The influence of Burning Spear on the music cannot be overstated. He had a tremendous impact in the mid seventies with songs like 'Marcus Garvey', 'Slavery Days' and 'Invasion' to name only a few. With those he spearheaded the cultural movement in the music for several years. Spear had the sort of 'country' sound that opened the door for many similar singers and songwriters, such as Claudius Linton. But even though Linton might have been earlier with the type of singing Spear popularised, even influencing the man to a large extent, he couldn't do more than figuring in Spear's shadow regardless of the high quality of his sparse output at the time. And, as we all know by now, Spear was to become a monument in Jamaican popular music. Claudius Linton has become a highly regarded (cult) name over the years through songs like the brilliant 'Put Your Shoulder To Jah Wheel'; minor hits like 'Crying Time'; and especially the totally original 'Backra Massa'; a personal favorite on the turntable for many years. But Claudius started the musical adventure at the height of the ska boom in the early 1960's. He was later to enter the Jamaican Song Festival in the early seventies with songs like 'King Man Is Back' as member of the Hoffner Brothers. He was thought to be lost for the music business forever, but the other year he turned up again through an accidental meeting on the beaches of Negril. This has now produced new music and a strong compilation of his older recordings. Thanks to Claudius, Ian (Sun King), Carlton Hines, Mike Turner, Peter 'Talking Dog' Sharpe, Teacher & Mr. T and Donovan Phillips.


Q: Let me begin by asking about your early days, were you born over in Duncan's Bay?

A: Yeah, Duncan's Bay, that's the North Coast. That's where I was born.

Q: Big family?

A: Well, it's a family of eleven, but I only know nine out of eleven. Myself make nine out of the eleven.

Q: What year was it?

A: I was born in, like, '42.

Q: And you grew up in and went to school over there in Duncan's for the most part?

A: Yeah, I went to school there. And then I escape from the area. It was too much for a kid at the time.

Q: Your family worked at a farm, the Georgia Farm?

A: Yeah, there was a farm, yes. Some of them worked at the farm.

Q: So you couldn't take in anymore, you ran away from home and went to Kingston?

A: Yes, I ran away to Kingston.

Q: To be more specific, why did you have to do that?

A: To be... I ran away to town in 1957.

Q: How did the country-boy find the life in Kingston in general, and musically speaking?

A: Yeah, in Kingston there was a lot of record shops all over the place, up at Orange Street. This would be the center of music, and that's where I met Clancy Eccles. And so I get to unify directly with most of the popular singers like Ken Boothe, Stranger Cole and Toots & The Maytals. And a lot more of those playing a part in the music, Peter Tosh, The Wailers, etc.

Q: So how was the city-life in general? The hectic city versus the country.

A: Well, when I was in the country I was admiring the music pace, it was a very closed spot even when I was in the country. Because, what I used to do, I select for myself to represent the music. It was like a sanitary place, they call it the 'sanitary place'. I used to represent, like, to present the record, my 45 rpm beat record, or my LP. So I was having a really close relation to myself in the music, within the spirit of the music. And then I went to Trench Town. Then I met this young man, his name is Hemmings.

Q: Cecil Hemmings.

A: That's him, and I settle in with him, y'know, he's a run-away guy too. And so he (laughs)... come to town from his problem, we hardly drew... You know, we both lick head together, but he's... He was born the 8th of December and I was born the thirty-first, so its kind of a different type a person for me totally, in a way, these kind of a 'pirate' person. But I relax myself and learned how to respec' myself, so I did hold on to him. You know, with some very great respec', to the feel of music.

Q: So that's when you formed the Angelic Brothers?

A: Yes, Angelic Brothers. So now I met this gentleman called Derrick Morgan, and he admired the way we get the sound. So he took us to a man called Baba Brooks, and Phillip Chen from Barbican, this Chinese now. Then Mr Ernest Ranglin was in the band, and Lloyd Brevett from the Skatalites, and there's a drummer called Drumbago. And Lloyd Brevett, y'know, I work along with those gentleman at... from Johnson's Drive-In, there's a club in Kingston called Johnson's Drive-In, in front of Monaton House there.


Claudius Linton, Ocho Rios, 1981. (Photo courtesy Peter Sharpe)

Q: Now there was a connection to Justin Yap, the Top Deck label. How was that, how did you get treated over there?

A: Well, you see, I'm a young man at those time and working much harder, got the job and worked hard. But he liked me and that is before - after they kill President Kennedy at those times. But I wasn't treated properly and I was singin' at Bournemouth. There's a man called Mr Carlos Malcolm and The Afro-Jamaican Rhythms. I was singin' there with Mr Carlos Malcolm, and I sing at a place called Club Havanna with Val Bennett and these people, that was my mentor in the business. So I started out early, that's how.

Q: The first 45 you cut, it came out in England but not as the Angelic Brothers, apparently it was released as by the Hi-Tones.

A: It came out as the Hi-Tones?

Q: Yeah.

A: (Laughs) There's so much things happening in this business!! Yeah.

Q: True. I guess Justin Yap had a deal with Chris Blackwell, it came out on the Island imprint at the time, so he could put it out but under a different name.

A: Yeah. So we gonna have some channel to Mr Chris Blackwell now. Mr Blackwell would have to find the 'Hi-Tones', a so we say.

Q: But you never heard about that release before?

A: First I heard about it that they put it out that kind of way, and Chris Blackwell did have something to do with it, with us, because we don't see that (chuckles). You know, with Chris Blackwell in Jamaica here, it's only Lee 'Scratch' Perry did start it here. He had all the opportunity with this man, and we never had no opportunity with this man, Chris Blackwell. So now I wanna know, and I'm still alive. You really have to work on this t'ing, because Chris Blackwell, Island Records, is still alive.

Q: Yes, but mainly involved in the resort business now, films as well.

A: OK.

Q: But you wrote that song, 'Virgins Went Out'?

A: Yes.

Q: What happened after the 'Virgins Went Out', Angelic Brothers, did you break up with Cecil?

A: We never break up, we went to the festival.

Q: But that was like many years later, wasn't it?

A: Well, we didn't... Well, I did some other songs, other songs there. My partner is actually a man that really want to put his business, his energy to other things. You know, his mind is somewhere else nowadays. So, we came back together 1972 and we did 'Kingman Is Back'. And then I - after that I did 'Put Your Shoulder To Wheel', and then 'Sunshine'. And then we call it quits, y'know, because he's not the type of man who want to just go an' sing. While I'm humble even if I'm shelterless, I don't care whether I am, this t'ing have to be the number one in life so I jus' took my shoulder to that wheel.

Q: Did you record during the later part of the 1960's or you took a break from the music business for a couple of years, or did you record but it was never released?

A: Yes, I stayed away for a couple of years. And then in the late sixties, up to about '69, I was just learning how to play the guitar, very much how to get myself for the guitar, learning. Because I was in the learning process even though I became sick and tired of how to play the guitar. Some of the times I was going off to Dynamic Sounds or Federal or Beverley's, to see what they produced, I'm still learning and I'm singin' underground. Because there was a guy called Al Green, which I learned a lot about. This man start singin' for a while and then after going and study and came back, an' it's that kind of thing I did have up my sleeve.

Q: So those years was basically spent to work harder on playing and writing, moulding what was to come.

A: Yes, I was learning. I met Peter Tosh, and Peter Tosh he had a lot of ideas for me. Peter Tosh, man. Yes, yes.

Q: What can you remember of the early days in Trench Town?

A: Well, I remember seeing this guy called Alton Ellis, and Eddy Perkins (of Alton & Eddy). And Joe Higgs, Higgs & Wilson. That year we started, most of us who goes to that man's house... 'Cause, what he does, he take one of his mom's kitchen for himself an' one of the wash-houses, so we stay in that one and practice. So I used to go by a man called Lascelles Perkins and start going where Toots (Hibbert) is, and I learned a lot in Trench Town. It was a place where I learned how other guys is singin', so it really inspired me. I respec' Trench Town a lot. I saw all of them, all the country boys. I saw Derrick Morgan with Jimmy Cliff, just comin' from the country. That's where I saw Dennis Brown as a young man come down. A lot of young people, and a lot of people like 'Horsemouth' (Leroy Wallace), and 'Easy Snappin'' (Theophilius Beckford) and those guys. And then I find myself around Upsetters, wha' they called Lee 'Scratch' Perry there, and that's where I used to be for a while until the seventies comin' up now. I was with all of them musicians, like Carlton Barrett from The Wailers, the drummer, I and him I remember was like a tight friend. Very good, deeply friend, always comin' and pickin' me up. And there was a band called the Vikings, the Vikings and Byron Lee. And then the Skatalites and Sonny Bradshaw, and I always being aroun' all these people dem. And they always like me, 'cause I'm a country-boy. And Sonny and I (sighs)... it's a very long story, so...


Claudius Linton

Q: The Vikings you mentioned, could that have been the Mighty Vikings with Bobby Ellis, the trumpeter?

A: Yes, Bobby Ellis. And the brother who used to manage the band, a Chineyman, a Rastaman, his name's Ken Viking, and he always pick me up and these people with status. I really find myself amongst some very uptown (middle class) people.

Q: Did you participate in the 'Opportunity Hour' (sponsored by Vere John at various theatres)?

A: Vere Johns? No, when I jus' came I met Mr Vere Johns. Just passed by this week, the things had closed down outta town, Palace (Theatre). I was so shocked, last night I was there and really (chuckles)... But Vere Johns was a nice man. But when you're on that scene, Bournemouth and those places, and Club Havana, it's just as good as workin' at... like Mr Carlos Malcolm, he is one of the key figures in the music business and he's a great trombonist, man.

Q: You did something for producer Harry Mudie, 'Open Up The Gates', as the Hoffner Brothers. You recall that one?

A: Yes sir, yes sir. Yes, Hoffner Brothers, that is after the festival we did this.

Q: Tell me what led up to the festival entry with 'Kingman Is Back'.

A: Yes sir. I learned how politics is and what politics is in this world, in the world of today, and before we come to this computer technology, but I learned for myself. Because this man Bunny Lee, Bunny Lee he has Junior Byles and Derrick Morgan in the festival, so he has two entries. So this man Bunny Lee, Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Bunny Lee, they are the two guys, y'know, as the prominent men of the t'ing. But Byron Lee had sent in Toots & The Maytals, he was not selected by the audience in the theater. Because the first round is my first time to make any appearance in the world, and Toots never had no chance in the theater that night. That night it was our night there, we break it down. That's how they teach us now how to fake, how to go to the studio and play these t'ings, and fake while the music is playing. And we are faking... You have to do that because if they play the original things from the start, they show the audience that they win all, right through.

Q: Like some playback thing.

A: Yeah, that's what they did. They play back the records and we fake, we're faking like we're singin', like we're performing, but it wasn't coming originally from us at that time. It was just the record playing. But at the theater, generally they had a projector with a four-track tape in there that can record the whole session of the festival. And what happened, that's how I learned the way the society in this world is, they really mingle around and leave it a very very stylish thing. Yes.


Zap Pow (Photo courtesy of www.ReggaeReport.com).

Q: But they had a band for the festival entries, didn't they?

A: Yes, this band called Zap Pow, Dwight Pickney, those guys. But the backing band that we used in the studio, it was Soul Syndicate, Earl 'Chinna' Smith.

Q: For 'Kingman Is Back'.

A: Yeah. They used (George) 'Fully' Fullwood and 'Santa' (Davis), Santa on drums, Fully on bass and Chinna on guitar, and a nex' little Chin-a (Tony Chin, rhythm guitar).

Q: What studio was it you used?

A: At Federal Recording Company.


Q: It was produced by someone called M.G. Mahtani on the Shalimar label.

A: Yeah, that's right. Shalimar label, yes.

Q: Who was this guy, Mahtani?

A: Well, Mahtani was one of those Indians that have jewelry store down King Street, so they decided to back us too. Beca' we didn't want to go with Sir Coxson. I didn't want to go with Dynamic Sounds or Coxson and a few of these guys, Bunny Lee or these guys, so we go with Shalimar.

Q: But did you record anything more for Shalimar?

A: No, I did not do that.

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