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RADIO BROADCASTERS WHO REAP SUCCESS AS RECORDING ARTISTS!

 

RJR announcer Charlie Babcock (left) interviews Byron Lee in 1968.—

Two weeks ago The Music Diaries brought to you an instance of a radio broadcaster who found himself in the recording studio, and in the process, became a fairly successful recording vocalist. The man of the moment then was veteran broadcaster Alan Magnus, who recently completed 45 year service in broadcasting with RJR’s 94FM.

But Magnus’ case was not an isolated one as the phenomenon of radio broadcasters, or disc jocks, becoming recording artists has seen several other instances in the Jamaican entertainment business.

Alan Magnus

Alan Magnus

According to Magnus, “It’s a natural progression”.

He believes that once a radio presenter begins to play records, somehow the music will get into his or her blood and chances are, the individual will end up in the recording studio.

Perhaps one of the earliest instances of a radio presenter getting into the recording studio to record popular music is that of the Canada-born Charlie Babcock.

He was part of what some called a Canadian-Caribbean invasion of Radio Jamaica and Rediffusion (RJR). The establishment of the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) in 1959, drew several announcers/broadcasters away from RJR. The station’s management, in an effort to repel the challenge of this fierce, new competitor, contracted a number of overseas disc jocks on a temporary basis to steady the ship. Babcock seemed to have understood the mood of the people and developed a considerable following with his afternoon show on RJR.

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Arriving in Jamaica sometime in mid-1959, he brought a new vibe to Jamaican radio. Employing his trademark phrase, “This is Charlie Babcock, the cool fool with the live jive”, he livened up the station with his toasting lyrics, startling gimmicks, and zany antics. On one occasion, he even rode a horse to work. To the best of my knowledge, Babcock had one Jamaican recording, titled, I Got A Feeling, a top class blues piece that could challenge anything that early Jamaican blues had to offer. With instrumental backing from the incomparable Australian latin-flavored band –

The Caribs, which was brought to Jamaica by hotelier-businessman Abe Issa, and featuring an exhilarating guitar solo by Dennis Syndrey, the recording has become one of the scarcest, most sought after quality vintage recordings ever done in Jamaica. Luckily, I was able to get a piece into my collection, from which I drew the opening lyrics:

“I got a feeling I’m falling for you, falling for you, hey falling for you

Oh, I got a feeling I’m falling for you.

I wanna make love to you.

I wanna hold you close in my arms

Oh close in my arms, yeah close in my arms.

I wanna show my love is true.”

Neville Willoughby on stage in 1972

Neville Willoughby on stage in 1972

Those who were around during the 1970’s, will also remember Neville Willoughby’s Evening People’s Show on RJR. One of Jamaica’s the top broadcasters, Willoughby worked with RJR as a journalist in the late 1950’s and the JBC in the 1ate 1960’s, before returning to RJR in the 1970’s.

BBC STINT

He also had a stint with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Caribbean Service in London between 1962 and 1964. Willoughby’s recordings included, Moon Over Mayaro, Old Time People, the Yuletide favourite – Christmas Ja., and the patriotic song I Love Jamaica, which clearly expressed the true Jamaican spirit in the first two lines:

“I love Jamaica, the land of the sugar and rum

I love Jamaica where the pretty women come from.”

Willoughby extended his musical horizons with a leading role in the 1963-64 Jamaican Pantomime, Queenie’s Daughter, and became well-known internationally for a 1973 interview with Reggae King Bob Marley – a popular bestseller.

John Jones

John Jones

From a radio presenter to a recording artist, is perhaps a too flimsy and battered at term to describe John Jones. He was one of, if not, the most versatile individual to have graced Jamaica’s entertainment business. His younger fans will remember him as the popular ‘girly-girly’ pastor in the long-running local television soap opera Royal Palm Estate. The past St Jago High School-Kingston College student, forewent a degree course in the Department of Natural Sciences at the University of the West Indies, Mona, in order to answer his creative impulse for getting into entertainment. This irresistible urge took him into the drama society, and by the end of the 1960’s, he was singing professionally with the Tomorrow’s Children Band. Moving into the recording

studios, Jones has several hit singles, including, Tom Jones’ Delilah, Cat Stevens ‘Where Do The Children Play, Dr Hook’s Sylvia’s Mother and Poor Man, to my mind his best recording, and the words of which are worth reciting:

“Darkness overcomes the day

The night wind blows its lonely ways

The endless papers move with rustling sounds

None cares about his life

They don’t have the time to understand.”

JohnJonesPoorMan45

By 1971, Jones was hosting his own afternoon radio

programme – Happiness Homecoming, on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation. As an actor, he landed roles in

several plays and movies, while becoming a regular fixture in Father Holung’s productions.

Another of the Jamaican performers who had successful stints in both radio and recording studios was Jeff ‘Free I’ Dixon. A pioneer broadcaster at the JBC in Jamaica, WNJR in New Jersey, and WNOV in Milwaukee, Dixon recorded, in duet with Marcia Griffiths, the popular rocksteady cut, Words, in the mid-1960’s. Dixon was killed, along with Peter Tosh and Wilton Brown, in a

shooting incident at Tosh’s Barbican residence on the night of September 11, 1987.

MarciaGriffiths60s

Although there may have been others, we cannot help but include Heather ‘Brown Sugar’ Grant in this elite band as she may perhaps be the only female to have excelled as a radio broadcaster and a recording artist.

A former KLAS Sports radio presenter, she is the present host of ‘Night Cap’ on RJR.

Heather Grant

Heather Grant

She distinguished herself by winning the 1992 popular festival song competition with the Don Cunningham/ Boris Gardiner composition, Mek We Put Things Right. She is a graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, with a BA in Arts Management.

 

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