Joe Gibbs has passed away...
Jamaica has lost another key figure in its musical history. Joe Gibbs, legendary producer, recording engineer and Gibbs record label founder, died Thursday night (February 21, 2008) at the University Hospital of the West Indies after suffering a heart attack. He died at the age of 65.
JOE GIBBS... PRODUCER OF GOLDEN SOUNDS.
Joel A. Gibson, better known as Joe Gibbs, was born in Montego Bay in 1943. He had qualified as an electronics engineer in the USA before returning to Jamaica to open his own TV repair shop. In early 1967 he expanded the business through selling records in his shop at 32 Beeston Street, Kingston. The sales of records proved successful and encouraged him to become more directly involved in the local music industry.
He purchased a two-track tape machine and set up his own studio in the back of his shop, enlisting the services of Lee Perry, who had at that time just ended his long association with Coxsone Dodd. Aided and encouraged by Bunny 'Striker' Lee he released a string of hit singles on his newly launched Amalgamated label. In early 1968, after Lee Perry left to set up his own Upsetters label, he employed a talented young engineer, Winston 'Niney' Holness, whose prolifiency helped maintain Amalgamated's continued success. His most consistent hit makers during this period were a vocal trio, the Pioneers, and young Errol Dunkley. Throughout the rocksteady era Lyn Taitt and The Jets provided the backbone of the producer's releases.
With the demise of rocksteady, Joe Gibbs ably adapted the development of its successor, reggae. In 1970 he finally made his mark internationally with his production of Love Of The Common People by Nicky Thomas, which peaked at number 9 in the UK that summer. By this time he had introduced three further labels, Shock, Jogib and Pressure Beat, opened his New York Record Mart at 11 South Parade, Kingston and created his own two track studio at 17 Burns Avenue in the Duhaney Park region of the town.
During this period he cut a number of superb sides with artists like The Heptones, Ken Parker, Peter Tosh, Nicky Thomas, The Ethiopians, and Delroy Wilson. He released the popular The Heptones & Friends album, comprising his best singles, a year later followed by another showcase for his productions: The Heptones & Friends Volume 2. Both albums became bestsellers on the Island.
In 1972 he moved his base operations to 20 North Parade, Kingston and released Dennis Brown's first version of Money In My Pocket, soon followed by Big Youth's version Ah So We Stay. At that time he teamed up with sound engineer Errol "ET" Thompson, who had left Randy's Studio 17, with whom he would enjoy a longlasting prolific and successful relationship as The Mighty Two, producing more than well over one hundred #1 hit records.
In 1975 Joe Gibbs relocated once again, setting up a sixteen-track studio and pressing plant at 24 Retirement Crescent, Kingston. For the next years the hits came thick and fast, many issued on a number of new labels, including Crazy Joe, Reflections, Belmont, Town & Country and Errol T. Jacob Miller's I'm A Natty, Sylford Walker's Burn Babylon, The Mighty Diamonds' Ghetto Living and numerous Dennis Brown sides were notable hits from this period.
The Mighty Two productions covered both roots and lovers concerns. Ruddy Thomas, Marcia Aitken, Tyrone Taylor and Wayne Wade, just to name a few, voiced a string of excellent lovers tunes, while Bobby Melody, Devon Morris, Dennis Walks, Prince Alla, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Byles and female vocalist Dhaima delivered convincing roots records. Joe Gibbs produced Culture's seminal Two Sevens Clash and the equally brilliant Baldhead Bridge.
Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson had also remarkable success with the release of the popular African Dub series, containing updated recuts of vintage Studio One and Treasure Isle riddims. The Ossie Hibbert co-produced Earthquake Dub and the similar State Of Emergency sets contained the riddims that supported the most of Joe Gibbs' popular records of the time.
In 1977 The Mighty Two released the impressive second set from Prince Far I, entitled Under Heavy Manners. The same year saw the issue of Trinity's hugely popular Three Suite Piece, which utilized the riddim of Marcia Aitken's updated version of Alton Ellis' Studio One hit "I'm Still In Love". This success led to a whimsical follow up by teenage schoolgirl duo, Althea Forrest and Donna Reid. Despite the lyrics in the resulting release of Uptown Top Ranking being almost non-sensical to those unfamiliar with Jamaican patois, the song reached the UK charts towards the end of the year, and early 1978, hit the number one spot. He also released several strong deejay tracks from Ranking Joe, Prince Jazzbo, Prince Mohammed, Dillinger, Luie Lepke, Clint Eastwood, I Roy and bald headed Kojak & Lisa.
In 1979 Dennis Brown recorded two of his best albums for The Mighty Two, Words Of Wisdom and Joseph's Coat Of Many Colours, comprising wonderful versions of Marley's Slave Driver and John Holt's Man Next Door. The Words Of Wisdom set included a recut of his 1972 smash hit Money In My Pocket, which broke into the British charts, finally peaking at a highly respectable 14. This success led to the singer's move to London where he launched his own Yvonne's Special label and signed a contract with A & M Records.
In the 80s The Mighty Two produced further popular Dennis Brown albums such as The Prophet Rides Again, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow and the crossover album Love Has Found Its Way. Another upcoming star at the time, Frankie Paul, cut some interesting sides for the Joe Gibbs Music label and recorded the album Be My Lady in 1984 for Joe Gibbs' son, Carl 'Rocky' Gibbs.
An integral ingredient in the popularity of The Mighty Two's output was the musicianship provided by Joe Gibbs' regular studio band, The Professionals. At various times the band included such luminaries as Lloyd Parks and Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Sly Dunbar, George Fullwood and Horsemouth (drums), Tony Chin, Willie Lindo, Earl Chinna Smith and Bingi Bunny (guitar), Gladdy Anderson, Winston Wright, Franklin Waul, and Ossie Hibbert (keyboards), Ruddy Thomas and Sticky (percussion), along with a horns section featuring Tommy McCook (tenor sax), Bobby Ellis (trumpet), Vinnie Gordon (trombone) and Herman Marquis (alto sax).
From the mid 70s to the mid 80s, when a costly legal battle concerning unpaid royalties over J.C. Lodge's international smash hit Someone Loves You Honey brought an end to recordings from Gibbs - although he took up recording and producing alongside Sidney Crooks in the second half of the 90s -, the bulk of his output dominated the Jamaican music business. During that period he and his main rivals at the time, Bunny Lee, Sly & Robbie, Lee Perry and the Hoo Kim brothers, probably have been the most influential and successful figures to produce new sounds and develop new, fascinating variants of established formulas. Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson's talents and expertise have moulded reggae music and produced an impressive catalogue of hits, thus making it almost impossible to overrate their contribution to reggae music.
Most of Joe Gibbs' productions have been re-issued by his son Carl 'Rocky' Gibbs, who is based in New York. In the 80s and 90s he has released a string of excellent retrospective albums, comprising many of The Mighty Two's best productions ever. Several other labels, such as UK based Trojan Records, HeartBeat, Soul Jazz Records and Pressure Sounds have also released solid compilation sets. In the second half of the 90s Joe Gibbs relocated all his material from New York to Miami, where he had set up a company, Joe Gibbs Enterprises.
June 2005, Joe Gibbs linked up Kingston with Paris by basing his company Joe Gibbs Europe there. At the same time, Crazy Joe Records, a label created in 1972, was also reactivated. At the beginning of 2008 VP Records imprint 17 North Parade was already in the process of re-releasing the complete catalog of Gibbs' music, starting with Barrington Levy Collection on April 26th and Joe Gibbs Reggae Anthology in May.
Sources : The Rough Guide To Reggae, The Virgin Encyclopia Of Reggae, www.radiojamaica.com, www.roots-archives.com