The Rock City archives: 2016


  • Thursday 8th September 2016
  • Supported by: TBC

About: Toots and the Maytals, originally called simply The Maytals, is considered a legend of Ska and Reggae music. His sound is a unique, original combination of Gospel, Ska, Soul, Reggae and Rock. Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert was born in May Pen in the Parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He was the youngest of seven children. He grew up singing gospel music in a church choir, but moved to Kingston in the early 1960s as a teen.

In Kingston, Hibbert met Henry 'Raleigh' Gordon and Nathaniel 'Jerry' McCarthy, forming a group whose early recordings were attributed to "The Flames". Fixing on the nickname of the lead singer, the name 'Maytals' was chosen for the group. The vocal trio recording their first album Never Grow Old - Presenting The Maytals, for producer Clement Dodd at Studio One in 1962-63, with musical backing from Dodd's legendary house band, The Skatalites. The Maytals' close-harmony gospel singing ensured instant success for the 1964 release, rivaling the success of Dodd's other up-and-coming trio, The Wailers. The original album augmented by studio out-takes from the Studio One sessions was re-released by Heartbeat/Rounder Records in 1997, and is essential listening for Maytals and Skatalites fans.

After staying at Studio One for about two years, the group moved on to do sessions for Prince Buster before recording their second album for Byron Lee in 1965. The band's musical career was however interrupted in late 1966 when Hibbert was framed, arrested and wrongfully imprisoned on charges of marijuana possession. Hibbert's record has since been expunged. Following Hibbert's release from jail towards the end of 1967; the band officially changed their name to Toots & The Maytals and began working with producer Leslie Kong on a string of hits including 54-46, Pressure Drop and Do The Reggae, the 1968 single widely credited with coining the word Reggae on wax and naming the genre. The group's first international hit Monkey Man followed in 1970. By 1972, the group was featured in one of the 1972 cult classic Perry Henzel films and soundtrack that marked Reggae's greatest first breakthrough - The Harder They Come starring Jimmy Cliff. Released by Island Records, the album was named as one of Vanity Fair's Top 10 Best Soundtracks of all time.

Following Kong's death in 1971, the group continued to record with Kong's former sound engineer, Warwick Lyn and Chris Blackwell of Island Records, releasing three best-selling albums, and enjoying international hits with Funky Kingston in 1973 and Reggae Got Soul in 1976. Toots & the Maytals' compositions would be given a second airing in 1978-80 during the Reggae-Punk and Ska revival period in the UK, when The Specials included Monkey Man on their 1979 debut album and The Clash produced their version of Pressure Drop. Having toured throughout the world for many years, Toots & The Maytals disbanded in the early 1980s, but reformed in the early 90s and continue touring and recording to this day.

A five time Grammy nominee, Toots & The Maytals won the 2005 Grammy Award with True Love for Best Reggae album. The album featured re-recorded classics hits alongside popular and legendary artists including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, No Doubt, Ben Harper, The Roots and Shaggy.

The Toots & The Maytals catalogue has been covered by artistes from Amy Winehouse to Sublime as the artiste's influence on popular music remains relevant. The albums Light Your Light and Flip & Twist were released in 2008 and 2009 respectively. A prolific artiste, Toots is always in the studio when not touring and in 2012 released two special projects including the Grammy nominated Unplugged on Strawberry Hill / Reggae Got Soul (acoustic CD/documentary DVD set) and a Ska 50 EP to commemorate Jamaica's 50th Anniversary.

Toots has been absent from the stage for almost three years after being injured in the head by a drunk fan in Richmond Virginia in May 2013. After intensive medical therapy, Toots has been cleared by his doctor to resume touring in 2016. This return to the stage by one of the greats from the Reggae Pantheon is much anticipated for his countless fans around the world who have missed him and regard Toots & The Maytals as a living legend.

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