Tony Mack marks musical milestone

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, July 29, 2019

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As rocksteady evolved into reggae during the late 1960s, Greenwich Farm was one of the locations where the music transitioned seamlessly. It not only produced artistes like John Holt, Delroy Wilson and Slim Smith, but impresarios including Tony Mack.

This year, the diminutive Mack celebrates his 50th year in the music business. He has been a singer and music producer, but Mack is best known for developing talent out of his hometown.

Fittingly, he is a key figure in Imported From Jamaica, a compilation album distributed by I N I Records, an independent company from Maryland. That set contains songs by established and upcoming acts, mainly from Greenwich Farm who 69-year-old Mack has worked with.

Imported From Jamaica was released in February. According to Mack, he used the same grass roots strategy that has worked for him over the years, to select artistes for the album. That includes going to talent shows and dances to scout for fresh talent.

But even he admits times and trends have changed.

“The music (business) change in various ways, there's more money to be made now. It is easy for music to be exposed globally than before, and the music has drifted away from the basic culture that reggae music is known for,” he said.

Mack moved to Philadelphia in the 1960s and was involved in that city's competitive rhythm and blues scene. He kept in touch with the reg revolution in Jamaica and returned regularly to check out artistes in Greenwich Farm.

Back in Jamaica since the 1990s, he has worked with artistes such as singers Slim Smith, Earl Zero, Johnny Clarke, Phillip Frazier, and singjay Informative Historyman.

Interestingly, Frazier won the first talent contest Mack staged in the community 47 years ago. Typical of the Greenwich Farm act, he became a journeyman who developed a sound system following in Jamaica and Europe.

Mack says he decided to get involved in music because of Derrick Morgan, his mentor, who was close friends with Bunny Lee, Greenwich Farm's top producer.

As a singer, he has recorded a number of singles and albums. One of his last projects was the 1999 album, Tony Mack Sings Reggae Classics.

He plans to mark his golden anniversary in music on December 23, his birthday, with a show in where else? Greenwich Farm.

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