|When Frederick "Toots" Hibbert wrote "Do the Reggay" in 1968, he was probably
unaware that he was giving a name to a musical form that would have a
revolutionary impact on the world. Toots and the Maytals have been recording
for over 30 years and their work includes some of the greatest ska and reggae
music ever produced.
When Toots Hibbert chose to make a career in music in 1961, he was one of
many up-and-coming singer and musicians attempting to make a name for himself
in Kingston, Jamaica.
In 1962, Toots joined with fellow singers Raleigh Gordon and Nathaniel
"Jerry" Matthias to form the Maytals. Their first album, "Hallelujah," was
produced by the legendary Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd and featured a mix of
Jamaican rhythms and gospel vocal influence that would mark much of the
Maytals' music. Despite the popularity of this record throughout Jamaica, the
Maytals left Sir Coxsone and began working with another legendary DJ and
producer Prince Buster. The Buster-produced Maytals singles were popular
successes in Jamaica and England, where this new type of "ska" music became a
sensation in dancehalls.
In 1966, the Maytals began working to Byron Lee and his Dragonaires. By this
time, Lee had already been recording and performing with Jamaican musicians
for a decade, and the Maytals -- with the Dragonaires providing musical
accompaniment -- won Jamaica's first Festival Song Competition with the song
"Bam Bam." The Maytals were poised for stardom, but just as their fortune
seemed set, Toots was arrested for smoking and possession of marijuana and
was sentenced and jailed.
The Maytals returned with a vengeance in 1968, recording with famed producer
Leslie Kong. The era of ska was ending, giving way to the more violent world
of the Rude Boys and the complex sound of reggae. Toots was far closer to
soul and gospel influences than the more aggressive attitudes and sounds that
many of the young musicians were choosing to incorporate in their music.
Nevertheless, the Maytals' first single in two years, "54-46 (That's My
Number)" combined the story of Toots' prison experiences with a powerful
downbeat to create one of the greatest rock steady/reggae single of all time.
As rock steady morphed into reggae the Maytals consolidated their position as
leaders in Jamaican music. They recorded the hit "Monkey Man," and another
song, "Sweet and Dandy" won the 1969 Festival Song Competition and was
feature, along with their dance-floor classic "Pressure Drop," on the
soundtrack to "The Harder They Come," one of the greatest reggae albums of
Chris Blackwell signed Toots and the Maytals to his Island label in the early
70s. The Maytals responded with what is considered their finest album to date
"Funky Kinston." With Islands' Organization backing them (as well as label
mates Bob Marley and the Wailers), international audiences were able to hear
Toots and the Maytals fuse reggae, soul and gospel into a dynamic
combination. Constant touring showed audiences what Jamaicans had known for
over a decade -- that Toots and the Maytals were simply one of the great live
acts in the world.
The popularity of Toots and the Maytals increased through the 70s with such
popular releases as "In the Dark," "Reggae Got Soul," " Pass the Pipe," "Just
Like That," "Knock Out" and "Toots & the Maytals Live." In 1981, Toots
disbanded the Maytals and began recording with Sly Dunbar and Robbie
Shakespeare. The combination of Toots, Sly and Robbie produced international
hits such as "Spiritual Healing" and "Peace Perfect Peace" in the mid-1980s.
Their best work, however, was the popular and critically acclaimed "Toots and
Memphis," which featured Toots covering Stax classics in his own inimitable
Toots reformed the Maytals in the early 90s and they continue to tour today,
showing a new generation of fans that Toots and the Maytals were -- and are
-- masters of reggae and live performance. The combination of great reggae
rhythms, heartfelt vocals and Memphis soul and gospel influence remains as
potent and powerful today as ever.
Toots and the Maytals will perform at the Recher Theatre on Saturday,