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Interview: Lloyd Parks in Kingston (Part 2)

Interview: Lloyd Parks in Kingston (Part 2)

Interview: Lloyd Parks in Kingston (Part 2)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"Your best performance, that is you"


Read part 1 of this interview

In Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Lloyd Parks he talks about joining the Revolutionaries, meeting Dennis Brown, forming We The People band, and how he has kept going strong all these years…

Lloyd Parks

People associate your Slaving rhythm with Sylford Walker on his Lambsbread album and with I Roy’s Black Man Time on a Gussie Clarke release. How did Glen Brown and Gussie Clarke get your rhythm?

You know what happened? Glen Brown didn't have anything to do with that rhythm. He used to work with some Indian people that came to Jamaica who had a jewellery store but they were interested in music. So I gave it to them to distribute because like I said in those days you'd give. And then "Send me a cut of the riddim now man?" In those days we weren't even thinking about publishing. That's how it go. He put Sylford Walker on it. I sold the rhythm. I think Gussie has a cut. And Glen Brown has a cut. I Roy ended up on the same rhythm. But that stuff belongs to us man. Me. I made them. It’s Tyrone Downie playing the organ. At that time he was a youth. In school uniform he came to the studio.

Glen Brown didn't have anything to do with Slaving

A treasured song my collection which I play out all the time - is a cover of Solomon Burke's Everybody Needs Somebody.

(Pauses to think) It’s probably a song that Slim Smith did because I used to like his style. Bunny Lee told me that Slim Smith always said to him "You see that guy? That's the only guy I fear. Because he sounds like me!" (Laughs) I think I remember that song. Everybody Needs Somebody. I think it's on the Parks label. You know I'd love to find that record? Maybe it's on YouTube. I never remembered about that song until you mentioned it.

You and the other Skin Flesh And Bones musicians started to play at Channel One when it opened in the early 70s. Why didn’t you stay in the line-up?

Channel One studio opened so we just went down there. I was the original of the Revolutionaries. But at that time I used to produce and frequently then I would go to England because of Trojan records. I used to take my tapes to England. So one of the times that I went, Ranchie started to play the bass on one of the sessions. I taught Ranchie to play guitar. I was the teacher for Ranchie McLean. And he started to play the bass and some little politics and everything. And that was how I stopped playing as the Revolutionaries.

Slim Smith always said "You see that guy? That's the only guy I fear. Because he sounds like me!"

Which tracks did you play bass on at Channel One?

Ah. Oh my goodness. There was a song called Suspicion with Delroy Wilson. I am trying to remember. Maybe some unpopular songs.

It was before Channel One got big.


So you were mainly playing for other producers – apart from Channel One’s Sunday sessions?

I was playing mainly for Joe Gibbs. Because it was like Channel One and Joe Gibbs. Who is the better producer? Channel One or Joe Gibbs? Channel One - hit song. Joe Gibbs hit song, hit song, hit song.

An early Joe Gibbs hit that you played on was Uptown Top Ranking. A number one hit in England.

Yeah, because at that time Joe Gibbs studio had just opened.

So how did you get involved with Joe Gibbs?

I don't even remember how I went over to Joe Gibbs… The engineer Errol Thompson. He used to be Randy's engineer. Or it could have been the association with Dennis Brown. When we made that big song Here I Am Baby that was the first time I was going on a tour to England. Because of that song. It was Toots and the Maytals, Cynthia Richards, Dennis Brown for the first UK tour. So when Joe Gibbs started to record Dennis Brown he said "Hire the man Lloydie on bass". I played on quite a few songs. Love's Got A Hold On Me - big hit. Money In My Pocket - big hit for Dennis Brown. Should I - big hit. Love Has Found Its Way, Inseparable and then the Foul Play album.

When Joe Gibbs started to record Dennis Brown he said "Hire the man Lloydie on bass"

When Dennis Brown got signed to A&M.

When he got signed to A&M. And he started to tour and it was a great experience with Dennis Brown.

So how did you meet Dennis Brown?

Dennis Brown was always a child star. Everybody's favourite singer. So I met the man. He used to say "Skipper, I like how you sing man!" (Laughs) But then I never took the singing seriously. I think Dennis used to do one or two little productions for himself. And he used to do stage shows and I was the band and thing. So I just liked how he worked and he liked how I work. And then we did great work together and Dennis Brown started to say "We’re not going away without you - you know?" (Laughs) So for almost 20 years I was his musical director.

How did We The People Band form?

Right after when Ranchie started playing bass at Channel One, it was 1975, so I formed We The People. And at the beginning even Sly came in and he used to assist me. But then that changed. And Horsemouth was also the drummer at one time but we didn't get popular yet. We were just putting it together. And there was another drummer called Don who played left-handed drum. But when Devon Richardson came in we found the right thing. So it was Devon Richardson, BoPee on guitar, Franklin Waul, Bubbler, Lloyd Kerr on trombone, Junior Chico Chin on trumpet. It was about five of us. And then after Dean Fraser and afterward Nambo Robinson, so we started to have a big band.

Dennis Brown started to say "We're not going away without you - you know?"

In 1980 you were joined by American guitarist Andy Bassford.

Oh Andy! We used to play at Skateland. They used to keep shows out there and I noticed every time we had a show at Skateland I’d see this white guy and he's like (mimics excited dancing). I didn't know he was a guitarist you know? And then after another show he came and said "You want me to jam with you?" I said "JAM with me?" And he said "Alright" and plugged-in his guitar (imitates this big guitar solo) and mashed up the place! I said "What?" And he said "Lloyd, man, I love reggae music man. I love it".

I gave him a chance and he was a great guy, man. Believe me man. And that's why I don't deal with white or black. I deal with good people. If you're good to me I am good to you. I am not into white and racial. I am not into that shit. He was such a dedicated band member. Even more than the Jamaicans you know? Trust me. And I love him. So he sent for his wife and she came and she started to do some work here but then she felt that she should go back to the States. She said "Andy - you've got to come. It’s either me or them". He cried, man. I watched him cry. He always talks about me on Facebook. He was a great guy and he learned reggae and he's making money from it right now in the States. Whenever they're keeping a reggae concert they always get him in New York.

I grew up with watching the DVD of Dennis Brown at Montreux festival where his yellow dungarees match Devon’s yellow drumkit and Chinna Smith plays with the band. Dennis’ voice goes a little hoarse during Money In My Pocket but the bass playing is mad – especially on Wolves and Leopards.

What I notice with Dennis Brown was as if he came on stage and he was hoarse he'd sing it away! I have never seen anything like that. Like he’s hoarse and the more he’d sing it would go away. Most people it would come. He was good at that.

I don't deal with white or black. I deal with good people

What about your memories of Dennis as a person?

Great guy. I never saw him vexed. If we were to go to the airport and Dennis missed a flight or Dennis was late and I was like (angry voice) "Where is the big man there?" He would say "Okay my big brother. I messed up my big brother." You couldn't be vexed with him. You couldn't be vexed with Dennis Brown.

Tell me about your first time playing at Sunsplash.

There were so many Sunsplash. A whole heap. What happened was, from the inception of Sunsplash they came for Lloyd Parks and We The People band. And it goes on and on and on. I think I may be missed only about two Sunsplash of all the series. And then with Sumfest the same thing - they came from my band. Because my band was the band that was very rounded and could back up any artists.

There were some significant Sunsplash man. There was one in Crystal Palace. I will always remember that one. Prince Buster was on that show. Black Uhuru and Leroy Sibbles. These are just a few. I can't remember them all. And it was a good recording as well. A live recording. The two I remember doing were Montreux and that live recording in Crystal Palace - Splashing In The Palace they called it.

In the 80s a lot of musicians started needing to tour more when recording sessions went digital. Looking at all the awards you having your room it seems like you still got plenty of work in Jamaica. Was it tough then?

Lloyd ParksIt affected every musician including myself. Because people were doing less. Our thing was really live recording so it affected me for a little while too. I was always trying to do something different. I had a record store and I had a PA system so I had a lot of other part-time stuff. But it really affected us. The live music had declined for a while. But what I see is happening now is everybody's going back into live recording. Because that's the one - because digital is like disposable. Everybody is coming back to the authentic stuff.

But you kept going and you picked up all these awards over the years. You've got the Order Of Distinction.

And that was really for being a musician. Jamaica recognised me. When I got the call one morning from the Prime Minister I said "What the hell is this? What have I done?" And then somebody came on and said "Look here, you're not going to say a word but this is what is happening". I was just overwhelmed for the whole day. I will tell you something too. At that time I was even the musical director for Dennis Brown and they didn't honour him you know? So I was saying "Boy, this is really special to me. This is worth more than gold man!"

A lot of musicians of your generation who I've interviewed say things were very good back then but things are very hard now. You seem to be very busy these days and when We The People Band plays you always get to sing Officially before the artist comes on. There is a respect and love for you in the industry. What's your secret?

That's true - that is true. If I'm going to do music and I'm not going to do it to the best of my ability then I don't do it. That is why my band could go out there and back up any of these vintage artists. But we always rehearse still - although we can do it. That is one of the secrets you know? Because I always say "Your best performance, that is you". So you always have to make it good.

But I think I've gained a lot of respect out there as a singer and a bass player. Whenever I go anywhere and perform people are like "Yeah!" - although I wouldn't say I was a significant artist like "This is a featured artist". But I would get that respect. When I went to Japan the first time there were some guys with the Termites album saying "Could you write this?" And I was saying "Where did you get that album from?" (Laughs) So I really give thanks for that and I appreciate all of these people. My fans. Because it means a lot to me you know?

You've had to deal with some difficult things in your life. The loss of your son and the loss of Dennis. How did you cope? How did you carry on?

Boy, that's when I realised how strong I was you know? Especially when my son died. My son had a heart condition. He was living in the States and he would come to Jamaica with that problem. It is very expensive in Jamaica. In the States you could get through. But he came to Jamaica with that problem. I spent all my life savings to save his life. I reached the point that I wanted to mortgage the house. And that's how it opened me up that I got to know who I am. Because I reached the stage where I was saying "My house - mortgage it?" That's what I was going to do. And God steps in. True. It was like a miracle. People were saying "If you don't do this he's going to die". And it was like God turned it around man. Seriously. Serious experience. And I made back that money in two months. Because of the Almighty testing me and put me back in the position. Seriously.

So that is one of my great testimonies. And that is why I always believe in the Almighty. The Creator. And I try to live clean, love for each other – because there is one thing they say "Clean hands and pure in heart shall receive the Almighty". "Do unto others as you will have them do to you". And I believe in that. Because that slices out a big slice of the 10 Commandments. I am really a God-fearing man. But when I say God-fearing I don't fear God. I fear to do the wrong things!

Let’s talk about your 2016 album – Lloyd Parks Sings Techniques.

The last project was really Lloyd Parks Sings Techniques. Featuring Big Youth. We did a combination with one track. But how we started back the Techniques was there was a show called Rocksteady Reunion. I think it was in the mid-90s. And three former lead singers Pat Kelly, Johnny Johnson and Lloyd Parks and people loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it. But Johnny Johnson migrated and it just declined! (Laughs)

So I decided I would do an album called Lloyd Park sings Techniques. And that was really my last production. I have two albums out that I have compiled with quite a few songs from over the years. You can listen to them because I want to get them on vinyl too.

There was also a Pressure Sounds compilation released last year – Time Ago Dread.

The Pressure Sounds did an album for me. And it was at number 15 on the Billboard reggae. These songs came out a long time ago and they compiled them together. And they chose the songs and said "These songs" including Mafia and Slaving and all those songs. They really had a great vision and it's working.

You're also featured on the recent Inna De Yard project singing acoustic versions of Slaving and your song Money For Jam. How did you join that project?

These guys - they wanted to get me to do some stuff for them for years. And they chose the songs that they wanted me to do when I said "Alright. Let's do it and see what comes out of it".

Do you have any live shows coming up?

I did one last weekend. Red Rose for Gregory. I did Errol Dunkley's birthday and the reggae month with Dennis Brown. I have done three in February so far.

Are you busy at the moment? What are you working on in studio?

Yes, very busy. Sessions and different projects. What is happening now is I am just trying to do some songs. Not necessarily love songs because I realise that the songs that stand out are the everyday life and more culture stuff. That's what stands out for me so that's what I'm doing.

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