Mel Cooke, Star Writer
Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell (left) and Tony Matterhorn share a moment on stage at Stone Love's 35th Anniversary Party, held at Mas Camp, Oxford Road, New Kingston, on Saturday. - Winston Sill
We're almost at the end of our journey through Stone Love's history and in today's fifth of a six-part interview with Winston 'Wee Pow' Powell, he talks about the cassette phenomena that did wonders in spreading the sound system's name and vibe far and wide.
Star: The time when Stone Love cassettes were popular (the late 1980s into early 1990s), did you encourage the cassette man to tape it? Was it deliberate to spread it like that?
Wee Pow: No. I tell you, everything was just happening like a miracle. I remember when we used to play on the Waltham every Monday night, so when these sounds playing on Monday night and all that, we have done that years ago. I remember when the promoter Trevor Jordan bought Jack Sowah his first recording cassette. (Jack Sowah would go on to become a renowned cassette man, providing recordings of dances). Then our set now you had Willie Rocabessa, he realised he could make a living now off the cassette. It was his job, anywhere we play, he was dubbed as the bandsman. So at the time we introduced live drum machine on the set. He was a genius in his own way and I did not even realise it until probably now when we listen back some old cassette and see his timing, where he put in his effect was perfect.
S: I remember the drum machine.
WP: So he was dubbed as the bandsman. At the same time he would do his taping. Him jus a do him ting. We no business. I never have one a dem cassette all now.
S: But people used to duplicate that cassette and go sell it back.
WP: Right, people were making a living off it. We nah watch dat. We jus' a do we ting. Is only long after we realise how important a work that cassette did for us. Cause even when we go new places, we do a long tour already like we jump on the boat at white cliffs of Dover, go straight in to France, straight roun' till we en' up a Rome and Italy. The whole a dem place, people were gravitating towards Stone Love big time and we realise is really the cassette.
S: The dub plate thing now.
WP: I waan tell you, everything did jus' happen like ... We start cut dub plate before we buss y'know. I remember the first dub plate we cut at Channel One, long before we buss. (Wee Pow explains how radio stations wouldn't play lots of local songs in early days and they would be heard mainly at dances, as well as the difference between dubs and specials. Specials are when a version of a song is done for a specific sound system, the performer calling the sounds name and selectors/owner). I remember we do Far East with Barry Brown, who dead and gone now, Trodding through the jungle with chalice in hand (Carlton Livingstone), Dung a Emmanuel Road. We cut those songs down at Channel One, so is like pre-release. (We backtrack a bit to the live deejay bit, and Wee Pow says "we had some little name. We had one star, Errol Scorcher, "bim kill him, roach inna de corner".
S: So the special now.
WP: We do them special with Errol Scorcher. Bout 1985 now, that's when everything start buss out and start lif' up (he talks about alternating with Klassique at a venue on a lane running beside the School of Nursing on Half-Way Tree Road and the owner eventually carrying Stone Love to a road in Jones Town for a regular jam, saying "that's where things really start jump off now".) Admiral Bailey come out with Punaany, when 'Punaany' riddim jus' mek. Bad! And him do the special for Klassique. (People would then go to Rae Town on Sunday, come to Stone Love's Wednesday jam and request Punaany, which they did not have). Rory woulda down inna me skin, want that Punaany tune and me woulda sey me no inna dem ting deh. We an Klassique good all along ...
S: An' dat woulda bring competition.
WP: Yeah, me no waan spoil nutten. Me sey hear wha, me have a brethren have a soun'. Him have a yute pon it name Shabba. Him have Needle Eye Pum Pum. Mek we get dat. We go check Wallers now, cause fe him soun' did name Roots Melody, an carry Shabba go Jammys now go do Needle Eye Pum Pum special on the same Punaany riddim.
S: So that's how him get to do it on the 45. So is really Stone Love carry Shabba go Jammys.
WP: Yes man. Which part him live it wasn't far, cause him live up Olympic Way desso (and Jammys is on St Lucia Road in Waterhouse). At some given point him probably used to go Jammys still, but we go do da tune deh. We come under heavy pressure with that tune. The people dem, a Punaany dem waan hear. We jus' stick out wid it. After a while nobody no waan hear Punaany man. Straight Needle Eye.
S: So that was your first special.
WP: Yeah. After that we just start having after special.
S: The 'Real Rock' set of special, with Johnny Osbourne and Shabba ...
WP: Johnny Osbourne now. When me get the Johnny Osbourne and Shabba (Ice Cream Love) is $40 me pay Johnny Osbourne y'know (laughter all around). Talk to him and sey me no really have it an' rey rey rey. Him tek it still, squeeze in we ting. I remember Junior Reid, bleach pon Junior Reid, months. Nobody no waan too do special. It was almost like a crime commit.
S: But is a big ting now.
WP: That's right! Dem time nobody no waan do special. Only people like Johnny Osbourne. Him was the master at that. That him a live pon. But de top man dem no waan do no special. It was like the worst thing coulda do, musically. I remember me a bleach pon Junior Reid, till one day me buck him up a Waltham. Him sey 'yu ready?' Me tink a joke de man a mek. Me sey yeah man an we head go Jammys an' do Fit. The man never even charge me, man.
S: Not even the $40 (laughter again).
WP: Up to this day Junior Reid never charge me. I remember we get Freddie McGregor to do a special too. (He explains that McGregor does his songs with many chords, but the specials were being done on two chord rhythms and no bridges). The man never really waan do it, So I'll Wait For You, that time him jus' get a big contract a foreign with that song and we want him to do it dancehall. Him a say 'cyaa do it star, it naa go fit'. We carry him go Jammys an do it. Tell you man. Never stop do it man.
S: So the set with Wayne Wonder and Buju now (includes Forever Young and Soun' Fe Dead).
WP: We start get dominant and we a do special pon rapid now. I used to book out studios. I remember like Scorpio (when he was in Drewsland) every Tuesday, artiste would line up from the gate, straight in. (In addition to the Wayne Wonder and Buju specials, there were songs from Sanchez and Tony Curtis which were released as 45s, the Sanchez cut hitting number one. He goes on to describe how Stone Love did specials with proper mixing in the studio, just like music for general release).
Tomorrow: The final cut. Why Stone Love withdrew from the clash scene and looking to the future.
Shabba Ranks voiced several specials for Stone Love. - file