'Baby Why' and 'What Kind of World' are two classics that has been recut over and over since its initial release back in 1967, but do you recall the group behind them? Not to say that The Cables are that obscure, but time overshadows the name behind even the most reused of rhythms. In any case, The Cables was and is a name that we connect with Coxson's best period at Studio One in the late sixties, a time of enormous creativity and an impressive amount of hits done in a transition from the rock steady sound to reggae. Founded by lead singer Keble Drummond, the group has split and reformed, as groups tends to do, several times over the years, performing at Sunsplash '94 as perhaps the last notable appearance in public. There's new projects in the offing though, including re-releases of vintage material as well as new recordings by the group. Now residing in the States, I hooked up with Keble in March, '04, for a discussion about The Cables' presence in Jamaican music; the past, the present and the possibilities for the future. Thanks to Keble, Lloyd Campbell, Bob Schoenfeld, Squeeze I, Tim P, and Steve Barrow.

Keble Drummond

Q: How did you grow up?

A: Oh, well, I was born in St. Elizabeth in a place called White Hall, that's in the country, it's more northeast because it's not far from MoBay, really. That's where I was born, January 1947. My mother had seven of us, I was the fourth one. I had a brother and a sister died. So I was born in St. Elisabeth and I went to Kingston at age nine, and I spent the rest of my youth in Kingston.

Q: Where did you settle down in Kingston?

A: Well, in Kingston first - when I went to Kingston was Hannah Town, and from Hannah Town then to Jones Town. No - from Hannah Town to Ghost Town, you are familiar with Ghost Town? Yeah, then from Hannah Town I went to live in Ghost Town. Ghost Town then was really a ghetto area, people that don't have nutten, you'd say poor. You know, you go there and you have a little one-room place, stuff like that. It's just the ghetto, man. Rough life. It produces some really... I would say some of the great singers now and a lot of the good entertainers. Because, right now from Ghost Town after I left there and come here (Florida), they rebuilt the place and call it Jungle, Concrete Jungle.

Q: Where's the old Back O Wall located, it's not close?

A: No, Back O Wall is further down to Tivoli Gardens.

Q: Yea, they bulldozed that part and renamed it Tivoli, right?

A: Yeah, they did and they built a settlement there and called it Tivoli Gardens which is a rough area, just like how Jungle is rough. But they changed Back O Wall to Tivoli Gardens, Ghost Town changed to Jungle. You know, those places is what you'd call the ghetto, those areas rough. Then from Ghost Town I moved into Jones Town and then in Jones Town I grew up the rest of my life until I went to Maxfield Avenue area. From there to Allman Town.

Q: Maxfield Avenue where Channel One was, Whitfield Town. That's a pretty tough neighborhood back then, very violent compared to a lot of other ghetto areas.

A: Yeah, I used to live on Delacree Road. Delacree Road run down Maxfield Avenue.

Q: So you had the country life and the city life.

A: I came at a young age so I wasn't on my own. It's the family who came up from the country, so you just have to find a way out. Life wasn't a bed of roses, is a struggle. You know, my mom was a dressmaker, she make a little income from doing the dress. So, that's part of surviving, y'know. With schooling I used to go to Chetola Park School and from there to Kingston Senior School, and that school again produces a lot of singers. You know, like Earl Morgan of the Heptones, you have Marcia Griffiths, you have quite a few who turn into singers. Talking about coming to Ghost Town, Ghost Town that's where Rita Marley grew up. I knew her from those days.

Q: What sort of music were playing in the Drummond family?

A: Oh well, it was mostly listening to the radio, like the type of music we had in Jamaica, whe you say is like you have calypso and stuff was in Jamaica, before we created our own ska music. You know, it was calypso, soul music. All the foreign music and stuff, that's what used to play in Jamaica. So, we used to listen at nights, like to Ben E. King, Solomon Burke, Elvis Presley, Brook Benton, Everly Brothers, those type of people, all of those. We listened to those and the lyrics there it held you, it's just good music and you sing them, and it keeps you going. All of them more time, those were the music playing in Jamaica. A lot of talent. When I started to be really interested in singin' I was about seventeen and, y'know, we all sing in our local groups. I used to follow a few of them.

Q: Like?

A: Like them time Desmond Dekker & The Aces and you have... a guy who used to sing with Byron Lee sometime...?

Q: Um, Eric 'Monty' Morris?

A: Eric 'Monty' Morris!

Q: Stranger Cole?

A: Oh, Stranger Cole, yes. Good ol' Stranger Cole, y'know. And Prince Buster.

Q: Alton?

A: Oh, Alton Ellis? Then we're talkin' about Trench Town more, y'know. Those guys, some of them used to be there that we used to sing with. When I get to singin' now - start playing the guitar - was I remember Earl from Heptones - no, not Earl from Heptones - it was Clarendonians, like Peter (Austin). From Peter, I learned to go to my first chords on guitar, he showed me the basics. He showed me like two chords, what follow what - like G, C and F. I remember that, and I hear a song. Then I got like interested in writin' a song. There was an ad in a magazine about songwriting and I contacted them, called 'Herb Moral Song Studio Training'. I did a course in writing and there came elder guys who knew about writing a song. And so I wrote my first songs, like 'You Lied' and 'I Made Up My Mind'.

Bobby Aitken

Q: How did you meet Earl from Heptones, he was living there close to you with his family?

A: Earl? Well, when we start rehearsing and stuff, y'know, we were living in the same area, Ghost Town, and with Barry (Llewellyn) who were living there. You know, we're all friends, and Leroy was living in the same area. So Earl, Barry and Leroy decide to form a group. And me and my partner then we were friends with them and seh, well, we'll see what we can do. Me and Roy was friends and he say he knows this guy - that's Elbert now. Met with Elbert, and we start rehearsing and we begin with singin' other people's songs, like Alton Ellis. Some more guys now, man. We were very good. Because, we met up with Bobby Aitken at that time - you know Bobby Aitken?

Q: Yea, from the Caribbeats band.

A: The Caribbeats! Yeah, he had a band, and then after a while we start go around with Bobby Aitken, singin' songs and it start take off. We start writing, writing. I remember one time when I went to Coxson they had Peter (Tosh) from the Wailers, he was taking audition. I remember I went and sang some songs and he look at me and told me that "Oh, come back in five years!" (laughs).

Q: (Laughs) Well, how 'nice' of him!

A: But guess what happened? He felt threatened at the time, and I went back the other week, and I went back there with 'Baby Why'. I sang that song and it was a different artist taking audition. But when we start singin' that song, all them other guys there for audition, everybody circled around us, and the guy said, "OK, I can take the song, we can do some recording". And from there, y'know, from rehearsing that music, man, is like it just tell its own - everytime we rehearse it I watch it coming back to me and... you know?

The Cables
(left to right: Vincent, Keble & Elbert)

Q: Right. The Cables formed as early as 1962, with you and Vincent Stoddart as a duo, wasn't it a duo from the start?

A: No, it was me and Vincent Stoddart and Elbert Stewart from the beginning.

Q: Then you went to Lindon Pottinger at High Note in about 1966 - what happened to those recordings, this was prior to your Studio One stuff.

A: No, High Note was... that was the first recording we did, the music 'You Lied'. Not Mrs Pottinger, y'know, I think she's High Note, or her husband.

Q: I think she took over the company in the later part of the sixties.

A: She took over. The only time I took her was when I did some producing for myself, and I gave her a few music to release for me. It was produced by me, but she was just distributing on her label.

Q: So Mr Pottinger produced and released your first songs, I don't think she produced around '66.

A: She was doing some producing - no, in '66 it was Mr Pottinger. I think it was in the mid or early seventies the song that - I gave her a music to distribute for me on her label. But '66 was the first music there with Mr Pottinger, 'You Lied'. You know, that was the first music. Oh yes, I have that record, my first 45 I did. Yeah, I have it. And you know somet'ing? It was twenty pound for a song them days. My first song I did and I didn't get a dime, 'cos Bobby was there an' he collect our money and we didn't know about it. Because that band was Bobby's and, yeah, Bobby Aitken took our twenty pounds and we didn't get a dime. And there was a third song released and I heard it being played and went to get my money and said "OK, for the other ones I didn't get any money but...". And he said, "What?! From the day we finished recording we paid back the money!" I jus' "OK, alright". We never got any. That's how we start gettin' ripped (chuckles).

Q: Yeah.

A: But anyhow, with my group we keep rehearsing, keep rehearsing until we get down to Mr Dodd and we come up with only two songs, because they always like to abort you. You're singin' and they put you down and not taking you, and then you realise you always have to try and study the things that's going on. You know, you hear what other artists they're going through and stuff like that, you try not to get into that situation.

Q: What were you being told?

A: Well, the stories are like 'Oh, you're not getting money', and stuff like that. There's always setbacks. And he hid our music. When we go to Coxson for money he... And them always have a crowd, there's too much guys so you end up not getting money. He beat a lot of guys too! I tried not to come on too strong, but when we got conscious to get our royalty and stuff, the first offer we got, we got robbed. Because many music was a hit and we have an idea of how it sold 'cause, again, Earl Morgan was working in the place and (inaudible)... Those records they were selling so we had an idea of how it went, how many records were pressed. Because, I know I was robbed. But y'know, you can just go by telling him 'Oh, I know how much because somebody told me so and so...', but it doesn't make much difference. We got payment about two times, which in them days was a lot of money. It look like a lot but it wasn't, he sold like some 20 000 records - that's five cents a copy. But you get some money. Foreign royalties, no, we never see any of that. Never see foreign royalties.

Q: Were you even aware that he had much foreign business, like the main markets through Toronto, London and New York for example?

A: He never told us that, but after a while we figured out that it was selling in all foreign, because we get the feedback after a while what was going on. They tried to make it look like it was only a few records for export, but after a while we got feedback and stuff, what's going on. But still it never work out that we are gettin' the money because after a while he's telling you 'Oh, Jackson, come back soon, you have to come back soon', or whatever. I never liked to be in that situation, to ask Downbeat for money. I tried to maintain a good relationship with him. As a man he was very determined, but to get what you were owed, it never work. It never worked. You know, I was independent still, doing my own race, y'know, trying to get a job, trying to get ends meet, support my family. You know, that's how it goes. I think 'Baby Why' has been around now for some thirty-five years and, trust me, for some thirty years now I haven't seen no money for it. Even though it was on LP, CD, and all a them stuff - 7" record, we no get no money for them. At one time I told him, when Stewy (Elbert Stewart) was in Jamaica deh, and I told him that OK, well, other circumstances, y'know, things are tough in Jamaica too, you could get Stewy a money, and stuff like that. But he never give Stewy any portion of money. But he think that a 500 dollars them time he give to Stewy, y'know, he would get away with that. He take up a 500 dollars and give them to Stewy and think that's a lot, but when it comes to our money, he say "Oh, I give Stewy some money, I jus' gave him some 200 dollars", and stuff like that. When Heartbeat had the CD out and stuff like that, he always tell me "Oh, it sell well, man! It sell really well". So I say OK, fine. But for all these years Heartbeat hasn't given me any money (the CD issue of 'What Kind of World' came out in 1991). So he tell me to get a statement through him for what's selling from Heartbeat, and he tell me to call Heartbeat. So when I ask them about it them said no, they're not getting any money and stuff like that. That's just how it goes, but that don't make me worse. You know, it's life, because so many people sometimes their hearts goes out when they're not in the spotlight anymore. They were popular and stuff like that, some made money, some others made more money than the rest of them, but then they never set their lives different, like they were hoping that they would make this thing big. Which is like saying their losses - they lose, they gamble, maybe two million to one (chuckles). Or so you make a way out, but you never. But like I mentioned, I'm alright.

Q: That's good. Who came up with the name,'The Cables'? I suppose that was you, it's sort of linked to your name.

A: Oh well, I came up with the name because my name is Keble. Now, I look at something with a cable and wires, and I say, well, 'Cables' would be a good name because you could send a message across the world, and that's how I came up with the name. And I said that's supposed to be my name, with 'C'. So that's how I gave it the name 'Cables'.

Q: A pretty unusual name, isn't it, I mean your own - 'Keble'?

A: Yeah, it is, it is. My name is very unusual and I don't know how my mom got it.

Q: (Laughs)

A: I like it, y'know. Because the type of person I am it's really fitting on me because, y'know, I am a guy who really just - I don't like too much excitement. I'm very selective. I don't like to have stuff that everybody have, I like the best. And so the name, the name really - I love it, because it uncovered me, and it's not a lot of people who have my name, very few.

Q: You never checked other producers after the experience with Bobby Aitken and Lindon Pottinger's Tip Top/High Note - it was Studio One next and nothing in-between?

A: No, because what I did or what we did was writing songs and rehearsing. We went to the producer that was Chinese...?

Q: Leslie Kong, Beverley's?

A: Leslie Kong, Beverley's. Everytime we go, like how them time we go for audition, y'know, the leader or boss them never came or whatever, so there was no point in going there. So, we just went to Downbeat, we fit at the right time and date and the Heptones was there before so maybe we figured well, 'OK, they're doing all right so let's go there and make some stuff'. And all the work we did was alright, some very good songs. But for some reason we didn't get the push. Maybe we needed some manager or stuff like that, Downbeat was only thinking about making money off the sales. For some reason he got shows for like Heptones, and a portion of artists, but we never got it. And after that we leave for Harry J.

Leslie Kong

The Heptones

Q: Some would suggest that the sound of the Cables owe a lot to the harmony arrangements of the Heptones, how you would shape the songs, that there is a common sound. Would you agree, if there's that close soundwise between the groups?

A: No. In no way we are close to the Heptones. Did you see that, or listen that in our songs?

Q: Personally I don't really feel that way, no.

A: Yeah, because we have our unique sound. If you notice our sound don't sound like the next sound, or a common sound. You know, they just don't listen. I wouldn't dare sound like the Heptones. Heptones they have their own style, and we also have our own style, 'cos reggae is just not reggae. A lot of people think that all reggae sound the same, there's no individual feel for what they're listening for, what they hear and what they might not catch. That's the way I feel. I would say we and the Heptones have a lot in common, how we sound like. I know with Heptones sometimes a guy is missing or so, during them early days I would just sit in and just do harmonies and stuff. They try to create their style, Heptones have a different type of harmony an' stuff like that. Earl have a baritone there which is kinda different from the regular guy.

Q: Of course there's a difference, but still the comparison is there. The groups were at Studio One at the same period, and so on.

A: Yeah, because you see the reason why is the Heptones they have a unique harmony and stuff. You know, you don't find a lot of group sound the way they do. And Cables have their own unique style in terms of harmony, stuff like that. So maybe when they're trying to compare is that (laughs)... I wouldn't say that I would say 'OK, I sound like the Heptones'. I mean, I could sing on a Leroy song and it sounds good, but I still wouldn't and still can't sound like Leroy. You know, he has his own style, his voice is just his. One artist I know I could sing close like him is Slim Smith. Yeah, I could do Slim Smith and sound like him. Yeah. Because his style and singin' I could just praise his style, his voice-style, because I practiced it. And he know that I listened to it and sound like him. When I sing it open like that people say 'Wow! Is that you doing his music like that?' Because I could sing him if I want.

Q: There is something similar between your voices too.

A: We did a music together for Bunny Lee, me and Slim Smith.

Bunny Lee

Slim Smith

Q: Yeah? Which one?

A: Is a music name 'Come On' (sings): 'I've never found a girl who is quite as nice as you...', remember that music? 'Ta dadatada da... from lovin' that...'. I don't - I forgot the words. 'That's why I've got to hold on to you... ta dada... so come ooon...' - you remember that old music? 'Baby come on, you've got to come home girl...', something like that.

Q: When would this be recorded?

A: Some long time, in the early seventies I think. In the early, early seventies. Or - yeah, in the early seventies I think, or maybe... How long since Slim died now?

Q: He passed away in 1973.

A: '73. So maybe it was about 1970 me and him did that song.

Q: What studio was used for this?

A: Oh, we recorded at Dynamic, for Bunny Lee. Striker Lee. Yeah, Slim Smith and all that music, my voice can sound like that, sound like him (sings): 'Little did you knoooow, little did you know, oh my baby, oh my baby, when you told me you don't know the man...', y'know! I can make my voice sound like him, yeah.

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