Female artistes remember Winston Riley

BY Kevin Jackson Observer writer

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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SOME of the leading female dancehall artistes of the 1980s have hailed music producer Winston Riley for giving them a voice in what was a male-dominated arena.

Riley died Thursday at the University Hospital of the West Indies at age 65. He had been in a coma since being shot in the head by a gunman at his St Andrew home in November.

Deejay Sister Charmaine was a teenager in the mid-1980s when Riley helped catapult her to stardom.

"It was Johnny P and Tuffist who took me to meet Mr Riley by his record store at Chancery Street. He was one of the best producers out of Jamaica.

Everything he touched became a hit," Charmaine recalled during a telephone interview last Friday with the Observer from her New York City home last Friday.

Riley produced Charmaine's first hit, the X-rated Glammity. He also produced some of her other big songs such as Granny Advice (which was sampled by dancehall artiste Timerblee in Bubble Like Soup); We Have The Body and Man Look Nice.

Sister Nancy ruled the dancehall with One Two and Bam Bam, both of which were produced by Riley. She was the first female artiste for Riley's Techniques label.

She described their relationship as good in the beginning but said things eventually deteriorated.

"He was a good person and he did look out for me," said Sister Nancy, who works as an accountant at a New Jersey bank.

She met Riley while she was honing her skills on the Stereophonic sound system in the late 1970s.

"It was General Echo and Hugh Hugh Madoo who brought me to Mr Riley while he had his shop downtown. I really admired how he took recording serious," she recalled. "You couldn't go into his studio and do any foolishness."

She said she last saw the producer in 2005 at an event at the Mas Camp in New Kingston.

"He told me he wasn't well and I told him to take care of himself," said Nancy.

Another Riley protégé is Junie Ranks, now based in New York City.

"Mr Riley was one of the best producers that I worked with," she declared.

"From the first day I stepped into his studio I didn't know I could really do this music thing. But he made me who I am," she continued.

She remembered Riley as a perfectionist who made sure he put out the best product possible. "When Sanchez recorded Loneliness he was off key and Mr Riley made sure the finished product was on key before he put it out."

Riley produced Junie's 1983 debut single Counteraction as well as Gimme Di Money, Cry Fi Mi Boops (her response to Super Cat's Boops) and Shirley Duppy.

Lady G was not a member of the Techniques camp but it was Riley who produced one of her biggest hits, Legal Rights with Papa San.

She recalled her time working with Riley.

"Mr Riley was a musical genius, I met him through Junie Ranks in 1988," Lady G told the Observer. "I followed her down to Mr Riley's record shop and he asked me to come to the studio later that evening," she added.

"He said he had something for me to do and when I went to the studio I saw Hopeton James and we recorded Samfie Lover which became a hit for us."

Winston Riley hailed from west Kingston and was a founding member of the famous Techniques harmony group which recorded at producer Arthur 'Duke' Reid's Treasure Isle label.

He was best known as a producer of countless hit songs. Two of his biggest hits were Dave Barker and Ansell Collins' Double Barrel which made the British national charts in 1971, and the much-sampled Stalag 'riddim' which was done in 1974.


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