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» BREAKING NEWS, Featured » PROMOTER MICHAEL BARNETT TO PULL THE PLUG ON “STARTIME”, THE CONCERT SERIES!

PROMOTER MICHAEL BARNETT TO PULL THE PLUG ON “STARTIME”, THE CONCERT SERIES!

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL

Observer senior writer—

 

 Michael Barnett—

After almost 31-years, promoter Michael Barnett says he will end the popular Startime series next May with a one-off show featuring Sanchez and Marcia Griffiths at Mas Camp in Kingston.

Barnett told the Jamaica Observer that the cost to promote live events in Jamaica, as well as the decline in a number of top rocksteady and roots reggae artistes, influenced his decision to call it a day.

“It’s been 31 years and over 150 Startime concerts, and everything must have an end. In these times, it is proving more and more difficult to put a line-up together to excite and ultimately satisfy our faithful and loyal core audience without repeating artistes from recent Startime concerts,” said Barnett. “Also, the budget for stage shows are skyrocketing and, with no guarantee from the weather, the risks are now greater for promoters.”

Barnett launched what was then Heineken Startime in 1987 at the Oceana hotel in downtown Kingston with Gregory Isaacs performing. The series took off during the 1990’s and helped spark a rocksteady revival in Jamaica and Europe.

Marcia Griffiths

Marcia Griffiths

The last Startime show was held in July at the National Arena with Gerald Alston and The Manhattans and Derrick Morgan as headliners.

Many of the acts who helped make Startime a hit have died. They include Isaacs, Dennis Brown, Bunny and Scully, Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Brent Dowe and Trevor Brevett of The Melodians, Hopeton Lewis, Phyllis Dillon, Joseph Hill of Culture, Roy Shirley, Sugar Minott, and Frankie Paul.

Barnett and most of them were close friends. He said it is sad to see most of them die facing personal struggles.

Sanchez

Sanchez

“It is heart-rending as I have participated in the planning of many of the funerals. I cry inside at some of the stories.”

A disc jockey at KOOL 97 FM radio station in St Andrew, 64-year-old Barnett said he got hooked on rocksteady music while attending St George’s College in the late 1960’s. After migrating to the United States, he worked at Brad’s, a leading record store in the Bronx, New York, which enhanced his knowledge of early Jamaican music.

While working as a manager at the Oceana, he kicked off Heineken Startime. He said there are no regrets.

“I’m overwhelmed every day! Startime began with Kenric Davis and me in the 100-seat Old Spanish Town Bar in the former Oceana Hotel at the foot of King Street, and I have lived to see the show draw as many as 5,000-plus patrons in Jamaica. Most importantly, Startime is credited with being the lead player in the wave of popularity still being enjoyed by Jamaica’s music pioneers here in Jamaica and overseas,” he explained.

Barnett plans to release a slate of acts for the Startime finale in January.

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