The short but sweet career of 'Bob & Marcia' as successful international crossover artists with 'Young, Gifted & Black' (number 5 UK National Charts Spring 1970) and 'Pied Piper' (Number 11 UK National Charts Summer 1971) represents only the tiny tip of an incredible iceberg of fifty years of making music, creativity and influential inspiration. The work of the wonderful Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths not only predated these two hits but also continues unabated right up to the present day.

Keith 'Bob Andy' Anderson, born Kingston, 1944 is beyond question one of Jamaica's greatest ever singers and songwriters. His upbringing was harsh beyond belief, "from that time 'til now, life is an uphill climb to the bottom", and initially, he was brought up by his mother where she worked in the heart of Kingston at the Jamaica Defence headquarters at Up Park Camp. Bob later 'attributed many of the English words he used in later life to that period as his schooling was sporadic at best'.

In 1951 his grandmother took him to live with her in the rural district of Westmoreland and Bob recalled "that her affection was the only demonstrative love that he had" but "she just up and died" and he eventually had to return to Kingston. In between looking after another one of his mother's children he attended school where "I was good at composition. I could write a good story" but his existence grew increasingly intolerable. Bob went to Maxfield Park Children's Home for young people "in need of care and protection" and told the authorities that his mother had died as "she was not playing that role in my life". They took the young boy in but Bob and his mother both ended up in court where Bob told the bench that he did not want to return to his mother's home as "I get too much beating". He became a ward of the state and moved into Maxfield Park.

It was there that Bob's musical gifts first began to make themselves heard and, after discovering a piano in the matron's quarters, he "just sat in front of that piano for days, nights". He watched Tony Gregory, also known as 'Mr. Emotion' and 'Mr. Soul', play the piano at the nearby Champion House club and committed the finger positions to memory before returning to the home to "replicate them". Bob also began to sing in the Kingston Parish Church Choir and, after meeting Garth 'Tyrone' or 'Don' Evans in the Maxfield Park Scout Troop, they became the nucleus of the vocal group named the Binders. King Edwards the Giant's sound system was based "across the road" and Bob recalled hearing the songs of Harry Belafonte, Nat 'King' Cole, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra playing out, "I grew up on Sinatra and those guys", but his favourite was Sam Cooke with 'You Send Me'. Junior Menz became the third singer of the Binders but left to become a member of Winston Riley's Techniques. He was then replaced by telecommunications engineer Howard Barratt and this trio would go on to become the Paragons. Tyrone and Howard had "both sang in school choirs back in 1958 and graduated to amateur pop singing groups thence to the Paragons" who "were formed one memorable Saturday evening back in 1964". Tyrone Evans sang first tenor and Vere Johns Junior 'Opportunity Hour' veteran Howard Barrett supplied second tenor but the trio decided that they really needed "a strong lead singer" and asked John holt to join the group.

A key player in the Paragons' early career, Bob helped to keep the group together by selecting the songs, working out the different harmony parts and playing the piano at rehearsals. Between 1964 and 1965 the trio recorded three double-sided singles at Studio One for Clement  Coxsone Dodd's Supreme subsidiary: 'Depth Of Love' written by Bob backed with 'Love Dream', which was written by Bob and John Holt, then 'Good Luck And Goodbye', which was written by Bob, backed with 'Follow Me' and finally 'Play Girl', a ska into rock steady tune backed with a slow, soul ballad, 'Love At Last' before Bob decided he was not prepared "to spend the rest of my life Oh Ahhing" and left to pursue a solo career. On his departure one group member said to Bob: "You a go a Studio One an' turn Sam Cooke", the Paragons moved on to Duke Reid at Treasure Isle and drafted in Vic Taylor as temporary replacement before coming to the conclusion that John holt, Tyrone Evans and Howard Barrett worked best as a three part harmony trio. They certainly did and this combination would go on to record a series of superb rock steady sides at the Duke's Bond Street studio.

Bob remained with Dodd's Brentford Road organisation where, in addition to delivering records, he began his remarkable solo Studio One recording career in 1966 with 'Crime Don't Pay', followed by an early repatriation anthem 'I've Got To Go Back Home', where the Wailers supplied the harmonies, and 'Stay In My Lonely Arms' the following year. Working closely with Jackie Mittoo he recalled that "Seeing music come alive around me... that was my first experience of what heaven was" and to describe the songs Bob Andy recorded at Studio One as certifiable classics would not do justice to their beauty, lasting importance and significance. 'Desperate Lover', 'Unchained', 'Feeling Soul', 'Too Experienced' and more, all later collated on the seminal 'Bob Andy's Song Book' album, are now considered essential components in the vocabulary of Jamaican music. Bob also wrote a number of songs for his colleagues at Studio One including 'I Don't Want To See You Cry' for Ken Boothe and a moving duet with Marcia Griffiths 'Always Together'.

The early years of 'Jamaica's First Lady Of Song' are in marked contrast to Bob's severe Start in life. Marcia Llyneth Griffiths, born 23rd November 1949, reminisced that her upbringing, in Kingston, Jamaica was in "a home full of music, love and faith" and that the root of her success, both personally and professionally, is her loving family. As a young girl she sang in her local church choir and would sing and recite passages from the Bible to her neighbours one of whom was Phillip 'Boasie' James. Boasie was one half of the Blues Busters who, with Lloyd Campbell, were then enjoying considerable local success with records such as 'Wide Awake In A Dream', 'Soon You Will Be Gone' and 'There's Always Sunshine' for Ronnie Nasralla's BMN, Soul and Sunshine labels and, in early 1964, Phillip told Ronnie about Marcia.

"... a little school girl lived in his apartment block on Beeston Street in Kingston, that could sing, and he wanted me to hear her... I couldn't believe my ears! She was superb! This girl could sing and I promised to get her on the Byrn lee Easter Morning Show at the Carib Theatre at Cross Roads."
Ronnie Nasralla

And, true to his word, Marcia Griffiths made her professional debut singing Carla Thomas' 'No Time To Lose' at the Carib and, that same night, she also appeared on JBC television "doing two of Nancy Wilson's songs."

"Marcia has never forgotten this and to this day, whenever she performs with Byron Lee, she gives the story on stage..."
Ronnie Nasralla

Marcia was still very young, "a little school girl", and her father's signature was required on a recording contract. Coxsone came out as the winner of the bidding war that ensued between him and Ronnie to sign Marcia because Mr. Griffiths was familiar with Coxsone's Down Beat Sound System. Her recording debut, a duet with Tony Gregory, was a cover of Robert & Johnny's 'We Belong Together', released as 'You're Mine' on Coxsone's Supreme subsidiary in 1965.

"Marcia Griffiths made her first record with me, a song called 'You're Mine'... He (Coxsone) thought I would do a duet with her so she recorded 'You're Mine' which was a pretty big hit here in Jamaica."
Tony Gregory

She sang a number of duets including 'Oh My Darling', a 1967 ballad with Bob Marley, which was credited to the Soulettes on the Jamaican Muzik City release and the Summerstairs on Coxsone in the UK. The following year Marcia enjoyed her first significant solo hit with Jackie Mittoo's riveting rock steady into reggae 'Feel Like Jumping' a record of enduring popularity. Marcia's father, or her mother, accompanied her on all her recording sessions and stage shows and Bob Andy, now recognised as one of Studio One's top songwriters and singers, took Marcia under his wing. She already knew Bob from hearing him rehearse with the original Paragons in their Western Kingston neighbourhood and he now helped to guide her through the predominantly male music business. A close relationship began to develop between the pair and Marcia regards herself as very fortunate to have met him, "Bob Andy was right there for me", at this early stage of her career. His musical experience and song writing abilities proved invaluable and hit record followed hit record for Marcia including 'Melody Life', 'Tell Me Now' and 'Truly' all written by Bob Andy. A number of her greatest hits for Coxsone were later collected together on the excellent 'MArcia Griffiths At Studio One' album.

"We see Studio One as Jamaica's Motown. Because, any great singer that you can think of that came out of Jamaica, they all pass through Studio One. That's where you graduate."
Marcia Griffiths

In 1969 Bob and Marcia both graduated from Brentford Road and Bob recorded 'The Way I Feel' for Rupie Edwards and a cover version of Joe South's 'Games People Play' backed by one of his finest compositions 'The Sun Shines For Me' (aka 'Salary Is Thin') for Ken Khouri's FRM label and it became his biggest hit to date. "That's how I became a popular artiste" and Bob recalled that he "got his first royalty cheque for 'Games People Play' (£675) bought a Ford Mustang and hit the clubs". Marcia travelled to Europe and later talked about her departure from Studio One to Steve Milne.

"I didn't actually leave Studio One but I went to Harry J. He actually came to Studio One and talked to myself and Bob Andy and we went to the studio and that's when we recorded 'Young, Gifted & Black'."
Marcia Griffiths

A former insurance salesman, Harry 'Harry J' Johnson, reached the Number One spot in Jamaica in late 1968 with the Beltones' 'No More heartaches'. One of the first songs built around the new up tempo beat, "in the ghetto they are doing a new dance named reggae... for them to dance like that you have to have the music going like that," it was also a major hit in the UK on the Trojan label who gave Harry Johnson his own subsidiary outlet. 'Liquidator' was one of the first releases on the London-based Harry J label in summer 1969. Credited to the Harry J All Stars the record, which showcased the towering talents of Winston Wright on organ settling down over the rhythm to Tony Scott's 'What Am I To Do', reached Number 9 in the UK national Charts in the Autumn of that year. Harry J's production of Bob & Marcia's reading of Nina Simone's & Weldon Irvine's 'To Be Young, Gifted & Black', with an added string arrangement courtesy of Johnny Arthey in London, repeated this unprecedented success and reached Number 5 in the UK national Charts in Spring 1970.

"I took up the two track tape with the voice and everything, transfer it to an eight track and do the strings there."
Harry Johnson

'Young, Gifted & Black' earned a Silver Disc and was one of the first, and biggest, crossover hits from the period when Jamaican music was first insinuating itself into the UK National Charts and international consciousness. Harry J later recounted to Beth Lesser "Motown actually took the record from Trojan and released it in the States". Marcia was already in Europe where she "did two recordings at Philips Records in Berlin in the German language and in English" and, after Bob had flown to England, the duo joined a package tour of the UK and Europe with "new pop stars of the day including Elton John" who actually covered Bob & Marcia's version of 'Young, Gifted & Black' anonymously for a cut price compilation album of current hits which enjoyed great, if not necessarily lasting, popularity. It was later released on the '16 Legendary Covers AS Sung By Elton John' album.

After the tour had run it's course the pair returned to Jamaica and recorded the tracks which would become the 'Young, Gifted & Black' album for Harry J before flying back to London where they recorded the 'Pied Piper' album with Bob Andy handling production duties. the title track, a cover of Crispian St. Peters' hit, 'The Pied Piper' from five years previously, was another crossover hit, stalling just outside the Top Ten. The pair toured again and were signed to CBS but, as a result of "poor management" and the company's "apathy about promoting reggae", there were no more crossover hits and the association did not last. Bob and Marcia "decided to go their separate ways, at least for now" and Bob returned home.

recorded an album with the imaginatively named the Reggaes and released a long player in Germany on the Mercury label, The Reggae Featuring Marcia Griffiths', before she flew home to Kingston.

In 1974 Marcia Griffiths released her debut solo album 'Sweet Bitter Love', produced by the multi-talented Lloyd Charmers at Federal, and, later that year invited Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt to sing back-u at an engagement at the House Of Chen in New Kingston. Bob Marley heard the trio and asked them to sing harmonies for him after the departure of Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh from the Wailers. The I Threes first worked with Bob on the 'Natty read' album and they recorded and toured together until Bob's untimely death in 1981. The I Three's contribution to the Bob Marley & The Wailers legend is incalculable.

In 1977 she reunited with Bob Andy for the 'Kemar' (aka 'Really Together') album and somehow found sufficient time in between international tours and recording sessions with Bob Marley & The Wailers to also record two superb solo albums, 'Naturally' in 1978 with seven of the ten tracks composed by Bob Andy and 'Steppin'' the following year, for Sonia Pottinger's High Note label. she also released a selection of popular hit singles including the strident 'Steppin' Out Of Babylon' and a version of El Tempos' 'My dream Island' aka Bunny Livingston's 'Dreamland'. Marcia recorded enough material for a long playing release for Bunny's (now known as Bunny Wailer) Solomonic label in 1981 but only four singles from the sessions, 'Tribulation', 'It Hurts To Be Alone' and 'Woman A Come' were released. The fourth 'electric Boogie', was a hit in Jamaica in 1982 and a remixed version reached Number 51 on the USA Billboard Hot 100 in 1991 where its accompanying line dance 'The Electric Slide' became a nationwide sensation. 'Electric Boogie' is the biggest selling single of all time by a female reggae artist.

Bob Andy also recorded with Lloyd Charmers at Federal and the prophetic 'Fire Burning' single in 1974 proved to be another big hit before Bob produced the reflective 'The Music Inside Me' album together with Geoffrey Chung for Tropical Sound Tracs in 1975. His reputation as one of Jamaica's most consistent and incisive songwriters and singers was further enhanced with the release of the 'Lots Of love And I' long player in 1977, again for Sonia Pottinger's High Note label. The set contained one of the most incisive social commentary songs ever written, 'Ghetto Stays In The Mind', informed by Bob's own bitter experiences, "my home town, my home town", and the touching 'Troubled Woman' with Marcia providing backing vocals. In 1978 he took up creative dancing with the National Dance Theatre Company and concentrated on his career as an actor starring in 'Children Of Babylon' in 1980. His 1983 album 'Friends' and a single taken from the album, 'Honey', both reached Number One in the UK Reggae Charts.

Bob headlined the first ever Reggae Sunsplash in Japan in 1985, appeared at the Youth Festival in Moscow that same year and in the Gdansk shipyards in Poland in 1989 at an anti-apartheid concert sponsored by Solidarity. He toured Africa for the first time in 2005 performing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Bob Marley 60th Birthday concert where he sang at the Presidential Palace. In March 1992 "the JAMI Awards honoured Marcia as Best Female Vocalist" at Kingston's Ward Theatre for her work with Donovan Germain's Penthouse Records and their inspired update of Bob's 'Fire Burning' over his 'Feeling Soul' rhythm won the Best Individual Composition award. Truly indomitable...

In 1994 Marcia Griffiths received the Order of Distinction (Officer Class) from the Jamaican government for excellence in music and in October 2014 at the annual National Honour and Awards ceremony she received the country's fifth highest honour the Order of Distinction (Commander Class). In October 2006 the Jamaican government conferred the Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander to Bob Andy for his contribution to the development of Jamaican music. Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths are two giants of Jamaican music whose careers are inextricably linked with the story of reggae at home and the whole world over. Attempting to summarise their fifty years of marvellous music making in a few short paragraphs is an impossible task but Marcia expresses it perfectly, the last word has to go to her.

"I'm just so thankful that God gave me this talent and I came when I did and I could at least share what I have with the world through music..."
Marcia Griffiths

Harry Hacks - February 2018



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