Admiral Bailey still in command

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Saturday, February 23, 2019

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Years before he made dancehall's hit parade with songs like Big Belly Man and Jump Up, Admiral Bailey earned his stripes working the sound system trail. He recalls that period of toil on Know Bout This, his new song, produced by Lock City Records.

On it, the burly deejay, who appears on Stars R Us at Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre this evening, schools the current batch of dancehall artistes about his career and achievements. Most of them, he said, got their break easy.

“Dis song is fi mek people know sey things start from di grass roots so dem can appreciate things more. Wid artist like me it wasn't easy, 'cause yuh haffi help load di box an' equipment pon di truck before yuh bus',” he explained. “Dem youth yah nuh know di hardship of di music; I don't sey dem don't know hardship, dem don't know hardship when it come to music.”

Bailey recounts his days developing as a deejay with the Jammys sound system, owned by Lloyd “King Jammys” James, the producer with whom he had a fruitful partnership during the 1980s. Some of his contemporaries, including Papa San and Stitchie, are acknowledged in Know Bout This.

Though he still records, Bailey is not as active in the studio as his heyday. For the past 20 years, many dancehall and sports fans know him as a football coach who has had national success with teams like Olympic Gardens, Waterhouse and Tivoli Gardens.

Bailey credits his years making the sound system rounds for a golden run that started in the mid-1980s with One Scotch, a song he did with fellow deejay Chaka Demus.

“Most a dem song like Punaany, Jump Up an' Big Belly Man mek before dem go pon vinyl. Dem song dey mek a dance an' gwaan wicked before dem bus' a road,” he said.

Those songs were produced by James, whose recording studio is located in Waterhouse, a 10-minute drive from the Cockburn Gardens community where Glendon Bailey was born and raised. It was there as a teenager that he discovered the roots tones of deejays Ranking Joe and Josey Wales, his biggest influences.

In 1984 Admiral Bailey recorded his first song, Jogging, for Flames Records. By the end of that decade, he was one of the biggest names in dancehall thanks to his tandem with James; he struck up an unlikely bond with soca giants Byron Lee and The Dragonaires in 1993, scoring with the massive Dancehall Soca.

The current coach of Humble Lion in the National Premier League, Admiral Bailey said there has never been a problem balancing sports and music. He plans to prove that to fans this evening at Stars R Us, less than 24 hours before his team's game against Dunbeholden.

Jack Radics, Ken Boothe, The Tennors, Josey Wales, Big Youth, Carl Dawkins, Tony Tuff, Derrick Morgan and Paul Elliott will also perform at Stars R Us.

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