Star Power - Greenwich Farm yields musical stalwarts
Roy Black, Sunday Gleaner Writer
During the 1970s, the music coming out of Kingston 13 was the backbone of the Jamaica music industry. The Soul Syndicate Band, which played on over 60 per cent of all recordings done during that era, was an integral part of that movement.
They were one of the top reggae session bands in Jamaica between the early 1970s and mid-1980s, playing on countless instrumental releases and backing top vocalists like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs. Boasting musicians of the calibre of Earl 'Chinna' Smith, drummers Carlton Davis and Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, keyboardists Earl Lindo and Tyrone Downie, along with founding member George Fullwood, the band epitomised the Kingston 13 musical journey.
That journey began in the 1950s and established itself in the early 1960s through acts like saxophonist Val Bennett, Owen Grey, Jackie Edwards, brothers Laurel and Bobby Aitken, Sparky and Pluggy and The Lamb Sisters (Loonie, Vern and Merna), Merna being the mother of current singing sensation, Alaine. They were the elite in the entertainment business back then, performing at leading nightclubs, hotels and lawns in the inner city.
This period also saw record producer Bunny Lee, who was born in Greenwich Farm (later to be known as Greenwich Town), dominating the market with his productions. Compiling a catalogue that could perhaps be challenged only by few other producers, Lee had under his wings stalwarts like Roy Shirley, Slim Smith, Johnny Clarke, John Holt, Delroy Wilson, Dennis Brown, Pat Kelly, Cornell Campbell, Owen Grey and others. Lee began as a record plugger for producers Duke Reid, Clement Dodd and others, before going on his own in 1967.
Lee vehemently claims that he was the first to produce not only the first rocksteady recording, but the first reggae one as well, with the 1967 songs Tougher than Tough (Rudies Don't Fear) by Derrick Morgan and Bangarang by Stranger Cole. His production of Stick By Me, a Shep and the Limelites original, first done locally by Delroy Wilson and popularised by John Holt, remains a perennial favourite among music fans.
The Greenwich Farm community, which is bounded on the north by Spanish Town Road, on the south by Marcus Garvey Drive, on the east by East Avenue and on the west by West Avenue, occupies only a small portion of Kingston 13, perhaps less than 20 acres, yet it remains the main contributor to the immense musical talent that emanates from Kingston 13.
According to Tony Mack, a long-standing community inspirator and many-time show promotor - especially of his talent shows in the mid-1970s, which unearth such talents as Sugar Minott, Tony Tuff, African Brothers, Johnny Clarke, Dillinger and The Mighty Diamonds - the Greenwich Farm community produced no less than 50 musical stalwarts who were either born there or lived in the community.
He said those born there included John Holt, Brent Dowe, Michael Prophet, Earl 'Chinna' Smith, Phillip Frazer, Bunny Lee, Tony Matterhorn, Tappa Zukie and Desie Young, current president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians and former vocalist on a song titled Warning. Tony Mack also included Junior Tucker, Prince Alla, keyboard player Glen Adams, Don Lee, Finnigan, and singer/producer Lloyd Charmers among the outstanding entertainers who were born in Greenwich Farm. Charmers was perhaps best remembered for producing Ken Boothe's big number one hit, Everything I Own, in 1974.
Tony Mack mentions the names of Slim Smith, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, Max Romeo, Derrick Morgan, Laurel Aitken, Freddie McGregor, Barrington Levy, Jah Lloyd, Leroy Smart, I-Roy, Alton Ellis, Pat Kelly, Lascelles Perkins, Tyrone Taylor, Johnny Clarke and Glenn Ricks as entertainers who at one time or another lived in the Greenwich Farm community.
CELEBRATING A JOURNEY
The Kingston 13 musical journey from ska to dancehall continues as part of our Black History Month celebration, when the Greenwich Town Music Fraternity, led by Tony Mack, presents the event that perhaps best describe the history of our music. Dubbed 'Black History Month celebration, Kingston 13, the musical journey from ska to dancehall, the history', the show will be held this evening at The Caribbean Palm Estate, Spanish Town Road, Kingston 13. Gates open at 12 p.m., showtime 5 p.m.
It will be a stellar event, when 22 artistes, mostly representing the rich music history of Kingston 13, converge on the expansive complex to unleash a barrage of hits that covers the journey from ska to dancehall. Among those scheduled to perform are History Man, Max Romeo, ska king Derrick Morgan, Stranger Cole, Johnny Clarke, Edie Fitzroy, Tinga Stewart, Earl 'Chinna' Smith, Prince Alla, Phillip Frazer, Pashon Minott, Inna de yard, Andrew Basie All Stars, Moeish, Nature, Messenger, Ruffi Ann, Tappa Zukie, Dillinger, Tristan Palmer, Cornel Campbell, Finnigan, Ishabelle, General Lucky, Steve Tulloch, Wondis, Gorgon High Power and Strike Force Riddim Section.
Some special guest artistes from abroad will also be a part of this historic Black History Month celebration, and will be performing for the first time in Jamaica. The hosts will be Tony Mack, Ozzie Love, Empress Isis, DJ Strings and Istacharles. Special honour awards will be made to Tommy Cowan, music promoter, producer and vocalist; Desmond Young, vocalist and music manager; and Lloyd Jackson of the late 1960s group Lloyd and the Groovers, who recorded their first song, Sock It To Me, for producer Bunny Lee in 1968 on his first session.