By Howard Campbell——
In commemoration of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain, the Jamaica Observer’s Entertainment section recognises 50 persons who made significant, yet unheralded, contributions to the country’s culture. Today we feature Larry Marshall.
THOUGH he recorded for top producers like Prince Buster and Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd, Larry Marshall was still an unknown singer in 1968 when he took a second crack at making it as an entertainer.
The song he recorded at Dodd’s Studio One was Nanny Goat which some musicologists and reggae historians say is the first reggae song.
Others argue that Toots and the Maytals’ Do The Reggay, also done in 1968, and Games People Play by Bob Andy the following year, marked the transition from rocksteady to reggae. But for most, Nanny Goat was the game-changer.
Toots and the Maytals and Andy are reggae legends. Very little, however, is known about the St Ann-born Marshall who started his career in the mid-1960s recording for producer Philip Yap.
He also recorded for Buster and Dodd but gave up singing after failing to get a hit song. Marshall was working as an assistant engineer at Studio One when he wrote the song that ensured him a place in the annals of Jamaican music.
In a 2003 interview with the Jamaica Observer, Marshall said he took his lyrics to Dodd who liked them and passed it on to his musical director, keyboardist Jackie Mittoo.
But Boris Gardiner, who played bass on Nanny Goat, says Marshall was not the first choice singer when he and Mittoo laid out the rhythm track.
“The person we rehearsed it with first was Jacob Miller but Coxson came in and said he didn’t like Jacob’s voice. That’s how Larry Marshall sang it,” Gardiner recalled in an interview with the Observer nine years ago.
Marshall, who had other hits such as Throw Mi Corn and Your Love, says he has never earned substantially from Nanny Goat.
Now 72, Larry Marshall lives in Florida.