Jimmy Radway & The Fe Me Time All Stars - Dub I
Back To Africa
Hell And Sorrow
The Best Big Youth Version
This Child Of Mine Version
Dub Is My Desire
Black I Am
The Great Tommy McCook
Wicked Have To Feel It
|Jimmy Radway is a real
producer who "produced all the way" and who overcame a multiplicity of
difficulties to make records that were a labour of love from start to
finish. Jimmy really knew music but he also got to know how the music
business 'worked'. For a short time, in the early to mid seventies, a
number of Jimmy Radway's records outsold those of far more celebrated
names from the period but the absence of respect and financial reward
and the duplicity of much of the music business eventually proved too
much for his creative and original talent. He decided to retire and to
retreat to the tranquility of the countryside where he still resides.
His legacy is a collection of classic roots reggae seven inch singles
and one long lost long playing masterpiece of dub entitled 'Dub I'.
There can be little doubt that if 'Dub I' had had the benefit of an
international release in 1975 that it would now occupy a place in that
exclusive category of essential dub albums.
Ivan Lloyd Radway was born on 5th January 1947. "My right name is Ivan Lloyd Radway but in school I grew up signing the middle name. When I was getting a passport a set of family from America told me Lloyd is a very bad name!" However he became known as Jimmy Radway. His mother came from St. Elizabeth and his father, who was a school teacher, came from the parish of St. Ann but Jimmy grew up in the downtown Kingston ghetto area of Jones Town. As a child he sang in a Salvation Army church and it was on a Sunday School outing to Montego bay in September 1957 that Jimmy was involved in the infamous Kendal Train Crash. There were nearly sixteen hundred people on the train for the return journey to Kingston and, as it approached Kendal, Manchester, it derailed at top speed and plummeted over a precipice. Over two hundred and fifty people died and more than seven hundred were injured, Jimmy was fortunate enough to be one of the survivors but he lost a leg in the worst railway accident in Jamaica's history.
Undeterred, Jimmy continued with his schooling and, in his holidays, began to train as an upholsterer with "a dread brother called 'Stick'. He was tall and slim and that's why they called him 'Stick'". In 1962 Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd purchased The End nightclub at 13 Brentford Road and began to convert the club into the Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio which would become universally known as Studio One. An upholsterer friend of Jimmy's secured the contract to refurbish the club at the rear of 13 Brentford Road and while working with him at Studio One Jimmy was introduced to Coxsone. Mr. Dodd "was kind enough to let me sit in the studio while the Skatalites rehearsed. They were testing out the studio and I was always in the studio listening to what they were trying to do " and Jimmy recalls sitting at the feet of Don Drummond while he played his trombone. This had a mesmerising effect on Jimmy and he consequently resolved to "push the upholstery and deal with the music". Due to his injuries Jimmy did not feel confident about stage work and felt "he could not perform live" so he started to write songs for others to sing and would sing his songs for them. This was the beginning of Jimmy Radway's journey along the long and difficult road as a record producer.
"At that point I did not know music per se. I was just a writer." Jimmy Radway
Jamaican society adhered to a rigid class system in the early sixties but in 1962 Jimmy's creative talents were recognised as being of a high enough standard for him to enrol at the renowned Jamaica School of Art. This was a giant step for someone from Jimmy's poor background and, for the first time, he mixed with people from all classes of Jamaican society. Between lessons he used to sit with "a talented group of students" under an almond tree behind the school where, instead of drawing or painting, Jimmy would write poetry and songs.
"At Art School I was more drawn to poetry than painting... I used to write a lot of poetry. Poetry and words could convey my feelings but I found that music was a better way of articulating myself..." Jimmy Radway
It was during this time that Jimmy also took part in many of the informal but formative rehearsals in the ghetto yards of Jones Town and Denham Town alongside luminaries such as Alton Ellis and Ken Boothe where the lyrics, melodies and harmonies of many of the era's greatest songs were first tested and performed. His first foray into record production was in partnership with Tony McKinley who had worked with Prince Buster and Teddy Charmers voiced 'I Want It girl' at West Indies Records Limited for Tony and Jimmy. tony McKinley then licensed the record to Lee Gopthal for release on Blue Cat in the UK but omitted to tell Jimmy. Jimmy only discovered this transaction when he sent a copy of the tape to London and it was returned with a duplicate of the receipt that indicated that they had purchased the song... "they done buy the record already!"
"Tony McKinley who worked for Prince Buster was responsible for taking the tape of the W.I.R.L. record and he sold it to Lee Gopthal without my knowledge. I was coming into it and I never knew the business part of it." Jimmy Radway
This early experience of the machinations of the music business proved to be a premonition of much that was to follow in Jimmy's artistically rewarding but financially frustrating career... it was one step forward, two steps backwards with every move he ever made. Yet despite this initial setback Jimmy persevered and in 1972 he decided to set up his own label which he named Fe Me Time.
"I got the idea from the radio when the radio jocks would say 'Lee Perry Time' or 'Bunny Lee Time' and I was constantly being told it's not your time yet. I was tired to hear about that man's name so it was a play on that." Jimmy Radway
A man named C. Lloyd Gentles operated a company that imported lumber based in the same Denham Town street where Jimmy lived. The altruistic Mr. Gentles had noticed jimmy's ambition and ability to motivate people when he had helped to establish the Wellington United Youth Club in their neighbourhood. He first proposed that Jimmy managed a small woodwork company on his behalf but Jimmy declined and explained that he wanted to make music. Mr. gentles gave Jimmy one hundred pounds to establish Fe Me Time: "In those days if a man gave you £100 it was a big thing, big money". Jimmy "started to go back to my book of writing" where he had written a song about a young girl he knew from the Tivoli Gardens district. Dire family circumstances had already forced many of her neighbours into prostitution but "she was such a beauty who tried to hold her head high", Jimmy's heroine had to work hard to continue with her schooling and to keep on the straight and narrow path and he called this poor girl his 'Black Cinderella'.
"'Black Cinderella' was inspired by the spirit of the times and the black consciousness movement that was then very popular... a black Cinderella waiting for her black prince. I originally wanted Dennis Brown to record it but Dennis told me that he would have to wait nine months or so as he was tied up with Joe Gibbs and Niney The Observer. I was introduced to Errol Dunkley and went up to meet him at the corner of North Street by Denham Town School and we had a rehearsal on the street corner. The song was a little bit high for Errol's pitch but we decided to do it anyway." Jimmy Radway
The debut release on Fe Me Time with the label printed by "Lloyd at the corner of Orange Street and North Street was a resounding Number One hit on both R.J.R. and J.B.C. radio stations in Jamaica. "Trust me! I never pay a cent in payola". For a time it really did look as if it was going to be Jimmy Radway's time.
"Fe Me Time was a bit of a joke at first. it amused everybody. But when the hits started..." Jimmy Radway
The popularity of 'Black Cinderella' was consolidated by two further versions of the rhythm featuring two of the most in demand up and coming artists on the scene: Augustus Pablo with 'Cinderella In Black' and Big Youth's 'The Best Big Youth'. Jimmy had been going to dances held by the mighty Lord Tippertone Sound and had been particularly impressed when Wong Chu handed the mic to a new deejay named Manley Buchanan who was known as Jah Youth. The Youth voiced his deejay cut immediately after Errol's vocal at Dynamic's Studio B. The result, 'The Best Big Youth', was Big Youth's second record and one that helped to alert the public to his phenomenal talents. Jimmy and Errol would later record the brooding 'Keep The Pressure Down' a song that evoked the relentless drive and steamy atmosphere of Kingston's downtown districts.
Jimmy returned to Dynamic with Hortense Ellis for the lachrymose 'Hell & Sorrow' and, once again, Big youth deejayed the rhythm and 'Tribulation' demonstrated just how much the Youth's confidence in the recording studio had improved in the interim.
"I like the B Studio at Dynamic. It had been built for Roberta Flack to use but that never came off and so it became popular with the local Jamaican producers. it was more for us than A Studio." Jimmy Radway
Jimmy was no dilettante and in his role of producer, arranger and writer "I would mostly have the song written already" he combined the knowledge he had gained at Art School with the experiences of his ghetto background. He also "played a bit of keyboard and used that to compose... I loved Tommy McCook who taught me a lot about music. he had a way with him. You had to respect him" and Jimmy always referred to Tommy McCook as 'The Great Tommy McCook'. Together with Cedric Brooks Tommy "was responsible for playing a lot of the horns and showing me so much about music. I was listening to a lot of jazz... John Coltrane in particular" and all Jimmy Radway's releases demonstrate his tireless work on the horn lines. The management at Dynamic was so impressed with his abilities that a distribution agreement was arranged and a number of his productions were released on Mr. Lee's Jaguar and Lion subsidiaries. However the deal failed to come up to Jimmy's expectations and he moved on to work in Randy's Studio 17 "I also liked Randy's..." on North Parade.
"I always liked Leroy Smart's voice" and Jimmy was convinced that they could establish a working relationship. Sitting together on Parade on day Leroy asked Jimmy to write a song for him. "Father... write a music for me now man!" Their initial recording was 'Mother Liza' where the fearsome voice of Mr. Smart was backed by Bobby Ellis and Richard 'Dirty Harry' Hall who "brought back a slow ska into the hook". The pair then went on to record the bombastic 'Mr. Smart' and the reflective 'Mirror Mirror' and his Fe Me Time recordings established Leroy Smart as one of the foremost vocalists of his generation.
The next move was to Micron Records a forward thinking company who "facilitated the production and manufacture of music, promoted it and raised the profile and highlighted the work of some of Kingston's most progressive producers".
"Micron paid for whatever it took to get someone going... if they needed direction or had stalled and when I went there it became the vehicle for doing much more within the business..." Pete Weston
Micron's Pete Weston felt that the direction Jimmy needed to move in was towards dub music for Fe Me Time had by now accumulated an enviable catalogue of some of the heaviest roots rhythms ever built. Dub was in its infancy in 1975 and Pete saw the potential in a collection of remixed Fe Me Time rhythm tracks although Jimmy was not so sure about the project.
"Dub I was mixed at Joe Gibbs by Errol T... All mixed in a day. I did not have a great deal of hopes for it and only did it because Pete Weston constantly pushing me to do it. Pete was always a good business man and ahead of his time. Unfortunately Micron folded shortly after they pressed a few hundred copies. So I really did not have any high expectations about the record." Jimmy Radway
If 'Dub I' had enjoyed the backing of the Micron Music promotion machine working at full strength it would now be regarded as a dub classic due to its powerful rhythms, driving horns and Errol T's sympathetic and restrained mixing. But the timing of the release of 'Dub I' was completely wrong and only three hundred copies were pressed in the dying days of Micron Music.
While working with Micron Jimmy had set up the Capricorn Rising label "I liked the name as I am a Capricorn" and one of the first releases was Leroy Smart's 'Happiness Is My Desire' a new arrangement of 'Mr. Smart'. The opening track of this album 'Black Rights' is a reworking of the most important release on the Capricorn Rising label: Desmond Young's chilling 'Warning', Jimmy knew Desmond through his work as an agricultural officer and was amazed to see him fronting The Caribs Band one night at a show at the Sheraton Hotel, Jimmy was so moved that he brought the entire band to Randy's Studio 17 to record 'Warning'.
"'Warning' was recorded at Randy's with The Caribs with a guitarist from Trinidad who worked with Byron Lee but I arranged it." Jimmy Radway
The song was written by Desmond and arranged by Jimmy with the torrid horn lines provided by Bobby Ellis, Vin Gordon and Richard Hall. Big Youth, by now at the height of his recording career, used the rhythm for one of his finest ever outings 'Wolf In Sheep's Clothing' which continued over two different versions. This profound and prophetic music summed up all that is good and true about roots reggae music, but 'Warning' was to be Jimmy's last hit record. By this stage he had become thoroughly disillusioned with the music business. His label had achieved a number of major hits and enhanced any number of artist's reputations but Jimmy never seemed able to make enough money to survive and, rather than continue his frustrating journey, he walked away.
"But.. a so life go." Jimmy Radway
The voracious music business needed his vision and creativity far more than the diffident Jimmy Radway needed the music business. His Fe Me Time and Capricorn Rising labels could never be termed prolific, but every release was a classic in its own right, and this album is the ideal place to start investigating his superb 'downtown' music. Perhaps an international release of 'Dub I' in the mid seventies would have secured and ensured Jimmy Radway's reputation for ever but, over thirty years later, it is finally been given a belated official release through Pressure Sounds. It's never too late... and right now is the right time for Fe Me Time.
Harry Wise - September 2008
|All material © Copyright Pressure Sounds|