From Clarks to Clarks
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
"Hol' up yu foot an' show yu Clarks bootie
Show crowd a people yu trash an' ready
Say in me all wool an' me knits ganzie"
- Little John, Clarks Bootie
Singer Little John had been wearing Clarks shoes for about five or six years before he wrote and recorded Clarks Bootie at King Jammys Waterhouse studios in 1985, 24 years before Popcaan asked Vybz Kartel, "A whey yu get da new Clarks deh, Dawdie?".
Little John told The Sunday Gleaner he started getting the famed footwear at about 13 or 14 years old when Jah Thomas, for whom he recorded Say What You're Saying, would go to England and carry him 'pants length' and Clarks shoes.
It was the start of a lifelong relationship with the famed footwear, as Little John said he has "dozens and dozens. Clarks is a shoes whe lasting, no too easy fe mash up" . And Clarks Bootie 'mashed up' many a dance, as the shoe is legendary among Jamaican men.
Little John said Clarks Bootie was recorded on the 'Father Jungle Rock' rhythm, remade by Steelie and Cleavie, after he wrote the song to the rhythm done for Johnny Osbourne's Please Mr Walker. Clarks Bootie was recorded in an afternoon session and Little John said, based on the response, he knew he had a hit on his hands.
"When I do that song in that time, the whole studio mash up," he said. "That alone tell you."
Among those sitting in on the recording session were Steelie, Cleavie, Bobby Digital and King Jammys.
Clarks Bootie did not top the charts, but has been stamped into dancehall memory. And although Clarks was once known as a 'bad-man shoes', one famed and feared policeman reputedly raiding dances and carting all the Clarks wearers off to the station, Little John said, "Me never sing it for no bad bway. Me sing it as a shoe whe me love and other people love it."
The shoe is still a dancehall beloved and so is Clarks Bootie. Little John said he first performed it on Volcano sound system and it led him to many other venues.
"When da song deh buss, a straight everywhere-in-the-world tour," he said. "Even now, when me go and do show, people still request it."
It is one of a slew of popular songs which Little John did for Jammys including Block Traffic and Gimme Me No Bun. "Me really have luck inna them time deh round a Jammys," he said.
Little John also said that he sang about other clothing trends, including the nylon ganzie and Travel Fox shoes, the latter also recorded on the 'Father Jungle Rock' rhythm for Black Scorpio.
He is not worried that his Clarks contribution to dancehall will be forgotten. "One thing, people who deh bout long time, them remember things. Them say somebody a take off Little John thing. The youth them used to hear the song them. Other things deh bout whe dem a go touch up too," he said.
However, he is taking it in stride, putting the Clarks transfer to younger dancehall feet in the context of inspiration. "Each one teach one," Little John said.