Trojan
 

The passing of Justin Hinds on March 16th 2005 robbed the reggae world of one of its most enduring and uniquely talented singers...

For more than forty years Hinds had been a cornerstone of what eventually came to be known as roots music, his career spanning every stage of Jamaican music's development from ska to digital. Although nowhere near as prolific as most of his peers, Hinds had more classic hits in his relatively small catalogue than many others did in one of twice or three times it's size. Even if he created only his 'career song' 'Carry Go Bring Come' and left it at that, Justin would still be regarded as a key figure of what eventually became reggae. That he subsequently followed it up with many other perennially-great records - the best of which are collected here, in this well-deserved overview of the man's peak years - is merely a bonus for all of us who've been enjoying them for the past 40 years.

Besides maintaining a continually-superb catalogue throughout his lifetime, Justin Hinds other achievements include the introduction of the 'country' style of singing into a Jamaican music scene that was then largely dominated by R&B and Pop influences, which were being absorbed courtesy of the 50,000 watt 'clear channel' American radio stations that could usually be picked up, weather conditions permitting, on receivers throughout the Caribbean. Justin's own 'country' upbringing in Steertown, a district of the parish of St. Ann in Ocho Rios, informed his singing voice with a distinct twang that was more Hank Williams than it was Amos Milburn. although it had no rough edges, Justin's high pitched, nasal vibrato was not 'smooth' in the sense that the voices of his peer group artists like Derrick Morgan's and Shenley Duffus' were. The start of his recording career signalled the opening of the door for future singers in similar mould, perhaps most notably Vernon Buckley of the Maytones later in the 1960s.

Born on the North Coast on May 7th 1942, Justin Hinds seldom wanted more from life than to be a professional singer. Like those of so many other uniquely talented people, his voice was first heard as part of the congregation of his local church. As Justin himself said in a 1998 interview:

"I would be with my father and listen to (him) in church, and I would just love to sing Christian songs..."

As a teen in the late 1950s, Justin was exposed to and drew inspiration from the blasting R&B and Rock 'n' Roll that was being created across neighbouring North America, particularly in that continents Southern states:

"The people that really influenced my way of life in music (are) American artists. I used to listen to Rock and Roll sound, that's where I get ideas. I (also) listened to BB King, Louis Jordan, Smiley Lewis and those guys. I listen to a great pianist, Professor Longhair."

The young Justin also had a special favourite - a man who was a hero to most teenage Jamaicans, and probably to most of their parents, too:

"I used to listen to Fats Domino. (He's) the reason why I called my group the Dominoes - I like the man's songs and I used to like the game, Dominoes..."

(Justin would also doubtless have been aware of the music of the noted early R&B group Billy Ward and the Dominoes of 'Sixty Minute Man' fame, and whose successive lead singers Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson were also heroes in the cluster of islands that made up the West Indies.)

He formed the Dominoes with Dennis Sinclair and Junior Dixon but he had already been singing with his lifelong friend Sinclair for some time before the group came together:

"Dennis and I used to (sing) on a cruise boat. we used to work for the water sport concession at the Hilton Hotel when we were pretty young. We cruised to Port Antonio or Montego Bay. We used to just sing for the people and they used to throw up a lot of money for us. The people always just loved to listen to my voice..."

As Justin later told reggae historian and expert Ray Hurford:

"I used to play bamboo joints and condensed (milk) can (for accompaniment). One day, there was a guy by the name of Charlie Babcock, he's a Canadian and was (originally) a disc jockey on a station in Canada. He came to Jamaica, he got (work) at the hotels as an entertainment manager. He told me I sounded good, and (that I) should go to Kingston to see Duke Reid. So I went to Kingston..."

Hinds had already spent some time in Kingston in 1961, where he had his first encounter with the Rastafarian religion that he subsequently adhered to for the rest of his life. But fuelled by ambition, and encouraged by the urging of those who had heard him singing on the cruise ships, Hinds set out once again for Kingston in early 1963, with Dennis Sinclair in tow. The Jamaican recording industry was still in its infancy, but it was already being dominated by the records released by the late Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid.

Coxsone was usually considered to be the first port of call for any would-be future superstar, and that's where Hinds and Sinclair:

"(Dennis and I) come to Kingston with the expectation of going to Coxsone's studio, but when I went to Coxsone, the guys didn't want to listen to me, you know."

To be fair to Coxsone and his A&R 'guys', Justin's unashamedly country vocal style was like nothing that was already appearing on Dodd's plethora of labels, and he/they probably did not really get its undeniable appeal having had little, if any, previous experience of such a style. Justin would not be the first important artist who didn't make it through Studio 1's already rigorous audition system, and he would certainly not be the last. Still, if Mr. Dodd didn't want to know, there was always the Duke...

...But when Justin first arrived at Reid's camp, the reception there was no more rapterous than it had been over at Coxsone's yard:

"I was at Duke Reid's and (Duke) want me to (audition) on the street, I said, 'No, I never sing on the street, because I work in North Coast, and to come to town to sing on the street (like a beggar) - I'll never do that."

Disillusioned with his treatment by inarguably the two biggest record men in Jamaica, Justin decided to retreat to Steertown and to the safe haven of the cruise ships. Before doing so he decided to look up an old friend:

"I head over to check Bongo Nowell, who was one of the first Rastaman in Kingston, over to a place they call Back-O-Wall" (aka Tivoli Gardens). "I was sitting 'round there, with Lord Creator, Jackie Edwards - all great guys deh that was (ahead of) me in the (music) business. Bongo Nowell gave me some food, and then I start to sing..."

While Justin was singing for his supper:

"A dude walk from Duke Reid studio and come over there to get some smoke. This dude (hears) me singing with all these great artists, so he come to me and say, 'what's your name, and where you from?' I say 'My name is Justin from the country.' The dude jump on a bicycle and ride back to Duke Reid. He say, 'look, Duke. There is a guy from the country, name of Justin, over in Back-O-Wall, this dude can really sing.' So Duke say, 'OK, bring him over.' "When the dude bring me over to Duke Reid, Duke realise I was the same man, again, he say 'What is the name of your song?' I say 'Carry Go Bring Come Misery'."

Talking to Ray Hurford, Justin recalled what Followed:

"(Duke said) 'Go upstairs', so I went upstairs (to Duke's rehearsal area), and I meet Tommy McCook from the Skatalites, Don Drummond, Lester Sterling, Lloyd Brevett, Johnny Moore, Roland Alphonso, all the legends. They asked me if I ever sung with a band before, I tell them no. They rehearse me and said to me, 'Tomorrow we will take you down to Federal Recording Company.' - "When I went down there in the morning, I run into Baba Brooks, it was the first time I meet Baba, he said to me 'I'm going to set you the right way today. When we [play the first introduction, that means you come in after that.' After Justin and Co. had recorded his future hit "I can remember Baba Brooks saying to Duke Reid, 'You want to take another one?' He said 'No, I never take another one.' My first shot was number one for eight weeks..."

Hinds' recording relationship with Reid lasted almost 10 years and accounted for all the recordings featured herein. In fact, Justin never recorded for any other producer once he'd made his first recordings for the Duke, making their relationship almost unique in the Jamaican recording business - where to this day, the majority of artists will still record at the drop of a tam for any producer with a fistful of dollars, regardless of any loyalties that might lie elsewhere. Justin was, in fact, among the final artists to record for the Duke, not too long prior to the latter's premature death in 1974. He'd stayed loyal to Reid for almost a decade and would probably have stayed loyal to him for many more years had the grim reaper not had other plans for the Duke. As he told Ray Hurford 'I'm not the type of artist to run up and down from one company to another. I will give you my heart, if you don't want me, if you finish with me, you tell me, and I go I don't work for you and another person at the same time..."

The overwhelming popularity of 'Carry Go Bring Come' set Justin & The Dominoes up for a long streak of seminal ska recordings, including such unbeatable sides as 'King Samuel', 'Teach The Youth', 'The Higher The Monkey Climbs', 'The Ark' the original 'Botheration' and the allegedly risqué classic 'Rub Up Push Up' which, on closer examination of the lyrics, is no less spiritual or proverbial than any and just about all of Justin's recordings. These records sold by the box load - not just in Jamaica, but in other territories where there was a strong expatriate Caribbean population such as Miami, New York and all over Great Britain.

Justin's individual vocal style, and the call-and-response nature of most of his early sides, went hand in hand with the fast-paced rhythms of the Ska era. When Ska cooled to rocksteady in the mid-60s, many leading artists did not survive the slowing down of the tempos. But, if anything, the arrival of rocksteady seemed to strengthen Justin Hinds career, as the masterpieces continued to pour forth from the Treasure Isle Recording Studio (and Liquor Store of course) on Bond Street. Justin made a smooth transition fro Ska to Rocksteady with his fiery, devotional rewrite of Wade Flemons' 1958 US R&B and Pop hit 'Here I stand'. He quickly followed through with a slew of seminal rocksteady sides, including the immortal 'Once A Man Twice A Child' and 'Save A Bread', crowning this period of his career with a devastatingly good remake of 'Carry Go Bring Come' that many (this writer included) actually regarded as being superior to the ska original...

Rocksteady gave way all to quickly to Reggae, and Justin also moved with the times albeit perhaps a little less smoothly than he had in moving from Ska to Rocksteady. Despite the fact that the choppy fast riddims of early reggae did not best suit Justin's vocal delivery, he still came up with some good records - the 'Carry Go Bring Come' sequel (of sorts) 'Drink Milk', and 'Say Me Say' being two that are particularly 'good' from this time. But he was recording less and less as the 60s dwindled and the 70s got under way. Indeed, Duke Reid released less than a dozen sides on Justin between 1969 and 1971.

For his part, Justin was increasingly happy to stay away from the recording business at this time, particularly in the wake of an event that happened in the early 1970s, and that might have cost him his life:

"I was at Duke Reid studio one day with some people from Europe, and a lady from New York. These people were there just to work in the studio, they needed something to drink, so I prefer to go. As I burst the corner, I walk right into a gun. It was ten people, five dreads and five baldheads. One of the guys put a gun in my bely and they put a knife at my throat, and take away my watch. They hit they girl on her head and said 'White woman supposed to dead.' I said, 'No man, I bring these people come here, you can't do that.' These guys hold machine gun, thief away all the people's chains and money. T'ings like those burn me, so I just curse off the whole of downtown Kingston that day when they rob me. I rather stay in the country, you know. To be truthful, I don't love the ground where a lot o' hustling goes on. So then, I don't love the town, I prefer it in the country..."

In spite of his understandable reluctance to venture away from St. Ann, Justin did come to Bond Street every so often and his few early 70s Treasure Isle records are very good indeed, notably the superb remake of 'Botheration'. His final session for Duke Reid took place in 1973, and featured Justin singing without the Dominoes, and with the accompaniment of a string section that can be best described as 'uniquely Jamaican'. 'Sinners Where Are You Gonna Hide' and the very similar 'If It's Love You Need' provided a fine and fitting finale to the Reid-Hinds partnership, the former being as firm an admonishment of evildoers as anything Justin had written or recorded to date. He had not recorded for two years prior to this session, but his self-imposed lay off had done nothing to impair hos one-away style...

After Reid's death, Justin recorded even more sporadically than he had hitherto. An approach from his Ocho Rios based sound system owning neighbour Jack Ruby in 1975 led to Justin recording 'Prophecy Must Fulfill' which, in turn' led to the terrific 'Jezebel' album for Ruby's Fox label.

A decade earlier, Island label boss - and Hinds fan - Chris Blackwell had sold thousands of 45rpm copies of 'Carry Go Bring Come' on his original red-and-white Island imprint (under the rather puzzling alias of The Charms). Having spent most of the late 60s releasing rock music, Blackwell was finally giving some serious attention to the kind of artist on which he had originally built his financial and corporate empire. The 'Jezebel' album was financed and released internationally by Island Records, at whose behest it was recorded in the wake of the success of Ruby's other major act Burning Spear (whose 'Marcus Garvey' album had been among those that provided the rock press with an excuse to trumpet reggae as the latest 'next big thing' - when, in reality and to those who knew and understood it, reggae was already doing fine without their sudden interest, and was never the 'next' anything. Sorry for the digression. I've been waiting 30 years to get that off my chest...)

While pleased with the album, Justin said to various interviewers that he was considerably less pleased with both the level of promotion it got, and the commensurate amount of financial reward it brought him. To be fair to Island, things can't have been that bad as Justin went back and recorded a second album in 1978, released the following year by Island's Mango subsidiary as 'Just In Time'. But if he had hopes that a little of Bob Marley's international success might rub off on him, they were sadly unrealised.

Upon his death - and, apparently, on his instruction, although 30 years on the issue is still disputed by many parties - the ownership of Duke Reid's masters was assumed by Sonia Pottinger of High Note and Gay Feet records. According to Justin, Duke had requested that Mrs. Pottinger continue to work with him as an artist, but as he told Ray Hiurford:

"She took all (Duke's) materials, (Duke) told me he was going to give all his masters to Sonia, to distribute, and make me have some money. He said to her that she must treat me better than even he treated me. (After) he gave all these tracks to Sonia, I saw her once, in all these years. I have never seen her again..."

Happily for reggae fans, Justin did pass by the Pottinger camp for long enough to record the stunning 'Rig-Ma-Roe Game' and a couple of other tracks of comparable quality, but they appear to constitute his first and last recording session for High Note - and pretty much his only other recordings - of the 1970s.

By 1980 Justin had retreated to the comfort zone of his beloved Steertown, emerging only occasionally to make a new record (of which his 1984 Nighthawk album 'Travel With Love' is one of his finest ever). He essentially sat out the rest of the 1980s as an active musician, preferring to content himself with life as a farmer and the devoted Rastafarian he had been since the early 1960s. But as the 80s gave way to the 90s Justin decided that it was time to give the 'Rig-Ma-Roe Game' another go. The superb 1989 45 'Picking Up Chips' led to another new album 'Know Jah Better' - which, in turn led to the re-emergence of Justin Hinds as a live performer. During the last decade of his life, Justin made his debut at Jamaica's 'Reggae Sunsplash', following it up with many international tours and frequently visiting the USA that had so inspired him as a budding youth singer. (In 2002 Trojan issued 'Let's Rock', which, sadly, featured no Bachman Turner Overdrive covers, but which did provide a quality 'in concert' documentation of a still-great artist at his peak).

Towards the middle of the 90s Justin became involved in Rolling Stones (and noted reggae fan) Keith Richards' 'Wingless Angels' project. Richards went to Steertown and recorded Justin, with a group of local musicians and friends, on a deeply devotional set of songs that was eventually released in 1997 to great acclaim among those who recognised quality when they heard it. Although he was to live for another decade after its recording, 'Wingless Angels' ensured that Justin Hinds' recording career effectively finished on a deserved high.

Justin was still an active live artist as the 20th Century gave way to the 21st. Indeed, he was still performing in January 2005 when he appeared as part of the 'Stars R Us' bill in Kingston. However, on March 16th of this year he lost his long running fight with the cancer that had been ravaging his lungs for the previous few years, and one of the most unique voices ever to grace the Jamaican music scene was stilled forever.

The 1960s success of Justin Hinds & The Dominoes made it possible for other 'country' style singers to get a subsequent foothold on the ladder of success. 1970s hitmakers like the Maytones, the Twinkle Brothers and the Starlights would have found acceptance harder to come by had the man from St. Ann not paved the way for them to achieve it. We are fortunate that he left behind such a mighty catalogue for the world to enjoy forever, much of it contained within the two CDs that form the musical portion of this package.

At the time of his passing, Justin was described by Desmond Young, president of the Jamaican Federation Of Musicians (and himself the originator of one of the greatest roots masterpieces of all time, his 1975 classic 'Warning') thus: "Justin Hinds was one of the pioneers that impacted on the imagination of our people and the wider international community, due to his immense catalogue." 'Immense' is indeed a good way to sum up the recordings that Justin Hinds & The Dominoes made for Duke Reid. Like Justin himself, they will forever 'stand - predominate!'

Justin Hinds
May 7th 1942 - March 16th 2005

TONY ROUNCE

Carry Go Bring Home
Corner Stone
Over The River
King Samuel
Jordan River
Botheration (Ska Version)
Satan
Early One Morning
Jump Out Of The Flying Pan
Mother Banner
Come Bail Me
Rub Up, Push Up
The Ark
Peace And Love
Turn Them Back
Never Too Young
Try Me
My Mama Told Me
After A Storm
Lion Of Judah
Why Should I Worry
Fight For Your Right
The Higher The Monkey Climbs
Teach The Youth
No Good Rudie
Here I Stand
Save A Bread
On A Saturday Night
The Little That You Have
Carry Go Bring Home
For You Desire
Soul Movement
Fight Too Much
Once A Man (Twice A Child)
You Should Have Known Better
Drink Milk
Everywhere I Go
Time Pass By
Say Me Say
Take Heed
Cock Mouth Cock Kill
Botheration (Reggae Version)
Mighty Redeemer Part One
Mighty Redeemer Part Two
Sinners (Where Are You Gonna Hide)
If It's Love You Need

Trojan
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