King Tubby, the sound creator

King Tubby, the sound creator


Brian Bonitto

Friday, July 06, 2012

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In commemoration of Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer's Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country's culture. This week we feature King Tubby.

THE annals of Jamaican dancehall would be incomplete without mentioning pioneer studio engineer Osbourne 'King Tubby' Ruddock.

King Tubby — an electrician by profession — began his musical journey as a 17-year-old sound system operator of Tubby's Hometown Hi-Fi in 1958.

Deejays U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone were staples on the 'sound'. However, after honing his craft and dominating that sphere, he shifted his sights to that of studio engineer.

His knowledge of circuits and crude equipment would reshape the music landscape.

Working from his bathroom-sized studio in the tough St Andrew inner-city community of Waterhouse, King Tubby's created a whole new sound which redefined Jamaican popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.

His sought-after dubs provided the soundtrack for that period. He was revered, comparable to artistes and composers.

"King Tubby's was a genius," said veteran producer Bunny 'Striker' Lee, who worked with Tubby on several projects.

"Tubby's built his own mixing board long before he had gotten the one from Dynamic Sounds," Lee told Splash.

Lee would take tracks to Tubby's for him to remix. Tubby's would create an entirely different musical track by shifting the emphasis on the instruments and add special effects such as delays, echoes, reverbs, thunderclaps and even gunshots. These were novel sounds of the day.

Other top producers including Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Augustus Pablo, and Vivian 'Yabby You' Jackson sought Tubby's expertise.

Singers Johnny Clarke, Cornell Campbell, Linval Thompson, Horace Andy, Delroy Wilson and Jah Stitch also benefited from Tubby's magic.

His most popular dub of all time is King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown with Augustus Pablo in 1976. The album was produced by Pablo, who played the melodica, piano, organ, and clavinet.

In later part of that decade, King Tubby slowed down and passed on his knowledge to a new generation of engineers including Lloyd 'King Jammy's' James and Hopeton 'Scientist' Brown.

In the 1980s, Tubby constructed a larger studio in Waterhouse and oversaw his Firehouse, Waterhouse and Taurus labels.

The labels released songs by Anthony Red Rose, Sugar Minott, Conroy Smith, King Everald and other popular musicians.

Osbourne 'King Tubby's' Ruddock was shot and killed on February 6, 1989 by an unknown assailant outside his home in Duhaney Park, St Andrew after returning from a recording session at his studio. He was 48.

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