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Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 2)

Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 2)

Interview: Clive Hunt in Kingston (Part 2)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"I produce, I arrange, I go home"

Sampler

Read part 1 of this interview

In Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Clive Hunt, he explains how he became a producer in his own right, and why he had to leave Jamaica for New York…

Clive Hunt

Didn’t you also join Byron Lee around this time?

When I was a soldier I joined Byron Lee. Every time I read anywhere [about me] I see Byron Lee. It was never important… Being with Byron Lee. When I joined the Byron Lee organisation, actually I was in the Army, it's kind of sensitive you know, but I had gone AWOL. I went AWOL and I started to do sessions everywhere, people watching out for soldiers, every studio I go, Duke Reid, everybody would pay somebody to watch in case any military police were coming. Byron Lee sent for me and said he wanted me to play in the band because he had a steady gig. Four nights a week and then he would tour every so often. So he said "Join the band" and I said "I am wanted". But he said "I know - no worry about it" so I joined the band working for a short time and we went on tour. Notice that you don't see me on the road with musicians and I am a musician first. Because I went on tour, two tours and I said "No, no more of this".

Why didn’t you want to tour?

(Sighs) It's too much discomfort. When I was working with Byron Lee, Duke Reid, Derrick Harriott, all of them, Dennis Brown, blah blah blah, I was still playing music for the Jamaican Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. So I felt good about that. I didn't care about money like musicians now. You see Monty who just walked out? He said if he had money he'd never tour again. But it's only now that I am over 60 that I say I want money. Just to make sure that if I become 70 I don't have to come to the studio and beg for money. But I didn't care about money back then. I was a Rastaman pickney.

So the first tour I did with Byron Lee when I was not into touring, Byron Lee said we were going to go to Canada and tour. He told us they were going to work on Sunday so they were going to leave on Friday go to Miami and drive me to Canada. In those days it wasn't 24 hours it was more like 48 hours. And they weren't stopping in a hotel. They were going to drive, stay on the bus, sleep, buy food on the way. And I used to hear about the southern part of America and I decided I wasn't going to drive any bus through Florida State, Georgia…

Any band I joined I became important

Segregated states.

So I told Byron Lee "I will tell you what - leave me off the tour". But once I joined the band, any band I joined I became important. I just know more music than a lot of people around me. So the band depended on me. If a foreign singer came I would get the music and I would write it out, rehearse the band and write out the horn parts and give them to the horn players and make sure they knew their parts. I wasn't even the band leader but I was getting the same money as the band leader. You can print that. Neville Hines. He was the band leader. He never knew I was getting the same pay as him! Byron said don't tell him! I was getting the same pay as the band leader from the first day I joined the band. But I was doing extra. So when Byron Lee said we were going to go to Miami and drive I said "No".

So I decided not to go and Byron said "Boy, we made big plans!" So I said "The only way it's gonna work if I go to Toronto with you, I have get to fly to Canada". And he bowed. He said yes. The band left on the Friday drove up to Toronto and they pick me up at the airport! They were matched up. They had to start the tour! Two shows that same night. So I met them at the airport and said "Why they look so? What happened?" Byron Lee was there with his wife and his wife apparently disliked me instantly! She was like "This boy…"

So I'm just giving you the little Byron Lee episode. I am not really proud of it. It is always on the Internet all about me and Byron Lee. The only thing I was proud about, about Byron Lee was that he was a staple person in the reggae music industry and I am on the cover of one of his albums. I bet you don't know that. I am on the jacket of one of the albums.

Which album?

One of his albums. I think somebody posted it on Facebook and I saw it and I saved it somewhere. So I was with Byron Lee doing two shows a night and I didn't like the system. 17 players and when you come out of your hotel room you see 17 plates of pork. I am a Rastaman so I don't eat pork. I never eat pork. And I am always saying, "Listen, I was a prisoner." I tell him "I was a prisoner in Stony Hill. I went to boys prison, joined the army and now Byron Lee's band. And even in prison you don't give everybody pork. You have a choice."

Byron Lee didn't like that. So we had a disagreement and I asked to go home. And I came home and ended up right in the military jail! (Laughs) Because Byron Lee and them just called the military and told them I was coming and they pick me up right at the airport. They approach me from behind. And they walked me right to jail. That was it. And that was my episode apparently. Nothing more. So I'm not proud of that.

I hate to say that I started to work with Byron Lee - me and Tyrone and a lot of other people were working before Byron Lee. I was working with In Crowd band, Hells Angels band. That was the first band. In fact, they were the ones who took me out of the army. I was playing Beethoven. I was a little boy but I was conducting the band every day. The bandmaster would sit down and watch me and say "Clive Hunt, practice Beethoven's fifth with the band". I would go in there even with men who were my grandfather and I will be there conducting and directing. So those things are more important to me than the Byron Lee episode. I want you to write that.

Let's talk about how you got involved with In Crowd and how you made Milk and Honey. I believe you played it all and they didn't play anything?

I didn't play everything but I played almost everything. It wasn't anything about them. It was just… Okay, my first record I ever produced was Milk and Honey. I was trying to train myself to be a producer but because I was helping Geoffrey and the guys so much.

Mikey Boo, the drummer, Michael Richards, we lived together. I lived with him and his wife and his mother and brother. His wife was Robbie Lynn’s sister! (Laughs) He was always telling me "Clive, you can produce". I said "No" but he said "You can produce!" He wanted to prove to me that I could produce so he decided he was going to give me the money. He gave me 1000 Jamaican dollars and told me to do a session, go book the studio, buy the tape, pay for everything, press records but he said to give me confidence that I shouldn't hire any of the guys. Because if I hired any of the guys everybody would feel as if the guys had made it.

So I went to Duke Reid’s studio with Errol Brown because me and Errol Brown always worked together. I booked the studio, bought a tape. I gave one guy who played in the band, he is dead now, he used to work with Tyrone and he used to work with Bob a lot, his name is Mikey Murray. I gave him money to buy tyres for his car so he could transport me around. Anyway, we had a falling out and he wasn't on the session. So when I went to the studioI didn't have a song in there now, I just told the singer which I liked, Lee Scratch Perry used to produce him, his name is Bunny Gayle.

Yeah, Bunny Gayle. Great singer.

Clive HuntYeah! I never heard so much from him after that. I haven't seen him since about ’74 or ’75. But Bunny Gayle I liked how he sounded. So I told Bunny Gayle I was going to do a session and he should come. Because I knew he would come with a song or we would do something together. So any way when I turned up at the studio, it was Duke Reid over in Tivoli and plenty of gunshots would fire so he never came. So I was in the studio, me and Errol Brown. And because me and Mikey [Murray] fell out I didn't have any musicians.

But anyway, when I reach the studio it's only me. There was no singer. So I just went on the piano and I just started to sing (sings bass line to Milk and Honey) and then Fish Clarke, who is Johnny Clarke's brother and I didn't even know him before, he came in and asked Errol Brown "Wha gwaan". Errol said that I was doing a session and he asked who the drummer was. We told him that we had no drummer. He volunteered to play the drums so I decided to kind of write the song quick. Quick, quick, quick. I took the bass from Duke Reid - Jackie Jackson actually made that bass famous. He was the one who configured the bass with some sponge in it and all of that.

So Fish played and I just played (sings bass-line) and we did the bass and drum. Then I played the piano. Then I went on the organ and if you listen to the organ nobody else ever did that - it was a totally different thing. If you listen to Milk and Honey nothing in reggae is like that. And when I finished that I did the horns. I played the trumpet and then I went back and I wanted to imitate the sound of a trombone. I used the trumpet with a piece of rag. (Imitates the horn sound which sounds like a trombone). Then I sang the song and Karl Pitterson came there now with BB Seaton from Gaylads. They came into the studio and saw me and liked what I was doing. Karl played the guitar and BB sang the harmony with me. And we just finished and mixed the song. I remember that that was out of the same thousand dollars. I did the stamper, the label, and I pressed a thousand copies.

And then when I went downtown to Randy's, which is VP.I had a taxi to take me with a thousand records. I went in with 50 records, two boxes of 25. So I went to Miss Pat and I said "Everybody can know that I produced now". She told me to give her so I gave her two copies from two boxes with only 50 records. Remember I have 950 records in a taxi outside, I don't know this taxi man and I have to pay him. When she heard the record she told me to give her 25 on consignment. I didn't know what consignment was. I didn't know what the word meant. So I went outside and I asked the gate man, the security guy what consignment meant. And he said "Whenever it sells you get paid".

So I went back in and said to Miss Pat "Give me the records!" And I walked to Joe Gibbs next door! So I go to Joe Gibbs’ wife and she told me the same thing so I just took the records. Now at that time in Jamaica there were four distributors of reggae records. Randy’s, Joe Gibbs, record specialist in crossroads where GG, you hear about GG?

Yeah.

GG bought it. And there was one more I can't remember. But I was so upset and Miss Pat at Randy's knew me and Joe Gibbs’ wife knew me because I did a little work for them but then the other people didn't really know me. So I decided I wasn't going to stop anywhere so I was stuck with a thousand records but I was very angry.

So it was a Friday evening, I remember, and I drove up to Aquarius where all of the sound system people would buy. It was full all the time. So I went to Aquarius with the same taxi man and when I went in there with the two boxes of records. I just walked up with the boxes of records and Herman Chin Loy who owns the record shop - we were friends too because we used to do a lot of work for him. He knew I was finally producing a song.

So when I went in he said "Clive! Record that?" I said "Yeah". He said "What happened to you?" And I said "Nothing" because I thought he was going to tell me the same foolishness. So he said "Let me have it" and he took the two boxes and he took out to records and he had two turntables and he put them on it and he started playing them! When the intro came in I saw everybody in the shop say "Give me one of that!" And he said "Clive, how much do you have?" I said "A thousand". He said "Sell me".

Friday evening he bought the thousand records and he paid me cash. Then Monday morning at 5:30 in the morning he came to my house and knocked on my door and woke me up at the window. I said "Herman! What happened?" He said "I want a thousand more records!" And Herman, every other day from that day, I will tell you Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday - a thousand copies. And he bought 10,000 copies from me.

And then Geoffrey Chung contacted me and told me that the record was selling so much that I couldn't handle it so I should give it to a distributor. I respected Geoffrey and anything he said. Anything he said was like law to me. Except when it came onto music! He told me about Tommy Cowan because Tommy Cowan had the Talent Corporation and he had Inner Circle and all of these people. He told me that Tommy wanted to distribute the record. So I gave him and that was the last of it. I never heard anything again!

So how come it had In Crowd as the artist name?

Now, the In Crowd name came by because I was in In Crowd band. And I was recording and I was always encouraging In Crowd to record. But In Crowd never recorded.

They were like a club dance band.

Yes, club and dance and play. And I had a problem with that because (laughing) I will tell you something - Robbie Lynn was a part of Now Gen, Mikey Boo was a part of Now Gen and Mikey Chung who was in and out of In Crowd was a part of Now Gen. I was like an honorary part of Now Gen. And they wouldn't make a record. So I was trying to encourage them to do recording. So when I did the recording I didn't want my name to have anything to do with it. All I wanted on the record was "produced and arranged by Clive Hunt" on the thing. I didn't want my name to be on it. So I decided to put "In Crowd band". So when the record started to blow up and was playing on the radio and suddenly they were playing it at gigs and then they were talking about doing an album. A big hit album. And they put the song on it.

It was me singing. But I put In Crowd. And then one year later Errol Thompson from Joe Gibbs, ET, called me and said that he was looking for me and they would like Dennis Brown to do the song and they want the rhythm track. So I sent the rhythm track. These were eight tracks and that was it. So if you listen to the Dennis Brown one keenly you'll hear my voice. My voice is still there. They pulled my voice down and it was leaking all over and Dennis just sang the song on top of it.

I became a producer for hire

Until now until this day. I will tell you, two weeks ago I got a comment. Snoop Dogg heard Raging Fyah who just did it and Snoop sent me a thing on Facebook saying "Man, this is bad!" I was like "Eh?" And then they called me from VP two weeks later and said "Clive! You hear what Snoop said?"

But it was like the first thing I ever did, yeah. And then from that moment I became like a producer for hire. Because I was never really interested in producing - like having a label. Every now and again I dabbled but I never cared about that. To my detriment – it wasn't good for me because in the long run I realised it’s the things that you produce that make the money. I was just giving a service as a producer. Just like a man would play bass. I produce, I arrange, I go home. So that was my thing.

Tell me about the recordings you did as Lizard? Because your Jah Jah Bless I is the United Reggae photographer’s ringtone!

Don't make anybody hear! (Laughs) Yeah?

Photographer: I love that tune – it’s brilliant.

Oh my god! Let me tell you what happened. Because the Milk and Honey led up to something. The name Lizard came before that Jah Jah Bless I thing. One day when I was In Crowd band still and I got married. And we were travelling all over the country working and I have a principle. You know where I am from - Linstead Market? It's a major market where hundreds of thousands of people come there. My mother and grandmother had a principle. Market starts on Friday and ends on Saturday night. But my family, the ladies in my family they go shopping on Friday morning when the goods come fresh. They don't like it when everybody touches the thing I looked at it and put it down. You know what I'm saying? But it's more expensive! (Laughs)

So I have a habit - I give my wife money on Friday! And I gave her money on a Friday and but we went away with In Crowd to Mandeville to work and when we came back Sunday morning she woke me. We came back in town like 5 o'clock in the morning and she woke me up at seven to ask me to go to the supermarket to buy something. And I was very angry but I didn't say. I wasn't acting out with her because she wouldn't take that.

So I had to walk. Nowadays you would drive from down there. Up Red Hills Road down to Whitehall Avenue where there was a supermarket. It was a long time. So on the way walking I had the studio key for Aquarius studio in my pocket. I have a studio key for Aquarius in my pocket and I kept singing. "The peace in I". I am not a singer. I hate my voice. It’s the worst voice I ever heard. I started to sing the song - tell me if you know it (sings) "The peace in I has slowly fade away no more will I cry now that I eyes all dry". It was Satta I. You know that song? I saw a bus and I just jumped on the bus I went to the studio! (Laughs) and I started recording! Because I'm an engineer. How Stephen Stanley and Mervyn Williams and all of them came - it is me that introduced them to engineering.

I was never really interested in having a label

Really?

A whole heap of them. They don't even talk about it. That's why I don't like reggae people. You have to demand your credit you know? From them. They won't do it.

Anyway, I went to the studio and I opened the door and I started to play the song. I finished writing the song. I called Mikey Boo and he came to the studio and we recorded and Val Douglas came. If you listen to Satta I again at the end you'll hear me laughing. That was because someone walked in and saw me singing! They said "Clive! You are singing!" And I just laughed! (Laughs) Just like that!

Anyway, when the song finished, Mikey Boo had a friend who came in and heard the song. He said he liked it and he had a record shop in Brooklyn and he wants it. So I just did a quick mix myself right there. I gave it to him. I said "Don't put my name on it. Make sure my name is not attached to it". Because I wanted to be a purist in reggae. I wanted to plan my thing like an old classical arranger. I was denying all of this was a part of my thing.

Two weeks later the man called me from New York and said "Clive - there is a big radio station”. WBLS is one of the biggest stations in New York. But there was a WLIB which was the sister station and they played a lot of reggae. And a man told me that the top disc jockeys and the programme directors love the music and he wants to put it out. But it was a phone line and they said "Clive what name should I put on the record?" I am telling you how Lizard came about.

My brother who was the next brother to me he would always send messages to me and I would hear that he sings in the local competition. The government competition. And he won for the parish of Saint Catherine where Linstead is in. So I was trying to give my brother a boost. My brother's name is Willard so I said "Willard!" And he said "What? Lizard?" And I said "Yeah, Lizard!" Done. (Laughs)

Would you believe that one month later the man called me and said the song was number one in New York? It was number 1 for 18 weeks at WLIB! Then the man came and looked at me and gave me US $5000! I was like “Woy!” I said "You didn't tell anybody it was me?" He said "No". I said "Take some money!" (Laughs) Then three months later some guys came to look for me and told me that Trojan Records wanted the album. They wanted an album from me.

At that time only two songs that I produced with my name on were disclosed. I did a third song and when I turned up to the shop to give to Miss Pat again Lee Perry was in there because it was producers’ day when producers come with a new record. There was a Famine song and instrumental and I did a version. Lee Perry came and walked up to me, this little guy, and said "What's your name?" And I said "Clive" and he said "Oh, I heard about you". I said "What?"

Anyway, Trojan Records came and said they wanted me to do an album. I said "Whose album? Clive Hunt?" They said "No, Lizard!" So I said "Oh, okay". So I went to Errol Brown at Treasure Isle and I gave him some money and I did an album in one day. The Satta I Lizard album. I didn't have any songs, I didn't have any lyrics, I just went there with a couple of musicians and I had a couple of rhythm tracks. And I made a couple. And Bless I and everything it was just spontaneous. It was just like a deejay - I just sing! And for that they gave me £10,000! I couldn't even imagine that kind of money! And in Jamaica in those days they only have 50 cent notes. So you imagine £10,000 in Jamaican dollars? It was a pile of money! (Laughs) when they gave me that money I ran down to the bank! I don't remember the music!

Clive Hunt

Tell me about how you came to produce the first Abyssinians album.

Boy, everything you asked me is a story! A big story! A book. Trust me. Abyssinians is one story that needs to be told. If you have the patience and the time I will carry on talking. I was working with a company named Soundtracks Limited. Another one through Geoffrey Chung. They asked me to do some things. I did a Carl Dawkins album at Randy's. I remember I did that. And I remember I did a Max Romeo album, Open Up The Iron Gate.

A great album.

I have been reading that Max Romeo has been saying that he produced the album and Clive Hunt helped him. Max was nowhere around. He was never interested. He just wanted the money. He turned up at the studio, he'd sing a song and then he be gone. He never knew what happened afterwards. And he's selling it on his website as his own and everything. I have never received a dollar royalty of any of these records. I am telling you. Every single one of them.

But the Abyssinians album was like before the company went bankrupt and broke up. Because it was a politically based set up. They had a board meeting and I wasn't at the meeting. Apparently the Abyssinians were there with the directors. So when it came to doing the album they signed to the company and when it came about to the budget, the Abyssinians didn’t want Geoffrey Chung or none of them to produce the album. They wanted me to produce the album.

So when I went back to work on the Monday morning they said "Yo, the Abyssinians said they want the youth to produce the album". So I was happy because I had worked with them before on Yim Mas Gan at Federal which is now Tuff Gong. And I played trumpet. And whenever they would come around they'd always see me very busy with Geoffrey and like an integral part and so they knew that I knew music and they wanted me to do the work. So I said "Yeah". And there was like no money there for me but I was willing to do it.

I started to produce the album and Donald Manning, in those days he was the one who drove. He picked me up we drive around and make the plans for the session and he would prepare the songs. They were great. If we needed three songs I talk to them on the Monday and they'd say they had no songs but by Wednesday they have three songs done, all the harmonies, everything arranged.

So I did an album but while we were in the middle of the album there was a time in Jamaica when there was a political thing going on and people are running like crazy. And even the directors of the company ran and left Jamaica - gone. So that's how I ended up working with Joe Gibbs. I went there to do work for them to get studio time to finish up. Say for example if I wanted to do horns tomorrow and I need three hours. I go to Joe Gibbs studio and work and I get the studio time and maybe a little money from my pocket. So when the album finished there was only me and the Abyssinians.

But I made a few crucial mistakes. Which hurt me in music and hurt me as a Rastaman pickney.

Jacob Miller said "Clive, the man them want to kill you, you know?"

What were they?

Because Don Taylor contacted me when the album was finished and said that Chris Blackwell wanted to see me. I went to the hotel. It is closed now. But it was called the Sheraton. It was the first time I'd seen a hotel suite and all of that. I was there waiting on Chris Blackwell and every time I got up to go Don Taylor stopped me saying "No man, you are too ignorant. Come on, the boss wants to see you".

So when Chris came out he said he wanted to hear about the album and that he'd spoken to the Abyssinians but the Abyssinians had told him that I was the one who had the product, the tapes, so he would like to give it a listen and so on. So I said "Okay we drive and go down to the studio and listen". When he'd listened, listened, listened he decided to he wanted to sign the whole thing right away.

I didn't agree because first of all, it wasn't mine. I was not working for myself I was working for a company and I was working for the Abyssinians. So it was my job to deliver and to recommend him to the people. But the Abyssinians weren’t into that. They wanted the money now now now blah blah blah. So I just said to Chris I couldn't do it - I wasn't interested. Chris was willing to give us money – good, good money. The same money he gave Third World and everybody. But I turned around and asked the engineer for two dollars and took a bus and left.

And what happened was, when the album is finished one of the people from the company contacted me and asked me to make a stamper. This is a story which goes on and goes on. I almost lost my life over it. When I made the stamper, the guy said I must send it to someone who was going to pick it up who lives in Miami but that I should get a test press. I remember for about two weeks I couldn't get a test press and then Gussie Clarke was always asking me to have the first release. Because he had a business then where when a record was released to buy and sell it all over the world to all of the record shops.

Gussie, he led me down to a pressing plant and gave them the stamper to make a test press on Friday evening and it was two weeks before I got it back. And when I got it back the record was all over New York, London everywhere. It was pirated. Then Jacob Miller came to me and said "Clive, the man them want to kill you, you know?" I said "Which man" and he named one of the biggest gangsters of the day which is very famous. I don't want to talk the name. He said "He's going to kill you because of the Abyssinians album".

And you know what I did? I was never afraid. I wasn't scared. And my wife wasn't scared because she is from one of the most terrible places in Jamaica - even now. And her family and her group - it would be a big war. So I just decided, because I had a problem with the army still, I remember I had enough money to buy a ticket, I went to beg a businessman for two tickets. I had never been to New York. I begged this businessman to do two songs to him and he'd buy two tickets and he gave me US$100 and I flew to New York with me and my wife.

Anywhere that there is reggae music I could get work

I didn't know anyone in New York. I had $70 when I went to New York. I went to where all the trains run and looked and I said that I wanted to take the longest train because even though it was ’75-’76 I knew that my name was Clive Hunt, just like Tyrone Downie, and anywhere that there is reggae music I could get work. So I just took a train and I came off and I asked the man if there was a reggae shop or a reggae studio and he showed me and I saw Alla the keyboardist for Chalice and he introduced me to Bullwackie and then a whole bundle of things happened!

Read part 3 of our exclusive interview with Clive Hunt here

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