Henry "Buttons" Tenyue is an accomplished and highly sought after session musician whose incomparable trombone sound graced production works from the likes of Gussie P, Ruff Cutt, Stingray, and Mafia & Fluxy, to name only four. It's difficult to master the trombone as a solo instrument, but on records and during live performances, Henry "Buttons" has shown that he, just like reggae greats as the late Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez and Vin Gordon aka Don Drummond Jr., is truly a genius of the instrument. Many thanks to Henry "Buttons", Hassan Hamra & Mohammed Hamra (Panache Culture), and Malia T (for all those beautiful photos).


Q: You grew up in South East London. What environment was it in your early years, musically speaking?

A: Well... musically speaking. When I was growing up... we had a cousin that lived up in North London. He had a sound system and me and my brother used to like stand up... when I was a likkle boy... six, seven... we'd stand up next to it and listened to the records he was playing... y'know. But not only that... When my father used to go Jamaica and come back, y'know, him always bring the records back from Jamaica and that's what we used to play over and over. We never really listened to radio... well, we had the radio on but we never really liked the pop songs and ting.

Q: They didn't play reggae on the radio...

A: No, no, not those days, No, no!

Q: And they still don't play reggae on the radio in England?

A: At the mainstream, no, unless it's certain... it's got to be certain people, y'know... like UB40...

Q: You said your father brought records back from Jamaica. What musical style did you grew up with? Was that rocksteady or early reggae... or even ska?

A: Yeah, it was like... it was all of them still, y'know, because it was like... uhm... it was like even mento... Mento, ska... y'know, rocksteady. And then my mother... she loved Jim Reeves

Q: Country & western music...

A: Yeah... them loved that style, you see... Jim Reeves... Little Richard... those kinda people. And then, after a likkle while y'know, they started to get some of the soul tings... like Diana Ross, James Brown and...

Q: Sam & Dave?

A: Yeah... Sam & Dave...

Q: Those kinda people?

A: Curtis Mayfield...

Henry "Buttons" aka Matic Horns at Panache Culture Studio
(Photo: Panache Culture)
Q: Yeah... He was with The Impressions before he went solo. Also music that the people in Jamaica heard and liked. The kinda music that some vocal groups did in a Jamaican way during the rocksteady era.

A: Yeah... that's right. Them loved The Temptations and all those kinda groups... The Drifters...

Q: You mentioned your mother loved Jim Reeves... country & western music. Is there some kinda connection between country & western and reggae...

A: Well... a lotta of the early, even studio One songs, y'know, that people think they was the Jamaican artists that write those songs... they actually like country & western songs are... all them Jim Reeves ballads or something like that, y'know, 'cause those were the tings. And of course... with Jim Reeves as well... most of them are associated with Jim Reeves when he went into that church kinda phase. That's when he really take off, 'cause y'know Jamaica is a religious place.

Q: So it's not that unusual that VP has put out an album called "Reggae's Gone Country"?

A: No, that's not unusual, 'cause in Jamaica they still play those kinda... they love the balladed songs y'know. One of the biggest singers for ballads right now for them is, y'know, that Canadian lady... What's her name?

Q: Celine Dion?

A: Yeah... Celine Dion... She's the biggest ting in Jamaica.

Q: She's a superstar in Jamaica?

A: Yes... superstar... bigger than... she's big like Bob Marley in Jamaica.

Henry "Buttons" aka Matic Horns

Henry "Buttons" aka Matic Horns
Q: You're kidding...

A: No, I'm telling you... When Celine Dion do a show in Jamaica... I think she's gonna be there next year 'cause... y'know Jamaica's 50th year... and Jamaica Jazz Festival they're bringing Celine Dion... She's gonna be playing in the National Stadium, that's the only place that can fit her. She's like them kinda people them love, y'know.

Q: OK. Back to what we were talking about earlier on. Do you remember some of your favourite reggae songs from your younger days?

A: One of the earliest ones is, of course, "Bangarang". And then you had some tune like "Cherry Oh Baby", those kinda tings, and "Wear You To The Ball"...

Q: U Roy?

A: No, no, no... John Holt. "Tide Is High" and all them tings.

Q: The Paragons...

A: Yeah, yeah... and all them Treasure Isle tunes...

Q: How did you actually get involved in playing music yourself?

A: Well... when I was very young... like we went to church y'know... we used to go to Methodist church first... our mother moved us from there and we went to a Salvation Army place. And then they started to teach us... like trumpet... and cornet... dem tings... and flugelhorn, y'know. That's how I started to play an instrument. But even in church, because there... there are seven brothers and sisters of us... and one of the church people decided to make us into a group and call us the Magnificent Seven (laughs). So we made up this group and we used to go round and sing at the different Salvation Army churches. And then when they had their big conference like at the Royal Albert Hall, y'know, they call us in to come and sing. So that was really my first steps in artist business. This is when I was like six... seven, y'know.

Henry "Buttons" Tenyue & Patrick Tenyue
Q: And then your professional music career. How did that take off?

A: Well...the way I started to play as a professional musician... I was studying to be a draftsman... that is like an architect, but in engineering y'know. I was studying that, but I used to be with a sound system too. Me and my brothers, we had a sound system. And I hadn't been playing an instrument from I leave school other than... sometime we used to make our own special, y'know, with Gussie P, 'cause Gussie P went to school with us. At that time he was just learning how to record, the little reel to reel and... him and his friend Mark. But I was doing that job and my brother... he was a car mechanic. And the guy from Matumbi... the bass player.. Jah Blake... he brought his car there... and he got talking to my brother and my brother said..."Oooh me and him, we play horn".. 'cause he must have said they were looking for horn players. So he said..."Yeah OK. Well, come to the studio in two days time and we can test you out." So he came and told me, but we never had no instrument, so what I did... I wanted to play saxophone as well... and the only time I played saxophone was at school y'know. So in the evening I went out and I went to the music shop and I buy a saxophone, 'cause they'd said they had a trombone at the studio. So I bought a saxophone and learn, y'know, practice up. My brother... he had a likkle car and he sell his car and buy a trumpet. And then we went to the session and the tune we played was...uuuh... a tune named... uuuh... was it "Blue Beat ..."? No... "Guide Us". Yeah... we did a tune named "Guide Us".

Q: "Guide Us"?

A: Yeah, there's a tune named "Guide Us" by Matumbi. It is just like riddim horn... (does puh... puh...puh... puh).

Q: And that's what you played?

A: Yeah... we played that on the first session. I think that one and then a next tune named "Blue Beat & Ska" we played. And from that...

Q: They said... OK...

A: Well... Dennis.

Q: Dennis Bovell?

A: Yes, that's when we first meet... and Dennis Bovell said "OK"... and then we was in. And then after a few sessions we did...uhm... "Point Of View", and that one went in the National chart. And that was when we first started touring. Never do touring before, and nothing like... And we get tour right in the deep end. Matumbi was the biggest band and they was signed to EMI. And who else was on EMI at the same time?! Peter Tosh... So they make a tour of Europe with Matumbi and Peter Tosh. So I was travelling on the bus with Peter Tosh, and Sly & Robbie, and all of those people that I hear on records. And all of sudden I was sitting on a bus with them.

Hassan Hamra & Henry "Buttons"
at Panache Culture Studio
(Photo: Panache Culture)

Hassan Hamra & Henry "Buttons"
at Panache Culture Studio
(Photo: Panache Culture)
Q: You were one of them...

A: Yeah... Yeah... I was a likkle youth... I was the youngest anyway (chuckles).

Q: About eighteen years old.

A: Yeah, when I was eighteen years old. And them man like Peter and Emanuel, they was like twenty-eight, twenty nine, y'know what I mean, big man them. Thirty even... y'know. And I was a likkle boy. I'll be sitting on the table, and playing cards with Sly & Robbie and Peter... and they win off all my money (laughs).

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