IT was customary for artistes to hit the road whenever they release a new album. With music videos and the Internet, reggae tours have scaled down considerably.
Freddie McGregor has logged countless miles as a road warrior, especially in the 1980s and 1990s when he was among reggae's hottest properties.
To promote his latest album, Di Captain, the 57-year-old singer is preparing for his most ambitious tour in years.
The Captain Of The Ship Tour is scheduled to kick off on May 18 in Washington DC, and plays 17 venues in United States.
Chatting with the Jamaica Observer at his St Andrew home last week, McGregor cited the transformation of the reggae tour since he first went on the road in the late 1970s.
But he says favourable response to Di Captain prompted the tour, which ends July 28 in California. His latest run, he pointed out, is different than those of previous years.
"The difference is we'll be playing the right venues. With reggae tours there's a standard route in that artistes don't get into the right venues because they don't have the type of support like pop artistes," he explained. "With this tour, we want to change that structure."
The US leg of The Captain Of The Ship Tour comprises clubs, festivals and theatres throughout the east and west coasts, the south and Midwest.
The clubs and theatres vary in size, from 500- to 3,000-seaters. The festivals are usually on the west coast, in California.
Released in January by Tad's International Record, Di Captain has topped reggae charts in New York City and South Florida and briefly entered the Billboard Reggae Chart.
It is McGregor's first studio album in seven years, and celebrates his 50th year in the music business, having started out in the early 1960s as a protégé of producer Clement 'Coxson' Dodd.
A documentary titled My Story, directed by filmmaker Jay Will, is to be released this year. It details McGregor's career and contains interviews with music industry figures like Winston 'Merritone' Blake and producer Trevor 'Leggo' Douglas.
McGregor is pleased that Di Captain has seen him making a comeback to the charts.
"It's the return of Freddie McGregor in grassroots form and I have to tour to promote a product like this," he said. "The best place to sell your product is at the venues."
Extensive reggae tours have become obsolete due to rising production and promotion costs in the last decade. Without a hit song or album, booking agents find it difficult pitching Jamaican artistes in big American venues.
Older acts like Toots and The Maytals and the Marleys remain the best touring reggae artistes, playing reputable venues like the House Of Blues.
Following its US leg, The Captain Of The Ship Tour moves to Europe for the summer festival circuit. In September, McGregor and his team return to the US for a series of college dates.