Where did you get the idea to develop the word forms and the rhymes and all those sorts of things? Well in the early days would buy like live jive book. Would study the live jives from it and then I would go to dances to play now and the record is playing. When you catch a chorus would put in some of those live jive like we studied from the books into it that the people would go with it.
Where did this book come from? No, it’s a local book that was printed called ‘Live Jive’ Its Jamaican. It wasn’t American? No.
Had anyone done it before you?
Yes. Well first DJ locally was the late great Count Matchuki. He’s now deceased.
The other DJs from the early days Roy White and Coxsone… No those were not DJs. Those were sound system owners. Those were not DJs. Those were owners.
Is there a difference between being a sound system selector and a DJ? Yeah. Well the same sound selector can be a dj too you know? Because I was selector and DJ. But is only nowadays now different thing. Now you have nineteen selectors and twenty-five DJs you know? (laughs).
For a long time you were aligned with Coxsone Dodd. Did you do any work for the other side? Duke Reid or Buster? No didn’t do any recordings for Duke Reid nor Prince Buster. But I started recording first for Clancy Eccles.
When he did a gig you would do the DJing before or after?
I was doing Dj before I started recording for Clancy. Started recording for Clancy in ’69. I was DJing long before that. When did you start out? 1956. I was sixteen.
Was it your own system? No no. Coxsone. So Coxsone gave you your start? Yeah.
What sort of music were you playing at that time? American rhythm and blues. Then started rhythm and blues begin to get scarce. Then they decided that cause the rock’n’roll was just coming. And then now the Jamaican people never dig the rock’n’roll that much. So the sound system owners now decided to create something the nearest thing to the original American rhythm and blues. So they started a shuffle beat. So you know the earlier tunes got a shuffle beat. Then out of the shuffle beat now then they got the ska. Y’understand?
What were some of the American artists that you tried to emulate in those early days?
Artists like Rosco Gordon, Wynonie Harris, Fats Domino, Louis Jordan all those early artists.
How in your own words did the ska develop out of that shuffle?
Well, the shuffle beat directly begin to change in early ’61 going ’62. Y’understand?
Was it a natural thing? Some people would have you believe that Coxsone just decided let’s just do this off-beat thing or was it a natural development do you think?
Well, he tried it. What he did, certain original American tune what he would do is let the musician write the bars and they would play like the top part for the first four or eight bars then they would change it. But, now the ska. What they did now, when the music started with a shuffle beat now. So when they wanted to change it now, he would instruct the musician to stress on the “ska-ska-ska”. The guitar played the ska.
Did you find that work increased for DJs over the period or was there always work out there? There was always work, but, you see. What happened now, what happened nowadays now. You see most of the producers don’t consider now what they’re recording. They do this thing now so quick thing. So if a guy just go in a studio and curse two bad words on a rhythm it’s all very well and good. They are looking a fool but I don’t do it that way. I don’t record slackness.
Which session did you enjoy the most of all the artists you worked with? Why there’s many sessions (laughs). There was always good support y’understand. What I would say now majority of all sessions that I worked on with artists I got good support.