The late Augustus Pablo assembled a camp of loyal artists, groups and instrumentalists for his Rockers International stable, among them three childhood friends and spars from school; Dave Harvey, Paul Mangaroo, and Carlton Hines, more known as Tetrack. Perhaps it would be fair to describe the group as 'the Chi-lites of Rockers', more than a strictly roots orientated vocal trio. Their 1979 debut album 'Let's Get Together' is now regarded as an essential piece of harmony group albums the late seventies produced out of Jamaica, among records like 'Marcus Garvey', 'Heart of the Congos', 'The Same Song', and so on. Tetrack split in the late 1980's when members decided to migrate to the States. Now they're back, a 7" is out and an album is expected soon. Read more about the group's adventures and the only remaining member from the original line up, Carlton Hines, and his involvement as a songwriter, singer, and now a producer for the Artistic label. Thanks to Carlton (mi spar in words), Teacher & Mr T, Norris Reid, Beth Lesser, and Steve Barrow.

Q: To begin, I think what is somehow 'important' or, like, significant in the Tetrack story is a certain mango tree in Franklin Town, isn't it - that's where it all began?

A: Ah (giggles), it wasn't a mango tree in Franklin Town, y'know, it was really a mango tree in Vineyard Town. And that was in… that was where my girl - who is now my wife (chuckles) - lived. In Vineyard Town. And that's where we would congregate. That's where the group actually started, right under that mango tree. But then, there's also another mango tree that came into the picture, an' that mango tree was a mango tree in the Saunders Lane, Mountain View area. That mango tree was in Dave's front yard. And Dave, as you know, is a founding member of the group. So that mango tree was there, and we used to sit in that tree an' jus' observe the whole t'ing, observe the runnings. Often times you had Tetrack Hi-Fi playing across the street. It was jus' a nice vibes when they were playing, it could be the middle of the week, could be a weekend, could be a public holiday - it doesn't matter, whenever the vibes come, they jus' string up an' play. That is where we'd sit, Dave and myself, an' listen to Tetrack Hi-Fi, listen to the songs an' harmonizing with the songs, an' so on. So that mango tree - well, that was the FIRS' mango tree (chuckles).

Q: Mmm.

A: But at that time it wasn't a group. The group came together then under the mango tree in Vineyard Town. Now that came to be the mango tree, y'understan'. Yeah. The group formed an' came together under the tree in Vineyard Town.

Q: When I first came upon the name, 'Tetrack', it sounded a little strange. So you picked that name from the neighbourhood then.

A: Well, Tetrack was the name of the sound. We took the name Tetrack out of respect for that sound. The guy who used to run the sound and own the sound, his name was Owen Archer. Owen's sound was just a wicked sound, a really wicked sound. As a result of that sound, that's how I firs' came to see a lot of the artists of the times who were happenin', because they would come by bringin' a 'sof' wax' they used to call it, they call them 'dubplate' now. They'd bring a sof' wax, an' they'd give 'im [Owen] their soft wax to play, like a pre-release t'ing. It was jus' like the dubplate you 'ave now. And people like John Holt would pass through, Max Romeo used to live in the neighbourhood, a couple of the Melodians used to live in the neighbourhood too. You had all type a people, man. You had BB Seaton, all type a people, Robbie Shakespeare - an' this was even before Robbie Shakespeare start playin'. He'd just hang out, come into the neighbourhood an' just hang out, check some idrens. He used to live down the road in an adjacent neighbourhood. So, that was really the background. But that set was the wickedest set in the east, as far as I can recall at that time, Tetrack Hi-Fi (chuckles).

Carlton & Jimi Hines

Vivian Jones, Carlton Hines & Norris Reid
in front of Bustout Studio JA (2009)
Q: So what kind of set was it, a smaller disco or a bigger type of sound?

A: No man, it was a big sound. In those days the sound system set up the bigges' sound box at the gate [the entrance to the dancehall]. A big box. Sometimes at least over five feet tall, easily, and wide. I can remember the joy I would feel as a youngster when you know that a dance (is) going to be held an' see the bigger guys come aroun' an' you see them climb a tree an' put up the steel horns, and so on. An' I remember the sound systems. Back in those days when the sound an' the dance is about, is suppose' to start, the firs' song they used to play was their "theme song". Yea some sounds had their theme song, whatever it is - but they had a theme song (chuckles). Yeah man. An' when you hear that now it's like the excitement start to bubble. After the theme song they start to play some serious music. Yeah. So it was really a pleasant experience.

Q: And this was, like, in Franklin Town?

A: No, no, no - Mountain View, it all started in that neighbourhood. Let me tell you how the Franklin Town thing come into the picture. I was born in Franklin Town. All the neighbourhoods I'm tellin' you about now, Vineyard Town, Mountain View, Saunders Lane, Warika Hill - all of that is in the eastern part of Kingston, including Franklin Town. I don't remember living there, I was too young, but I remember living in another lickle section in Central Kingston, called Brown's Town as a youngster. And from Brown's Town area you have people like the Gaylads, but that's a different area. So I came to Mountain View, East Kingston area, when I was about eight, or nine years old. That's about when I went there.

Q: Like this type of 'government yard'?

A: Where I was livin' in east Kingston, Mountain View? No, no, it wasn't, yunno. You had a lotta private homes an' you had, y'know, people rent, they lease or they might own a piece of land an' they build a house on it. Where I was living, my dad had actually leased a piece of land from a landlord who had a big piece of land. And there he built a lickle t'ing, built a lickle house there. It wasn't anything special, not anything special at all, not by a long stretch (chuckles). But that was where I was living. It was a typical poor/working class neighbourhood. In fact when my family moved to that area from Browns Town, to me it felt like we had moved to the country side especially being so close to Warika Hills.

Q: 'Humble beginnings'.

A: Extremely.

Q: (Chuckles)

A: (Laughs) Yeah.
Q: It was clear from the beginning that you guys loved harmony, trading verses, that sweet rock steady feel. Later on you got an interest in conscious messages. But would it be accurate to see Tetrack as a sort of 'post-rock steady' group in terms of your arrangements and approach in general, not necessarily hard roots?

A: What happened is… let me tell you now. The overwhelming influence on Tetrack came through ska and rock steady. We're comin' through that time, 'cause given my age I was like from the beginning of the Jamaica music business, not as a participant, but as a consumer. Hearing the music from the earliest days, 'Easy Snappin', 'Sammy plant piece a corn dung a Gully' by Monty Morris an' all them songs. As a youth comin' through, you'd hear all these songs. Now, coming after independence, after '62 comin' through, you're listenin' an' it start shift from the ska to the rock steady, and you listen to all the main stars. So you get influenced by all of that, Techniques, Wailers, Stranger Cole, Higgs and Wilson, the Heptones an' the Melodians, an' everybody you're hearing. But you're also hearin' a lot of other music. 'Cause Jamaican people love all types of music. If you go to a dancehall, you basically get Jamaican music, one hundred per cent. You go to a house party in Jamaica and that's a different story. You get a variety of music, you'd get a combination of local music an' every kind of music, calypso, R&B an' everyt'ing. So I remember as a youngster, you're listenin' to the Drifters, the Impressions and Chuck Jackson, Ben E. King , Otis Redding an' Chi-lites, Delfonics, all of that, so you'd actually hear all these things. I think you synthesize all these things and it is reflected in your own music. So, I really don't know where you put Tetrack as a group, y'know, I really don't know where you'd put them. But these are some of the influences that really affected or guided and shaped our sound.

Q: At that time, can you recall the general vibe or atmosphere in Jamaica, did you people look upon it as something worldwide acceptable, on a wider scale, or was it seen as more of an ethnic, 'internal' and national thing, something we keep to ourselves, basically?

A: Well, I'm glad you asked that question, 'cause that's a profound question. Let me quickly see whether I can put it in a nutshell…Post-independent Jamaica was essentially a country that looked outside of itself. Looked outside, looking abroad for the things to shape it and that would basically set the standard, in terms of music and basically everything. It looked outside of itself. Now, as an ex-colony, Jamaica also suffered from the problems that you find in a lot of ex-colonies, where you'd have a certain privileged class of people that came out of this colonial period who found themselves in a certain position. And what they did in order to show how advanced, how privileged and how better off they were from the "poor" majority, they'd adopt all these things from outside, they'd adopt everything from Englan' an' America, and they tried to be like that. So Jamaican music wasn't looked upon kindly by these people because the music was coming from the poor people of the land. Also the "upper class" had the greatest influence, on the radio, and so on. So what would happen though, once they [the upper class] saw that there was a market for the music, some of them would get involved in the music, as a business. But generally speaking as a "social class" that same music could not be played in their homes. It was a very ironic and hypocritical situation. Y'understan' (chuckles)? And their children were not encouraged to listen to that type of music. They were supposed to listen to the Patti Pages and the Frank Sinatras and all these people. They were not supposed to listen to no Bob Marley or no Bob Andy or no Heptones or Derrick Morgan an' all these people, that music was generally looked upon [by them] as 'Yawd bwoy music'. When you are referred to as a 'Yawd bwoy' in Jamaica, it's really a derogatory term, used in reference to the uneducated, the poor, the under privileged.
Q: Class thinking.

A: Yeah, it's a class thing.

Q: Right.

A: What has happened though, I dunno how much I can go into this, but what happened is, with the rise in popularity of Rastafari and the formation of the 12 Tribe of Israel in the late sixties and the effects of the changes in the educational system in Jamaica, where you have a lot more kids from the lower class now attending high schools with the children from the more privileged class or people with better economic background, people developed friendships. You'd have a guy who for example, attending Jamaica College [JC]. In Jamaica it was one of the top high schools, still is. Several prime ministers of Jamaica went to JC. Now, guys from Jamaica College now start to socialize because of the educational system, with guys from the poor/working class communities. And as a result of that socialization some of these guys start to visit their friends in these areas. Areas now where they wouldn't normally go. And they begin to get exposed to the music, ca' they couldn't hear it on the radio. 'Cause these songs, very rarely you'd hear a few of them on the radio, you might hear a Toots, y'know, you might hear a lickle Maytals sometimes, but there wasn't much support for local music on the radio. But when they go down to these areas now, they start going to dances, they start feelin' the music. And they meet people, they start meetin' girls and so on. They start going back even more frequently, getting exposed to the whole Rastafari roots vibe. And it spread like a virus ca' they took it back uptown.

Q: Mmm.

A: (Chuckles) That's how it became what it is now.

Q: Perhaps for acceptance in general it had to take a route uptown, the upper sections so to speak, and back, to become more established in most corners of the society.

A: Well, no. What happened is, yunno, the poorer people is the majority, it was already accepted by them. But it was not recognised by the people in the position of power. They didn't recognise it, they didn't give it any respec'. That's why you had the lickle thing about even Byron Lee & The Dragonaries going to the World's Fair, and not the Skatalites. There was that lickle debate that came up. Byron Lee was a highly respected musician, and great contributor to Jamaican musical development. But at no time Byron Lee and his Dragonaries ever rock Jamaica like the Skatalites, no time! That's a whole different vibe. I remember when the Skatalites was comin' on the tv in Jamaica, you had a program, the 'Jamaica Bandstand', as a youngster, an everybody found their way to the few televisions in my neigborhood!

Q: (Chuckles)

A: Probably one who could afford a tv in the neighbourhood, or two.
Q: In black and white.

A: Yeah, and everybody, they're tellin' you, while they're watchin' it, they want to hear them play songs like 'Man In the Street', 'Ball of Fire', they want to see Lloyd Knibbs doing drum rolls, seen? They want to see Tommy McCook, they want to see 'Dizzy' Johnny (Moore), Roland Alphonso, they want to see Lloyd Brevett on the bass, Jackie Mitoo - they'd tell you exactly wha' they want to see now! Y'understan' (chuckles)? So, there was no time that if you talk 'bout bands in Jamaica, one of the firs' bands you mus' mention is the Skatalites. That is the impac' that they had. But they didn't get that kind of recognition, 'cause dem man deh was some roots. You know, they didn't come from the 'right circle' so they couldn't get the support.

Q: And that is some kind of 'threat' to the life of uptown, the whole attitude to life, as they see it?

A: Yeah, they just couldn't deal with it. But just to expand the point a little, based on what I described to you before, if you look now on the situation in Jamaica, generally speaking the music is viewed in a much more favourable light. People realise that reggae music has spawned a real business. One of the main factor that contributed to that change of perception was the death of Bob. The death of Bob Marley was like a revelation to certain people in Jamaica. Because first of all, they realized that Bob was an international superstar, and they also realized that reggae is an international music and serious money was being made from it. Some people who never paid attention to the music became reggae experts and fanatics overnight. Also because of the whole Rastafari movement and what I would call the social revolution in Jamaica, there was a wider acceptance of the music especially among the youtes in general. The same social blending that I told you about that started in the schools in the sixties going forward, was being manifested in the music also. It came down the line like that. Now you have uptown youtes who probably wouldn't think of getting into reggae music at one time are now involved and with the support of their family. Up to a time that wouldn't have happened. So a lot has changed, it's more of a widespread acceptance.

Q: So you and Dave knew each other from early, but how did you get linked up with Paul?

A: OK, hear this now. Dave was my next door neighbour. Dave an' myself started to sing, not as a group but we'd sing along with the songs being played and also just sing them by ourselves whenever we felt like it. Now, some people would hear us harmonising sometimes an' they'd say "Hey, you guys sound good". You know, we used to laugh, an' so on, and one day we just said "Hey, lets get a group together." But we needed somebody else, an' we decided to check Paul because we knew that Paul can sing. So we jus' walk up the road, literally walk up the road to Paul's house. We knocked on the gate, his grandfather looked out, we asked for Paul, Paul came out an we said "Yo, Manga, we waan form a group", an' him seh "Yeah?"
Q: (Chuckles)

A: An' he jus' turn back inside an' came back out with his shirt, [Manga is always without his shirt] an' say "When?" (laughs). And we say "Right now!" And we just walk back up the road to Vineyard Town. I can tell you the firs' song we ever did as a group, tryin' out the three of us together for the firs' time, was a song called 'Ebony Eyes' by the Stylistics [Manga had a wicked falsetto]. That was always our sound, yunno, that high sound, that was always our sound.

Q: High pitched.

A: Yeah, that high pitch tenor to falsetto sound, that was always our sound. Ca' our voices naturally fall into that range. I remember Paul started to sing the song and we just start harmonising, and that was it. Three, four evenings each week we would be there, under that mango tree. (Chuckles)

Q: (Chuckles)

A: (Laughs) Just like that, and it was fun! We just sing any song, we just sing and harmonise. Nobody played the guitar, just a'capella singin'.

Q: And sing along to the songs on the radio, and stuff like that?

A: No, when we're rehearsin' we don't deal' with no radio, we jus' sing. Everybody know the song, so we jus' siddung [sit down] and we start singin'. All type a song.

Q: You remembered lyrics that well?

A: Yeah! Because, you see, Jamaica is such a musical place and you hear so much music, and you hear the songs over and over, so you'd know it. I can tell you this. We went to Pablo because of a guy who'd hear us at rehearsals sometimes. He was a classmate of Pablo, his name is Denzil Gooden. I knew Denzil from a previous school we attended together, but he and Pablo ended up as classmates at Kingston College [KC]. And he would always say "I can link you up with Pablo. I can take you to Pablo! You should be among Pablo", an' so on. We say "OK, we need to do it, we need to go to Pablo." So Denzil said "All right, tell me when yu ready". Now, we used to rehearse on weekends at a school called Excelsior High School. That was the high school I used to attend. It was also the place where Dave and I would study privately on weekends. It was the weekend study and rehearsal spot for us. So we tell Manga - that is Paul, we call him 'Manga', we say "Manga, rehearsal Sunday, two o'clock". Manga shows up an' we jus' find a classroom an' sing and try to choose the songs we would present to Pablo. Now every man was nervous but still excited, y'understan'. This is the first time we're going to let anyone hear us, like an audition, and we're going to Pablo. We did three songs a'capella on an old tape recorder: 'Born To Love You'...

Augustus Pablo
Q: Slim Smith.

A: Yes. A song called 'Never Had It So Good (And Felt So Bad)' by the Chi-lites, and a song called 'Sweat For You Baby' (chuckles), a Smokey Robinson song that was done in reggae by the Heptones. So, you see wha' I'm sayin' bout the range of music that we knew and rehearsed. So the first time we met Pablo that's what he heard.

Q: I get the feeling that, at this point, you took it more for fun than a serious attempt to enter the recording business, everything else - apart from the joy of singing together - was a bonus?

A: (Chuckles) Well, in a way you're very right, yunno. 'Cause Tetrack I think is an unusual group in that regard. We, at no time, ever really envisioned music as a 'career' or work - it was a hobby, for fun. An' part of the reason is, unlike many of the people involved in music in Jamaica at that time, despite comin' out of a poor/ workin' class community, we had the opportunity to go to school, y'understan'? We went to school and we did what we had to do. We were in a situation where our environment encouraged that, even though it was a tough environment. One of the things I remember about my neighbourhood was that a lot of the youngsters used to go to school. There were some strong parents and elders who used to really put an emphasis on that. And so actually, when the group started, all three of us were in school. It worked out that during the time we were recording for Pablo, Manga was workin' as a lab technician in a large factory that made soap, edible oil and so forth. Dave was working as a mechanical engineer at an industrial plant. And I was working in the Central Bank.

Q: Oh?

A: Yeah. I went to UWI [The university of the West Indies] and studied economics. So, the music, we didn't see it as our means of survival. So our approach to music was different from a lot of other artists at that time. For us it was just fun, it was just like that.

Page:  | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
[ Previous ]      [ Next ]
Article: Peter I
(Please do not reproduce without permission)