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'Kingston Town' creates great wealth, controversy

Published:Sunday | May 4, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Lord Creator

The night seems to fade, but the moonlight lingers on

there are wonders for everyone.

The stars shines so bright, but they're fading after dawn,

There's magic in Kingston Town.

Words from Lord Creator's 1969 recording, Kingston Town, which created much more controversy, ill-feeling and bad blood, than the musical wars of the 1960s.

The recording, done for producer Clancy Eccles on his Clandisc record label in late 1969, was a reggae remake of a 1963 ska recording, titled, Babylon, done by the same singer for producer Vincent 'Randy' Chin, who along with his wife Pat Chin, established the world-renowned 'VP Records' in later years.

Kingston Town, surprisingly, didn't make much of an impact in Jamaica, but did much better, when Trojan Records began distributing it overseas.

Creator, whose correct name is Kenrick Patrick, was born in San Fernando, Trinidad on August 21, 1935, and began his entertainment career by singing in calypso tents in Trinidad, and then recording a number of songs there.

One of those songs was a 1959 recording called, Evening News on the Cook record label and was backed by the Trinidadian band, Fitz-Vaughn Bryan Orchestra.

A big hit

It became a big hit across the Caribbean in the late 1950s, and was the recording that launched his career. A kind of bluesy-sounding ballad, the song told the story of a bare-foot boy, who sold newspapers in order to feed his siblings.

Some three years later, the young 26-year-old Creator, found himself on a Caribbean tour with a group of entertainers, and, as his itinerary would dictate, one of his stops was Jamaica.

At that point, no powers on earth could have convinced Creator that he would be stuck in Jamaica for the next 22 years. But that was the reality of the situation, as Creator fell in love with the island, its music and its people, especially the lovely women, who ensured his Jamaican stay with 10 children, to add to the five he already had in Trinidad.

While in Jamaica, Creator re-recorded Evening News quite successfully, using the ska beat for producers, Clement 'Sir Coxson' Dodd, Prince Buster and Randys.

He also recorded for Randys, one of the most informative and descriptive narratives in song about Jamaica's build-up to independence in the calypso-flavoured recording, Independent Jamaica.

Although growing up in a country where calypso was the predominant beat, Creator claimed he had a natural proclivity for ballads, idolising singers like Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and Frank Sinatra.

He had written several such songs, while in Trinidad, which he had never recorded. One was a song called Babylon, the 1963 ska recording, mentioned earlier, which reappeared in 1969 with the new title, Kingston Town.

The recording became the subject of much controversy between Creator and Eccles over ownership of the song after a UB-40 version sold millions in Europe, generating enormous royalties to the writer of the song.

In an interview I had with the late Eccles on the topic, he was quoted as saying, "Fifty per cent of the record is owned by me, because I wrote some of the words. I made the music for this particular song, and I don't get a penny royalty yet".

Creator, on the other hand, claimed he wrote the entire song, claiming the publishers came to that decision after extensive investigations.

Song for Clancy

In an interview with Creator, about a decade ago, he told me: "I did a song for Randys, named Babylon. I composed it when I was about 17 in Trinidad and recorded it for the first time with a ska beat for Randys in 1963. After a while I left Kingston for Montego Bay, and while performing at the Club 35, a guy named Clancy Eccles, asked me if I could make a song for him. I made a song called, Molly Is A Big Girl Now. That's the song I made for Clancy. After recording it at either Federal or WIRL, he (Clancy), was so fascinated, he asked for another one to put on the flip side. I studied and this song, Babylon came to mind. I said, 'if I could just change the name from, Babylon to Kingston Town, that would be alright. Clancy had nothing to do with my song, and if you listen to the lyrics of both recordings, you'll realise they are exactly the same, except for Kingston Town replacing Babylon."

According to Creator, Eccles went a step further, by claiming that he bought the recording from him (Creator) for 30 pounds. However, Creator discounted that by insisting that the transaction, having been done in late 1969, when the currency changed, would have been done in dollars.

No contract

Creator, however, admitted that Eccles paid him $30 for doing the recording for him, but insisted that he didn't enter into any contract for sale of the recording.

Twenty-two years in Jamaica took a toll on Creator and he was struggling financially, yet he insisted he would not leave his children. He was eventually bailed out by a daughter and an aunt, who bought him a ticket and took him back to Trinidad, almost against his will in 1984.

Creator told me that, while in Trinidad, he suffered a stroke and was hospitalised for 19 days. While on his sick bed, he got the news of his life in 1989 - news that would change his life forever.

"It was like winning the lottery," he said.

The English band, UB-40, after being given permission by Creator to record Kingston Town, made it into a big hit all over Europe by 1989, and generated enormous royalties for the composer of the song.

Creator returned to Jamaica in 1990 and built houses for himself and his children. According to Creator, "Out of goodwill, I still gave Clancy $250,000 but when he returned for more, I refused and contacted my lawyers."