Trojan
 
 

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a select number of independent Jamaican music makers challenged the dominance of the island's established recording industry giants, famously referenced by Bob Marley as the 'big t'ree' - Federal, Dynamic Sounds and Studio One. Of this upstart group of dynamic and largely youthful entrepreneurs, few were blessed with the degree of talent possessed by the singer-songwriter-producer whose music provides the focus of this collection: Derrick Harriott.

From the outset Harriott championed a soulful, sophisticated style that explicitly drew inspiration from the black music emanating from the US, as he seamlessly blended doo-wop, R&B and soul with Jamaica's national sound to create some of the most popular and enduring recordings ever produced on the island.

This is ably demonstrated by the music collected on his best-selling LP from 1970, 'Psychedelic Train', which showcased a dozen of his finest recordings as both producer and performer, from the rock steady era through to the fledgling years of reggae. Widely regarded as one of the most satisfying and collectable long-players of the golden age of Jamaican music, the album is featured here in its entirety with the original track-listing bolstered by a further 13 recordings from the period.

Born in Jamaica on 6th February 1939 to Victoria Powell and Rupert Harriott, Derrick was the youngest of five children and along with his older siblings, displayed a keen interest in music at an early age. While still a youth he formed the Harmonisors singing quartet with Excelsior High School classmates, Neville 'G Bobs' Esson, Roy Robinson and Claude Sang Jr., although of these only the latter became a long-term singing partner. Throughout this time, Derrick and Claude spent much of their free time practising their harmonies and eventually began entering local talent shows as Sang & Harriott, with a subsequent victorious performance at one of Vere Johns' renowned 'Opportunity Hour' contests inspiring the two young hopefuls to pool their money and cut a basic demo of their original composition, 'Lollipop Girl', at Stanley Motta's studio in Harbour Street.

Soon after, an acetate of the recording was given to the local Thunderbird Disco sound system, which went on to champion the disc at dances in and around the Maxfield Avenue area. Its popularity led to copies of the recording making their way into the hands of leading operators Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, although at this potentially crucial moment for the duo, their ambitions were abruptly put on hold when Sang took a job in Barbados.

Undeterred, Derrick put together the Jiving Juniors vocal group with Claude's younger brother, Hugh, and two other local singers, Eugene Dwyer and Maurice Wynter. The newly formed quartet began impressing at local talent shows and attracting interest from those at the vanguard of the city's fast developing recording industry, but with significant success looming on the horizon, it was now Derrick who scuppered any prospect of a recording deal, after deciding to relocate to New York. Following his arrival in the Big Apple he wasted little time in forming a new version of the Juniors, enlisting former singing partner, Claude Sang along with fellow Jamaican ex-pats Winston Service and Valmont Burke. Meanwhile, back in Kingston, the remaining original group members recruited Jimmy Mudahy as Derrick's replacement and cut a number of well received sides for Chris Blackwell, which the famed record boss issued on his recently launched R&B label.

Around the close of 1959, Derrick and the US based Jiving Juniors returned to Jamaica after receiving a call from Duke Reid, who was keen for them to recut 'Lollipop Girl' for his t=Trojan sound system. Soon after the number had been recorded at Federal Records studio, it was cut onto an acetate that swiftly became one of the most favoured discs on the operator's playlist, prompting its eventual official release as a 7" single. It was to prove the first of a number of popular 45s by the group for the former policeman, but with Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd offering better terms, the quartet were lured into working with his main rival and soon after recorded a handful of original compositions for the future Studio One owner, most notably the hugely popular hit single, 'Over The River'.

But for all their success, financial remuneration thus far remained negligible, and in 1961, they returned to New York where they paid for a recording session at the city's famed Mirasound studios that yielded tracks such as 'Sugar Dandy' and 'Andrea'. subsequently released in Jamaica on their own Crystal label, the singles not only reaffirmed the Jiving Juniors as one of the island's leading musical acts, but also established Derrick as the first of what would be many singers to make their mark as an independent music maker.

In 1962, encouraged by the popularity of the quartet's work back home, he decided to return full-time to Jamaica, but the reluctance of his singing partners to leave New York triggered the eventual breakup of the Jiving Juniors. Once back in Kingston, Derrick embarked in earnest on his solo career, and over the next few years produced and released a series of popular Crystal 7" singles; their number including 'I Care', 'What Can I Do', 'The Jerk' and 'I'm Only human', all of which were gathered on the singer's popular debut LP, 'The Best Of Derrick Harriott'.

In addition to his studio work, Derrick performed on the live circuit with some of Jamaica's leading bands of the period, honing his stage act with the Vagabonds, Carlos Malcolm & his Afro Jamaican Rhythms and the Granville Williams Orchestra, respectively. But while the ska years of the early-to-mid 1960s proved a successful time for the ambitious young singer-turned-producer, it was the subsequent arrival of rock steady that firmly established him as one of the most successful independent operators on the Jamaican music scene.

Meanwhile, away from the studio, he was able to keep track of musical tastes through his recently opened record shop at 125 King Street in Kingston, and his live work fronting one of the island's tightest and most versatile groups: the Mighty Vikings Band.

By 1967, rock steady was in full swing and Derrick was keen to make his mark as a major producer, actively seeking local talent for Crystal's new Move & Groove subsidiary, with initial recruits including Keith & Tex, Lloyd & Glen and Rudy Mills. Major hits duly followed, both for his new acts and himself, with solo works from this time including 'The Loser', 'Solomon' and a version of the Tams' R&B obscurity, 'You Might As Well Forget Him' that was re-presented as 'Walk The Streets'.

A significant factor in Derrick's success throughout this period was the involvement of ace Trinidadian guitarist, Lyn Taitt, whose graceful playing became a hallmark of his productions, as illustrated in the recordings featured on the now hugely collectable long player, 'Derrick Harriott's Rock (Ska) Steady Party', which saw release in both Jamaica and the UK in the autumn of '67.

The following year brought further success with popular solo works including 'Do I Worry', 'Tang! Tang! Festival Song' and 'Standing In', with the latter making the local charts as '68 drew to a close. By this time, the emerging sound of reggae dominated the Jamaican music landscape, and as numerous producers struggled to adapt to the new style, Derrick demonstrated his keen understanding and appreciation of the fats developing genre with a number of hugely popular 45s that included his own version of the Pastels' R&B hit, 'Been So Long' and two of the most celebrated hits of the boss reggae era: Rudy Mills' 'John Jones' and 'Sufferer' by the Kingstonians.

The ensuing months produced further best-selling 45s along with two popular albums, 'The Sensational Derrick Harriott Sings Jamaica Reggae' and 'Rudy Mills Reggae Hits', both of which were picked up for release in Britain by Neasden-based family concern, Pama Records.

Key to Derrick's success as an independent music maker was a relatively modestly-sized artist roster that enabled an attention to detail that ensured a consistently high standard of work, but as the sixties drew to a close, the strain of recording, performing live, managing his new Musical Chariot discotheque, proved overwhelming, and ultimately led to his decision to finally cease singing with the Mighty Vikings.

Free to focus more of his time on studio work, the new decade brought further success as his productions peppered the Jamaican music charts throughout 1970, with hits including a number of superior instrumentals by his all-star session band, the Crystalites, vocal group offerings from the Kingstonians, the Chosen Few and the Ethiopians, and the first of a series of big sellers by singer-turned-DJ David Scott aka Scotty. Derrick also enjoyed his fair share of time on the playlists as an artist, with major hits from this time including the immensely popular 'Psychedelic Train', and fine versions of 'Message From A Black Man', 'No Man Is An Island' and 'Groovy Situation'.

Of this quartet of hits all but the latter were gathered on his next long player, 'Psychedelic Train'. a 12-track collection that also featured the cream of his solo material from the preceding three years. Released in the UK by Trojan Records, the LP quickly became one of the company's bestsellers of 1970, firmly reinforcing Derrick's standing as one of Jamaica's premier music makers.

He continued to create outstanding music over the years that immediately followed, enjoying regular forays onto the Jamaican and British reggae charts and issuing yet more exceptional albums, such as Scotty's 'Schooldays', 'Super Reggae & Soul Hits' by Dennis Brown, the Chosen Few's 'Hit After Hit' and his own '14 Chartbuster Hits'.

As the 1970s unfolded, Derrick adapted to the changing musical scene with apparent effortless ease and was among the first producers to have pioneering dub master, King Tubby remix his work, most evidently on 'Scrub A Dub' - one of the earliest dub albums ever to see issue. Yet as he assuredly kept in step with the times, he steadfastly refused to jump on the Rasta bandwagon and remained true to his roots, preferring a soulful style of reggae to the more militant attitude adopted by the majority of his contemporaries. While this approach would have adversely affected the careers of lesser talents, Derrick remained one of reggae's leading players throughout the roots era, with later hits including 'Brown Baby', 'Some Guys Have All The Luck', 'Why Do Fools Fall In Love', 'Bucketful Of Tears', 'Face Dog', 'Being In love', 'Look Over Your shoulder', 'Eighteen With A Bullet', 'Dancing The Reggae' and 'Fly Robin Fly', all of which featured on the next of his best-selling long players: 'Greatest Reggae Hits' and 'Reggae Disco Rockers'.

He remained at the cutting edge of the industry throughout the remainder of the '70s, producing popular material by the likes of Winston McAnuff, Rat I, Sly & the Revolutionaries, U Brown, Trinity and Althea Forrest, as well as his sweet voiced niece, Kim Harriott. In addition, he continued to regularly remind record buyers of his own singing talent, with his solo hits from this time including 'The Roamer', 'Solomon And Selassie', 'Soul sister' and 'Born To Love You'.

Unlike many of his peers, Derrick successfully adapted to the development of digital recording techniques, recording with significant success until the mid-90s, when he finally decided to take a break from studio work to concentrate on managing the One Stop record shop at Twin Gates Plaza, Kingston, which had opened back in 1973.

The superb 25 tracks on this expanded version of 'Psychedelic Train' illustrate just what the music world is missing by his absence. At its core is of course is best-selling long player from 1970, with the equally impressive bonus material ensuring the collection is the most definitive to date of his solo work from the golden age of the Jamaican recording industry. It was a time when the island's music was at its most soulful, and as these recordings palpably demonstrate, when it comes to soul, Derrick Harriott has few peers.

Laurence Cane-Honeysett

PSYCHEDELIC TRAIN, PART ONE
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
LAUGH IT OFF
MESSAGE FROM THE BLACK MAN
HUM MY SONG
RIDING FOR A FALL
SLAVE
GO BYE BYE
THE LOSER
BORN TO LOVE YOU
WALK THE STREETS
STANDING IN

GROOVY SITUATION
BEEN SO LONG / YOU LIED TO YOUR DADDY
IT’S ALRIGHT (YOU’RE JUST IN LOVE)
SOLOMON
YOU’VE REALLY GOT A HOLD ON ME
SITTING ON TOP
THE GIRL’S ALRIGHT WITH ME
DO I WORRY
I’M NOT BEGGING
HAVE SOME MERCY
TANG! TANG! FESTIVAL SONG
LONG TIME
PSYCHEDELIC TRAIN, CHAPTER 3

Trojan
© Doctor Bird Records