From Little Freddie to Big Ship captain
Freddie McGregor

The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk continues with the 19th in its Child Month series highlighting some of Jamaica’s young performers who shot to stardom.

SIXTY years ago when Freddie McGregor relocated from Hayes in Clarendon to Kingston with The Clarendonians, he had no idea his life was going to change forever.

“I never had any experience in music. I didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t know, maybe that was just my calling. I was just excited to go to Kingston, because during those times, it was like going to New York. I didn’t know anything about how it would turn out. Ernest’s [Wilson] mom paid my fare because me and The Clarendonians came from the same place,” he told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.

“When we pulled up at 13 Brentford Road (Studio One), I saw a long line of people waiting to be auditioned, but I didn’t know what was going on. I was with The Clarendonians, and they were already stars; so they didn’t need to audition. Ernest told Mr Dodd that I could sing an’ dem tell mi fi buss di ‘Dumpling Song’ an’ they found it funny but they thought I could sing…,” McGregor added.

Dodd refers to Studio One’s founder producer Clement “Coxson” Dodd.

Little Freddie, as he was known, along with Ernest Wilson and fellow Clarendonian Peter Austin resided in Rollington Town until Dodd took him to his Pembroke Hall home to mentor him.

Freddie McGregor

“Mr Dodd fell in love with me, and one weekend he told Ernest to bring my things when he was returning the Monday,” he said.

His journey at the renowned studio was the best time of his life, according to the Big Ship singer.

“Recording in Studio One was the greatest experience of my life. I was excited, I saw what I wanted, and it was music. I was just in the right space for what I was looking for. I ended up in the right space at the right time...people used to call me Studio One bwoy, but I didn’t care. That was my chill spot,” McGregor said.

After 12 years of recording, he got his big break in 1979 with the song Bobby Babylon which was followed by an album of the same name. By that time, music was a full-time career.

For much of his early career, McGregor was under supervision and guidance of Dodd, and Ernest Wilson.

“Ernest taught me just about everything I know. Mr Dodd and Mrs Dodd were also my parents. They loved me like their own. I respected Mr Dodd and wanted to be around him all the time so I never wanted to leave,” he said.

For the past 38 years, McGregor has been one of reggae’s front-runners. He is known for songs including Big Ship, Push Comes to Shove, Just Don’t Want to be Lonely, and I’m A Winner.

He said Clement Dodd’s words of wisdom have propelled him throughout his career.

“Work hard at what you believe in, patience is a virtue. We make moves because of anxiety, but it is important to wait your turn — it will happen. Mr Dodd always said every time you get frustrated, ‘Jackson, just be patient. When it comes nothing can stop you.…’ and that has really stuck with me,” McGregor said.

Kediesha Perry

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