40 years with Lloyd Parks and we the people

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Saturday, July 25, 2015

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"NEXT song!" came the order from bass player and We The People bandleader Lloyd Parks during rehearsals with deejay Charlie Chaplin last week.


He then plays the opening lines to The Melodians' Everybody Bawling, with the burly Chaplin and band joining in.


Parks has been calling the shots with We The People for 40 years, a milestone the band plans to observe quietly.


This week, they head to Europe for three festivals: Geel in Belgium, Reggae Sun Ska in Bordeaux, France and Rototom Sunsplash in Benicassim, Spain.


Parks and We The People will back Chaplin and fellow deejays Josey Wales and Brigadier Jerry. The Pioneers, of Long Shot Kick The Bucket fame, joins them in Spain.


After two decades of playing second fiddle to computer-generated beats, Parks is encouraged by the revival of live music.


Evidence of that resurgence, he notes, is the band's latest trek to Europe, their third in four years.


"The music did get water down mainly because everybody have a studio in dem house, an' a man can programme everything then bring in somebody fi dub a part if him feel," he said. "But people going back to drum and bass; most of the hit song yuh hear now is live recording."


Kingston-born, Parks cut his teeth in the flourishing live music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He played in bands such as RHT Invincibles and Skin, Flesh and Bones, which also included drummer Sly Dunbar.


Parks also had a promising career as a vocalist, starting with The Termites and having a stint with rocksteady giants The Techniques. He had a sizable hit in 1972 with Slaving.


Parks and Dunbar were also members of the early Revolutionaries band which became famous at Channel One studio during the mid-1970s.


In 1975, Parks formed We The People. The original line-up was Franklyn 'Bubbler' Waul (keyboards), Devon Richardson (drums), Winston 'Bo Pee' Bowen, Nambo Robinson and Lloyd Kerr (trombones), Dean Fraser (saxophone) and Chico Chin on trumpet.


Its members were the nucleus of The Professionals, house band for producer Joe Gibbs. They had a golden run from 1976 to the early 1980s, especially with Dennis Brown, Gibbs' star act.


"That was a great time for the band, recording with Dennis Brown and touring as his musical director for 20 years," Parks said.


He rates working with another reggae legend on a high-profile concert in London in 2000 even higher.


"Backing John Holt with the Royal Philharmonic (Concert) Orchestra was something else. For me, dat was the pinnacle," said a beaming Parks.


As he exits the rehearsal studio, Earth Cry, a young band from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, prepares to take their position in the room.


Parks greets each member. He is happy to see the new wave of bands that have emerged in the last five years.


"I have to appreciate the younger bands. Yuh jus' hope they do the right thing an' continue like we did. Music is not a stop an' start thing," he said.


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