Ok reggae fans out there! Do you remember legendary Owen Grey? Mr. Owen was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He grew up to be one of Jamaica’s most beloved vocal artists. The passion Owen has for all kinds of music shows in the variety of genres he played. From R&B to ska to gospel, I think it’s safe to say he just about did it all (with the exception of disco LOL).
His Biggest Hit Undocumented As Far As I’m Concerned!!
And of course, I’m already aggravated, because I can’t find any official stats on his biggest hit (U.S.) in 1996. “Don’t Turn Around,” with Dianne Warren singing background, was one of the most popular reggae hits from the mid 90s in the US. What’s even worse, I am dumbfounded that as popular as this song was, YouTube has very low streams for this song. However, collectively speaking his music streamed well on YouTube (considering no one plays really his music anymore as a whole). Billboard was absolutely useless to me 😠 . This is a damn shame! All I can do at this point, is share with you my memories.
Owen started his career at the age of 9, when he performed on his first talent show. People in the reggae industry took noticed, and his career eventually skyrocketed. From about 1958 until present, he’s produced a LOT of albums. I’d like to recommend some of my favorites. A cover of BJ Thomas’s “Always On My Mind,” “Confidential To You,” “The Game Has Just Begun,” a cover of Nat King Cole’s (written by Ivory Deek Watson) “Sentimental Reasons,” and finally a song called “Let’s Start All Over.” Enjoy!
In my opinion, I think these guys are indeed one of the many most forgotten reggae duos ever! Keith Barrington Rowe and Phillip Texas Dixon, or simply known as “Keith & Tex,” grew up and met in Kingston, Jamaica. They are most remembered for their massive smash hit “Stop That Train,” which was published in 1967 by Island Records. This was another one of many songs I used to hear my grandfather hum to himself all the time. It was strange because, most of the songs I heard my grandfather sing, I’ve usually heard him play before. But, I do not recall actually hearing this particular song until I got much older. I always thought he mistaken the song for Al Green’s “Back Up Train,” which coincidentally, was released in that same year. I stood corrected 😍
Although it appears that I can’t find any stats for “Stop That Train,” I do know enough that it was one of the most popular songs in Jamaica. This song was covered, dubbed, and sampled so many times back in the day; it was wonderful to read (when it comes to outside America), fans remembered them enough that after decades they are touring around Europe and Jamaica.
Keith & Tex Met As A Result Of Their Mutual Interest In Soccer!
How funny that a mutual interest in sports brought these two music legends together! They met playing in the soccer field and became close friends. Shortly after, they discovered they also had a strong mutual interest in music as well. Transitioning from sports to music sensations was not easy. Studios in Jamaica were very critical and judgemental. They had to practice with a vengeance, until everything finally paid off. For their first recording session, they performed “Stop That Train.” The studio loved it!
The second song the duo performed/recorded in the studio (which later became a hit as well), was called “Tonight.” The studio praised both songs, and the rest was history! Both enjoyed huge success at the young ages of about 16 & 17. Allow me to direct you to another great song they did. It’s a cover of one of the Temptations songs called “Don’t Look Back,” released in 1968.
Introducing, Reggae Bonnie, from country music!! Just kidding 🤓 You know, I don’t think I would be completely out of line, if I were to say that most long-time musicians had recorded at least ONE reggae song throughout their career, regardless of what their core genre is. Hell, even the hugely popular classic rock group “Blondie” recorded a reggae song. I guess… Why not? Reggae is good music when done right!
I Would Have Never Guessed She Was A Country Singer!
Bonnie Raitt did such a wonderful job performing this song. I have to say, when I first heard her sing “Have A Heart (1989),” if I didn’t already know who she was, I would have never guessed she was actually a country singer. The song was written by singer & record producer, Bonnie Hayes. I think it’s such a nice song with lyrics everyone can relate to. I was disappointed that the song only peaked at #49 on the Top 100.
So, despite the fact that Bonnie is such a talented performer, my next favorite song from her called “Something To Talk About (1991),” was the closest thing she ever had to a number one hit. The song peaked at #5 on the Top 100. It’s a very cute and youthful country song about two people in a new relationship, who really care for each other.
Oh, for goodness sake! I almost forgot about another major, major favorite of mine. I am also dumbfounded that this wasn’t a number one hit either. Do any of my readers remember her song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me (1991)?” If you love sentimental love songs, a song like this would cut deep when you hear it. Listening to the lyrics would have you saying “yes, yes, I can relate, I know what you mean.” This amazing song only peaked at #18.10% off your purchase with code LNK10. Excludes Clearance
Oh, boy. I loved the Heptones growing up. They really made some nice music back in the day. Their music is the kind of music I think should have been played on stations like Light FM. The Heptones reggae version of “Crystal Blue Persuasion,” was perfect for light radio! It’s a shame that as many Americans claim to love reggae music, it was almost never played on major stations, unless it was music produced by a major American artist. The only exception to that as far as I remembered was Bob Marley, and Eddy Grant. Not even Eddy Grant; because it is my opinion that he only got famous because of the song he produced called “Romancing The Stone.” Grant originally produced it for the movie “Romancing The Stone (1984),” starring Michael Douglas, and Danny DeVito. But, even then, as I’ve discussed on my old blog, I never considered Eddy Grant’s music reggae music. 90% of it was all Americanized, and appealed to specifically American rock/pop audiences.
Now, I honestly don’t mean to rant and start bitching….. But…… Reggae groups like the Heptones need to be sought out and played! Too many American people hear that dancehall music and think that, that’s what reggae is all about. But the reality is, just like American music, there is an array of reggae music of different styles and genres. Trust me when I tell you, not all reggae music is the same! I can’t tell you just how many American people who tell me, “I don’t listen to reggae music, ’cause they all sound the same.” The reality is, if those people really searched for it, they’d immediately know they’re not the same.
Not All Reggae Music Is The Same
So, The Heptones consist of a trio, Robert Dacres, Earl Morgana & Carlton Scarlett. Past members: Naggo Morris, Leroy Sibbles, and Barry Llewellyn. They come from Jamaica, and their core genres are Rock Steady and Ska. The group harmonized so well, it was almost like listening to a Jamaican version of The Miracles. The Heptones are so talented, it infuriates me that I have such difficulty finding chart information for many of these groups. I know I sound like a broken record already, but this is part of the many causes of why we’re losing our music culture. Black music culture especially. People are searching for good music, therefore this information must be made available! Otherwise, the music simply becomes “oh yeah, my mom played that song once or twice.”
I want to leave you with one last favorite of mine by The Heptones. The song is called “Party Time (1972).” Now, this song right here?!?! This is some sweet reggae right here!! You don’t have to just take my word for it anymore, you can immediately listen to it yourself on Spotify! It just a shame that the song is so short. According to The Jamaican Observer, the legendary rock steady group is still in demand, and is now touring in Europe. That is so awesome!!
Today, I’m writing about the works of King Tubby! Not sure how my blog fans feel about this guy; but I consider him one of the great forgotten reggae DJs. He produced some of the smoothest reggae beats, with the smoothest bass. I don’t consider Tubby’s music “dance floor” music per-say; they’re probably more closer to head-bopping music at best.
Real Name Was Osbourne Ruddock
Tubby’s real name was Osbourne Ruddock, and sound engineer was born in Kingston, Jamaican. Tubby had a passion for dub music; and his unique style changed the face of dub music in the 60s/70s era. Despite how much Tubby influence reggae instrumental dance music, he doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the charts. However, I have found small pieces of articles from back in the day, that mentions him in Billboard Magazine. Many of the articles were really promotions; or articles featuring artist’s music dubbed/arranged by Tubby. However, speaking from memory, I guess this sort of makes sense. You see, Tubby died in 1989, and Jamaican/reggae dance music really didn’t seriously explode in America until shortly after the 90s. I think.
The timing of his death was sad, because not only had he contributed so much to reggae music itself, he had several of his own record labels to prove it. “Firehouse” & “Waterhouse,” just to name a few. Yet the music business had completely forgotten about him. Tubby worked with so many artists, I can’t remember them all.
Jacob Miller & Augustus Pablo
However, I do remember that some of his most popular mixes has been from Jacob Miller & Augustus Pablo, just to name a few. To my understanding, just before the end of his life, he purchased a larger and more advanced studio to manage his labels, while also using it to tutor and mentor younger artists who wanted to get in the music business.
Some of my favorite dubs from Tubby are “Western Dub,” “Take Five,” “Me Come To Dub,” “Gaza Version,” and “Staga Dub.” I would like to end this article with an interesting fact. Usually, when an artist give themselves a name like “Tubby,” it’s not at all unreasonable to assume that he more than likely has a belly. However, to my understanding, he was never overweight. His name comes from his mother’s surname, Tubman.
I absolutely LOVE this reggae classic! My only problem is I wish it was longer than 2 minutes and 15 seconds. That is definitely not enough time for a reggae groove like this one! But, then again, two and a half minutes was about the average time for most songs back then. “Enter The Dragon,” was from an album called “Kung Fu Meets the Dragon,” by (then) called “The Mighty Upsetter.” This particular album was a special project inspired by martial arts; I found this very interesting and yet odd at the same time. Because in terms of people from Jamaica, West-Indies, etc; reggae music was still very highly political in the 70s, we just didn’t witness these types of albums (at least here in the states anyway). Although reggae musicians were inspired to sing about damn near anything, this album came out of left field for me 😜
The album was practically all instrumental, and if you ask me, I think this project was some of his best work I ever heard! The album “Dubstrumentals,” was digitally released in 2005, and it includes all of the musical works from “Kung Fu Meets The Dragon,” plus a lot of additional dubs I know you’re going to like. Just about all the music in “Dubstrumental” are smooth ska music. I recommend checking out a piece called ” Samurai Swordsman.”
This is probably my most favorite song from reggae legend, the late Gregory Isaac. The song is called “I Can’t Give You My Love Alone,” released in 1981 by African Museum Records (at least at the time I purchased my LP. In the streaming world, I see a number of distributors, so I’m still not sure if another company owns it). This is another one of those songs that I rarely hear that is both romantic and club danceable (or at least in a formal party danceable). I really love the instrumental/dub version of this song (on side B), but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, unless you’re lucky enough to find the original LP. Gregory died on lung cancer in London on 2010.
Alright!!! I am back with another hit from one of my favorite reggae legends Alton Ellis!! Alton reinterpreted a song from “The Guess Who” called “These Eyes.” I loved that the producers kept the distinct baseline the same, and just instrumentally added their reggae accent. Alton’s version is so sweet, you’d think that he was the original performer. I estimate that this song has been played more than 1.4M times on YouTube. Here is the 1969 original The Guess Who’s version of “These Eyes.”