King Tubby, the dub organiser
Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock

The Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment Desk continues with the 25th of its biweekly feature looking at seminal moments that have helped shape Jamaica over the past 60 years.

NO one has had as profound an impact on dancehall music like studio engineer Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock. Even his peers were not hesitant to crown him king.

“King Tubby was a genius,” music producer Bunny “Striker” Lee told the Jamaica Observer in a 2012 interview. “Tubby built his own mixing board long before he had gotten the one from Dynamic Sounds.”

King Tubby, an electrician by profession, began his musical journey as a 17-year-old sound system operator of Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi in 1958.

Deejays U-Roy and Dennis Alcapone were staples on the ‘sound’. However, after honing his craft and dominating that sphere, he shifted his sights to studio engineer.

His knowledge of circuits and equipment reshaped the music landscape.

Working from his bathroom-sized studio in the tough St Andrew community of Waterhouse, King Tubby created a new, cutting edge sound which redefined Jamaican music in the 1960s and 1970s.

His sought-after dubs provided the soundtrack for that period and made him comparable in popularity to artistes and composers.

Lee said he would take tracks to Tubby’s for him to remix. He would create an entirely different musical track by shifting the emphasis on the instruments and adding special effects such as delays, echoes, reverbs, thunderclaps, and gunshots. These were novel sounds for the day.

Other top producers including Lee “Scratch” Perry and Augustus Pablo sought Tubby’s expertise. Singers Johnny Clarke, Cornell Campbell, Linval Thompson, Horace Andy, Delroy Wilson and Jah Stitch also benefited from his magic.

His most popular production is King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown with Augustus Pablo in 1976. The album of the same name was produced by Pablo who played melodica, piano, organ and clarinet.

In the late 1970s, King Tubby slowed down and passed his knowledge to a new generation of engineers including Lloyd “King Jammy” James and Hopeton “Scientist” Brown.

In the 1980s he constructed a larger studio in Waterhouse and oversaw his Firehouse, Waterhouse and Taurus labels which released songs by Anthony Red Rose, Sugar Minott, Conroy Smith, King Everald and other popular artistes.

Osbourne “King Tubby” Ruddock was shot and killed on February 6 1989 by an unknown assailant outside his home in Duhaney Park, St Andrew, after returning from a recording session at his studio. He was 48.

Brian Bonitto

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