of Hanover and Laws Streets.
The Lone Ranger gave a demonstration in the art of announcing dances that was a history lesson all in itself, his first melodic 'bidlibong' from off-stage sending a ripple of excitement through the audience. Acknowledging Jah Youth (Big Youth) and U-Roy as the teachers, he reeled off an ad for an upcoming dance that was a selection all in itself, his tongue rolling over the words rhythmically. Before doing his second tune, Love Bump, he dropped an ad for another "session that leaves an impression", which was also appreciated, and the Lone Ranger left the stage with a last "fllllassh it!"
Cornell Campbell, the original 'Gorgon', was a treat, his smooth voice effortlessly getting a rise out of the audience as he reminded them "it is so easy to remember/but so hard to forget". The only melodramatics in his performance being the mellowness of his voice, Campbell also had them Bouncing.
Among the other vintage show 'irregulars' on Saturday night's tribute to Sir Coxsone Downbeat was Scorcher, who made a grand appearance in red jacket, white shirt and pants to announce 'coming on strong, strong strong', to a lusty roar from the audience. Ranking Trevor dubbed it to humanity, Ray I pronounced "one be one, two be two" and there was a loud silence to Desmond Irie's appearance on stage until he started Hello Carol.
The Bassies emphasised that Things Come To Bump in Jamaica from, as MC Bob Clarke informed the audience, 1969 and Otis Gayle gave the first performance of his first single for Studio One, I'll Be There, 29 years after it was released, while Prince Jazzbo did it Crabwalking style.
King Stitt displayed the art of selecting and toasting before the show, dropping lines like "love is the torment of one/the happiness of two/the tribulation of three" as he selected Love Is A Feeling by Earl 16. The Unique Vision's Diana Rutherford chipped in for Phyllis Dillon with Perfidia, before Roy Richards opened the show proper with a lively version of The Last Post on his harmonica. He was to be joined by Enid.
The Jays gave a rare diversion into Channel One with Truly, King Stitt coming back to intone "no matter what the people say/these sounds lead the way/coming from the boss deejay/I Kings Stitt". Edi Fitzroy brought the show into a later era with Prison Life and Princess Black, Derrick Harriott giving one of the nights longer performances, the former Jiving Junior singing of Solomon being the wisest man and delighting with Stop That Train and Long Story.
"His CD was the last one Coxsone had his hand on and said 'release this one'," Bob Clarke said in bringing on Bunny Brown, who raised his falsetto with Change Gonna Come. Lord Creator brought the Evening News and a few jokes about Joes and jackets and Strangejah Cole hit an uptempo ska mode with When You Call My Name, the audience demanding a rare encore for the night. The Silvertones' True Confession set the harmonious tone fro Sugar Minott, Errol Dunkley and Frankie Paul to close the night, the last doing so in true revival style.
Testimony to the depth of a long show was that there was not a mass exodus before it was over and testimony to the depth of the Studio One catalogue was that it could have been longer, what with Freddy McGregor, Gym-Nastic, Barry Brown, Jennifer Lara and Tony Gregory not making it as advertised.