You will always trace an obvious foreign influence somewhere within a Jamaican act, it's inevitable when being so close to both Latin- and North America; the music is flowing from both sides, with JA in the middle taking it all in. But thankfully there are singers that come out as being almost totally original and pleasantly 'Jamaican' - call it native if you will - in style, such as our man Jackie Brown. This man was something of the housewife's choice back in the early seventies, if not the people's choice. A familiar and accessible songwriting delivered with a nasal tone of voice, you could even call it a 'country style' in all its simplicity, Jackie cut excellent lovers material like 'One Night of Sin', 'Send Me The Pillow' and 'Miss Hard To Get', along with the popular 'roots themes' of the day like 'Lion Head', 'Babylon No Jester', 'Knotty Vision' and 'Wiser Dread', the latter which gave title to the legendary compilation album released on Nighthawk Records twenty-five years ago. He has resumed his recording career after some absence and released a nice album some time back in 'I Still Love You' in a modern but personal setting, should I say it's well worth checking out with Mr Brown back on form. I linked up with our artist in New York in February, '04. Thanks to Jackie (plus family) for his time, Ejaness, Bob Schoenfeld, Mr Owen, Tim P, and Steve Barrow.

Q: You grew up in Portland in Jamaica, that's in the eastern or the northern parts of the island?

A: No, it's in the east. It's on the eastcoast of Jamaica, and the capital of that part is Port Antonio.

Q: You were born in the mid forties. A big family?

A: Yeah. It was, bwoy, about eight of us. My dad had two kids before my mom, so that would have been ten of us, really.

Q: Are you the only one who entered the music business?

A: No. I don't know if you've ever heard of Castro Brown?

Q: Oh yes, right! He was involved in production, distribution, and so on. Almost forgot, well, I did anyway...

A: Yeah, DEB Music. And in Jamaica he had another studio, I don't remember the name of it.

Q: New Name Muzik?

A: New Name, that's right. And then my other brother from Birmingham, Paul, he has a nickname there - I don't remember his nickname (chuckles), but he has a sound system, a big sound system out there in Birmingham.

Q: OK, so there's three of you who are involved in the music. Music was apparently 'in the family veins' in some way.

A: Yeah, in the music business. Yeah. And my dad was a trumpeter, y'know. My dad played trumpet, and I have other popular cousins. One who is Claudie Brown, he was one of the most popular percussionists in Portland. Everybody knows him. They called him 'Cara Cara'. He was a real percussionist, he could play a marraccas, and he could count the nuts as he shake it. You know that thing with the calabash? You could count the seed as he played it. You know? My uncle, my mother's brother, his name was Osmond Benjamin, he also played the tenor saxophone. So, basically, we grew up in music. You know, my father used to use the trumpet to tell us when dinner was ready, y'know (laughs)!

Q: (Laughs)

A: Yeah, wherever we were, in the evening when dinner was ready he would get up and take up the trumpet and he would play a tune (fast) 'papapapapah'! And then, we would run up the hill, y'know (laughs). Everybody would be makin' it up the hill, just to see who gets up there first. That also includes Castro! Yeah, my next brother is Dapper Don, he has a sound system, his name is Paul - we call him 'Dappo'. So I grew up basically with music. I sung on the choir, the school choir. I was very active in school concerts. I was at the occassional training school, Chestervale Youth Camp in St. Andrew, where I got most of my education. And I was also popular in music, I was the bandleader there. So, all I wanted to do, all I ever wanted to do as a child growing up, was to be involved in music.

Q: Anyone else from that band who became a name in the music afterwards?

A: No, no. We all went our separate ways, but I was the only one who follow through.

Q: You learned to play from an early age as well, or it was mostly singin'?

A: No, I am an accomplished guitarist. I play the guitar very professionally, so the first time that I played on somet'ing, was on one of my own songs in the studio, with Sly (Dunbar), Robbie (Shakespeare), Chinna (Smith), and a couple more people - Bowen, Bo-Pee. And when I played the guitar on the song, it was for Dickie Wong. So he was paying a thing to all the musicians, and I told him that I wanted to be paid too, and he said, "What did you do?!" And I said, "I am the one who played the guitar on the song!" And he said, "I don't know you as no guitarist!" So I never got paid for the first song that I played on, but I played on a couple more songs. I played on a couple of songs for Joe Gibbs in the studio, because I was with Joe Gibbs for a long time, y'know, doing stuff for him.

Q: Not your own music, but as a session guitarist.

A: Backing up people, selecting the artists that may come along. When Culture came to Joe Gibbs, I was the one that did the selection. Actually I was the one who gave them the dates to return.

Blacka Morwell.

Q: I heard Blacka Morwell was involved in their initial days at Joe Gibbs too.

A: Yes, Blacka Morwell and I at the time was working at Joe Gibbs, we were on salary at the time. So, y'know, the artists used to come - Black Skin also. But I was also active with a lot of popular entertainers, I've done a lot for them. Because I used to run the talent show at Bohemia night club, and Jaguar Lounge night club, I used to be the talent co-ordinator back in the seventies then. And...

Q: Where were these clubs in existence in Kingston?

A: Jaguar Lounge was at 32 Berlington Avenue, it was owned by Lydia McGregor. And Bohemia was owned by Raymond Hamilton, he's deceased now. And I remember the first time when the Mighty Diamonds came, and I was about to introduce them on stage and I told them, I said, "I have three guys backstage, these guys are gonna be there!" And I introduced Mighty Diamonds - Judge, Tabby and Bunny, and they did a very good performance, y'know, and they just excelled on from there!

Q: And this is like, what, '69/70?

A: No, '72/73/74. Like '73/74/75/76 - all of the seventies coming up there. Then also came along from my talent show was Barrington Levy, he was also from talent shows of Bohemia. Happy Love was also from the talent show of Bohemia. George Nooks, George Nooks he was both from Bohemia and Jaguar Lounge because I was workin' at both circuits. Yellowman came from Jaguar Lounge. Big Joe, he is the only one who ever - ever - look at anybody for a given interview and said, "Well, this man has helped me". But, he wasn't even Big Joe then, he never have a name. So, I used to go take him out of school, and take him of course when I had shows in the country, and take him with me. He was little and thin, y'know (laughs). He's still going to school and... I called him 'DJ Jolly', 'cause I didn't have a name for him so when I introduced him to the people I call him DJ Jolly.

Q: That's not 'Big Joe', is it? It's Ranking Joe you're talking about?

A: Ranking Joe! Sorry! It's Ranking Joe - I called him 'Big' y'know, because him get so big now I always say 'Big Joe'. Yeah, Ranking Joe. Also from the Tastee concerts, I was one of the executive officers for the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, and I also had involvement in 'Day Fees' (?) concerts. So all these artists also went over with me to Tastee concerts, including Yellowman. Nadine Sutherland, I used to work with a band called Rebel Vibration, and I went to play up in Rock Hall, up there in the hills of St. Andrew, and she was maybe about nine, and they brought her to us, y'know. And Bassie, who was the band manager, knew her dad and she did a couple of songs, like two songs, and she was good. Just a baby, y'know, we were very excited about her. We encouraged her dad to take her down to Tastee, y'know. A lot of things happened from there. Junior Tucker came from Tastee concerts too, so... I had a lot of involvement in a lot of entertainers who made it, because it's my goodness. When I see talent - I love talent, I love to see and to discover musicians, people with ability for music, so I always help them. If there's anything I could do, I always help them.

Horace Andy.

Gregory Isaacs.

Mighty Diamonds.

Q: You had that feel for nourishing talents.

A: Yes, yes, yes. From 1970 to 1979 I also kept a series of shows every year between February to July it was the slow times, and it was called the 'Rock Series'. And I used to provide entertainment employment for the artists, because no shows was going on at the time. So I built up something with the owners of the theaters across the country - the signman who rise the sign for the theater, the bandmen, the artists. So all I had to do was to book the dates and everybody would come along, I didn't have to lay no money out. Because whatever money was made from any performances it was actually shared equally among all the artists, y'know. Like, if it was a hundred dollar, it was two hundred, three hundred dollar - every man was getting three hundred dollars. The theater would be paid for, the transportation would be paid for, the band would be paid for, and so we go to the next venue. And we were doing shows like Old Harbour, Santa Cruz, south St. Elizabeth, Grange Hill (?), Mandeville - just name it! We went all the way - Black River. And artists that was in this package were artists like Toots & The Maytals, Ken Boothe, Bongo Herman, Horace Andy, Freddie McKay, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Carl Dawkins. Actually, every name that you can actually think of in that era - Mighty Diamonds, everybody was a part of this because it was something good. And everybody knew that, y'know, no trick in the business. That was like; whatever we make, we shared, and I was responsible for that, I was like the boss actually. I'm not takin' the credit for being the boss, but I was in charge of it. And up to this day, whenever I see any of these artists that was on any of these shows, they give me maximum respect, because they always remember. And to mention Ken Boothe, Ken never stop talkin' about the time when we did a show and we made a lot of money on this show, so I gave him double the money. I double his money, and he say, "Well, why you gave me so much money? This is for the next show?" So I said, "No, if the show had fell down without making the money, then everybody would go home without money. So if we make money tonight then everybody's money is double". That's what we did, y'know.

Q: What type of venues did you play at in the countryside, it was theaters or they had the odd club, or you played outdoors?

A: Theaters. Yeah.

Q: You didn't play outdoors, like a showcase tent.

A: No, we didn't have the foresight on that, and it would've taken too much security to do outdoor venues, y'know. And them times we were only charging like ten dollars to get in. We go to a country and people would be scaling the fences. I remember doing a show in Old Harbour with Alton Ellis and people climbed on top of the theater to get in! You know, people opened the side-doors and all of that so we tried to use in-closed places so we didn't have to lay out too much in employing too many people. Fay Bennett was a part of that, Dennis Brown's father, Arthur Brown, was a part of that, those concerts. Bam, from Bim & Bam, was a part of that. We had everybody there with me.

Jackie Brown.

Q: Bim & Bam, this was a comedy act.

A: Yes! That man, especially Bim - Bim Lewis, a lot of people has not spoken about people like Bim Lewis, or Bim & Bam. Bim Lewis was one of the greatest playwrite, show-writers, writers for play, that Jamaica had ever seen. When he died I think he had an Order of Distinction. But that man, he wrote a lot of plays. 'Gun Court of the Air', that was a big show, that was what broke GT Taylor who is now on Irie FM. GT Taylor and I speak a little bit about it too, GT Taylor was the MC for all the shows across the island I did when I did the Rock Series. And actually, I was one of the first person to put a mic into GT Taylor's hand to tell him that he has the ability to be an MC. And today he is one of Jamaica's greatest radio personalities. He wasn't on no station then, he was playing with a band with Bob Mac - what band them was...? Mighty Cloud! Also, even PHRY-FM in Toronto - Delroy G, Delroy G came from that period too, and he is on FM in Toronto - a very, very popular guy. He came from that era. I spoke with him last week, and he's doing good, y'know. Same with Delroy Bryan, we call him Delroy G, yeah, and he came from that era too. We had Ruddy Thomas who came from that era, so did a lot of other people. There was a band that - this guy Roy Mico at the time...

Q: Who's that?

A: A guy called Roy Mico, I forgot what his real name was. But we could see that Delroy also was good at, y'know, something in music. As he get a chance, even when the band would take a break, if the band was on break, he was there (laughs). So sometimes people would say 'Watch Delroy! Watch Delroy!' You had to face up to get a bite, y'know. But there I was also very proud of him because he accomplished what he had, what he set out to do.

Q: By the way, what happened to Bob Mac of the Mighty Cloud band?

A: He's somewhere in Queens, I think he went into the printing business. I got a number for him and I called him a couple of times, but... I spoke with him one time, then I lost track of him again.

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