Hitting high notes with a Tennor

Observer senior writer

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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HOLDING court in a Pembroke Pines Jamaican restaurant, an animated Albert “Clive Tennors” Murphy cruises down memory lane, giving the most minute details about The Tennors, the harmony group he co-founded 52 years ago.

Murphy, who is in his 70s, started The Tennors with Maurice Johnson in 1966. He was preparing to head to a recording studio in Miami to put the finishing touches on Everybody A Use It, the group's latest song.

Though he, fellow members Howard Spencer and Hal Anthony have high hopes for the pro-ganja track, it is a 45-year-old single that has thrust The Tennors into the limelight once more. Another Scorcher, which they did with Jackie Bernard of The Kingstonians, was recently used by giant beer company Heineken in a television commercial.

The ad was pulled two weeks ago after American artiste Chance The Rapper launched a protest on social media that it had racial overtones.

Choosing to stay away from the controversy, Murphy is banking on the song he produced to spell a new day for the veteran group, whose biggest hit songs are Pressure And Slide and Ride Yuh Donkey.

“I think it will recreate The Tennors and more people will learn about the group. People see us as dormant and because I'm a Christian some people are afraid to call us because they think I'm going to do gospel,” he explained.

A former insurance salesman, Murphy has lived in South Florida for over 30 years. He became a practising Christian just over a decade ago and has recorded a number of inspirational songs including Rejoice In The Lord and Jesus Will Make A Way.

However, The Tennors continue to record secular music. They have also performed on reggae festivals in the United Kingdom and Germany in recent years.

Since the late 1960s, Murphy has written and produced most of The Tennors' songs. He is the only constant member; Johnson died in an auto accident in 1967, shortly after Pressure And Slide's release, while Ronnie Davis, another stalwart, died two years ago.

Bernard, who died in 2014, wrote Another Scorcher which was recorded at Randy's studio in downtown Kingston. Murphy remembers selecting the musicians for the session which did not get off to a good start.

“I brought in (organist) Aubrey Adams an' some of the man dem neva like it. They were singing things like, 'wey yuh a go wid da old man dey'. And I said, 'let's see what he has to offer',” he recalled.

Adams was a veteran of producer Duke Reid's Treasure Isle studio. For Another Scorcher, he was accompanied by Wailers drummer Carlton Barrett, pianist Theophilus “Snapping” Beckford and former Upsetters guitarist Alva “Reggie” Lewis.

Born in St Mary, Murphy began recording in 1963. His first song, Little Girl Over There, was produced by Reid.

After working on The Bahamas hotel scene for one year, he returned to Jamaica and recorded as a member of the duo Clive and Alvin. Then, with Johnson, formed The Twin Tennors which evolved into The Tennors, a trio that also included Norman Davis.

Pressure And Slide, their breakthrough song, was arranged by Jackie Mittoo and produced by Clement Dodd at Studio One. One year later, Murphy wrote and produced Ride Yuh Donkey, featuring Beckford on piano and drummer Hugh Malcolm.

Over the years, he has produced songs by other artistes such as Derrick Morgan, Eric “Monty” Morris, Tyrone Taylor, and Roman Stewart.

The Tennors are booked for shows in the UK in August. By then, Murphy hopes the Heineken controversy would have blown over.

“What happened is unfortunate, but I am not one to criticise. We just want this to re-energise everything and we can get back out there.”

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