Interview: Phillip Fraser

July 27, 2011

Phillip Fraser was a mainstay of the roots reggae scene that centred around the Greenwich Town area of Kingston in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He played a central role in the development of Bertram Brown‘s Freedom Sounds and Errol Don Mais‘ Roots Tradition labels, singing classic cultural and love themed singles including You’re No Good, Come Ethiopians and Mr Wicked Man. Yet where some of the Greenwich Town singers like Rod Taylor and Earl Zero left Jamaica and have been fairly prolific abroad, the distinctive voiced Rastaman has preferred to stay in Kingston and record for his own Razor Sound label. Angus Taylor spoke to this crucial veteran about his long and distinguished career in music and the neighbourhood that he helped bring to fame…

Phillip Fraser

You were born in Whitfield Town but you are associated with Greenwich Town/Farm area.

I was born in Whitfield Town but in Greenwich Farm I grew. I was just born in Whitfield Town and never even stayed there. I spent my whole life in Greenwich Farm so really I was born there but officially I was born in Whitfield Town. I was just a child so I never really understood why we moved but in those times my family never really owned a place so they had to move up and down.

What were your first experiences that got you into music?

It was something I was born with when I check it. You see my father was one of Jamaica’s number one dancers. His name was Sparky and he used to dance with another man as Sparky & Pluggy. Then in Greenwich Town when I was young I used take some match boxes and try to build a turntable. I’d a get a bottle stopper, which was round like a record and dig out the inside and I just put the round part on a match stick, bore it and put it on the match box like a turntable. I remember doing these things as a little boy.

That was because you were influenced by sound system?

Yes, that was my little idea for my own sound system! And then, living in Greenwich Town I used to hang out with Slim Smith. But before Slim Smith even, I used to be at a place called Club Bohemia doing a little talent show business – me, Johnny Clarke and Mighty Diamonds. So I used to go on a lot of talent shows singing foreign songs like Wild Flower, Help Me Make It Through The Night and those tunes and ended up winning a couple of these talent things. That was because I could manage those types of tunes well because I was a real listener of a lot of foreign songs.

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