Keyboard, guitar and percussion player, and also arranger and record producer Mikey Chung (born Michael Chung in 1954 in Kingston, Jamaica) is one of those figures in the history of reggae music whose role and contributions deserve to be known by many more people than is now the case. An interview with him was long overdue, but finally (thanks to US based musician/singer Rusty Zinn) it could be arranged in 2011.

Mikey Chung, affectionately known as 'Mao', was a member of Now Generation, a band that at one time was playing on about threequarters of the hit sessions in Jamaica. After Now Generation had split up he worked with Jacob Miller and the Lewis brothers, and was one of the musicians that played on Inner Circle's album "Reggae Thing", released in 1976 by Capitol Records. In 1978 he became part of Peter Tosh's backing band called Word, Sound & Power, with whom he toured Europe and the United States. In 1981 he was involved in the recording sessions for the Black Uhuru albums "Red" and "Chill Out", and then toured with Black Uhuru and the Taxi Gang in Europe. These are all known facts, but there are also a few mysteries that should be solved. Did he play in the Generation Gap or not, and what about Cornell Campbell, who claimed in an interview with Penny Reel that he formed the Now Generation with Tin Legs, Everal Murphy, and Ras Karbi? Questions that need answers...

Thanks to Angus Taylor and Laurent Pfeiffer, who did some research, we now know that Mikey Chung hasn't been a member of Generation Gap. In an interview Angus Taylor did with Junior Dan, the latter said the following: "So myself, Bugs Parkinson, Norman McCallam, who was the keyboard player, we were at Jamaica College and we hooked up with Paul and John Lindo and Largey from Woolmers. That was Generation Gap as it started then. We had a singer called Carlton Brown." In that interview Junior Dan also mentions lead vocalist, backing vocalist, keyboardist and trumpeter Mikey Carroll, whose name is featured on the back sleeve of the almost impossible to get LP "Red Hot Reggae" along with Leroy Hammond (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Dalton Browne (lead guitar, bass, backing vocals, keyboard), Cleveland Browne (drums & percussion), Ronald Merrills (bass), and furthermore Clarence Edwards, Everton Carrington, Loxley Thompson and Terence Golding (backing vocals & percussion). It is also known that Freddie McGregor was the lead singer for the Generation Gap band. When Angus Taylor recently asked Junior Dan about this, he got the following answer: "No Mikey Chung did not play with Gen Gap, he was with In Crowd."

RH = Ray Hurford
MC = Mikey Chung

Mikey Chung with Augustus Pablo, Mikey 'Boo' Richards, Jacob Miller & Inner Circle.

RH: Well Mikey, I have just found out this week about The Minstrels, how did that happen?

MC: That was the first thing that happened!

RH: Yeah Yeah

MC: When we were getting into the music, learning instruments, at night school. St Georges College. Have you heard of that before?

RH: No.

MC: We were into singing, we started singing. We were into the Impressions, The Drifters, ... It was Geoffrey and I, and a third singer named Lennox Robinson. Then we recorded 'People Get Ready' for Studio One. Do you know that record? We loved The Impressions. So he was singing the lead on 'People Get Ready'. But he didn't stay in the group long. After that we had another singer, another schoolmate of ours named Claude Braithwaite. He came in, and we did like 'Yours Until Tomorrow', for Coxsone the same way. Then we did some other songs for Federal Records. 'Hey There Lonely Girl' being one of them. You see I haven't heard these songs for a long while, and I don't have copies of them.

RH: Mikey, I have only known about The Minstrels for about a week. How many tunes altogether do you think there are?

MC: Ah, about half a dozen songs. And it's so strange because I was talking to someone nice and I told him that we used to sing before. And we were called The Minstrels and the guy said "Oh what. The Minstrels have one of my favourite songs!"

RH: The thing with Rock Steady is that there are so many little vocal groups. And it came and went so quickly...

MC: What I tell people is that I feel so blessed in my musical career, just listening to the music, then playing the guitar moving onto sessions. The fortunate thing is, that when we used to sing I feel so fortunate that we recorded for Studio One with Jackie and the guys. And on the other side it was Lynn Taitt. I cannot really express how I feel about Jackie Mittoo and Lynn Taitt, they deserve the highest honours that can be awarded to them. Those guys were a major part in the devolvement of Jamaican music.

RH: I think with reggae music, it's all part of something, if you say keyboard players... you then have to think about the people around that player. It's like when something works, and say for instance Now Gen, it all works together. So with yourself and Geoffrey... who was the oldest brother?

MC: I am older than Geoffrey, but I would like to say that what you said is so true, because even within ourselves - myself, Geoffrey, Val Douglas, Mikey Boo, Robbie Lyn, Wire Lindo. You know we had another drummer named Martin Sinclair?

RH: No I didn't Mikey.

MC: You have never heard of him, but he played on a lot of songs.

Mikey Chung

Mikey Chung (1979)

RH: This is the thing... Anyway somewhere along the way you and Geoffrey started to play guitar.

MC: I started first. Geoffrey was late coming into the music. I was the one going towards music. The first guitar came into the family when my grandmother went to New York, and I asked her to bring back a guitar. That is the history...

RH: So who is Junior Chung, that was the first time I saw the name Chung on a reggae record. Is that you?

MC: Junior Chung? Well you know how credits went in those days…You look at the back of LP covers and you see nicknames and aliases. There is no Junior Chung.

RH: So when was the very first time you walked into a studio as Now Generation?

MC: Well we were doing obsure sessions before. And the sessions began when Val Douglas and I were in a college called CAST. The College of Arts Science and Technology. I was doing electrical engineering and he was doing mechanical engineering and I was in the common room where the acoustic piano was... most of the time, and not in my class. Hahah. And Dougie he could play acoustic, and he was familiar with guitar, but he would play bass on it. And I would say: "Dougie you are a wicked bass player." And that's how we met. And also we went to Georges together as well. St Georges High School. But when we were in class, that is when we started doing sessions. Niney the Observer he used to come up there to sessions. It was Dougie and I who started these sessions. Geoffrey didn't come in there, Wire didn't come in yet, although they might have been doing session by themselves.

Val Douglas

RH: I have come across a very early tune from the Meditations called 'King Rasta' and that sounds like Now Gen - produced by Niney.

MC: My memory is... Now Gen was a studio band first. How the name Now Generation came about. Now Generation was really another friend of ours. He had a band named the Now Generation and being musicians and loving music, found ourselves in that band. And we became the Now Generation.

RH: So who was that?

MC: OK, there was a drummer in there called Sparrow.

RH: Oh, I've heard of him.

MC: Not Sparrow Martin... another Sparrow, Sparrow Thompson. Let me go back a little further. When we were in Georges, St Georges on North Street, which was a Catholic School, and you had Kingston College, which was a Anglican School. Now Kingston College was the College which Jackie Mittoo went too. We had another band named the Mighty Mystics. There was another band called Ti & The Titans. And that band had people like Jackie Jackson, people like that. But the younger brothers of Ti & The Titans went to KC. And he had all this equipment. They used to play from the sixties, and then they weren't playing anymore. So we used that equipment, and we formed the Mighty Mystics. We played around, we did a lot of gigs. On a Saturday we would play with Tommy McCook & The Supersonics at this club Victoria Pier right on the Waterfront. So we were hearing music from the mainstream from a long time. Now after that, that band disbanded, and we went to the Now Generation then. I just wanted to fill in...

RH: All very important stuff... as far as reggae fans in the UK were concerned. The first time it was apparent that a new band was on the scene, was Lorna Bennett's 'Breakfast In Bed'. So how many sessions had taken place with the Now Gen band before that big hit?

MC: Well with Martin Sinclair on drums, there was Peter Tosh 'Mega Dog' for Joe Gibbs, 'Them Have Fe Get A Beatin' Joe Gibbs. You see when you are doing sessions in Jamaica, it doesn't have to be your main group, it could be anyone. Other people would be there... Hux Brown, Gladdy, Jackie Jackson. After the Now Generation band was formed we were still doing sessions. But then we became so popular that we left the road work. This was in 1972. We decided we weren't going to play dance music and night club dates anymore and we were just going into the studio and we just kept the name Now Generation. Around the same time we did those songs for Peter Tosh, we worked with Dennis Brown, 'Baby Don't Do It' - Dennis Brown 'Things In Life' for Lloydie Matador.
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