The tradition of harmony singing has brought us many enjoyable moments in Jamaican music over the years. But as this is no longer a part of what the young Jamaican audience are looking for artistically, harmony groups have been on the way out for several years now, with only a few left maintaining the tradition from reggae's classic era. Groups like the Itals, the Meditations, Culture, the Mighty Diamonds and even the Heptones are still going in one form or another, and so do the Viceroys. Perhaps one of the most loved and respected among them, the Viceroys have also been one of the longest going vocal trios apart from the Heptones, but at the same time - which is a great shame - one of the most underexposed even though there's almost a plethora of releases on seven-inch vinyl by this group as well as a few album releases, although it never broke them bigger than having a hit for Sly & Robbie with 'Heart Made of Stone' in 1980; but no tour came out of it and the group only recorded on and off since with a lack of consistency in their career due to bad management and the typical 'bad luck' in the business. Wesley Tinglin has been the foundation of the group from the inception back in the mid sixties, then the group also consisted of Daniel Bernard and Bunny Gayle, sometimes spelled 'Bonnigale'. On different occasions in the Viceroys' history they also had Norris Reid and Chris Wayne in the line up. With new recordings on the way and promise of a wider tour around Europe, these days the group consists of Tinglin, Neville Ingram on lead vocals and second harmony by Michael Gabbidon. They've found a new life among the audience in France and broke a long silence by doing their first appearances in Europe ever back in the spring of 2004. I hooked up with Wesley after the first tour of France supporting Clinton Fearon was finished later that year. Naturally, he is very tired that morning after a hectic schedule on the road but obviously happy to be in front of an audience which he never got to see during the heyday of the trio. It seems like the career is finally going in the right direction of this group, even though there's a lot more to accomplish. My thanks to Wesley, Ernest and Kareem (Sankofa), Cat (Reggaelution), Donovan Phillips, Teacher & Mr. T, Michael de Koningh, Tim P, Russ Bell-Brown and Steve Barrow.

Q: You were born in the countryside, right?

A: Yes, I was born in St. James, that is Montego Bay area. And I moved to Kingston.

Q: You moved to Ninth Street in Trench Town, in the fifties.

A: Yes.

Q: What brought you to Kingston at the time?

A: Well, my sister was living there, and I went to stay with her. And then I leave to West Kingston down at Spanish Town Road, and then from there I start in the music business at Spanish Town Road.

Q: You were one of those sitting in on Joe Higgs' 'informal music classes' in his yard in Trench Town, that was how you started?

A: It was then I met Jimmy Cliff, I met Ken Boothe and those guys in those days. I was there among them when they were singin', Alton Ellis and those guys, and then I started to try. I got a lickle guitar and started. Then I went on with Bonnigale and Daniel Bernard.

Q: How did you bump into them?

A: Well, they were guys in the area, y'know. We were living in the same community and we started a little group.

Q: Was the Viceroys your first name for the group?

A: Well, it was 'The Viceroys' at the first time, then after a while we change to 'The Interns', we did a couple recordings with Winston Riley, an album and a couple 45's. And then we went back to the name Viceroys.

Joe Higgs
Q: What was some of the first songs you wrote for the group?

A: OK, the first song I recorded at Studio One was a song called 'Lose & Gain'. Then we did one named 'Last Night', then 'Ya Ho', and they're after, y'know, the rest of them.

Q: So these are the first you penned down, those are some high quality songs for a first batch.

A: Yeah. You see, by playing the guitar, yunno, trying to play the guitar you get a lickle idea, a lickle melody, and then I put lyrics to it, and then everything develop from that.

Q: What did you actually learn from Joe Higgs' vast knowledge of the craft of singing and songwriting?

A: Well, in those days Joe Higgs was one of the leading recording artists...

Q: Higgs & Wilson.

A: Higgs & Wilson, yes. And I used to love listening to their songs, y'know what I mean, and then it just develop. And I started to...

Q: Joe wasn't behind you learning the guitar?

A: No, I'm a self-taught person. Yeah. And then I never stop, I went on until Bonnigale and Daniel Bernard leave the group and I was left alone.

Q: Did you approach other producers before entering 13 Brentford Road in '67?

A: Yes. I went to Duke Reid.

Q: He was the first one you went to?

A: Yes.

Q: How did that go?

A: Well, I did two songs for Duke Reid, but they never materialise in any way that we could speak of, y'know.

Q: What was the songs?

A: One was... I tell you, the first one was 'Teardrops Don't Matter At All', and then after that I did one called 'Boneyard'. Then we went to Coxson. But it was nutten to speak of, y'know, you're just trying and some things they never get on top, so...

The Viceroys

Q: 'Lose & Gain' was the first recorded song for... was it Coxson or someone else?

A: For Studio One.

Q: Right, for Coxson. Who played and arranged those at the time, it was the obvious line up with...

A: Jackie Mittoo.

Q: OK, Jackie of course.

A: Yes, and Skatalite band.

Q: Can you even recall the audition you had for Studio One now? Who took care of that?

A: Yes, that was Mr. Dodd.

Q: So no 'right-hand man' then, just Coxson himself.

A: Yes, he was there. But Gladstone Anderson was the man who play the piano at those rehearsals.

Q: But he mainly took care of auditions at the Treasure Isle studio, right?

A: Yes. But he used to leave Duke Reid studio and go to Coxson for audition, because a whole lotta guys used to be there waiting to try their t'ing, y'know wha' I mean. So they would rehearse every artist and the one who sound the best, they would put them one side an'... you know what I mean? And they come to recording, like during the week or so. Yeah, but the guys doing the best songs always get through.

Q: You recorded songs like 'Fat Fish' for Studio One too, and 'Ya Ho', a true classic - what's the inspiration for that one?

A: Well, I used to read a book, 'The Caribbean Reader', where I read about the pirates, Morgan the Pirate and those people, and I really put everything together and make a song out of it.

Q: What became of those songs, they went well on the charts in Jamaica?

A: Yes, that song 'Ya Ho' was a good one. Up to now that song still sell a lot.

Q: It's been covered or remade several times over the years (by the Gladiators for Prince Tony Robinson's T/R Groovemaster labels as 'Jah-O Jah-O', to name one).

A: Yes, it was later re-recorded by a group called the Jayes.

Q: That was a big song for Channel One at the time.

A: Yes.

Q: And I suppose you didn't get a dime for that?

A: No compensation whatsoever.

Q: I assume you went there about it?

A: Yes.

Q: What did they say?

A: Nobody pay me any mind about it, and because I never know about the business end - y'know what I mean, like copyright and those things, I just let it be.

Q: In later years now, you have done some adjustment about this, to get your publishing and all that?

A: Yes, but I haven't got any reward for it until this day.

Q: That's a big shame. That song has sold thousands and thousands of copies throughout the years.

A: Yes man, I have never collected... I cannot show nobody a royalty statement from those music. Just the other day, before the death of Sir Coxson, he came back to Jamaica and was trying to straighten out with the artists. And before I could get a royalty statement, he died.

Q: So there was some talk about it prior to his passing? Not bad.

A: Yes. And he was looking about the papers and the royalty statement. Because this company in America called...

Q: Heartbeat?

A: Heartbeat, he must've sold them the album, Viceroys album ('Ya Ho - The Viceroys At Studio One'), and up to now I cannot get any royalty from them. At his funeral, I saw the Heartbeat manager (Chris Wilson), and he told me that he paid every royalty to Studio One, so I should deal with them. So I went to them and ask about the royalties, and they told me that they would look about it. But Mr. Downbeat, Coxson died, y'know, so his wife is in control now. So when I go home I still gonna check about it.

Q: You should, it's your creations. Hope it goes well.

A: Of course.

Q: So naturally you didn't stay long at Studio One the first time round there, you didn't get the little something what you hoped to get at least?

A: Yes, just a lickle pocket money. I have never seen a royalty statement.

Q: Just some pennies after the recording finished.

A: Yes.

Q: So hardly any money to speak of at Coxson's. That's when you went to Derrick Morgan?

A: Yes. I went and I recorded a couple of songs for Derrick Morgan.

Q: Such as 'Rebel Nyah'?

A: Yes, and one about... this one, I saw it in France, selling in France right now.

Q: Which one?

A: I should tell you... 'Lip & Tongue', that one is still selling in France. A guy bring a copy and come show me.

Q: On a CD?

A: It's on a 45.

Q: Ah, right. I saw Morgan had repressed a few of those on singles.

A: Yes.

Q: Plus he released those songs on a UK compilation CD on Pressure Sounds, there's some Viceroys on there.

A: Aha, yes. All those copies, all those music, I have achieved nutten.
Q: After that you went to this guy, listen to this (playing 'Take Yu Hand From Mi Neck' off Heartbeat's Matador anthology 'Matador Productions', released in 1991).

A: OK. (Chuckles) Well, that one...

Q: You remember it?

A: Yes, that one was done for Lloyd Matador.

Q: This is also on a CD, I don't know if you are aware of this one?

A: I don't know nutten about those.

Q: The same Heartbeat label released this CD about thirteen years ago.

A: I have collected no recompense, no nutten at all from those music.

Q: Have you involved a lawyer to take a closer look at this, your publishing and all? To try and do it on your own is perhaps not the best approach, if that is what you've done?

A: Yes, I tried but it never work. Right now there's a company in Jamaica there, Cameron Music, a publishing, and I signed up with them to collect royalties, publishing. And from the day I signed with them I never get a statement until this day.

Q: Really.

A: Yes. So I need a lawyer now to look about those things for me, if it's not too late.

Q: Matador is particularly fond of the Viceroys it seems, holds you in high regard still.

A: He's what? Yes, but those are the people that never pay, they never give me no money for all those songs.

Q: You didn't know anything but pocket money in those days.

A: Yes. I waan tell yu, if it was for the love of money, I wouldn't be doing music now - because I've got none. It's just the love of the music why I continue to write songs and record them, y'know.

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