There is clearly a resurgence of old-time singers in the reggae market these days, the old names becomes the new and newcomers to the music find this music for the first time even if it was released twenty or thirty years back in time it still sounds fresh today. Winston McAnuff is one such name. Also known as the "Electric Dread", McAnuff is actually author to the classic 'Malcolm X', a song popularised by Dennis Brown and Earl Sixteen in the late seventies. Some of you might have seen him appear as lead singer for the Black Kush band in "Deep Roots Music", a television series done for UK Channel 4 in 1982. But for many he is still an unknown artist which is due to change soon since the reissue of previous recordings on 'Diary Of The Silent Years' and recently the 1980 album 'Wha The Man A Deal Wid', both released by the upcoming Makasound/Soundicate reissue collective in Paris. This interview was conducted shortly before Winston had to leave London and jump on a plane back to Jamaica in January '03. Thanks to Winston, Romain Germa, Earl Sixteen, Mike, Russ, Teacher & Mr. T and Nic - merci!

Q: Q: Your early days wasn't in Kingston, where were you born and raised, Winston?

A: I was born in a little place called Spaulding Hospital, near Christiana, in the centre of the island. Near Manchester, yeah.

Q: Big family?

A: Yeah, and my father is a preacher and my mother is a preacher. I was brought up in the church, really.

Q: It was a Baptist church?

A: New Testament Church of God. So, I started singing in church and so forth and eventually when my father died in '72 I went to live with my sister who was teaching at a school by the name of Tarrent Junior Secondary. That's where I met Earl Sixteen because he was going to the same school. So I started writing some songs from early days because I was inspired by people like Desmond Dekker, so I start to write my own songs and so forth.

Q: We're talking the 60's now?

Winston McAnuff.
(Photo courtesy of Makasound)

Hugh Mundell.
(Photo courtesy of Makasound)

A: We're talking the 70's. Yeah. And then I went to Kingston and I was living near to Hugh Mundell, coincidentally. I started checking some producers to see if I could record some songs. I went to Joe Gibbs one day and I was there playing the guitar, waiting for Errol Thompson. And then Flabba Holt heard the song 'Malcolm X' and then he ran to call Errol T to tell him "this youth have a wicked song", an' t'ing. So he came and he listened so he say we should come on Thursday. I used to work out that time with a keyboard player, from Black Uhuru, called Franklyn Waul (aka 'Bubbler' - P). We used to go to high school together so we worked out the songs early in the morning before devotion, on the school piano, y'know. So I decided... I was doing a little recording then with Derrick Harriott too, and then I found out he was playing better than the (other) musicians so I carried him to play on that song 'Malcolm X'. So I bring about Hugh Mundell as well, y'know. So he did a song about (sings) "natty dread is not on First street, natty dread is not on Third street, nowhere is natty dread...", Hugh Mundell, y'know? I have never heard the song released. After - I tried to sing the song, but it wasn't up to standard, so I went to Earl Sixteen and he sang the song. Then I was waiting to hear the song released, yunno? And then we saw the song came out with Dennis Brown, they (the Mighty Two) gave the song to Dennis Brown.

Q: With or without your knowledge?

A: Without my knowledge! Yes, so we were really down at him.

Q: How did you react, and act, towards this problem? I mean, Dennis was a big name, so the push for the song must have been positive in that way?

A: Well, I react... I was happy still, but it was a bittersweet situation. But what we did, we went and re-recorded the song for Derrick Harriott. So that's how you see that 'Malcolm X' is on the Wildflower or Crystal label as well.

Q: By the way, were you a part of the recording session for Harriott, the version that Earl (Sixteen) did?

A: Yeah, actually I recorded the song in the studio. Earl was present when that song was recorded. I did a recording and then I brought in Earl to do it, y'know.

Q: Do you know if Harriott has ever put out your cut of the song?

A: No, I don't have a version. I only have one version that I sang personally. Derrick released the one that Sixteen did. My cut is on the 'Diary...', on the new album. I did that song in '85, at Music Mountain studio, Jamaica.

Q: Back to the earlier days - were you ever part of a harmony group?

A: Yeah, well, I used to sing originally... when I was in high school I start to sing originally. I have left out this on many of my interviews, you know, unknowingly. But I used to sing with a folk group, you know like The Jamaica Folk Singers? You have another folk group - The Carib Folk Singers. Well, I was a member, a long-standing member in that group. So, it's from there that I left and then we started a group me and a singer called Richie McDonald. Yeah, and another singer. He's the brother of the (late) deejay Scotty - Calman Scott.

Q: Alright, he's in Japan now?

A: Yeah, I brought him there with my band. Yeh, I brought him there to live.

Q: He did this (rare) tune 'One Teacher One Preacher'.

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!! So we had a group together, y'know. But then eventually we just...

Q: What was the name of the group?

A: Head Corner Stones. Yeah, the Head Corner Stones. But the people... The songs were so excellent at the time, it causes some argument so we just took our songs individually. And went our separate ways, y'know?

Q: Did you record with that group?

A: Yeah, yeah, yeah! Actually, three of the songs are on the album ('Diary...'). The 'Head Corner Stone' song, 'Peace' - yeah? 'Fear', and 'Sun Setting In the Sea' - those four songs. So I took my songs, y'know. Yeah, Calman co-wrote the 'Sun Setting In the Sea' as well, Calman Scott.

Q: You started from pretty early on to write your own songs?

A: Yeah, I was approached by Inner Circle and did an album at Channel One studio, in '78. They released it in France as 'One Love'. But originally it's 'Wha' The Man A Deal With'.

Q: Bwoy... you're jumping too fast now! Don't go so fast please...

A: Am I jumping too fast now (laughs)?! Sorry...

Q: No big thing, really. After this group disbanded, was that when you went to Harriott with Earl for the 'Malcolm X ' session?

A: No, the Head Corner Stones was actually within the same timing, y'know? Between Derrick Harriott and the Inner Circle thing. Yeah, we were hanging out at Aquarius (studio).

Winston McAnuff & Althea.
(Photo courtesy of Makasound)

Q: And Richie McDonald he used to record for Glen Brown, yeah?

A: Yeah, and also he is a member of Chosen Few, you know that?

Q: Richard McDonald?

A: Yeh, he's the guy even in 'Shaft' (which Chosen Few covered successfully, even giving the original version a run for its money - P), he's the guy with the low song (singing), for Derrick Harriott, yeah man! Yeah, that's Richie Mac... yeah man.

Q: What is he up to these days?

A: Well, actually he did most of the backing vocals. We work together still, yunno? Yeh, he did a lot of backing vocal but I'm plannin' to, like, record some songs with him now, y'know. Beca' he don't want to do recording for certain people. But he is an excellent singer, man. Q: I saw a couple of years ago that he did some songs for Augustus Pablo?

A: Yeah, actually man he was in tears when Pablo died, yunno? Because, you know - he had a good t'ing going.

Q: So, the inspiration behind a song like 'Malcolm X' in times of Garvey-ites and all the praises for that man's works, did you wanna bring on another philosophy, or ideology - of Malcolm, or you felt the need to have his ideas across to those times?

A: Well, no, to be honest with you, that song I didn't write it - I heard it, you see what I'm saying? It's just like you have a vision and you could wake up and tell me what went on in the vision, yeah? It's just something like that, because I just heard it. 'Cos most of the things that I was singin' in the song at the time I was questioning myself to say 'how is it I am singing these t'ings if I don't know it's that way?', you see what I'm saying? But, it was because of the fact that it was something that I did. It's something I heard. I just sang what I heard.

Winston McAnuff.
(Photo courtesy of Makasound).

Q: There must have been something behind it, which brought up that particular subject, wasn't it?

A: The vibe? Well, actually when I did that song and Dennis Brown did it, he came back and he didn't know who was Malcolm X, yunno! Yeah, believe me! He didn't even know who was that guy. So, you know, wha' apn when I started reading about the guy and understood after he went to Mecca and came back, he was a changed person. And then now, this song I'm singing, 'Malcolm X', is just like saying that! Just like the new man that came back, you see what I'm saying? The reformed man. So, everything was right to the song even though I did no research (laughs)! You see where I'm coming from? Yeah, because I was too young to even know ' bout certain t'ing if you see that. As I told you it's not something that I thought about, it just came and I heard it and that's what come along.

Q: What was the general reaction for that song, at the time?

A: Well, it was really an underground song for a long time. Beca' it wasn't released in Jamaica, yunno? Apart from... like on the 'Visions' (the 1977 Dennis Brown lp). But even Derrick Harriott after like fifteen years, when they started to wear these shirts with his face on the front and so forth, Derrick said to me "Winston, you're a prophet, because how could you know that this would happen weh the man would rise again this way?". Yeah man, so it was even a surprise to me too!

Q: A bit ahead of your time then, it seems?

A: Ahead of the time, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Q: Your work with Harriott now?

A: After Joe Gibbs, when he didn't put out the song we went to Derrick Harriott and then I was doing most of my recordin' now with Derrick, because he listened some songs and he said I should just come and record. He was recording some of the songs too like 'Roma', I wrote the 'Roma' for Derrick, and 'Heavenly Love', 'Mr Windbag'. I wrote a couple for him, and one for his niece Kim Harriott... (sings) "never will we fade away til they come my way...", that song. I wrote something for Sixteen too, 'Charmaine' and all those songs - 'Dreadlocks Unite'.

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