Interview: Fred Locks (Part 1)

March 13, 2012


‘Coxsone said “Hey Red Bwoy! What you do?” I said “Sing”. ‘

The ruddy, long-locked deeply spiritual Rastafarian singer Fred Locks is best known for the rough-hewn 1975 repatriation anthem Black Star Liners, although fans of Shaka style steppers will also recall his militant late seventies work with the Creation Steppers. But the man born Stafford Elliott’s career spanned from Studio 1 in the 60s right through working in the 1990s for Fatis Burell and beyond. Like contemporaries such as Little Roy and Junior Dan he became involved with the 12 Tribes organization and felt the sharp end of a tough, and at times cruel, music business during the roots era before re-settling in the USA in the 1980s. Now back in Jamaica he released a new album Music Is My Calling on Irie Sounds International on February 28th. Reggaeville spoke to a veteran who has seen and done it all in Jamaican music yet who has remained upbeat and philosophical throughout. This two part in-depth interview is the result.

Where do you think your distinctive vibrato style comes from?
My father was a self taught guitarist who used to play songs and sing but my mother was a good singer too and she loved to sing. She’s 83 in March and she sings every day, in the bathroom, the bedroom, everywhere so I knew I was born to sing and started writing songs from very young. My father used to take me to bars when I was eight years old to sing for his friends and they paid me! I don’t know where the vibrato came from but that was my style! I was surrounded by music and I used to play a lot of Dakota Staton and Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby records. I used to sing those songs in bars and people would say “This lickle bwoy can sing yunno!”

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