MoBay's dynamic duo
AS organisers of Reggae Sumfest prepare to launch their 20th anniversary show on Sunday in Montego Bay, it is fitting to recall the achievements of one of that city's pioneer music acts.
The Blues Busters (Phillip 'Boasie' James and Lloyd 'Lloydie' Campbell) were both born in Montego Bay. They got their start in the tourist town's clubs and hotels before moving to Kingston where they hit the big time as ska performers.
James and Campbell never had the classic sound of their contemporaries from the rival Treasure Isle and Studio One. Their distinctive feel was inspired by American crooners like Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke and soul groups out of the American south.
Many of their hits from the 1960s included Wings Of a Dove, Behold and Soon You'll Be Gone were done for the conservative Dynamic Records which recorded mainly for a middle-class audience.
A key figure at Dynamic in those days was Ronnie Nasralla, who not only produced some of the duo's songs, but managed them for 20 years.
"They are definitely one of the best harmony groups to come out of Jamaica," Nasralla said recently.
Nasralla remembers James and Campbell going to the United States for shows and impressing bigwigs at Capitol Records. But he says the sound that made them stars at home proved to be their Achilles Heel in the United States.
"The reason they didn't make it there was people said they sounded too much like (American soul duo) Sam and Dave," said Nasralla.
Like many of the harmony groups of the 1960s, the Blues Busters' popularity waned considerably in the 1970s as Jamaicans and foreigners tuned into the rebel tones of roots-reggae.
The 'Busters' died in New York City, James in 1989 and Campbell three years later. Both are buried in Montego Bay.
They are part of Jamaica's 50th anniversary celebrations. A 23-song medley of their biggest hits and reggae standards, appears on Tad's Record's Jamaica 50: Then and Now commemorative album to be released July 24.