Probably the first time anything was written at length of the man known as Ken Bob, was in the long defunct - and much missed - Canadian Reggae Quarterly magazine. He is yet another one of all those mysterious Jamaican names who haven't been exploited, but more the contrary, one who hasn't released enough of his music. This is truly a big shame, for here is one of the great soulful talents in reggae music; anyone who has heard his 'In Danger' track can attest to that. A Spanish Town resident from early years, Ken was a member of vocal trio The Eternals, mainly known through lead singer Cornell Campbell's fabulous voice and songs. After the group broke up he went solo, cutting several fine sides for various producers apart from a few self-productions. Regardless how few they are, Ken Bob's songs and voice are of a very high quality, which makes it even more puzzling why the man hasn't gotten the breakthrough he deserves. But it's a familiar story in Jamaican music; so much talent, so little space for all those voices, instrumentalists and 'real' producers to receive the recognition they're due. My thanks to Ken, Elliott (Trade Roots), Carlton Hines, and Donovan Phillips.

Q: You grew up in Spanish Town, a rough place from pretty early on, wasn't it?

A: Yeah man, Spanish Town, St Ann's Road yunno. Well, right now violence is all over the world, so we haffe take it from there... Up to last night, right now I'm in San Diego, and up to last night I went to this gig an' I was backstage an' I show some people deh... in every end of the world you have violence, you no see it, you have positive and you have negative. But sometime is like all brain a burst. And Jamaica, most of the time it get more violent when the people dem fightin' for power, like in the political time. And then after the political t'ing it's like everyt'ing just come back to normal, at certain time. Depends on different state an' dem place deh an' what the people feel is important in life, is different for everyone. Dem people deh, dem no care who you vote for, whatever, but a yard (Jamaica) it's coming like seh, y'know, you have a impress 'pon the people dem, that's why more time dem a vote for ca' dem figure seh 'Is our man dat', yunno. So originally, it still is today, you no see it, a nice grow-up place, a nice place to live. Just wake up early in the morning, eat breakfast an' have a morning walk. And of course, down in a Jamaica people do dem t'ing deh still, but in dem time we haffe sing carols in the morning, you no see it, as momma send you to church an' dem t'ing deh an' ray ray ray. But after a while now the people kinda get separated, Babylon separate the people dem now, an' we figure seh right now 'If you live in Tivoli (Gardens) you a JLP, or if you live in Trench Town you a PNP', you know dem way deh?

Q: Yes.

A: So dem t'ing deh, a so the violence kinda create in dem way deh. A man seh, Rasta, like we would a seh, well, then St Ann's Road could be an area where a man could live down deh but don't mix with politics, y'know. Through which party, you could a end up... a man could always say 'Cho, dem man gwaan like a politician', like, could be a politician, 'a dat him a defend' an' dem t'ing deh. But everything was nice, man. A just dem, a just Babylon system, you no see it, divide fe power an' dem way deh. A just dem manipulate, y'know. But Spanish Town originally was a nice place. And up to when I left, a little bit over a week fe San Diego, I left Spanish Town and St Ann's Road did irie. No violence. Yeah man.

Q: Tell me about your start in the business, was this after or before Cornell Campbell left when you joined The Eternals?

A: Yeah man, is like the Eternals dem, you no see it, actually from inna the Spanish Town area, them area me know them from now. So Ken Fyffe, one of the Eternals, was my brethren an' him hear me sing, an' me hear Cornell left them an' me always drive an' pick them up inna the night-time, we always hang out. And so right now we say "A Rastafari we haffe praise", an' we all lick the chalice an' ray ray. Was Errol, I think Errol used to play the guitar. Errol did a jam an' a so it started with the group. But I man a come from long time, from before dem I used to own a sound system. Hear whe my music come from now: I man used to own a sound system an' that sound system was like a make-believe sound system. You know when you're young an' you play toys, it was a toy-sound then, you understan'? When we're playin' as kids, when we put on the song is like you have to be singin', like me show you seh a deh so me start sing an' like performed in front of people in dem time deh. Them time we was lickle kids, y'know. Yeah. And when the carpenter cut the wood from making the house, some lickle piece of the wood shape like a sound-box, so we jus' used it as the sound-box. And we used bottle-stopper on it too, like the amp, that they turn up and turn down. We use all wires from electrician whe build the house an' make-believe. A so we get together a whole heap a vocal skills from there so, y'know. So my voice say, well, "Now me a go play half-hour of Paragons" (giggles), you know say me haffe sing that. So me say "We have a brand new Paragons left" (sings): 'Have some fun on the beach where there's a party...' - so me sing a half-hour of Paragons! 'Cause the Paragons was my group. And Ken Boothe was my solo artis', you no see it. We all talk 'bout Motown, me is a Motown man. Me grow up on dem man deh an' all, plus Ben E. King an' dem man deh. 'Pon a mic, no man cyaan dead me. When it come on to my sound an' the tune dem drop 'pon the radio me know them, you no see it. So then we hook up now with Ken Fyffe now, an' then in the night now we would a go 'pon the corner like me a show you seh an' jam together still. First t'ing we do, we do a t'ing with Herman Chin-Loy, you know from Aquarius Record?

Ken Bob.

Q: Yes, yes.

A: Yeah, we do a t'ing name 'Hallelujah'. Him have all a dub album too, with a version of that tune (possibly on the classic 'Aquarius Dub' set). Well, him wanted to do some more songs but is like, me nuh know wha' happen to the guys dem, y'know. My brethren dem, is like dem start to have some lickle negative t'ings like seh, well, then me a get all the promo and me a the star... We do a TV, a TV performance, and you know as the lead singer they would bring me up an' bring me up full up-screen an' dem t'ing deh, an' me check seh dem a get kinda negative, so me jus' finish with the group.

Q: What was the TV show, like 'Where Its At'?

A: 'Where Its At' I think! Yeah man, 'Where Its At', man. I think 'Where Its At' was a t'ing with Alphonso Walker, don't it? One time it was Paulette (?), but I think in dem time deh was Alphonso. Yeah, me do the 'Where Its At'. Yeah man. Nuh true, man, an' then me no like how dem a gwaan, star, an' me jus' ease out a the business.

Q: You went to Canada after that?

A: Yeah, yeah, in '73, going to Canada an' do a couple little t'ings up there. I try to remember... The firs' time me go a Canada, I don't think me recorded anything up there. But then, second time when I went back now to Canada, I was on Much Music now. I went on Much Music, I don't remember the guy's name but it was a popular TV program, me do the Bob Marley Day t'ing. I did a few gigs in Canada.

Q: But the first time was just a short stay, and then you hooked up with Jack Ruby?

A: Yeah, first time. Then me link Jack Ruby.

Q: Did you know Jack from before?

A: Ah, let me see now...? Come like me don't even remember how me link Jack Ruby, but all I know I link Jack Ruby an' him used to be me good brethren, me a tell you. Beca' Jack used to come around an' pick me up a Spanish Town an' go to Ocho Rios with him inna him car, and we start to record. We record about three songs before he died, an' we didn't get to complete the album. But the other day I was on the internet an' I saw one of those song, I dunno... maybe I didn't think it was released. In Canada, was I think Montreal, one I sing with the Heptones, 'For Vanity Your Heart Cries'. 'Cause me have a copy an' this man, he used to play with Ziggy (Marley), Squiddley Cole, him have a studio now, 100 Studio, an' me know by him me leave it , an' the other day me aksed him about it.

Ken Bob.
Q: It came out on a 'Winston Riley' label.

A: Winston Riley?

Q: Yes.

A: Oh, yeah?

Q: Winston & Riley.

A: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. That was in Montreal too, don't it? Yeah man, me 'memba, me 'memba them have the record store, ca' me go Montreal too.

Q: It was released on a disco 45, a 12" in '79 or thereabouts.

A: Yeah, you know, man. You know seh a yout' out there have a copy, me would a love fe get back that copy, ca' Squiddley Cole used to have that copy. I check him still.

Q: I think Reggae Quarterly stated that you recorded about five tracks for Jack.

A: Me do? With Jack Ruby? Me couldn't even remember. I think me check seh is about three. Beca', me nuh know, me think the yout' deh him have a studio now in Ocho Rios, so when I go down deh me a go find out if me can find any tapes or whatever. Yeah man. But the album never finish, Jack never complete the tapes still. Him never did a gwaan with no shady business, 'cause is a man whe rate me an' respec' me, he used to come an' check for me. Yeah man.

Q: Did you sing live on his sound?

A: Yeah man, I think me used to sing live 'pon him sound a'ready. But him mostly a record man, 'cause him live - I live in Spanish Town an' him sound inna St. Ann, so me remember me go aroun' with his sound. Stereograph is a sound right now whe used to be in Spanish Town, an' then Charlie Chaplin him a me brethren, we spar. Me always go round Stereograph.

Charlie Chaplin.

Ken Bob.

Q: When things didn't work out with Jack, what happened next?

A: Yeah, after Jack now, after Jack Ruby it come like me jus' gwaan chill still, it come like me chill for a while.

Q: Maybe hiding away from the political violence at that time.

A: Maybe when things didn't work out, me put certain things 'pon a hold, you know dem way deh?

Q: Sure.

A: Could possibly be that.

Q: You had to cool out for a while.

A: Yeah, and then it's like I think after me going in a the studio, going inna the studio an' record two tracks.

Q: Was that when you met up with Roy Cousins?

A: Yeah, me met up with Roy Cousins, me almost inna them time deh too. In a them time deh me meet up with Roy Cousins, but Jah know... And me do a track, 'In Danger'.

Q: That's a classic.

A: Yeah.

Q: So Roy got the first cut of that tune.

A: Roy, yeah.

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