Freddie approaches 50 years in music biz
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
There were few hotter reggae acts in the 1980s and early 1990s than singer Freddie McGregor. But as he approaches his 50th year in the music business, getting airplay for his new songs is not something he takes for granted.
McGregor's latest production, a cover of the Burt Bacharach classic A House is Not a Home, was recently released. Produced by Steely and Clevie, it is the latest spin on a song which has been a massive hit for Dionne Warwick and Luther Vandross.
Sugar Minott also had some local success with A House is Not a Home, which he did for Studio One. McGregor sang harmony on the Minott version, but said that there is no guarantee his cut will get consistent airplay.
"I'm so worried right now, because I talk to a lot of artistes from my era and they will tell you that dem have new product, but dem don't know if it going get play,' McGregor told The Gleaner.
"It's important to write great material, but it's also silly to create dem an' lose dem," he added. "You have so much good material that is being lost an' I'm worried looking down the road 20 years an' wondering what we're going to be listening to."
Artistes from the rocksteady and roots-reggae eras, including Bob Andy, Leroy Sibbles, John Holt and Ernie Smith, have complained that their new music is ignored by local disc jockeys who prefer to play their standards from the 1960s and 1970s.
Some of them, like Holt and Smith, have had minor hits in recent years.
McGregor said he always wanted to cover A House is Not a Home which was originally a hit for Warwick in the 1960s. Vandross covered it with great success on his 1981 breakthrough album Never Too Much.
In addition to the keyboards and drumming of Steely and Clevie, McGregor's longtime guitarist Dalton Browne and saxophonist Dean Fraser played on the track which was first laid three years ago, one year before Steely's (Wycliffe Johnson) death.
"It's a hardcore reggae feel. It's what we would consider a real roots-lovers kind of groove," he explained. "What we have done is create an original melody that gives it that difference, 'cause we didn't want it to sound like the original."
McGregor started his career in the early 1960s at Studio One as a member of The Clarendonians alongside Peter Austin and Ernest Wilson. His big break as a solo act came in the late 1970s with the song Bobby Babylon and album of the same name, for that company.
He had a remarkable run throughout the 1980s with a series of hit songs that began with Big Ship, Stop Loving You, Prophecy, Push Come to Shove and All In The Same Boat. He maintained his chart success in the 1990s with And So I Will Wait For You and I Was Born a Winner.
Freddie McGregor and his Big Ship Crew, which includes sons Chino and Stephen and daughter Shema, perform on Friday's Tunn Up show at Dinthill High School in St Catherine.