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Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 2)

Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 2)

Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 2)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"I love to sing. I'd sing 50 songs in an hour."


Read part 1 of this interview

In part 2 of our exclusive interview with Delroy Melody, he talks about his 1970s solo career, culminating in the recording of the Dread Must Be Fed album…

Delroy Melody

So after Lawrence migrated and Jacob went solo, you went solo too?

 Yeah we went our ways from Melrose School and I started to attend Kingston College. I don’t remember where Jacob was going but I know one of the times we both ended up taking courses in architectural drawing. I was doing this course at the town planning department and I think Jacob was doing a course too. He started working as an architect.

Who from the music was at KC with you?

 I remember from the music that Barry G used to be there.

Didn’t Clive Chin go there with KC White and Augustus Pablo?

 Yeah man. Augustus Pablo was there. Yes because Augustus would be 60 something now so he was there.

Did you know them then?

 No, not like that. You see even then I wasn’t like everywhere. I was in the army for a few years but I didn’t like it too much and decided to study singing more. The first attempt I made since the group split in those times was with Food Clothes And Shelter band with Jah D and Levi Williams and the bassie Robbie. This was for Mighty Clouds records. Now I used to sing with some bands now. Instead of being in the studio.

Like dance bands?

 Yeah. So I used to sing with Zap Pow. I used to sing with We The People. I helped to lead sing Sagittarius band. I was there from the beginning when Sagittarius used to play at some bars and nightclubs on Eastwood Park Road. A lot of bands. So at the time as this young artist coming up before I even recorded for Food Clothes And Shelter band I came in as a lead singer. Between 1969 and 1970 within a couple of months this was where I started to perform with the band. Before I was with Skin Flesh And Bones with Sly and Ranchie, for Dickie Wong.

Tit-For-Tat club. Redhills Road.

 Tit-For-Tat club right! Exactly. That time there were two bands there. There was Skin Flesh And Bones and Fab Five.

Sly used to treat me like a little brother

So were you singing in Skin Flesh And Bones before Al Brown started singing for them?

 Oh, it was right in the time. You see, at the time Al Brown he was the big man singer for the band you know? Alright put it this way, when I was singing I developed this musical gift to me from The Most High where I started to learn a lot of songs. So I can learn calypso, I can sing funky, I can sing lovers rockers, so these guys loved when I was around. I was moving around with like three different bands singing. I just go to the rehearsal and they’d say “Come, Melody sing two songs man“. And I’d sing all 15 songs - this is what they loved. So it wasn’t like I was out there as the lead singer like Al Brown. They were doing their stuff at Tit-For-Tat club because they had regular shows up there. They call me I’d go up and I’d sing like three or four songs.

It’s a pity I never thought to get some photos taken within those times. Because if I did I would have a lot of photos with these guys! With these greats, you know? So right within those times I came to Skin Flesh And Bones and I’d sing a couple of songs with them and work out at Tit-For-Tat. If you wanted to find me you’d come out by Mighty Clouds record store out by Halfway Tree around the corner from the clock. I was at three different places almost the same time so I’d be there now practising with Jah D and Food Clothes and Shelter.

How did you record your first song as Delroy Melody?

One day Food Clothes and Shelter were going to the studio to do some recording. I think it was one of Levi Williams’ songs. I don’t remember if it was Mother-In-Law or Peaceful Rastaman but it was a song for Levi Williams that they were going to Treasure Isle to record. And Jah D said to me “Delroy, we nah leave you today. We carry you to go studio. You’re going to record“. So this is when they took me to the studio. The producer Mighty Clouds he wasn’t involved there. They just said “Boy, we ago carry you to studio now“. It was like anything they said and came up with is in that.

Delroy MelodyThe producer was Bob Mac?

 Bob Mac. Mighty Clouds.

But he didn’t supervise the recording?

 No, it was Jah D, Dennis Fearon – and Levi Williams. And you know Jah D was responsible for people like Jacob Miller too? He was the first one who took Jacob Miller to Inner Circle. He was the first one who arranged Dennis Brown (sings) “Do you know what it means to have a revolution?” So this is how I recorded my first song as Delroy Melody. I did Tears. On the Abeng label.

So what was the next song you recorded?

 The next song I think was the same Jah D again. I think it was a Christmas carol named Christmas Time. I recorded that song for a friend of mine who built a label named Arcadia records. That song I want to tell you, it’s got maybe 60,000 views [Delroy Melody - Christmas Time] since that time that I recorded it. That’s the most viewed Delroy Melody as far as I’m concerned. It’s a roots Christmas song written by me. In those times Jah D was on Shortwood Road where he started his first studio right on the gully bank there. Jah D used to find the sounds and he is still finding the sounds you know?

I think I recorded for Mighty Clouds again a next song named Hold On Natty. That was Jah D again and that was Food Clothes and Shelter again. The time we did this song for a guy named Johnny Lee who gave it to Mighty Clouds to distribute. We called ourselves the Eternals not knowing that there was Cornell Campbell and the Eternals! Right now if you look at that song anywhere you find it, it is [labelled] Cornell Campbell and the Eternals! (Laughs) But if you listen to the vocals…

It’s you?

That song was written by cousin of mine and when we came together to rehearse the song and the harmony, I wasn’t hearing the type of harmony I was listening to hear from any of them. Because I was the lead singer for the group. So I said to my cousin “Look here, it’s you who write this song. I want you to lead sing the song and I will put the harmony that I want to hear.” So we practised the song and he was the one who was the lead singer. So if you listen to the song you will hear that that is not Cornell Campbell on Hold On Natty. That was the next song that we did.

And then right in the same time this was where Sly wrote Dread Must Be Fed. And we recorded for Tit-For-Tat. In those times if Skin Flesh And Bones were having a thing at Tit-For-Tat I would go over and sing some songs just the same. Until Sly wrote Dread Must Be Fed. So I recorded it for Sly first for Tit-For-Tat.

This was in 1976 right?

Wow. Trust me, I don’t quite remember and I don’t want to guess it. I don’t remember if Sly remembers but it’s right in the time when they said that His Majesty died. Haile Selassie. Because this is how the song came up. Yes, it had to be mid-70s. Because the song says (sings) “They say Selassie I dead but his dread must be fed. We must not live in the past, got to think about the future. We know that life won’t last because he was torture.”

So it was a few years before the Dread Must Be Fed album was released?

Well I did it over now. 1979. This is when I recorded it again. I did it over for Emperor Marcus.

How did you decide to grow your locks and how did Rasta come to you?

 Well, that is the next thing Sir Angus. You know when it happened I didn’t even realise. The first time that it came to me that I would natty was one time Sly Dunbar started natty and sometimes I would take Sly Dunbar into a rehearsal and I would look and I will see how the man had his hair with the tam resting over it and it came upon his shoulders. I said “Yo” because it was the first time I seen a man with his hair that way natty like he really cared about it.

And a little after that, and I’ll tell you, it wasn’t even a plan, you see how he wrote the song Dread Must Be Fed, it wasn’t even a plan. If I told you how Sly wrote the song, a lie I would tell, but it’s from Skin Flesh And Bones days that he wrote that song and gave it to me. I never even knew that, because we were both living in Duhaney Park. After I left Jonestown and started to turn into a bigger youth I started living in Duhaney Park, this is where my mother came to live, uptown, in Duhaney Park. So from this time Skin Flesh And Bones was right in this time, different from Mighty Clouds, it’s like when I’d record for Tit-For-Tat it came to me like that’s my biggest song I was ever going to do. I had Tit-For-Tat record label as a big label because right in that time Al Brown had the song Here I Am Baby but when he sang it over it was a massive song.


Yeah something like that. That song was number one for like six weeks. It was like it couldn’t come off of number one. There wasn’t any song that could take it from number one. So all the songs I did record before, the Tears and the Christmas Time it wasn’t like any big song to me. Until I did Dread Must Be Fed on the Tit-For-Tat. Boy I would love to hear it back. I don’t even think Sly would know where to find it right now. I tried to go everywhere and try to see it on any of the digital outlets places and I never see it. But the thing is this. It has the Eternals on the record. We did the recording at Channel One but it was produced by Dickie Wong Tit-For-Tat records and Skin Flesh And Bones as the musicians. And I remember I had a copy but it’s a pity that I never realised that these days would be coming that those records I should have it put down until now because it was like a joy.

So as I was saying now, the first time like the hairstyle, Sly I did see first. And then when it came to me I didn’t realise. And as I said it wasn’t long after that the man wrote a song and gave me Dread Must Be Fed to record. And it’s not like something we did discuss or anything like that. Trust me. I don’t even know if Sly remembers how he wrote the song and gave it to me and I don’t remember how he came and wrote the song and gave it to me. But he used to treat me like a little brother.

I was always around Harry J studio

You also mentioned singing with We The People band.

Yes, I did a couple of shows with them. I performed with them all over. Some I remember, Some I don’t remember. I remember I performed with them at Bohemia because I used to perform at Bohemia quite regularly. I performed as Delroy Melody and I performed as the Eternals. Because I was telling you are used to be the lead singer for the Eternals. One time they had this competition as a club named Spider’s Web on Eastwood Park Road. We were the ones who won the group segment, at the time I think it was about four of us in the group. The song we used and won the competition it is on the Dread Must Be Fed album. That song is It’s Going To Be Alright. (sings) “Every hour a day seems wasting away, every hour a day” that was the song we used in one the group section. So at that time we were the top group, trust me, the top group.

How did you know Lloyd Parks?

I knew Lord Lloyd Parks from when he was singing because I think he used to record for Bunny Lee. As a solo singer and maybe with Termites too. And from an early age I used to run a record store in Crossroads. So I used to buy records from all of these guys. Lloyd Parks used to produce his songs too and go around with his box of records and sell. So I knew him before We The People band. We used to perform a lot with him and go to a lot of rehearsals too because, as a singer in those times, these musicians they love when you are around them at their rehearsal place. Sometimes their singer isn’t ready start to rehearsing so they use you as a warm up. So I used to warm up with a lot of these bands.

So as I was saying, he was there too so we got some practice to win this competition. George Nooks, he was the one who came out as the solo artist, and there was this guy who came out as top deejay, Errol Scorcher. “Roach in a the corner”. He won that. So we’re coming from that side there. It’s the same thing with Sagittarius. They used to play some bars and clubs, mostly on Eastwood Park Road. Because Eastwood Park Road and Redhills Road were the music roads. Because on Redhills Road was Tit-For-Tat, Turntable, a lot of these nightclubs. So that’s where I was coming from with We The People.

Bunny Diamonds and me are very good brethren

How did you record Natty Dread She Want for Joe Gibbs?

Culture had this song (sings) “Jah Jah See Them A Come.” It was Errol Thompson, because it wasn’t Joe Gibbs. I didn’t even know what Joe Gibbs looked like. It was Errol Thompson. At the time I was moving around Harry J. This was when Sylvan Morris and myself became brethren, a big brother again and he liked how I sounded. I was always around Harry J studio but not recording for Harry J. Recording for other producers. So Errol Thompson heard me one day because of Mighty Diamonds.

Bunny Diamonds and me are very good brethren from long time even before he put together Mighty Diamonds group. Me, him, and Jacob, because me and him used to be living on Marverly Avenue just off Molynes Road, not in Marverly, but on Marverly Avenue. They used to have these pre-mix cement mixer factories round the back road there so we used to sit down over where they had some pipes and things, me, Jacob and Bunny. We’d practise because Bunny can play the guitar and we used to be there practising sometimes. Although we never did anything together. Just holding a vibe.

Errol Thompson heard me because me and Bunny were there holding a vibe one day. It was a cover version but Bunny was playing the guitar and I was singing so Errol heard me and he liked how I sounded. So he gave me three rhythms on a cassette to listen to and to voice song on it. I took the rhythms home and played it in my cassette player. Because right in that time I was just recording like that. Recording for different producers, Right in that time Ease Up The Pressure came along too. I don’t even remember which one of them I did first.

So you went to Joe Gibbs to record?

When I thought that I was ready for the three rhythms I went and checked Errol and he said to me “Come Monday morning about 11 o’clock. We’re going to make you voice on the riddim.” And when I went there he said to me “Look here, we have a riddim now that is mashing up the place with a group named Culture. I want to have a young artist like you on the riddim”. So he gave me the rhythm on a cassette and he said “Go out by the security post and make the security put it into him cassette player and listen and see if you can write something for the riddim”.

At those times my style was like lovers rockers - singing a lot of girl songs. But then I remember Morris always said to me, this was when you had the late 70s, ‘77-‘78, dancehall artists like Sugar Minott, Tony Tuff, Little John, they started coming, so instead of just singing they start to sing and deejay like a singjay. So he’d say “Bwoy, Delroy you have to start go deejay now. If you not sound so, bwoy you’re going to be dead from hunger round here”.

So when he gave me the rhythm and I went to the security and he put it in and I was wondering “What me ago put ‘pon it”. So I’ll tell you, the way the song came to me, I don’t even know if it was me who wrote that song, The Most High just inspired me to just write something. I just came up with this. (Sings) “On my way onto Ochi I met a girl named Proocie, make she looks so juicy, she said she come from Lucea” and I just wrote down that and ran it over a couple of times. I just went back to him and said “You know I found the song for it” and he listened to it and he loved how it sounded. And I went in and I think I took maybe one cut and voiced that song and I think it’s the Diamonds that sang the harmony that is on that song. Mighty Diamonds did the harmony.

So I did Natty Dread She Want for Joe Gibbs. I think that was in ‘79. But I didn’t hear the song until 1985. I saw Trinity one day in Crossroads and he said to me “The song that you and I did it is mashing up St Maarten. It is mashing up Trinidad“. I said “The song that me and you did?” Because this was the first time that I was ever going to do a song and it was going to come out in a disco mix fashion. So I didn’t understand what he was saying, not knowing that they spliced what I did to what he did because he had this song [Pain A Back]. So I didn’t understand what he was saying about the song until about 1985 when a brethren of mine sent a copy of the song to me from New York to hear. He was the brother of Mudies records in the Bronx. That’s when I knew about the song and said “Wow”.

My style was like lovers rockers

One singer who passed recently and had a connection to Harry J was Ronnie Davis. Is it right that you knew Ronnie Davis?

Yes, I knew Ronnie Davies as a friend. As a brethren. I met him when he was in this group the Itals. When they did songs like (sings) “Baby my sweet baby, longing to kiss” when he did that song that was when I knew him. And the group did I think it’s two songs they had on the same rhythm.

Ina Dis Ya Time.

Yes, Ina Dis Ya Time.

Yes it was on the same rhythm as Ronnie Davis’ solo song Won’t You Come Home. For Lloyd Spiderman Campbell.

Right. That’s when I knew him because I got to know a lot of these guys because of Sylvan Morris. Morris told me that he started working at Coxsone when he was 18 so all of these guys used to be at Coxsone. So it’s like wherever Morris would go they’d follow Morris. And Harry J studio, it was a lovely studio and it’s still a lovely studio because up to yesterday I passed there. A lot of great work by a lot of great artists was done there.

So tell me about how you did over Dread Must Be Fed and how you did your album.

In 1978, while I was at Harry J I met Emperor Marcus. He had this sound system they called Emperor Marcus from down in Papine. He and Morris were good brethren and he had the sound and he had artists like Brigadier Jerry, I think Danny Dread was there too, and there was this Ras that used to deejay for him, Jah Brooks or something like that.

He decided to produce Brigadier Jerry and Morris told him about me. So we went and checked him and he told Morris to take me there. I went to see him and when he heard how I sounded and Morris played records that I did before like Tears on Abeng – because I didn’t do Tears for Marcus yet - and some other songs which I don’t remember and he loved how I sounded.

I took my guitar along and I did a song for him named Miss Brown and I played on the guitar and I sang it. He just fell in love with the song right away and he asked Morris when he could get to record that song. Morris told him any time he was ready and he said he was ready right now.

I knew Ronnie Davies as a friend

And Marcus did release Miss Brown as a single?

Yes in 1978. This was the song now that allowed me to do this album for Marcus. Because when I did this song in 1978 for Marcus really put out a lot of effort on that song. That song was getting popular so one day I was home and I got a call from JBC, Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, from Alphonso Walker. He was the man who called me and in those times you never had a cell phone or anything. Straight on my home phone number. So I figure that he linked with Harry J studio or maybe Marcus and got my number and called to ask if I would love to come and do a performance with Miss Brown and Where It’s At. This was 1978 or ‘79 and I went and did it.

Marcus said “Bwoy, Delroy I want an album from you now” and he said to Morris “I want you to get the cream of the crop musicians. I want you to get the best musicians in the country “. So Sylvan Morris, he was the man who got musicians, background vocals, told me how to sing some of the songs and called in the harmonisers and told some of them what to sing. And then I decided to do over the Dread Must Be Fed song. I decided to do over the Dread Must Be Fed and title the album Dread Must Be Fed. So Morris called people like Sly, Robbie, and the whole of Roots Radics crew, Bongo Herman, Sticky Thompson, Dean Fraser, Nambo Robinson, Bo Pee, Headley Bennett, Benbow.

So Bo Pee played on the album? He’s not credited.

Well, that’s what I’m telling you. I’m going to come to that now. There are a lot of musicians who play on this album that are not on it because Bo Pee played and I think Bing Bunny is there. Benbow’s name is there?


Benbow played, there was this drummer Devon who used to play for We The People. That is one of the humblest musicians - yes Devon, cool brethren. There is Andy Bassford. The song named Oh Jah, Andy Bassford was the one that played that and this melodica player Jimmy Becker. Jimmy Becker and Andy Bassford, those are the two that played the lead role in Oh Jah and their name is not there. Dwight Pinckney. Is his name there?


No? The Sam Cooke song that I did over. Sit Down And Cry. (Sings) “I’m going to sit down and cry, right down and cry over you”. That is one of the Sam Cooke songs that I grew up on. Dwight Pinckney he is the one who played lead guitar on it. Earl Chinna Smith is on it.

He’s not credited either.

This is what I’m saying because these guys when they got a part of it, Soul Power records in Canada. They didn’t know all of the musicians and they were so eager to put out this album in Canada that they didn’t contact me. This young lady, Leslie Guy, she was the one who Marcus was dealing with about managing the thing and going to the people to present the album to them. So we didn’t know anything about what kind of agreement was made with the album and right at that time was when Emperor Marcus got held by the Feds for a couple of years. So this album was in these brethrens’ hands and they were just selling around the world.

Did you get the royalties you deserve from the album?

No, no. They pirated it bad big time. Marcus gave me an advance and that was all that I got from it.

Two songs are credited to Bob West as writer.

Yes, Bob West wrote them. I Man Feel Irie and Ghetto Queen. Bob West he was a journalist and he used to play ball and he used to practise with the Jamaica football team. He got knocked down some years ago. I think he is living somewhere in Manchester now.

Marcus said "I want you to get the best musicians in the country"

So let me just quickly go through the credits that are on the album. You already said that Flabba Holt and Robbie Shakespeare did play on the album. And that Style Scott did play.

Drums, yes man.

But apart from his writing credit was Sly on the album?


He’s not credited.

Yeah? Sly is not on it? Wow! All I know is that I can just tell you some of the musicians out of my head. Sly played drums. Benbow played drums. Santa played drums.

Santa is not credited.

Because he is my brethren too. Santa used to go to Melrose. Chinna Smith played guitar. One of the biggest lead guitars plays on it is Andy Bassford and Dwight Pinckney on Sit Down And Cry. And Andy Basswood plays on Oh Jah. What these guys did is they pirated the album and they just put on some of what they remembered or what they felt like putting on.

But you said Bingy Bunny did play rhythm guitar?

Rhythm guitar, yeah.

Willie Lindo?

He did play, yes man.

And Winston Wright did play organ?

Yes, keyboard and organ. Ansel Collins.

Ansel Collins is not credited!

Winston Wright, Ansel Collins, and the same Jah D, Dennis Fearon.

Jah D is not credited. And then Gladdy Anderson played piano?

Wow. Yes.

And Bubbler played?

Franklin Bubbler Waul? Yes man! As I was telling you the horns from We The People, Dean Fraser, Nambo, Chico, those were the three top hornsmen. And those guys played on this.

And they used to play for Joe Gibbs.

Yes, when they played for Joe Gibbs they were named the Professionals. When they were played for Channel One they were named the Revolutionaries. So I can tell you about these brethren. I sang with them. I’d go there and rehearse with all of them. They loved when I came around because I love to sing. I’d sing 50 songs in an hour.

Delroy Melody

Because Bubbler is credited for keyboards and synthesiser but he’s also credited for clarinet! I think they mean clavinet!

(Laughs) You see that’s what I’m saying these guys just put some things on there. The only person that played something different from the horns and played a blowing instrument was Jimmy Becker who played melodica. As I was saying you had hornsmen like Headley Bennett, Deadly Headley, Bobby Ellis. David Madden?

None are credited.

Glen DaCosta. He played on it. So I could go on. All of these musicians.

Now you already mentioned The Tamlins are credited for background vocals.

And also Mighty Diamonds.

Mighty Diamonds are not credited.

They are on it too. I think they had some ladies voices. Pam Hall. Pam was there, Cynthia Schloss.

But it also says on background vocals Wellesley Braham.

That’s a singer that used to record for Emperor Marcus.

And he did a fantastic record which is in my collection, Never Get Weary.

You know since that time I haven’t seen him. I don’t know where in the world he is. It was on Marcus’ label?

I think it was on Joe Gibbs.

Joe Gibbs. Yes because I think we all went right around the place and these producers they have some underworld artists that you never hear.

And you mention Sticky and Bongo Herman played on it. Sylvan Morris was the engineer and I think that’s it.

And arranged. Sylvan Morris arranged and was the engineer.

It’s an interesting point of comparison, because you talked about how the Jamaicans and the Schoolboys both went to Studio One and recorded in the songs that never got released. Similarly there is another parallel with I Kong because he did he is The Way It Is album with lots of great cream musicians and again that album got pirated.

True, true. Exactly. I have the CD. When I was in New York in 2015 I did over Dread Must Be Fed reissue and put the musicians on it. And I had a song Midnight Rendezvous that’s the number one song. And number six I did a remix of Ease Up The Pressure and put on that song too. And that reissue came out in 2015 on me and my wife’s label. Levelhead Music production.

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