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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. This week we feature The Soul Syndicate band.

The Soul Syndicate Band

BANDS roamed Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s, playing in clubs and recording music that eventually introduced the country’s urban culture to the world. One of the leaders of this movement was the Soul Syndicate.

Formed in Greenwich Farm, Kingston in the late-1960s by bass player George ‘Fully’ Fullwood and guitarist Tony Chin, the Soul Syndicate is rated among reggae’s greatest bands. Heavily influenced by American Rhythm & Blues, they were utilised with great success by producers Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Winston ‘Niney’ Holness.

In addition to Fullwood and Chin, the nucleus of the ‘Syndicate’ were organist Cleon Douglas, guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith and drummer Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis. But it was Fullwood, Chin and Douglas who played on early hits like Strange Things and My Heart is Gone by John Holt for Pratt; Talk About Love (Pat Kelly for Pratt); and Sun is Shining and Mr Brown (The Wailers for Perry).

With the addition of Davis and Smith, the Soul Syndicate found a formidable ally in Holness, playing on his production of Silver Words, done by Ken Boothe. The trump card in Holness’ Observer camp, however, was a teenaged singer named Dennis Brown with whom the band created magic.

They played on Westbound Train, Cassandra and No More Will I Roam, songs that announced Brown’s emergence as a bona fide star. The Brown/Holness sessions established Soul Syndicate as, arguably, the top show/recording band in Jamaica.

The Soul Syndicate split up in the early 1980s when most of its members moved to the United States. Fullwood and Chin are the core of the Fully Fullwood Band and have played with pop-reggae groups like Big Mountain.

Davis was a member of Peter Tosh’s band for years and currently tours with Ziggy Marley. A prolific session musician, Smith has also toured with Jimmy Cliff and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers.

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