Harry Mudie: pulling strings for reggae
PRODUCER Harry Mudie is not as famous as some of his contemporaries like Clement Dodd or Duke Reid, but he has a number of firsts to his name.
For starters, he was the first to record seminal roots group Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari and and saxophonist Wilton Gaynair.
Another significant achievement for the Spanish Town-born Mudie. He is the producer who introduced live strings to reggae.
"After leaving school in the late '50s, I started a sound system then got involved with Count Ossie. And we went to the studio and did a session out of which came the singles Babylon Gone and So Long," Mudie told the Observer recently. "After that I went away to England."
On his return to Jamaica in the early 1960s, Mudie went back into music production with his Moodisc label, helping to launch the careers of singers Dennis Walks, G G Grossett, the Ebony Sisters, Lloyd Jones and the Eternals.
His first release was Let Me Tell You Boy by the Ebony Sisters followed by Dennis Walks' Drifter and Heart Don't Leap.
The Eternals were next with Rome and Let's Start Again, then came G G Grossett with Run Girl Run.
While Mudie had many hit songs, production was not a bed of roses. He was plagued by piracy, mainly in England.
"The main ones (records) was Let Me Tell You Boy and Drifter. They pirated Drifter, Let Me Tell You Boy and Run Girl Run, all three of those were pirated in England," said Mudie.
In the early 1970s, Mudie brought a fresh sound to reggae by adding live strings to his productions.
"The facts are, the first reggae songs with live strings are Leaving Rome with Jo Jo Bennett and Mudies All Stars, Ten Steps to Soul, with Jo Jo Bennett and Mudies All Stars, and Mudie's Mood, with Mudies All Stars. These were done on May 2, 1970 at Chalk Farm Studios Ltd in England," said Mudie.
"The first reggae vocal songs with live strings are It May Sound Silly, with John Holt and Mudies All Stars, Again with John Holt and Mudies All Stars, done on 7th September 1971 at Chalk Farm Studios."
According to Mudie, the songs featured Britain's Philharmonic Orchestra. The success of this new feel inspired British producer Tony Ashfield to record the album The Further You Look which was followed by Holt's popular 1000 Volts of Holt.
The Mudie's All-Stars included Lennie Hibbert on vibes, pianist Gladstone Anderson, tenor saxophonist Tommy McCook, trumpeter Bobby Ellis, guitarist Mikey Chung, and percussionist Bongo Herman.
A past student of St Jago High School, Mudie is a nephew of former West Indian cricketer George Mudie. He launched the Mudies Hi-Fi sound system before going to the UK to study electronics and photography.
Moodisc also recorded deejays I Roy and Big Joe, organist Winston Wright, and dub albums with Osbourne 'King Tubby's' Ruddock (the Dub Conference series).
From the 1970s to the early 1980s, Mudie produced songs by Gregory Isaacs, The Heptones, Joe White, Cornel Campbell, Prince Heron and Bunny Maloney.
Harry Mudie — founder of Scaramouch Garden Amusement Centre in Spanish Town — now lives in Florida. Miami is the base for Moodisc which he operates with his son Gerry.
The label has reissued a number of Mudie's material, including Count Ossie's earliest tracks, John Holt's Time Is the Master, Dennis Walks releases, the Dub Conference titles, and compilation albums.