The Claren­do­nians take mu­sic biz by storm

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - broy­al_2008@ya­

THE GEN­ER­ALLY ac­cepted view that the Claren­do­nians, a pop­u­lar Ja­maican record­ing duo of the 1960s, first recorded for Cle­ment Dodd’s Stu­dio 1 la­bel, runs contrary to a story re­lated to me by Peter Austin, one half of the duo, dur­ing an in­ter­view with him a few weeks ago. Ac­cord­ing to Austin, the duo recorded for at least two other producers be­fore en­ter­ing the gates of Stu­dio 1 at 13 Brent­ford Road (now Stu­dio 1 Boule­vard) in Kingston.

Austin and his part­ner, Ernest Wil­son, some seven years his ju­nior, both hail from Hayes in Claren­don, but came to pub­lic at­ten­tion in Kingston while record­ing for a num­ber of producers. Un­der­stand­ably, the ground­work for the es­tab­lish­ment of the group was laid by Austin in 1963 at a time when Wil­son was 10 or 11 years old.

It all be­gan on a day like none other in Hayes when Austin was ap­proached by a young boy, who, no doubt, hav­ing knowl­edge of Austin’s vo­cal tal­ent, asked him to sing a song. Austin obliged, and in turn asked the boy, who turned out to be Wil­son, to do the same for him. Austin was so blown away by the boy’s im­mac­u­late tim­ing and crys­talline vo­cal de­liv­ery that he im­me­di­ately asked him to seek per­mis­sion from his mother to join the band he was singing with. Austin at the time was a vo­cal­ist with the Claren­don-based band, The Mer­curies. With the per­mis­sion of his mother, Wil­son be­gan to go around with the band, al­though not yet singing in duet with Austin.

The for­ma­tion of the duo was born out of an ex­tem­po­ra­ne­ous oc­cur­rence, as Austin de­scribed it.

“He sang alone and I sang alone, but as des­tiny would have it, one day while I was at home, he came around as I was singing and he be­gan to sing along, and I was shocked by the har­mony that was com­ing out,” Austin re­called.

With the co­op­er­a­tion of Wil­son’s mother, an agree­ment was reached for both singers to come to­gether as a singing duo, and im­me­di­ately, they be­gan re­hears­ing al­most ev­ery day. Austin then be­gan writ­ing songs for the duo to record. The first was a ska piece ti­tled,

A Day Will Come, which they recorded for pro­ducer Les­lie Kong’s Bev­er­ley’s la­bel in 1963. Their ef­fort earned for them 10 pounds, but ac­cord­ing to Austin, money wasn’t their main con­cern. They were more in­ter­ested in hear­ing their song on the ra­dio. Re­turn­ing to Claren­don two days later, they heard it, and their en­tire com­mu­nity was ec­static as they shouted, “Claren­do­nians! Claren­do­nians!” Some­how, the name seemed to have stuck.

Re­turn­ing to Kingston, the duo made a stop at pro­ducer Duke Reid. “Pure ex­cite­ment” were the words Austin used to de­scribe their stay there. They recorded two songs for the Duke – You Are a Fool and

Muey Bien in 1964 – but on their re­turn to col­lect their pay­ment, they were greeted with hos­til­ity. Ac­cord­ing to Austin, Reid re­fused to pay, and in the en­su­ing fra­cas, he was man­han­dled by Reid and had to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion at the Kingston Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal. A com­pen­sa­tion of 5 pounds from Reid, with an em­phatic “Don’t come back, but the lit­tle one can come back”, was hardly any com­fort for Austin af­ter he made re­ports to the Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion and Den­ham Town po­lice, Reid him­self hav­ing been an ex-po­lice­man with cred­i­ble claims to tough­ness.


Wil­son ob­vi­ously didn’t heed Reid’s call and left his sta­bles along with Austin to record for Stu­dio 1 – the undis­tin­guished cut – Af­ter He Breaks Your Heart.

In early 1965, they en­tered By­ron Lee’s pop and mento tal­ent shows around the is­land and won with the Peter Austin com­po­si­tion, Hurt By Love, and then went on to win the re­gional fi­nals. When the then deputy mayor of May Pen, Basil Lind­say, asked Austin in the lat­ter part of the year to record the song for him to pro­duce, it may well have been the cat­a­lyst to the ma­jes­tic rise of the duo to the pin­na­cle of pop­u­lar­ity.

Done at Stu­dio 1 with head hon­cho Cle­ment Dodd in at­ten­dance, the record­ing, along with an­other ti­tled How Long, cre­ated such an impact that Dodd im­me­di­ately re­quested a 10year con­tract with the duo, which they ac­cepted.

What fol­lowed was noth­ing short of a mu­si­cal firestorm, which saw the duo plac­ing six con­sec­u­tive num­ber-one songs on the Ja­maican charts – You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down, Shu-Be-Du-Bi I Love You, Rude Boy Gone A Jail, Rudie Bam Bam, You Won’t See Me, and You Cant Be Happy Un­til You Love

Some­one. Com­ing at a time when the mood of the mu­sic was chang­ing from ska to rock­steady, the last cut had ar­dent mu­sic fans singing along to the lyrics:

“You can’t be happy un­til you love some­one

You can’t be happy un­til you need some­one

Well I must be the hap­pi­est boy in all this world

Cause I love you girl like the breath of life

Cause I need you girl, a new de­light.”

While Austin sang lead on most of the songs, Wil­son fig­ured promi­nently with his backup slurs, catchy phrases, and in­to­na­tions that be­lied his age as they sang their parts sep­a­rately and in uni­son. In one un­for­get­table per­for­mance, Wil­son can be heard singing most of the lead parts on Shu-Be-Du:

“No I can’t love an­other, ooh, ooh, ooh, Cause my heart tells me so No I can’t leave you dar­ling, ooh, ooh, ooh,

Cause my heart won’t let me go”. To­wards the end of the 1960s, Austin left Cox­son to record for pro­ducer Ken Lack, an­nounc­ing his de­par­ture with Bye, Bye, Bye, while hav­ing the mon­ster hit Lonely Heartaches for the new pro­ducer.

In the mean­time, Wil­son con­tin­ued at Cox­son with the hits Sto­ry­book Chil­dren, If I Were A Car­pen­ter, Undy­ing Love,

and Money Wor­ries.

Still re­tain­ing the name Claren­do­nians, Austin sang in duet with Hu­bert Lee on two top record­ings – Night Owl and

Dar­ling For­ever – in the early 1970s, while Wil­son proved him­self a class act with Let True Love Be.

The Claren­do­nians in per­for­mance. They were backed by To­mor­row’s Chil­dren.

The Claren­do­nians

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