SAMPLE CHAPTER IN "GET UP! STAND UP!" PHOTO GALLERY PART I
MASH IT UP WIT THE WAILERS AT A REHEARSAL IN YARD!
MASH IT UP Rehearsal at Bob’s Island House
It’s early October 1975. A cultural group, NASABA, based in New York is presenting an international tennis tournament and a “Dream Concert” in Kingston, Jamaica. Arthur Ashe is the headliner of an array of internationally renowned tennis stars in a weeklong series of tennis matches. Famous movie stars, musicians and the international press have come down to “Yard” to soak up the fun and games. New Yorker, Karen Baxter and her business partner, actor Whitman Mayo (Sanford & Son) created NASABA as a literary management agency but when only a few clients showed up, they hit upon the idea of ‘Holiday Jamaica.’ A recent rash of terrorism had destroyed Jamaica’s tourist business, so this move was designed to revive that industry. Connecting with Jamaica Sports Limited, they got Reynolds Aluminum to put up a $100,000 prize purse for a tennis tournament, and enlisting the help of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Arthur Ashe agreed to headline it with Ed Pitt coming on board with NASABA to arrange the tennis portion of Holiday Jamaica. (Even today, the ATP continues to utilize the system of play started by NASABA and Jamaica Sports Limited).
“The Dream Concert,” starring Stevie Wonder, Harold Melvin and The Bluenotes, The Wailers, and a young unheard of group, Third World is set to happen in the Jamaican National Stadium on October 4th, 1975. NASABA, the international press, Stevie’s entourage, Ashe, other tennis greats, movie actors Vonetta McGee, Gloria Foster, Denise Nicholes, Calvin Lockhart, Clarence Williams III and musicians are housed at the Sheraton Hotel in New Kingston. The poolside bar and restaurant is the general hang out spot where at any given moment the area is crowded with celebrities ordering drinks and having informal interviews. It is here that men with briefcases network, making legitimate and questionable business deals. In the evening folks dance ‘til the wee hours of the morning at Epiphany’s, a hot American-styled Jamaican disco owned by Evan Williams, a well-to-do Black Jamaican entrepreneur.
On the third evening, October first, I am standing outside the hotel watching a street merchant negotiate a gold chain sell with a young Afro-English man. After the London based journalist, Raal Ali, buys the chain, we talk and discover that both of us have interviewed Bob Marley. Raal says, “Hey, there’s a rehearsal going on at 56 Hope Road, let’s go over there.” The first of three rehearsal nights before the Dream concert begins tonight at Island House. “I don’t know. I don’t want to be an intruder,” I say. “Look,” Ali replies, “we’ve already interviewed Bob. He knows who we are. Let’s go.”
We reach 56 Hope Road around eight o’clock to find a bunch of people hanging out in the back of the house just outside of the rehearsal studio. It’s pitch black out here, not one light at all! It’s amazing how dark night is when there is no moon and no guiding lights. Dreadlocked men with their ladies sit on cars and lounge on the ground, laughing and ‘reasoning’ in soft patois while the lights of their big head spliffs flicker and momentarily brighten the ebony night. The pungent smell of ganga smoke is everywhere. We move around under a blanket of pregnant darkness, so dark we have to stretch out our arms and hands to feel for the entrance door.
I don’t know why they don’t seem interested in going into the rehearsal, but Raal and I make our way inside straight away. We can’t wait to be involved in that pulsating rhythm of Family Man’s kickin’ fat bass and his brother Carlton’s one drop smashing drums. The rehearsal is in full swing inside this little shack of a building with its dirt floor and one old plank bench that sits about a foot off the floor on top of low cinder blocks, nestled snugly against a makeshift wall. Soft bulbs of red, white and green that barely light up the room hang lazily from the unfinished ceiling of this small room. Thick ganga smoke drifts slowly throughout this little space. And Lord, Lord, awesome music!! Peter Tosh sits to the left on a small stage that is only a foot high off the dirt floor, holding his guitar firmly over his shoulder with a dark beret perched over his locks, almost covering one ear. Bunny Livingston, wearing a pointed hat and crouching his African drums, sits next to Tosh. Less than a foot away from Bunny, Bob, loosely propped on top of a 3 foot amp, one foot on the stage and the other on the dirt floor, holds his guitar across his chest. He has on white shorts, a stripped shirt, untied short black boots that reach a bit above his ankles with no socks. The boot tongues flop half-way down toward his toes, his locks fall across the nape of his neck. But nobody cares about dress and such for this is the ‘work’ they are on earth to do.
For this gig, eleven members make up The Wailers . In this one small homemade room, all of the original Wailers are here except Earl “Wire” Lindo who is off with Taj Mahal’s band. The group has been together over ten years but they only work in Jamaica as The Wailers, because Peter and Bunny have their own bands.
I am sitting on this lone plank bench watching massive layers of strong ganga smoke waft gently up in the room, the soft lights make the smoke appear as clouds in the heavens here to capture the magical sounds then rain them down once again upon us.
The lights are extremely dim in here. I snap a picture but it is too dark even with my flash. It’s so foolish of me to even attempt to take pictures. Why did I bring this camera anyway? Because tonight I’m not a journalist, not an American, not a tourist, just a traveler on this mystical musical journey, not feeling hands nor body, only sound and motion.
Standing to my left and facing the band, Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths, dressed in colorful head wraps and long skirts, harmonize sweetly, swaying to the music. Other than band members Raal and I are two of the four people inside this rehearsal space. The room is so small that the I Threes even stand next to a wall. Bob and Rita’s children, Ziggy, Cedella, and Sharon run in and out of the room playing with other children. Somewhere lost inside this music, we’re all in a Nirvana harmony. Feels like it’s just me, the Universe and the rhythm.
Bob never starts the count. Peter calls out a tune, Bunny calls out the next. Throbbing rhythm makes us dance. They play several songs I’ve never heard. Drifting ganga floats throughout the space, hanging in the air like a mystic fog. Carlton Barrett calls out the next tune, his drums pushing the tempo. I Rebel Music hits. So compact is this little room that if I dare I can reach out my hand and touch Bob, touch Peter, touch Bunny.
At one point I look to the left of the band’s platform to see Neville Garrick standing. He is the man responsible for the artwork on Bob’s albums, and has promised to introduce me to Tosh and Bunny, whom I have yet to meet. I get up to speak with him but the music is so intense, I literally glide across the floor. This time I have on a long skirt, no tight pants nor short skirt. I know a little bit more about the Rasta philosophy and attitude about acceptable woman dress code than I did when I first met Bob where I wore body hugging bell bottoms, a tight body suit and high heeled shoes. At this precise moment Bob looks up as though he recognizes me, then calls for So Jah Seh, my absolute favorite Marley song. This is the only tune he calls for tonight. Maybe it is coincidental or maybe he remembers that our earlier interview in June centered on this tune. Horns sounding like West African highlife music start. Peter’s guitar scratches his signature rhythm, ‘chicka-chicka-chicka,’ the other guitarist counter points. Rich round bass makes the bottom thick. I loose track of why I got up from my seat. All I can do is close my eyes, sway with the pulsation of sound, raise both arms toward the ceiling and feel hallelujah praises. Feelin’ all right. Roots! A Rastaman walks by, dreadlocks to his shoulders, cap on, barefoot, dealing with the earth.
Then comes Jah, Jah Lives, the rhythm scorching, pulsating, explosive, rising like stair steps…. beyond mellow. You have to dance. Bunny’s dancing and prancing with a big spliff hanging from the side of his mouth. The I Threes dance. Raal dances. I’m dancing inside one of these clouds of ganga-ether floating around us. I Shot The Sheriff follows in a different tempo from the recording .
More tunes play but I miss writing down the names, too caught up in the music. Then Bob puts his guitar down, bends over a drum holding it between his legs, and starts singing the Rastaman Chant. It’s all drums now. Rhythm mesmerizing. Rhythm undulating. Contagious !
The Wailers play One Love then Peter sings You Can’t Blame The Youth and Legalize It. The rehearsal is a symbiosis of liquid sound and fluid people melting together in a heavenly ritual of musical history that lives forever, but never happens again.
I’ve completely forgotten the 10 o’clock cocktail party for NASABA and the tennis folks. They can have all the “stars,” for tonight we travel the Universe. We merge with “blessed” reggae music. We listen, we dance, we experience this unique spiritual gathering of souls inside this room with those outside in the pitch-black yard. We know why the children laugh. Along with The Wailers we’re transformed into ecstasies of positive vibrations. We know true freedom. A halcyon peace rests over us now for we know this capsule of energy travels to infinity, beyond time, beyond space. We’re feeling well irie.
It’s 12:30 in the morning. The rehearsal is over. Peter and his wife, Yvonne, climb into their Volkswagen preparing to leave. Raal asks if we can hitch a ride back to the Sheraton Hotel. Peter apologizes explaining that they are headed in another direction. So at the edge of the yard on 56 Hope Road, while we hail a cab, we watch their VW kick up a big puff of dust make a sharp right turn, then speed down the road toward Spanish Town. Gone.
Book Signing at The Brecht Forum in Manhattan, and Book Party "gathering of the tribes" launching of the book, Bob Marley & Peter Tosh GET UP! STAND UP! Diary of a Reggaeophile at Danny Simmons' Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn,NY
Click on the photo for more information.
Marley & Tosh fans read their copies
Billy Jackson,music produce / Tom Terrell, writer
Barbara gets her autographed copy
Bobbi Humphrey(CACE Board) gets her copy
Author,Fikisha greets Billy Norris at the Macy's book signing.
Talented filmmaker, Kim Jameson
Author/ poet David Henderson , Ron & Greta Thomas, of Atlanta,Ga. at the book signing.
Artist Otto Neal, gallery owner Valerie Bell Bey and MoCADA CEO,Laurie A. Cumbo enjoy the event.
Kayunde reads her copy.
A fan shares photos in the book
Danny Simmons, owner of the Corridor Gallery introduces the author
Fikisha , the author , reads a chapter
The author reads to a small segment of the people at the book launching
Jean Thomas,(standing left) hosts a book signing at the Auburn Avenue Library in Atlanta. These ladies are her friends from the Buckhead Links chapter.