Flabba Holt: Roots to the core

Saturday, February 17, 2018

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With February acknowledged as Reggae Month, the Jamaica Observer salutes some of the music's unsung heroes in this daily column.

Reggae has an impressive line of bass guitarists. Errol “Flabba Holt” Carter is one of them, and arguably the most prolific.

Holt is the founder and leader of the Roots Radics Band which made some of the 'baddest' rhythms of the late 1970s and 1980s. His heavy lines can be heard on songs by Gregory Isaacs ( Night Nurse, Border, Poor and Clean), Freddie McGregor ( Big Ship), J ust Like The Sea (David Isaacs), Edi Fitzroy ( Check For You Once), Eek-A-Mouse ( Wa Do Dem), Michael Prophet (Gunman, Here Comes The Bride) and John Holt ( Police In Helicopter).

He also played all songs on Barrington Levy's outstanding Englishman album, as well as most of the albums by Israel Vibration.

“When mi jus' start (play bass) man used to tell mi sey mi haffi play like (Leroy) Sibbles or Robbie (Shakespeare) or the bredrin from Motown (James Jamerson), but mi always waan sound like me,” he told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

Holt's success with singers should come as no surprise. He started his career as a vocalist and released two albums as an artiste during the 1970s before taking up the four-string, first with The Morwells then the Roots Radics, which he formed in 1978.

With Holt as musical director, Roots Radics became the unofficial house band at Channel One studio, working around the clock with producers Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Linval Thompson.

Another of Holt's strong points is his ability to spot talented musicians. He brought in drummer Lincoln “Style” Scott and keyboardist Wycliffe “Steely” Johnson into the “Radics” fold and helped develop their playing abilities.

Today, 68-year-old Holt is the sole survivor of the original Roots Radics Band. Scott, Johnson, guitarists Eric “Bingy Bunny” Lamont and Noel “Sowell” Bailey, have all died.

Flabba Holt is still recording and touring with American and European artistes who grew up listening to the patented Roots Radics sound.

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