'Double Barrel' by Dave and Ansel Collins was one of the biggest ever worldwide hits for Jamaican music in the early seventies and, ever since, has never stopped filling dance floors. Yet the stories behind the creators of this classic tune have yet to be told. Instances of wrong credits, no credits and very little credit abound and the time is now right to give credit where credit is due.

Ansel Collins, born 16th April 1948 in Kingston, was raised in the harsh, unforgiving Maxfield Avenue ghetto district. At the age of twelve, encouraged by his mother, he entered one of Vere Johns Junior's Opportunity Hour talent competitions at Kingston's Carib Theatre where he sung 'A Star Is Born' backed by Sonny Bradshaw's band. After a brief stint as one half of an unsuccessful duo, alongside a girl named Patsy Clark, he started singing with Bobby Aitken & the Carib Beats. Rehearsals were held in a yard in Galloway Road in Whitfield Town where the legendary Winston Grennan taught Ansel to play the drums and Bobby Aitken encouraged him to start playing the piano. His recording debut came with Bunny 'Striker' Lee on the session where the formidable Uniques, featuring Keith 'Slim' Smith on lead vocals, forged the unforgettable 'The Beatitude' aka 'Blessed Are The Meek'.

Ansel then became the band leader of the RHT Invincibles, a band founded in early 1968 by a Rastafarian baker, who also ran the Rainbow Healing Temple on the Spanish Town Road. The following year the group produced four songs at a recording session at the Federal Studios: a vocal from Lloyd 'Sparks' Parks, an occasional guitarist for the group, another vocal from rhythm guitarist Bertram 'Ranchie' MacLean and one other, 'Diplomat', performed by a young drummer named Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar. It was Sly's first ever recording session. the fourth track was an instrumental showcase for Ansel Collins' now masterful control of the Hammond organ, entitled 'Night doctor', which, lacking the necessary funds for distribution, he gave to Lee 'Scratch' Perry to release on his nascent Upsetter label.

The record was a moderate hit in Jamaica, but became a huge hit in the UK in the early summer of 1969 where it was released credited to the Upsetters on Scratch's Upsetter imprint through Trojan Records. In an unusual reversal of the Jamaican musicians' adage, "praise without praise", Ansel was more than pleased with this deal with Scratch for, despite the record label omitting his name, he later recalled "he's the best one out of all of them for me (financially)". Sly Dunbar, who in partnership with Robert 'Robbie' Shakespeare, would go on to become an internationally acclaimed drummer, never forgot that it was Ansel Collins who had given him his start in the music business.

"Ansel Collins was instrumental in taking me to the studio. We worked in The Invincibles together. He gave me the go ahead to do it. A little while after that I played with Ansel Collins again on 'Double Barrel' for Winston Riley."
Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar

Meanwhile, Winston Delano Riley, born 14th May 1943 in Kingston, had become a significant figure on the Jamaican music scene and indeed was to exert a major influence in reggae music's development and worldwide promulgation for over half a century. He grew up in West Kingston and trained as a nurse and, in 1962, founded a vocal harmony group, the Techniques, alongside Keith 'Slim' Smith, Franklyn White and Frederick Waite (the man behind Musical Youth). Their main influences were American rhythm & blues harmony groups such as the Rhythm Aces and the Impressions, and local vocal hero Jimmy James and the Vagabonds. The group's debut record, 'No One (Like You Do)', was released that year on the Kentone label in Jamaica and internationally on Columbia. In 1965 Wilburn 'Stranger' Cole introduced the group to Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, which marked the start of an unbeatable series of hit singles beginning with 'Little Did You Know', a ska stunner, with Slim on lead vocal. But, as Winston later recalled, "rock steady was the key" and, as the pace of ska slowed down to the elegant, understated beauty of the style, the Techniques became the island's leading exponents of this mesmerising musical development.

The group created innumerable hits at Duke's Bond Street studio including 'Queen Majesty', 'You don't Care', 'Travelling Man', 'My girl' and 'Love Is Not A Gamble' which have subsequently insinuated themselves into the canon of Kingston classics, to be returned to over and over again over the ensuing years as a source of inspiration and incitation. In 1967 Slim left the group, but the song-writing and singing talents of Bruce Ruffin helped to bridge the gap left by his departure. Group members continued to come and go and their initial line-up was supplemented by some of Jamaica's most accomplished vocalists including Morvin Brooks, Bobby Davis, Pat Kelly, Junior Menz, Lloyd Parks, Jackie Parris, Jimmy Riley, "Johnny from Johnny & The Attractions" and Dave Barker who "sang quite a few songs for the Techniques".

Born David Crooks in the Kingston ghetto of Franklyn Town 10th October 1948, Dave Barker is beyond question one of Jamaica's most impassioned, soulful singers who has neither received rightful recognition nor reparation, for his inestimable contribution to the worldwide popularity of reggae music.

"I tend to stutter when I speak. It's all gone when I sing and, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, some guys and me decided to form a group in Franklyn Town. We were rehearsing in this big yard down on York Street. Glenmore Brown lived next door and he spotted my voice and approached me: 'Would I like to team up with him?' He was intrigued by my voice and we joined forces. His name was made as he's made a few records already. My first record was with Glenmore and he went to see a friend of our, Tommy Cowan, who was friends with Coxsone to get us starting work with Coxsone. We went to Studio One and started! Our first song was a cover of Arthur Conley's 'Love Got Me'."
Dave Barker

Dave also found employment in Coxsone's record pressing plant on Brentford Road alongside Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan from the Heptones.

"I was beginning to make a family for myself. Dodd gave me the job. I'd done some songs and I didn't have any money so I approached him one evening to ask for some bread. I said 'can you help me out with some cash?' and he looked in his pocket and pulled out a pound or two and said 'don't you ever make this mistake again'. This was my first harsh experience."
Dave Barker

But it certainly did not prove to be his last and Dave continued to keep on making that same mistake again and again as he tried to build a career for himself as a recording artist. He grew increasingly frustrated working at Brentford Road and a chance meeting outside Randy's Record Mart on North Parade proved to be his next big break.

"One night myself and Glenmore were walking past Randy's and this green and black Jaguar drew up in front. 'It's Scratch's... Lee Perry'. Everyone was all excited boosting the man so myself and Glenmore followed them upstairs. I found the darkest corner of the studio to sit. They were recording 'Slip Away' with Busty Brown but Busty couldn't get the vibe. 'Make we done now 'cause Busty Brown can't get into the song' and someone said 'Try Dave, man!' and, of course, they said 'Who's Dave?' So Scratch came out and said 'You feel you can handle the track?' It was 'Prisoner Of Love', and when I finished voicing the track Scratch was jumping up and down in the air and asking where did I come from? Vincent Chin (the proprietor of Randy's Records and Studio 17) said 'Dave... are you from the States?'"
Dave Barker

Throughout 1969 and 1970 Dave worked with Scratch on a number of releases alternating between singing and deejaying including the stupendous 'Shocks Of Mighty'.

"Bunny Lee and Scratch used to share rhythms... 'Shocks Of mighty' was made by Striker Lee as 'Hook Buttoo' or 'Buttoo Girl'. Scratch was short of rhythm so he passed it on to Scratch  and he's a guy who moves spontaneously so that night... 'make we go to Randy's and do some work'. Errol Thompson (engineer at Randy's Studio 17) ran the track. i go up to the mic and couldn't get the vibe at all. Scratch get vexed, take off the tape and start to cuss. I was vexed too but he stormed out of the studio. The next week he decided to go back into the studio with me and Jimmy riley. Errol Thompson ran the tape and from he span it I moved right up to the mic with 'It seems I was born to love you!' Scratch draw off him hat! I can't believe it was the same Scratch."
Dave Barker

Dave did not frequent dances and regards himself as a singer first and foremost, "but the true Dave Barker fans know me as a singer", and is adamant that his deejay debut happened by accident; his treatment of the 'Hook Buttoo'/'Buttoo Girl' rhythm track introduced the record buying public to Dave Barker the deejay.

"I never deejayed on a sound system... I was always a homely person. I do not go and see shows. One of the reasons I wasn't successful was because I locked myself away too much. Someone asked 'Dave, can you deejay?' (and Scratch replied) 'Dave can do any damn thing man!' So I said: 'This is upsetting! Shocks of mighty! Hit me back!' It just came out."
Dave Barker

'Shocks Of Mighty', credited to the Upsetters', was released in the UK through Trojan on Scratch's own Upsetter imprint and also through the Palmer Brothers on their Punch subsidiary as 'Shock Of Might (Hit Me Back)' actually credited to 'Dave Barker', but listing Ranny Williams as producer. Dave had previously auditioned at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio but, completely overawed by the situation, he had been unable to voice an update of Billy Bland's 1960 hit, 'Let The Little Girl Dance'. His next visit to Duke's Bond Street studio, accompanied by Scratch, would produce one of the most important records in Jamaican musical history. 'Lock Jaw', with Dave deejaying over a tense, tight funk based rhythm that built up, came to a halt, built up and stopped again and again. Not only did the record return Duke Reid to the upper echelons of the Jamaican charts but it was also one of the first ever records to presage the direction, dub and deejays, which would dominate the music for the remainder of the century. 'Lock Jaw' was a Number One hit in Jamaica  where it was credited to 'Upsetter, Tommy McCook & The Supersonics' on Treasure Isle and a huge hit on the reggae charts in England on Trojan where it was credited to 'Tommy & The Upsetters'. Dave Barker's name never got a mention but...

"Duke treated me nice. One time after 'Lock Jaw' he said 'Dave. Don't move' and he went behind the desk in the liquor store and gave me a bundle... this thick... of pure five shilling notes and he wanted me to do a next tune."
Dave Barker

Instead he did 'a next tune' with Winston Riley who had inaugurated the Techniques label with his brother Buster two years previously. Late in 1969 deejay records had started to exert a vice-like grip on Kingston's musical arena through a number of pioneering releases from King Stitt for Clancy Eccles and U-Roy for Duke Reid, and Winston Riley decided the time was right to enter the fray.

"It came from U-Roy. U-Roy used to have a lot of hits and I said to myself what could I do to make something? This idea came to me... it was Joe Gibbs' old studio in Duhaney Park. As a producer you try things sometimes and it doesn't really work... you just try to create something. Try a thing! Even I was surprised by the success."
Winston Riley

In 1970 Winston asked Dave Barker, who he thought "had a sound like an American... Dave Barker was more like a Yankee and he reminded me of a soul singer", to deejay on a rhythm track produced by Ansel Collins and Sly Dunbar and inspired by two American records: 'The Funkie Moon' by Smokie Johnson & Company on Intrepid and 'Party time' by Ramsey Lewis on Cadet. the resulting release, 'Double Barrel', was credited to Dave & Ansel Collins on Winston's Wind label in Jamaica and on his recently established outlet with Trojan Records. In August 1970, the recording became the second release on the London-based Techniques label and, after over six months of exposure in clubs and dance halls, 'the second Jamaican single (and the first record by a Jamaican deejay) to top the UK National Charts where it remained for two weeks in the Spring of 1971. 'Double Barrel' also reached just outside the Top Twenty on the USA Billboard Hot 100 too and went on to top the Canadian and Mexican Charts later that year.

And, from initially being colleagues in the studio, Dave Barker and Ansel Collins now became a live act, uniting for a promotional tour of the UK and Europe. Winston Riley reminisced that he was the "singer, arranger, manager... everybody" on the tour and Dave reckoned that many concert goers were "surprised to hear me sing!". A rapidly recorded follow up single 'Monkey Spanner', was released featuring Ansel on the Hammond organ, a dash of wah-wah guitar and Dave proclaiming "this is the heavy heavy monster sound". The single, again released by Trojan on its Techniques subsidiary, reached Number Seven in the UK National Charts in the summer of that year and took even Winston Riley by surprise.

"The follow up was something similar but in a different style... as long as you had an idea!"
Winston Riley

The 'Double Barrel' album, released to tie-in with their Number One hit, was an excellent showcase for Ansel Collins' organ instrumentals, Dave Barker's deejay tracks, and some beautiful vocal tracks with Dave singing lead with the Techniques. The LP subsequently spent a disappointing two weeks in the UK National Charts before disappearing from view because by that time, and for the time being, the record-buying public had decided that reggae had had its time. The bonus tracks on this superb compilation build on the same excellent format demonstrating Dave and Ansel's versatility and Winston Riley's production prowess. unfortunately, similar international success for Dave Barker, Ansel Collins and Winston Riley was never to be repeated and the pair parted company as a stage act soon afterwards.

Ansel Collins continued his career as one of Kingston's most accomplished session musicians and musical arrangers and played a key role in defining the mid-seventies sound of reggae, alongside Sly Dunbar, as a member of the Hookim Brother's Channel One house band, the Revolutionaries. His skills were continually in demand and his stubborn 'Stalag 17/18' instrumental, released on Romax by Riley in 1973, has inspired countless versions including USA hip hop covers and was played by Bob Marley & The Wailers on their 1980 'Uprising' tour as the introductory theme to their concerts.

In 1972, using the money he had earned from his international hits, Winston Riley opened his Techniques Record shop at 2 Chancery Lane off North Parade in Kingston. One of the guiding lights of Jamaican music he used his wealth of musical experience and uncompromising business acumen to produce a series of hit records that continued to lead, rather than follow, the ever-changing fashions in reggae music. In 1993, he relocated into new state of the art premises at 99 Orange Street and in 2008 started to expand his shop into a recording studio and Jamaican musical museum. Sadly, it was not to be, according to the Jamaican Observer of 20th January 2012 Winston "had been plagued by a series of violent attacks. He was shot in August last year and later stabbed five times in September. He was shot in the back of the head in November and was in a coma since he was attacked". Winston Riley never recovered after the November shooting and died in hospital in Kingston on 19th January 2012.

Dave Barker has remained a neglected figure, too often written out of the histories of the music, regarded as a one/two hit wonder and even a peripheral figure. Nothing could be further from the truth and although deejaying was not his trade he reached the kind of audience with his talkovers that many more celebrated chatters who followed after him could only ever dream about.  he is able to look back without bitterness or rancour but with a world-weary insight that eschews self-pity for the many missed opportunities and mismanagement that blighted his career.

"I think I'm allowed to say this. I've been hurt so many times by people by their exploitation of my music... the tricks of the trade. When you went into the recording studio your problems just vanished away for that time. Even when you'd finished and went home what went on kept you on a high. Then you discover that your throat is being cut. It's a pity because sometimes I was never given the chance to bring out what I have inside. That time, if given the chance, I could sing like a bird."
Dave Barker

Harry Hacks - February 2018



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