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Clancy Eccles made several important contributions to the evolution of Jamaican popular music. Unlike most of his peers, Clancy did not limit himself to merely one role; though best known overseas for the pioneering reggae productions he crafted with his backing band The Dynamites, he also gained considerable renown as a singer and his further activities as a concert promoter and political activist were equally influential.

Born in 1940 in a small country town located a considerable distance from Kingston, young Clancy had an itinerant childhood. "My father moved all over Jamaica so I moved with my father," he explained, "he's a tailor and also a builder. I was born in St. Mary but I was pre-conceived in Kingston and I came back to Kingston at nine months old; my mother was around until I reached ten."

Despite the upheaval that accompanied the constant travelling, Clancy's singing talent emerged concretely during his teens, when he began working the burgeoning hotel circuit: "I was on the North Coast and there was a lot of us there, like Higgs and Wilson, the Blues Busters and Busty Brown; we all wanted to perform on various shows and then I start thinking about producing my own thing and I did a little show at the White River Club with myself, a balance act and a fire dancer. Then in 1959 or early '60, Coxsone had a talent hunt with 60 of us competing and I remember that Tony Gregory won and I was runner-up, but I was the first one that Coxsone recorded out of that crop. I did 'Freedom' and 'I Live And I Love' for Coxsone, then around eight months later I did 'River Jordan, 'More Proof' and quite a lot of other tracks."

Clancy's debut recording, 'Freedom', was highly popular for a long period as a sound system special played exclusively on Sir Coxsone's Downbeat; it sold well on its eventual release and also found its way onto the Blue Beat label in Britain, bit its message ended up being sidelined by manipulative Jamaican politicians that were against the proposed Federation of the West Indies, a multi-island state that would have partial independence from Britain but centralised governance based in Trinidad. As Clancy explains, "We were talking about repatriation, a back to Africa thing, but the politicians saw it as the thing for them, so they used it as a slogan to mash Federation and give them an independent look from Britain; they used it as their tool, going for political independence, but that wasn't our thing - we were thinking about a Rastafari movement. As a Jamaican you are exposed to various denominations and various cultures, and it got to me by seeing the Rastamen out there preaching in different districts in Jamaica, trying to let the word reach people; they was talking about the back to Africa movement and originally my mother's side of the family is Africans, while my father's side of the family you would say is Scottish and English. We were thinking about an African movement where we could go to this big motherland and become somebody there."

Despite the popularity of 'Freedom', 'River Jordan' and other early singles, Eccles quickly broke away from Coxsone Dodd to begin promoting concerts with local talent. "I left Coxsone around late 1961 for a lot of things, like I couldn't get my royalties... I signed a contract with Coxsone that would last for three years, so after I left Coxsone I didn't do any recording for three years because I didn't want him to have anything on me that say I break the contract. Around '62 I start making shows; in '63, I start going with the Clarendonians, then '64-'65 it was the Wailers at various country theatres, and in 1967 I put back Wailers in the Battle of the Stars at the Ward Theatre, with a whole set of acts. I highlighted the Wailers as Bob Marley and the Wailing Wailers, because I have seen Bob Marley was a performer, Peter Touch was a great musician and Bunny Wailers' then to me was a bit nervous, but I knew he would have grown out of that in some part of it."

Realising that record producers held the artistic and financial control of recorded work, in late 1966 or early 1967 Eccles formed Clandisc as a vehicle for self-produced work, based in the tailoring shop he had opened at 121A Orange Street. then in collaboration with Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Eccles was instrumental in breaking the new reggae form, which many have said he actually named by adapting the term 'Streggae', connotating a woman of loose morals, to describe the dance-based music that was then taking the island by storm: Monty Morris' 'Say What You're Saying' and Clancy's own 'Feel The Rhythm' were highly influential hits in Jamaica, while Eccles' suggestive 'Fatty Fatty' and King Stitt's energetic 'Fire Corner', 'Lee Van Cleef' and 'Vigorton Two' were huge in Britain, particularly amongst the skinhead subculture. As Clancy remembered, "In '66 I did 'What Will Your Mama Say' and Scratch was like my A&R man then. I knew Scratch from Scratch came to Kingston from the countryside: Coxsone was by Beeston Street then and I met Scratch and Niney there; I was about leaving Coxsone and Scratch and I get on very well. For the recording sessions, I would give Scratch my panel to help on a session, because Scratch understand sounds very, very, well. He was working then with West Indies Records Limited (WIRL) with Andy Capp, so I did 'What Will Your Mama Say', 'Darling Don't Do That' and 'Feel The Rhythm at WIRL in 1967. 'Feel The Rhythm' was just a novelty as far as I'm concerned; people may take it serious but it was no seriousness to me, it's just that you feel the rhythm, you love the rhythm, so you dance the rhythm or upset this rhythm, because if you're trying to reach the top, they want to see you drop, and if you don't try at all, the people stand by the wayside and say that you're a lazy boy, and if you win a lot of money, everybody will come along and eat it, and when it down and out, none of them are going to help you out. After I did that song, I helped Scratch with one by the name of 'People Funny Boy' in late '68; I was the man who set the music and I do the guide vocal in the studio while Scratch was the man on the mixing board. 'Say What You're Saying' was done in '67. Scratch Perry heard Monty Morris doing some songs, so Scratch took me by him and he played two songs on his guitar and I loved both of them so I took him by Treasure Isle Studio, same time I did 'Please Stay' with Larry Marshall and 'Two Of A Kind' (cut as a duet with one Claudelle Clarke). 'Say What You're Saying' had been the first crossover moving away from the rock steady to the reggae, and I am the man who even give the music the name 'reggae'; 'Feel The Rhythm' strengthen the whole thing, because it was a totally different thing than the average; Scratch is supposed to be part of it because he helped do the A&R work, but it was my beat, my musicians, my thing, so different people claiming it and everybody get jealous and vexed. I have a song that I made then called 'Bag-A-Boo' that says,

"Don't you brag and don't you boast, grief come to those that brag the most. When you hear this beat I know you will move your feet. You're beginning to wonder, can you upset this beat? I am the originator of the latest craze, I am the King of the Reggae, you know my music sweet."

Nobody answered then, but years later everybody is in a contention about reggae, so go back to that track and you will find out who is the originator of the latest craze and who is the King of the Reggae. But later on you hear that Johnny Nash become the King of the Reggae, Bob Marley become the King of the Reggae, this and this artist become King of the Reggae, but it is documented already, years down the road from late 1967, it was there to tell you that I am the King of the Reggae Music. (Guitarist) Ernest Ranglin, (keyboardist) Aubrey Adams, (bassist) Jackie Jackson, (keyboardist) Gladstone Anderson, (guitarist) Hux Brown and (guitarist) Ranny Bop is really the originators of that music, they were there with me when we originated that music, plus Winston Grennan and High Malcolm, they were the two drummers that were working with me during that period of time, so we are the ones who created our thing and give it to the world and nuff people never like it; they say it was too fast, because we were doing the rock steady, but then I did my thing.

Clancy's early productions featured Lyn Taitt's backing band, but during 1969-70, driving instrumentals crafted with The Dynamites - Clancy's version of the backing band typically known as The All Stars, making use of the musicians he mentioned above - ensured his reputation as an innovator, both in Jamaica and overseas; great works were also cut with Trench Town legend Joe Higgs, erratic hit-maker Carl Dawkins, pioneering pianist/vocalist Theophilus Beckford, percussionist/vocalist Scully Sims, plus upcoming vocalists Cynthia Richards, the Dingle Brothers and Larry McDonald, as well as relative unknowns such as Barry Wilson and The Westmorelites, Eccles also recorded the first single by Beres Hammond in this period, many years before Hammond achieved noteworthy popularity; Eccles' sterling reggae productions] of Neil Diamond's 'Holly Holy', cut in choral excellence with Glen Ricketts and the Fabulous Flames was highly popular, while his production of the sentimental 'Kingston Town' with Lord Creator also proved to have lasting longevity, as shown by UB40's hit cover version recorded some 20 years later. "I and Lord Creator with 'Kingston Town', the word 'Kingston Town' I put in that song," Clancy grumbled, "and I and Gladdy made that introduction and the solo of that song, but still, we get nothing from it... but I was still one of the strongest producers then, because I wrote all of those King Stitt sounds."

Long a committed political activist devoted to stimulating social equality and eliminating the class and colour-based prejudices that have blighted post-colonial Jamaica, Eccles became concretely involved in the People's National Party (PNP) election campaign of 1971, appearing on musical bandwagons with The Wailers in support of PNP leader Michael Manley, known as Joshua by his followers for his saviour-like charisma; Eccles also released a single, 'Power To The People', featuring excerpts from Manley's public speeches set to reggae, though he later voiced dissatisfaction with the party after many of Manley's policies were revealed to have been overly ambitious. "I have a belief in Socialism because with Capitalism, one set get rich and while one set go poor, and if it was equally divided then half would be rich and half would be poor, but you're going find that 2% get rich and 90% live under the poverty line and there is 8% that we would say lives off the cream of the rich and that part, I feel it's not proper. I believe that the distribution of the wealth of the world should be given to everyone equally for their amount of work. In 1971 The Wailers worked with me on the PNP bandwagon - they did six set of shows for me on that bandwagon... of course I was used by the PNP, but I'm a man of my word and I gave Manley my word, Manley never give me anything, but I could call Manley and talk to him and on many issues. We were like non-paid advisors to Manley, we could call him anytime and say 'Hey, we feel that no right'. Financially, I went broke: I mashed up my two brand new vehicles in the bandwagon for the People's National Party; at the end of the exercise I neither had car nor van, while some singers who went with me had an old car and got a better car, but it's just one of those things."

Although Clancy did not remain quite as active in the record production realm as previously during the mid-1970s he continued to be associated with musical innovation: he cut one of the first recordings ever made with Third World and initiated some successful recordings with Tito Simon, but the circumstances of the finished product that was released overseas really irked him; another artistically innovative but financially problematic project was initiated with a singer from the Bahamas known as Exuma the Obeaman. "I see Exuma as a challenge and I think he's scared of working with people," Clancy explained, "because he came and gave me only eight songs, not enough for an LP. That was a project that never really materialised the way I wanted it; it's like with Tito Simon, I did some Tito Simon things but Tito Simon went to England and change up the whole of the something with some strings, and I never get a dollar out of it... I spent my money, I did my work in Jamaica and Tito Simon, what he did was like sacrilege. Up until this day I don't get back those tapes. It hurts to know that a guy just takes your things away."

Towards the end of the 1970s Clancy Eccles cut more inspired work, again with often relative unknowns and now typically in conjunction with legendary dub mixer King Tubby; thereafter he issued new recordings only sporadically, concentrating instead on live concert promotion and re-issuing of his back catalogue. During the 1990s, he was also actively involved in launching the career of his son, Clancy Eccles Junior; indeed, the last recording sessions he initiated were Clancy Junior's unfinished works, which will hopefully gain release in the near future.

Though he appeared to be in generally good health throughout his lifetime, earlier this year Eccles suffered a series of strokes from which he never fully recovered, finally passing away at Spanish Town Hospital on June 30th. He will ultimately be remembered as a stylish vocalist, innovative record producer and lifelong socialist.

DAVID KATZ

Clancy Eccles - What Will Your Mama Say
Hemsley Morris - Stay Loose
Eric Morris - Say What You're Saying
Clancy, Lee & Sticky - C. N. Express
Clancy Eccles & Velma Mongal - Oh My Lover
Clancy Eccles & Claudelle Clarke - Two Of A Kind
Winston Wright & The Dynamites - I Did It
Larry Marshall & Alvin - Please Stay
Eric Morris - My Lonely Days
Theo Beckford - Easy Snappin'
Busty Brown - Here Comes The Night
Clancy Eccles - Feel The Rhythm
Velma Mongal - Let Us Be Lovers
Clancy Eccles - Deacon Don
Clancy Eccles - Don't Brag Don't Boast
The Dynamites - Last Call (Tribute To Drumbago)
Clancy Eccles - Fattie Fattie
Carl Dawkins - Rodney's History
The Dingle Brothers - I Don't Care
The Dynamites - John Public (Tom Hark)
Clancy Eccles - Sho Be Do
King Stitt - Fire Corner
Clancy & Scully - Mount Zion (We Want Go Back Home)
Clancy Eccles - The World Needs Love
King Stitt - Vigorton 2
Winston Wright & The Dynamites - Mr. Midnight
Clancy Eccles & Chorus - Africa
Cynthia Richards - Foolish Fool
Joe Higgs & Ron Wilson - Don't Mind Me
King Stitt & Clancy Eccles - Dance Beat
King Stitt & The Dynamites - The Ugly One
Clancy Eccles - Freedom
Lord Creator - Kingston Town
The Fabulous Flames - Holly Holy
Larry McDonald & The Dynamites - I Fe Layo
Cynthia Richards - Conversation
King Stitt & Andy Capp - Herbsman Shuffle
The Dynamites - Phantom
Barry And The Affections - Love Me Forever
The Westmorlites - Zion
Joe Higgs & Ron Wilson - Love That Builds
Clancy Eccles - Credit Squeeze
Barry Wilson - Live And Love
Clancy Eccles - Sweet Jamaica
Clancy Eccles - Unite Tonight
The Fabulous Flames - Growing Up
The Fabulous Flames - Hi De Do
Clancy Eccles - Rod Of Correction
The Silvertones - Tear Drops Will Fall
Clancy Eccles - Power For The People
Clancy Eccles - Hallelujah Free At Last
Glen Ricketts - Send Me A Picture
Clancy Eccles - Ganja Free
Clancy Eccles - Stop The Criticism
Tito Simon - You Can't Be Serious
Third World - People Can't You See

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