In this week’s edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady, we kicked off the show with early reggae with Bob Andy’s beautiful “Unchained” as part of the show’s dedication to Bob Andy, who was stabbed in a robbery on 3/13/2015. Thankfully, his injuries were not fatal, and he is recovering and healing.
In the second set of reggae, we heard a version-to-version of Shenley Duffus & The Upsetters cover of The Moonglows’ “Sincerely.” A hit on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts for Chess records, “Sincerely” gets a great treatment in reggae for Lion records. For the mento set this week, we were thrilled to share “De Buggy Bruck” from Louise Bennett’s album “Listen to Louise,” a new record discovered over the weekend.
Before the spotlight on Joe Higgs, we focused on some ska gems before beginning the spotlight. In this ska set, we featured “Fire” from The Leaders, a trio long overdue for a spotlight on the BSR given that the group consisted of superstars Joe White, Roy Shirley, and Ken Boothe.
After the set of ska, to kick off the spotlight on Joe Higgs, we presented his early solo recordings for Coxone’s Studio One.
Joe Higgs began his music career with Roy Wilson in the duo Higgs &Wilson. The two lived on the same street and actually met and began their collaboration at a contest where eight solo contestants were to be selected from ten to move to the next round, but the promoter could not narrow the group down, so he asked Higgs & Wilson to compete as a duo. Together, Higgs & Wilson reached great popularity early, with their first single, “Manny Oh,” a production from Edward Seaga that sold 50,000 copies. Consequently, as a musician of note early in the Jamaican music scene, Higgs attracted a group of young musicians in his yard in Trenchtown, whom he mentored and taught. One of those musicians was Bob Marley and two others were Bunny Livingston and Peter Tosh. Beyond his teaching, Joe Higgs continued to perform with Roy Wilson and saw additional success with Coxone Dodd, who Higgs would continue to work with during his solo recordings after Roy Wilson emigrated from Jamaica to America in 1964.
As part of a well known Jamaican duo, Higgs took a break from recording after working with Coxone as a soloist and performed as a guest vocalist for both Carlos Malcolm and Lyn Taitt’s groups on the hotel circuit. When he returned to recording, Higgs worked with a variety of producers, including Harry J and Rupie Edwards, who he recorded some of his finest solo records with. These were the tracks of the second set in the spotlight.
Higgs also had his own label, Elevation, which he named after his own ability to elevate himself from a dark and hard world. From the Elevation label, we shared “Let Us Do Something,” a release that was as DIY as can be. Joe recorded multiple parts on the track, including guitar, in addition to singing. He also completed the lettering on the label by hand.
In 1972, Higg’s song, “Invitation to Jamaica” won the Jamaica Tourist Board Song competition, which allowed his to tour the U.S. and also brought him further popularity, so much so that Chris Blackwell planned on releasing Higgs’ debut LP for Island Records that same year. This LP was “Life of Contradiction.” Blackwell did not release the LP because he felt it would be too difficult to market, but it was eventually released by Pete Weston’s Micron Music in 1975, and thankfully so because the songs on this record have amazing layers of rich sounds.
“Mademoiselle” rounded off our spotlight on Joe Higgs as our favorite of his recordings.
We hope you enjoy this show!
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The archive will be available until 3/31/2015.
Stay tuned for the show on 3/25/2015. It will be a celebration of the 1000th edition of the Bovine Ska and Rocksteady!!!