Entertainment

Death of a Reggae Ambassador

Bunny Rugs loses cancer fight

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL Observer senior writer

Tuesday, February 04, 2014    

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BUNNY Rugs was a struggling singer in 1976 when he went to a New York City club named the Bottom Line to see a band called Third World.

"It so happened that a friend of mine saw the advertisement in the Village Voice and called me and said 'Are you going to see Third World?' I said yes and changed my mind about five times," Rugs told American author David Katz in 2003. "I eventually went to the concert and I've been with them from that day until now."

Rugs, who died Sunday at his home in Orlando, Florida at age 65, was the voice of Third World for 37 years.

Colin Leslie, his close friend and a former member of Third World, said the singer passed away at 11:00 pm, surrounded by family and close friends.

Rugs, who would have turned 66 on Thursday, was released from the Intensive Care Unit of an Orlando hospital last week after receiving two weeks of treatment for leukemia.

During his last Jamaican performance with the band in December at a function organised by the National Commercial Bank in Kingston, Rugs spoke about his illness.

At the time, he said he was receiving holistic treatment.

Born William Clarke in Mandeville, Bunny Rugs' early years as a musician was on the Kingston club scene in the early 1970s with the Inner Circle band.

He migrated to the United States during that period and worked the live circuit in New York City as a member of the band, Hugh Hendricks and the Buccaneers.

He returned to Jamaica in 1974 and hooked up with a band named the Bluegrass Experience which also included former Studio One session guitarist Eric Frater and Upsetters keyboardist Glen Adams.

After a stint with producer Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Rugs officially joined Third World in 1976, shortly after watching them at the

Bottom Line.

The band's drummer at the time was Willie Stewart who had been a member for less than one year.

Yesterday, Stewart remembered Rugs as "a man who loved his art. He was never sad, always had a joke."

Rugs' first show with Third World was a Carifesta date at the Carib Theatre in 1976. He made his recording debut on the band's album, 96 Degrees In The Shade, that year.

He sang lead on the title song as well as a number of their hits including Now That We Found Love, Always Around, Talk to Me, Reggae Ambassador and Sense of Purpose.

Along with founding members Stephen 'Cat' Coore (guitar) and Ibo Cooper (keyboards), bass player Richard Daley, Stewart and percussionist Irwin 'Carrot' Jarrett, Rugs was part of a classic Third World line-up that was signed to Island Records, CBS and

Mercury Records.

Rugs also recorded solo projects during breaks from Third World. He released the 15-track set Time on September 11, 2012.

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