An ode to Delroy Wilson

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

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Today is the 20th anniversary of Wilson's death. Known to fans as 'Saddle Head', he was 46 when he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1995.

IN the early 1960s, as Jamaican music evolved from American boogie woogie and Rhythm and Blues to ska, a prodigious singer named Delroy Wilson took the scene by storm.

The pre-teen had a string of ska hits including King Pharaoh, I'm not a King and Trying to Conquer Me. He remains one of Jamaican music's most influential vocalists.

His legacy is remembered in The Delroy Wilson Story, an album by singer Everard 'Jah Ruby' Metcalf, Wilson's childhood friend.

Produced by Willie Lindo of South Florida's Heavy Beat Records, The Delroy Wilson Story hears Jah Ruby covering 21 of his hero's songs. There is also a CD of an interview with him discussing his friendship with Wilson.

"Is a great feeling to do these songs, Delroy was like mi bradda. Him come from Trench Town, me come from Back 'O Wall (west Kingston)," Jah Ruby told the Jamaica Observer from his Miami home.

He does renditions of Wilson's ska songs (I Shall not Remove), rocksteady (Dancing Mood, Conquer Me) and reggae (Better Must Come, Cool Operator).

Lindo, whose production credits include Beres Hammond's hit songs One Step Ahead and What One Dance Can Do) and Dennis Brown's Inseparable album, also played guitar on The Delroy Wilson Story.

Other musicians who played on the album are bassist Robbie Shakespeare, saxophonist Dean Fraser, trombonist Nambo Robinson, keyboardist Robbie Lyn and drummer Paul Douglas.

Jah Ruby also started his career early. Three years younger than Wilson, he first recorded at 12 years old for Prince Buster. This is his fourth album.

He said the last time he saw Wilson was at a show the latter did at the Trafalgar Square (now Amazura) club in New York City one year before his death.

Wilson was a protegé of Clement 'Coxson' Dodd who produced most of his hits. He had a major impact on a number of reggae singers including Dennis Brown, Johnny Clarke and
Tarrus Riley.

At the time of his death, he was enjoying a career resurgence through a rocksteady rebirth in Jamaica and parts of Europe.

-- Howard Campbell

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