Few albums in reggae's history have made the same mark of perfection as the Congos' epic 'Heart of the Congos'. The question is, what is there left to say which hasn't been said already about this monumental album. Not much. It will remain among the Top Ten of the Greatest Reggae Albums of All Time for as long as people will lend an ear to this phenomenal Caribbean music. Produced by the inimitable Lee 'Scratch' Perry, it is a landmark among cultural albums and defined the roots reggae genre upon its release in 1977. The Congos themselves naturally never surpassed it, that's for sure. The Congos was Cedric Myton's fourth musical formation, having previously experienced success in vocal groups the Bellstars and The Tartans. He also became a member of the Royal Rasses, later made famous by the late Prince Lincoln Thompson. Together with Congo Ashanti Roy and Watty Burnett they cut a series of fine albums for major imprints before splitting up in the mid 1980's. The legend grew. The demand for the group's reappearance on the scene increased, and, finally, in the 1990's they regrouped and got the definitive release of their debut album remastered and repackaged by the now defunct Blood & Fire label. The group are now touring and cutting new albums like never before. Cedric will reflect upon the group's history in this interview, revealing some exciting news for fans of the late 1960's era in JA music. My thanks to Cedric, Nico (Makasound), Carlton Hines, Teacher & Mr T, David Corio and Steve Barrow.

Q: You are the oldest of the family of Lester and Daisy Myton, and you are born in St. Catherine?

A: Yes.

Q: How big was the family?

A: That time? Wow! Well, it was really eight of us, yunno, as kids. I mean, mother and father... it's a long story.

Q: But did you grow up in Old Harbour?

A: Yes, I did for a time in Old Harbour bay, that is the seaport town.

Q: What was life like there in the 1950s?

A: Oh, beautiful, man. Beautiful. Beautiful days, those days were the good ol' days.

Q: In what way?

A: In every way. I mean, as kids we got everything so we think everything was just like that. Yeah, we never knew how life was so rough, y'know, all over, but our family could provide for us. Which is very good.

Q: What did your parents do for an income?

A: Ah, well, they used to rear bees, make honey. So we grew up on honey. I ate a lot of honey and honeycomb then. We used to raise bees on an island we called the Goat's Island.

Q: That's in St. Catherine too.

A: Yes.

Cedric Myton (Photo: Blackmagicplastic).

Q: What about music in that family, what brought you into music at that time?

A: Well, growing up I loved music, in the church. I grew up in the church. So we learn music from there and gradually we do our own t'ing.

Q: What was some of your favourite acts back then?

A: Well, in those days it was more like - in the young days - merengue and those kind of music then, yunno, Latin music, or church music.

Q: So the first group you formed sometime in the mid sixties, was that the Tartans or it was the King Edwards recording group, the Bellstars?

A: Yes. Oh yeah, well, the Bellstars was before the Tartans. Sometime I don't even talk about it, but we go back a long time... The Bellstars was the first one and the second one was the Tartans. So the Tartans came out of the Bellstars.

Q: Who was in the Bellstars?

A: Ah, it was I myself, Devon Russell, a friend called Joe Sarkey - he's living in America now, Bobby Sarkey, yunno. And there was another friend who was also a part of the Bellstars, it was Ratcho, that's Lukie D's father. You know Lukie D, the singer?

Q: Yes.

A: Yes, his father used to be in the Bellstars.

Q: And Bobby Sarkey used to sing in that group the Immortals (cutting such wonderful, deep songs as the Pablo produced 'Can't Keep A Good Man Down' in the late seventies, but shouldn't be confused with the namesake who recorded 'Bongo Jah' in the late 1960's for Joe Gibbs. Sarkey later cut solo tunes for the Wackies stable in the Bronx, NYC).

A: Yeah, I think so. I think so, after a time.

Q: What did you record with the Bellstars?

A: Yeah, we did a song named 'Over & Over' (sings) 'Over and over, over and ooover... ta da daa ta daa', something like that. That melody line there.

Q: It was ska?

A: It was in the ska days.

Q: Who did you record it for?

A: Ahhhh... I had a far cousin who was a teacher. He had some money so he was kinda spending it on us.

Q: So it was an independent release.

A: Yes. It was independent, yes.

Q: Did it sell?

A: Oh yes, we had a lickle thing that went down there.

Clifton "Jackie" Jackson.

Hux Brown.

Q: The backing group?

A: Ah, it was good musicians. It was 'Drumbago' (Arkland Parks) and quite a few there, maybe Jackie Jackson (bass) I can still recall, and some other ones there. I think we had Hux Brown too, it was the name of the guitaris' deh.

Q: It was cut at, where?

A: I think it was Federal. Yeah, was Federal. Or I figure it was West Indies (Recording Limited), I think it was West Indies, one o' dem.


A: Yes.

Q: Then the group broke apart. The Tartans came out of the 'ashes' of the Bellstars. You had a few hits with them, the Tartans?

A: Yeah, yeah, well, we had a few hits. Up to now I have an album which is not released, of the Tartans.

Cedric Myton
(Photo: David Corio | www.davidcorio.com).

Q: That group recorded quite a few singles, so there should be enough for an album. Good to hear.

A: Yes, we did quite a few singles. But we are planning to release the Tartans album eventually. If it's not even this year maybe it'll be next year. The Tartans stuff is still in the can.

Q: Should be great, definitely. There's at least a dozen rare 45's to make use of.

A: Yeah man, I have them. And we did two for Duke Reid too at the time, 'Far Beyond The Sun' was one of them.

Q: Right. Who made up the Tartans?

A: Well, the Tartans consist of I myself, Prince Lincoln Thompson, Devon Russell and Lindburgh Lewis. Well, Lindburgh is still alive, he's in America now. But as you may know Devon Russell have died. Prince Lincoln Thompson also have died.

Q: Yes. How was the sessions with the Tartans? You recorded mostly at Federal?

A: Yeah, Federal and some of the Tartans stuff we did down at Downbeat (Coxson) one o' the time, down at Studio One there.

Cedric Myton.

Cedric Myton.

Cedric Myton.

Q: And 'Dance All Night' became the biggest success for the group.

A: Oh, 'Dance All Night', we did it at Federal. Yeah, that was a (Ken) Khouri, Federal production.

Q: Tell me more about that.

A: Well, the song was a hit song. The first payment we got was 484 pound, then. And from that we don't get a penny up until today (laughs).

Q: How did you handle these conditions, not getting paid...

A: Well, at Federal... at the same time we broke off the contrac' with Federal, like. We feel they should've treated us better. So I think what happened, then, there was a deal made, like, the only way we could get out of that contract with them, they have to keep the royalties. So that was how Federal ran their show there. If we did come out of that contract with them, they'd keep the rest of the royalties, something like that.

Q: So that was a constant argument between the two parts.

A: Yes. Well, right now they sell out all those works. I mean, like the publishing, we never collect a penny for those publishing up to today. Yeah. So there is still so much bad policies still going on there, which needs attention. I mean, our government should really take control of the situation.

Q: The Federal production team of Mitchell & Scott took care of those recordings?

A: Yeah.

Q: You still remember the instrumentalists for the Federal sessions?

A: You mean on the 'Dance All Night'?

Q: Yes.

A: Yeah, for the 'Dance All Night' it was Jackie Jackson, it was Gladstone Anderson that play keyboard or piano, and Leslie Butler was playing another lead piano also, on some of the tracks. And you have Drumbago was playing drums, with Jackie Jackson, bass, and Lynn Taitt was playing guitar. Lynn Taitt and Hux Brown was playing rhythm and lead guitar there.

Q: Arranging the stuff, it was...?

A: Well, the piano, that piano sound was created by I myself and Devon and Gladstone Anderson... (hums) 'pa da da da pam pam pa da da'. You know (chuckles)?

Q: It almost sounds like a merengue.

A: Yeah, it's a cross, it's a cross or a bridge there.

Q: These are the beginner days for you. What did you pick up from that experience?

A: Yeah, well, we did start out then. But it was a learning process, y'know.

Cedric Myton.

Q: What do you feel of those recordings now, do you still like them?

A: Oh, yeah man, yeah man. They're antique, they're antique. For, what happened, everyt'ing we had to do live, there was no overdub then at an early age. At this time now we use overdub, yunno, but at the first, firs' set of recordings now it was live - everyt'ing once, one shot. Yeah man, great feeling, but you cannot make any mistake (chuckles).

Q: But if you did...

A: You have to start all over again.

Q: And someone would yell their frustration at you and the group would gradually lose confidence and what not (chuckles)?

A: Yeah, but you are so determined not to make any mistake.

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