On Thursday, October 12 2000, former member of The Morwells, vocalist, percussionist and producer Maurice Wellington, better known as Blacka Morwell, died from adenocarcinoma at age 50.

Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont
In the early seventies Maurice "Blacka" Wellington emerged on the Jamaican reggae scene alongside his friend Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont. Bingy Bunny had already started his recording career alongside Bongo Herman. During 1971-1972 the duo delivered tunes like "Know Far I", "We Are Praying" and "Salaam (Peace)" for producer/singer Derrick Harriott. Blacka had been active in the local music industry as a record salesman and, since 1972 when he released Sir Harry's "Last Call", as a free lance producer. The two friends from boyhood formed The Morwells and immediately followed the pattern of many ghetto-based artists in those days, who asserted their independence from the big production outfits like Randy's and Dynamic.

Artists like Errol Dunkley Gregory Isaacs, Big Youth, The Abbyssinians and The Royals started to run their own label in order to at least have control over every aspect of their output. The Morwells operated from premises in the Kingston Arcade on King Street. Their own label "Morwell Esq." was launched in 1974 when they released their debut single, an instrumental entitled "Mafia Boss". On the same imprint Blacka also put out tracks from other artists like for example "Meaning Of Life" by Heptone Barry Llewellyn, which was actually a co-production with one of Blacka's brothers and deejay Lloyd Young. However the most important of all tunes released on the "Morwell Esq." label was a melodica instrumental by Joe White called "Victory Song". This piece was recorded on the same day as the Pete Weston session that produced Tommy McCook and Bobby Ellis' instrumental "Dracula", but it was the "Victory Song" riddim that became a real classic. The original cut fitted parts of the jazz classic "Peanut Vendor" and was also used by Blacka Morwell for Little Roy's hit vocal cut, "Prophecy". This riddim has propelled hundreds of versions, particularly after Sly & Robbie's "Unmetered Taxi" version came out in 1982. The most recent version of the riddim was also done by the riddim twins and saw its release in 2000 as "Millennium Taxi", once again underpinning songs from many reggae artists.

In 1974 the Morwells not only launched their own "Morwell Esq." label, but also became a trio when Louis Davis joined the two friends. It was actually Davis - formerly a member of the Versatiles - who taught Bingy Bunny how to play guitar, thus setting him on a route which would eventually take him from the Morwells to the leading session bands, the Revolutionaries and then the Roots Radics. Davis also became the arranger for the group and when the trio recorded "You Got To Be Holy" at Channel One - also released on their own label - they were on their way. This single proved successful and it encouraged the trio to release nice recuts of the Melodians' rocksteady classics "Swing And Dine" and "Come On Little Girl". Due to the popularity of these tunes in the UK The Morwells teamed up with sound system and record shop owner Sir Jessus from Shepherd's Bush, West London. He released the group's "Bit By Bit", a strong seller in the UK reggae market in 1975. In the same year the first two Morwells albums were released. First the vocal debut set "Presenting The Morwells", which featured the Melodians covers and Delroy Wilson's "I Don't Know Why", alongside "Bit By Bit", "You Got To Be Holy" and five more originals. And then the King Tubby mixed album "Dub Me", which versioned six of the songs on the vocal album, including two different mixes of their "Movie Star" version.

The Morwells with Maurice "Blacka Morwell" Wellington on the left-hand side.
Photo : Leroy Pierson. Copyright, Nighthawk Records - Used by kind permission.

During 1976 the Morwells released solid roots tunes like "Proverb", "Crab In A Bag", Run Bold Head" and "We Nah Go Run Away", some of which - alongside eight tracks from their first album - can be found on their 1978 album release "Crab Race". Also in 1976 Blacka Morwell went working as an engineer and producer at Joe Gibbs studio on Retirement Road, while Bingy Bunny became an in-demand session guitarist with Channel One's renown house band The Revolutionaries. Blacka worked with Culture when they were called African Disciples - in fact he claimed to have renamed them as Culture - and wrote tunes like "Running Up And Down" with Dennis Brown and "No Man's Land" for Cornell Campbell. On the "Morwells Esq." label he released tunes by Delroy Wilson, Ranking Trevor and his brother Nicodemus. But also the vocal trio continued to record and in this period they reached peak form. In 1977 bassist Errol "Flabba" Holt joined the group on a permanent basis. Most of their tunes were released on their own imprint, but occasionally there were also releases on other labels like for example "Mix Up" for Niney The Observer, "77 Festival" for Joe Gibbs and "Africa We Want To Go" for Prince Tony Robinson. During 1975-1980 The Morwells released over fifty releases on their own label, many of which never appeared on their albums.

By 1980 The Morwells had ceased recording. Eric "Bingy Bunny" Lamont and Errol "Flabba" Holt had formed the Roots Radics in 1978, and after having laid the riddims for Barrington Levy's excellent debut album "Bounty Hunter" (1979) they started to work on innumerable sessions for as many different producers. Blacka Morwell continued production, recording material with his brother Nicodemus, Junior Byles and others, and eventually relocated to New York, where he occasionally reissued material. One of Blacka's more recent projects was an album compiled as a tribute to Bingy Bunny who died on December 31, 1993.

Selective Discography : Albums

  • PRESENTING THE MORWELLS (Morwell Esq. 1975)
  • DUB ME (Morwell Esq. 1975)
  • CRAB RACE (Burning Sounds 1978)
  • COOL RUNNINGS (Bushays 1979)
  • KINGSTON 12 TOUGHIE (Carib Gems 1980)
  • THE BEST OF THE MORWELLS (Nighthawk 1981)
Selective Discography : 7" Singles

  • The Morwells - Girl You're So Divine - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Swing And Dine - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Come On Little Girl - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Yours & Mine - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - You Gotta Be Holy- (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Cut Dem Down - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Cold Cold World - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Reality - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Bit By Bit - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Kingston 12 Tuffie - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Texon Corner - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Greenwich Road Skank - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Mafia Boss - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Proverb - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Run Bald Head - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Crab In A Bag - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - We Nah Go Run Away - (Morwell Esq.)
  • The Morwells - Stepping In H.Q. - (Upsetters)
  • The Morwells - Give It To Me - (Freedom Sounds)

Article & Discography: Teacher & Mr. T.
Source: Sleeve notes "Morwell Unlimited Meet King Tubby ~ Dub Me" (Blood & Fire 1997) by Steve Barrow.

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