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Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 3)

Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 3)

Interview: Delroy Melody (Part 3)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"Reggae music stands up strong in the world"

Sampler

Read part 2 of this interview

In part 3 of our Delroy Melody interview, he describes how politics interfered with the success of Ease Up The Pressure, why he left Harry J studio for the countryside after Buss Shot became a hit, and how his career had a renaissance there which continues today…

Delroy Melody ITV

So let’s talk about Ease Up The Pressure.

Well, Ease Up The Pressure I did that song for Rudwill in ‘79. I don’t remember which one I did first out of Ease Up The Pressure and Natty Dread She Want but I think we did that in ‘79. Ease Up The Pressure we did ‘79, it was late ‘79 and released in 1980. Well, just as this song was taking its rightful place on the radio station and in the ears of music lovers you had some politicians who took it and used it as a theme song on their motorcade. So the radio station they branded it as a political song and they banned it.

Which party used the song?

That’s what I’m trying to remember. It was the 1980 election.

Yes, this violent election.

Yes, this election was when they had it on their motorcade like you’re advertising a dance. So it just came in like when this brethren Neville Martin did this song My Leader Born Ya [The Message].

It wasn’t Ease Up The Pressure alone I did for that producer Rudwill label. Ruddy Williams. I did 13 songs for that producer. But Ease Up The Pressure was the one that released in ‘79 or in early 1980. One time I saw he was cutting stampers so he could release, because this brethren used to travel to and from here. Sometimes he was in Miami because he used to run a gold shop and he used to travel a lot. And all 13 rhythms were played by Studio One band. In those times you had Steely and Clevie and the Browne Brothers, and you had Pablove Black, who arranged Ease Up The Pressure. And me and him went back and sang the harmony. He plays the organ and keyboard on that song.

So we did a lot more songs. 13 more songs that Pablove helped me to arrange and I never heard anything about them. I remember once I went to check the producer out by Harbour View. And he was showing me a test press that he did and he wanted to distribute in America. But that’s all - I didn’t know about it again. A lot of songs could come out from all over with me.

Somebody needs to find those 13 songs and reissue them. Hopefully someone will read this interview and find the songs.

Wow. I’m telling you.

At the start of the 1980s the music fraternity lost your friend Jacob Miller.

Wow. Yes. The one that touched my heart, trust me. When I understand how he died, because Halfway Tree is a place like this where it’s one big family. You had the people who sell on the sidewalks, you had the cane man, you had Skateland across the road where most of us performed on weekends. And then there was Aquarius recording studio. So as I say it’s like one big family. So when this happened, I understand that this happened almost in front of everyone.

Because he was just coming out of the park, just buy a piece of cane from the cane man, and eating the cane and driving out and thing and maybe the car just got out of control and just mounted the sidewalk and bounced because it wasn’t like no accident you know? It just mounted the sidewalk and bounced into the light pole and the cane ripped his throat and that’s how I understand it. Because the lady that I know told me Jacob even came out of the car and came and looked at the front of the car to see if it really got damaged because I think it was his grey or silver Benz that he used to drive. And then he went back into the car and must have rested his head on the steering wheel and it seemed like he had internal bleeding. That’s how I understand it went.

At that time I wasn’t even in Jamaica. I started singing with some band. This was right in the time of Ease Up The Pressure and all of that. I used to sing with a little 12 Tribes band named Tribulation Children. And we had a next little band that I used to perform with called Catchafire. So Tribulation Children, the guy who owned it, his wife she came from Saint Maarten so they always put on like a little gig up there and thing. So I wasn’t even here when it happened. Just came and heard it at and I tell you, trust me.

Yeah man, because I used to go by his home in Beverly Hills. Jacob, he’d see me outside and I’d wipe off my shoes before going in and Jacob would say “Lassie, no bother wipe off your foot man come in!” me and Jacob were like brothers. I never knew his mother had any more children, just him. And his mother, she was a conductress until later on she became a driver. And she was a strict mother too. But she realised when she got to know me and Lawrence that we weren’t bad boys, so Jacob wouldn’t come in for two days but she know that he was where we are. Different from if he would go to Coxsone or he would go by Bunny Lee or any other studio rehearsal. Then if he didn’t go home to his home, he is coming where we are because we would rehearse going straight up into the night same way. Box guitar we’d play till we feel like taking a break and we would go and cook. And go back again and thing. That’s how we used to rehearse.

Me and Jacob Miller were like brothers

A slightly less sad topic is that you do resemble Lee Scratch Perry.

Everywhere I go! The other day, maybe about two or three weeks ago I was in this taxi and these brethren said “Wait! Lee Scratch Perry that!” They said I’m his twin brother you know? (Laughs) They said “Man, man favour Lee Scratch Perry you know?”

Did you know Scratch at all?

Yes.

Studio One days or Harry J?

Harry J, because he is one of these men who if it’s not Morris as his engineer he is not working. So he used to come to Harry J regularly. Sometimes enough of the long-time musicians who are elders and artists, when they come to Harry J to work, if a man says he wants Kentucky chicken or some Tastee patty, I was one of the first to say “Me ago buy it man” and I’d go round by just take and write down what everybody wants.

And when Scratch came to work, me and him maybe didn’t really talk like that but if he came there and he wanted something like Kentucky he would say “How you say? Want you to go up to the place” and I’d say you “What do you want? Patty?” So I used to see him from those times but it’s not that we used to talk like that. But he observed and he watched how I move.

Did Scratch ever comment on the resemblance?

No! (Laughs) It’s just since I went and opened for him the other day a little before his birthday, I’m down by Jack Sprat, since that time is the first that he was going to see me. In those times when I was telling you about I never even started to grow a beard much less locks. So maybe the resemblance wasn’t there like that. But it was since I grew a beard and locks that ones and ones started to say “Boy, you resemble“. And they say I resemble Roland Burrell too. They say that I resemble four people. Roland Burrell, Delroy Melody, Scratch Perry and Emperor Selassie. (Laughs)

Delroy Melody ITVDidn’t you also do a song that came out on the Solid Groove compilation in England called Yvonne in 1981?

Yeah, Yvonne. Alright, I wouldn’t remember if it was ‘79 or ‘81. Because the amount of producers who wanted to do recording with me, right within that time, I think I recorded maybe over some 20 odd songs.

Really?

Yes, between ‘78 going to ‘84-‘85. Because Harry J wanted to hold onto me so he asked me to sign an eight year contract.

How did that Yvonne song end up in England?

Well, being at Harry J studio, and Sylvan Morris was my sparring partner, most producers were coming from every corner of the world to Jamaica and they’d want to work with Sylvan Morris as an engineer. Because when you look at the biggest artists to come out of Jamaica, when you look on the album jacket, you see Sylvan Morris. Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Third World, 96 Degrees and all those albums. You have Lorna Bennett, Breakfast In Bed, Heptones Book Of Rules. So all of these songs - Sylvan Morris as engineer.

So when these producers came to Jamaica, they wanted to work with Sylvan Morris at Harry J because this was the studio that was putting out most of the songs. So these producers when they came, they’d come with a rhythm and when they’d call in the artist to they came to work with, not knowing me, Morris now put in a word for me. Morris would say “Bwoy, me have a little young artist there, him bad you know? You can do something with him man. Make him hear the rhythm. Him versatile. Him listen the rhythm and sing something upon it”. If it’s going to be a cover, when they hear my voice they want something from me. So this is how came I do enough cover versions too. Because sometimes a producer just comes with a rhythm and I don’t even have a ready song for him but he wants something from Delroy Melody so I’d just find an old-time song and sing it.

But Yvonne now, this guy came in the studio and was doing some work. I think he built the rhythm at Channel One and then he had different artists on it and he came to Harry J to do some work with Morris. So Morris said “Bwoy, see if you could put something upon the rhythm there“. He gave me a little advance and I listened to the rhythm and I had this song Yvonne - a true story you know? A true story about a girlfriend I used to have in those times there, it was the perfect rhythm for the song. I went in and voiced it and from when I voiced it I never heard anything about it. He just gave me an advance and up until now I don’t know which corner of the earth the producer is! (Laughs)

Sylvan Morris was my sparring partner

In 1984 you did Buss Shot for Harry J. That was a big song for you.

Yes, 1984. I think that was one of the first songs that came out for Harry J. Yeah, that was my big dancehall hit. A lot of people know me for that, more than I know that they knew me!

And when the thing with digital, you continued recording for different producers…

I started to get a lot of offers now to record for different producers. I can’t pinpoint exactly the year but I started recording for Capo who was the next soldier and had this label called Black Beauty Records. I started recording songs like Beat Down The Fence, Schoolgirl on the Sleng Teng rhythm. Yes I think that was the first digital rhythm for Black Beauty.

The songs were distributed by Dynamics. That was Schoolgirl. And I also did Beat Down The Fence for him. And I did over Bam Bam. For a company in England named Outernational records.

The eight year contract with me and Harry J went sour since 1985 because Harry J had songs from me on tape that didn’t come out. So I did songs like Beat Down The Fence for Black Beauty but they came out on the label Creole records. Those were the people that distributed. I did songs for him like Fancy Girl.

But you know how I get to know some of those songs? There is this brethren in New York Deadly Dragon, he has some Delroy Melody and he is the only man that I could go when I went there and get a couple of copies of my song but I’ve never seen anywhere. Not even on YouTube. It’s nowhere unless it is sold by them. That same producer Black Beauty, I did probably almost an album for him, Dynamics were going to distribute the songs with me for him. And I did a song like Beat Down the Fence for him.

Then in 1986 I think I took a pull-out of the thing and this is when I came back to the country now. I was working with a band in Santa Cruz named Sunforce band. I used to just do a lot of hotels. When we’d leave out here on a Friday we wouldn’t come back until Tuesday morning.

The eight year contract with me and Harry J went sour

Is that why you left because you fell out with Harry J?

Yes, because he also threatened me that I couldn’t record for another producer. Because of this eight year contract that I signed with him was to just record with him alone. And as I was saying, after I did Buss Shot, when he looked and saw how Buss Shot started to rotate and thing and he realised that Dennis Star came to the studio to work and he had this rhythm that he wanted me to put a vocal on it and I did over a Delroy Wilson.

Movie Star?

Movie Star. In my style because if you notice I change the melody from the way they have it. And I think that was the rhythm that Sanchez did his first song on too. Anthony Redrose was there for his first song but Charlie Chaplin, he was the one that did the title song for the album. The album was Labrish. Labrish volume one. So that’s how I did a lot of songs too then I didn’t hear again. When these producers came to Harry J, this is where I recorded for them because Morris was always putting me on their rhythms. So after falling out with Harry J in 1985 or ‘86 I went to country.

So what were you doing to survive in the 90s?

After I left in about ‘86-‘87 I couldn’t record for another producer because of Harry J. A friend of mine recommended me to her friend who owned Sunforce band in Santa Cruz. He wanted a singer for the band that he would pay weekly to just rehearse with the band until the band came to perfection. But she was saying he wanted a singer that could sing all types of songs. Because the band that he was putting together, when the band was ready he was going to but the band in different hotels.

She came to Kingston for me and took me to him. And when he heard me sing he asked if I could come right now so I said “No, not like right now. Give me about a week” because I am a family man. I lived in Duhaney Park with my last child’s mother. So I had to make preparation how I was going to come home and things like that. So he explained to me that, “All right, every Tuesday we are going to get day off so we can go home and by Thursday morning we come back to Santa Cruz and rehearse and we leave out on Friday. And go to the hotel.” This was when the band came to perfection.

While I was there I wasn’t doing any recording. I never recorded again until 1995 when I did over Say What You’re Saying for a cousin of mine. At that time he was in Mandeville. He had a band named Traffic Jam. Since I left Harry J I’m trying to remember which song was the last song I did. I think I did a song for Keith Sterling and Harry J named My Lover. (Sings) “My lover, my sweet sweet lover” I think that was the last song I did.

So when you did a cover of Monty Morris Say What You’re Saying in 1995 the contract with Harry J was up?

Yes.

So how did you start your own production company?

I started my own production company now with the help of my wife empress mistress Claudette Ford Jones. Big up yourself mummy - respect for life. I met this lady and trust me we are together for about 24 years now. Married about six years. And I never saw somebody believe in an artist like she. She believed in me. She figured more or less that I was the best sounding voice she ever heard. I started farming because she is a farmer, so after I met her she introduced me to the farming.

From there me and her started doing farming and we paid musicians to play our own rhythms and we’d rent studios. We’d rent all kinds of studios. So we record all over on our own label Levelhead music production. This is where I started to forward and start recording again. That’s where we started in 95. Put some work together and hit the road and since those times wow - a lot of works have been putting out. Since that time I’ve probably recorded about 50 something songs for myself and given to different distributors. Now you have the digital companies coming and we give companies like Hapilos and iTunes started distributing for us.

Before the records finished we used to press records ourselves and give them to different distributors. We pressed records and sent them to New York to give the same Mudies and they used to sell records for us. Yeah man, Levelhead that’s where I started again. Levelhead made me start back like from the 60s again. And since those times it’s like the thing has taken on a new lease of life. Until we come right up until about 2013 when the thing took a new lease of life when I met Joseph from Jamwax.

That’s just what I was going to ask about - tell me about that…

When I met Joseph now, one day this brethren named Delroy Hutchinson, he was telling me about this brethren that does record collecting. He introduced him to me and when he heard my record, I think it was the same Dread Must Be Fed album he said “Wow, you did this?“ And he listened to the album right through and was telling me that if I was in Europe or in France this album would go a far way.

Then he came across Ease Up The Pressure. He called me one day and asked me if I remembered a song named Ease Up The Pressure so I said “Yeah, way back from about 1979. In the 1980 election they banned the song. I don’t even want to hear about that song because it’s like the producer gave up since that time”. So he said “Boy, it’s one of the toughest roots songs that I’ve ever heard. If you can find the producer we could do a re-issue”. So I said “Bwoy, I am automatically the producer also so we could sign an agreement”.

So this was 2013 and he came to Jamaica again. I had met him earlier and he had heard the Dread Must Be Fed album but when he heard Ease Up The Pressure it was a completely different scenario. He came and I signed an agreement with him to reissue it and after I did that then the rest is history where Ease Up The Pressure is concerned. Because it is still going strong. When he came to Jamaica and we signed the agreement I did over Oh Tell for him. It’s soon to be released too. Most of the recordings that I did since those times it’s on our own label Levelhead. So most of Delroy Melody songs that you find on YouTube and on iTunes and Amazon it is Levelhead.

Delroy Melody ITV

Tell me about how Scotch Bonnet records from Scotland got in touch with you so you could contribute to their Puffers Choice album.

Thomas Stalawa contacted me one day because they had got Ease Up The Pressure repress by Joseph Jamwax to sell in their Scotch Bonnet record store. So he said “I like your voice. I would love to hear some other songs with Delroy Melody“. This was 2014. So I started to collect up some long-time songs. Some songs like Schoolgirl, Beat Down the Fence and I sent them to him. So he replied to me and said “I know these Delroy Melody. I don’t want to hear this Delroy Melody. I want to hear 2014 Delroy Melody.”

So the first song I sent to him was Midnight Rendezvous. That was when I started to get that song together. He is the one who mixed Midnight Rendezvous for me. I sent it to him and I asked him to mix it. I didn’t voice it properly yet, I just had it on a demo. And I sent it to him to let him hear and he said “Wow”, he loved how I sounded. So he asked me if he could send me some rhythms.

At first he said “I notice you have your own studio”. This is the studio we had at home with me my wife and my stepson Hadi Yard, Rowan Robinson is his right name. His deejay name is Hadi Yard. He bought an entire studio in New York and took it to Jamaica so we set up our own studio at home. Because my wife was that serious that we were going to have our own studio so we could do our own recordings. So he was saying “I see you have your own studio. I can send you some rhythms and you can voice and send back to me and I can listen to them and the other Mungo‘s Hi-Fi members can hear and we can tell you what we like.”

So he sent me some rhythms and I did a couple of songs on them, probably about three songs or so and sent them forward to him. The first time he was going to hear me 2014 voice. He has a sound Stalawa sound so I did Buss Shot for him in dub and I think I did a medley on the Far East, Spanish Harlem medley I did for him. So when I sent back he said these two dubs he loved them and was going to cherish them.

What happened next?

So he contacted me later on in the year and said if he did a rub-a-dub rhythm of Buss Shot would I be interested to voice it to go on this album they are putting together with 12 different producers and 12 different artists through Europe? And he would build a rub-a-dub rhythm for Buss Shot. So if I would be interested? So I said “Yes man!“ because this was going to be my biggest opportunity to record for an internationally acclaimed label like Scotch Bonnet records who I understand is one of the top labels in Europe.

From there, this is how me and Thomas Stalawa from Scotch Bonnet Records on this beautiful Puffers Choice album came about. He built the rub-a-dub rhythm and sent it to me and I did the voicing in New York in 2015 in Brooklyn, my wife asked Hadi Yard take me to the studio she booked in the evening and I voiced it and put the harmonies and I sent them off to Thomas Stalawa.

And here again the rest is history. The Puffers Choice album it is a beautiful album. With some real talented artists and musicians. I would sit down and listen to these guys every day. This album has a real difference and it just goes to show you how music, especially reggae music stands up strong in the world.

Have you been doing any music with I Kong’s producer son Skunga?

Well that is young history now because Skunga is one of the most talented legends as producer and writer and a bad singer too. Yes man, Skunga is a bad singer too. He just called me when I was in New York and said “Bwoy, Mr Melody we would really like you to come and give we a strength as an elder. Me a build some riddims - me and Keyzey”. So I said “Look here, I’m going to come back to Jamaica in about six months’ time”, that was when my work permit was going to be up. So he said “Alright sir, we going build some rhythms for when you come“.

And it was right in those times that I was going to meet him and know that that is I Kong’s son. I never knew! So when he said he was I Kong’s son I said “Me and he brothers man. Don’t say another word. All you do is just tell me what you want”. When I came I just checked him and got the rhythms, it was about three songs and just trust me this is one of the youths who is keeping me young in the business. Yes, Skunga Records. We have some serious work that we are doing right now.

Are you doing any recording or touring with I Kong?

Yes, we are. We are supposed to be heading out of Jamaica by the end of next month [2017] because we have about 21 shows lined up right through America. We are doing an East Coast tour in April, I Kong and Delroy Melody. Terrian Reeves is my manager – I did a tune for her father Cecil Reeves label Brimstone in 1979, a cover of Sam Cooke’s another Saturday night which I changed to Another Friday Night because Friday is pay day here. Millie Kong - she is my road manager. So it’s a joy to be travelling with the legendary I Kong trust me. I never knew that this would even happen.

And we need to talk about the new song with me and Double K. Food Clothes and Shelter band was the first band that recorded Delroy Melody. Jah D which is Dennis Fearon was the founder of Food Clothes and Shelter band. Now Jah D has his son and grandson playing in the band. So a couple of years ago when Jah D started reviving some works for me we decided that I was going to need my own band to tour with. So I said to Jah D “You know me just love the name Food Clothes and Shelter same way. And because I make a link forward with you now and thing and those guys are ready we should revive the band and we put ourselves together and I start to lead singing the band and I think the rest is going to be history”.

There is a new 45 out with this female deejay Double K. We did a cover of Love You Too Much. That was originally done by Lobo, an American group, in I think ‘96, and we did a version of it that is still doing well. Me and Double K style is a different kind for D and S records outside of New York that is responsible for the tour that we’re going to be doing here now.

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