Original 'rude bwoys' The Slickers:


Observer senior writer

Friday, February 16, 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.

Walking down the road

With a ratchet in your waist

Johhny you're too bad

You're just robbin' and stabbin'

And lootin' and shootin'

You're too bad

Last week Rolling Stone magazine announced that a live version of The Slickers' Johnny Too Bad, by American singer Alex Chilton, will be released 38 years after it was recorded in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

It is the latest cover of a 'rude bwoy' standard that was released in 1970. British bands UB40 and The Specials also put their spin on the song which is part of The Harder They Come soundtrack.

Johnny Too Bad is easily the biggest hit song for The Slickers, who are linked to The Pioneers, a ska/rocksteady group that had massive success in Jamaica and the United Kingdom with Long Shot (Kick The Bucket).

The Slickers are one of the mysteries of Jamaican music. Its members at various stages included the Crooks brothers (Sydney and Derrick), Winston Bailey, Abraham Green, and Roy Beckford.

The origin of Johnny Too Bad is also a head-scratcher. It was reportedly produced by Byron Lee in 1970 and co-written by Trevor “Batman” Wilson, brother of singer Delroy Wilson.

Batman was said to be a terror in Greenwich Farm and the inspiration for Johnny Too Bad, which took off internationally with The Harder They Come's release in Europe and the United States in 1973.

Sydney Crooks is the most successful of The Slickers. He won a following in the UK due to his work with The Pioneers and produced a number of top Jamaican reggae acts as well as British bands in that country.

Known as Luddy Pioneer, he is also a reggae pioneer in Brazil, where he has called home for years 20 years. Now 74, Crooks has worked as a performer, producer and promoter in the South American country.

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