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Artist Profile
Derrick Harriott
Feb 6, 1939 ~
A singularly successful singer, producer and record shop proprietor who, over the past fifty years, really has seen it all… been there, done that and his music has gone all the way round the world and back again.
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Real name:
Derrick Clinton Harriott
Place of birth:
Jamaica
Kingston
Born 6th February 1939, the youngest of five children, Derrick Harriott's childhood was spent in the Duke Street area and he was educated at the nearby Excelsior High School where his uncle was the headmaster. His earliest musical memories were listening to the radio ZQ1 which by 1947 was broadcasting in Jamaica for four hours a day. Derrick's favourite singers were American artists such as Billy Eckstine, Nat 'King' Cole, Sarah Vaughan and The Ink Spots and Jamaican artists including Jimmy Tucker "a great singer", Julian Ifla and Edmarine Andrian "that girl could really sing". Another of Derrick's uncles, Samuel Powell, also performed on the radio "a great tenor". Derrick used to sing in church and one of his elder brothers played tenor saxophone, consequently, his formative years were steeped in music and a lifelong fascination began.

He began attending stage shows at the Palace Theatre and Derrick decided to enter Vere Johns Junior's Opportunity Hour talent contest "I must can do better than some of theses artists..." This was a serious testing ground "if you can pass through a place like that then you can pass through anywhere in the world!" and Derrick's solo performances went down very well with the crowd. However, he was so moved by watching Simms & Robinson "who would later become known as Bunny & Skully" whose impersonations of Shirley & Lee "mashed up the place" that, in 1957, he teamed up with Claude Sang Jnr. and the pair performed together as Sang & Harriott. The duo went through all the opening rounds right up to the finals where they attained second place singing 'I'm In Love'. Their speciality was to cover the hottest rhythm & blues records playing out on the sound system circuit and this won them a place in the hearts of the music loving audience "come with the r&b tunes them early and surprise the crowd! They were roaring!"

The duo's first recording was a self financed acetate cut at Stanley Motta's Recording Studio "just a piano a play the rhythm" and Derrick then took the dub to "a local outfit who used to run a Friday night after work session" named Thunderbird Sound. The crowd loved the song so much that they wouldn't let Thunderbird's deejay take it off and 'Lollipop Girl' became a local legend. Both Sir Coxsone(CS Dodd) and Duke Reid, the two undisputed top sound systems of the time, soon got to hear about it. Both sounds preferred to play tunes from 'foreign', that is American records, but 'Lollipop Girl' was so popular that Coxsone swapped one of his top foreign records with Thunderbird for the dub. Not long after Derrick recalled Duke Reid playing the dub back against Coxsone at the Mizpah Hall opposite the Gaiety Theatre. "Guns were drawn! Only Coxsone was supposed to have it" but one of Coxsone's operators had stolen the acetate and had another dub cut from the original. "'Lollipop Girl' started so many conflicts".

In 1958 Claude Sang Jnr. left Jamaica for Barbados where he was employed on a Cable & Wireless course and Derrick formed The Jiving Juniors with Claude's brother Herman Sang who would later go on to form Hersang & His City Slickers Band, Maurice Wynter and Eugene Dwyer with Derrick taking the lead vocals. Jamaican audiences loved The Jiving Juniors not only for their beautiful singing on tunes such as 'Over The River' and 'Rockin' Robin' but also because they were adept showmen. Their routines on numbers such as The Coasters' 'Young Blood', where Eugene actually drew a gun during the bridge and shouted "You better leave my daughter alone!", tore the place down every time.

The following year Derrick left for New York where, despite working at all manner of different jobs, still managed to find the time to continue working on his singing career. 'Lollipop Girl' remained massively popular at home in Jamaica and Duke Reid, now a leading record producer, sent for Derrick to record the song again... with more than just a piano for the rhythm this time! Derrick had already decided that he was coming home for Christmas and so needed little persuasion to return to Kingston. Claude Sang Jnr. also returned from Barbados and the pair went to Ken Khouri's Federal Recording Studios soon after Christmas 1960 where they re-recorded 'Lollipop Girl' together with a new song 'My Heart's Desire' with 'Music by Duke Reid and his Group'. Duke Reid's Treasure Isle Sound System then played the re-cut 'Lollipop Girl' exclusively on acetate for the best part of a year before releasing it on the Duke Reid's label in time for Christmas. It went straight to Number One joining 'My Heart's Desire' which was already riding high in the charts. The Jiving Juniors also recorded for Chris Blackwell's R&B label and Sir Coxsone. "There was a trend at the time for these type of songs such as 'River Jordan' from Clancy Eccles and 'Time To Pray' by the Mellow Larks" and Derrick and Claude recorded a spiritual tune in 1961. 'Over The River' was released on Mr Dodd's All Stars label credited to The Jivin' Juniors who kept it in the family with music provided by Hersan & His City Slickers.

Despite their success The Jiving Juniors disbanded in 1962 and Derrick made his first solo recording at Federal, a cover of Donnie Elbert's 'What Can I Do?', with the lyrics adopted and adapted to fit a more personal story of losing his girl to his best friend. He carried an acetate of the song to Lord Koo's Sound System whose deejay Icky Man played it and liked it but the crowd liked it so much that "he couldn't take it off the turntable!" Drawing on his experiences with Coxsone and Duke Reid Derrick did not release the song immediately but gave Lord Koo's, and other leading sound systems, exclusive play of the tune to promote it and build up a demand. Derrick then released it on his own Crystal label. One of the first singers to start his own label the idea had come to Derrick of "a fortune teller with a crystal ball... and crystal means very clear". His initial release went straight into the Top Five and hit record followed hit record... 'I Care' reached Number Two and 'Sugar Dandy' reached Number Three on the Jamaican Hit Parade and from now on in there was no looking back for Derrick Harriott.

In 1966 Derrick opened his own record shop. 'Derrick's One Stop' situated at 125 King Street, near Beeston Street, in premises that were formerly owned by Neville Foo-Loy, a school friend from Excelsior High, and run by Herman Chin Loy who later set up his own Aquarius Record Shop and Recording Studio. In 1968 Derrick moved to the other side of the street to 86 King Street and he recalled these days with great affection. "A lot of communication used to go on." The Wailers store was at 127 King Street, Lee 'Scratch' Perry(Lee Perry) was at 36 Charles Street and Clancy Eccles was at 122 Orange Street. "They used to come straight to me..." and because Derrick's One Stop was such a popular shop Derrick had the pick of all the latest releases from Kingston's top producers and artists.

"I still have them in immaculate condition!" and Derrick played and promoted the records on his Musical Chariot Disco. He began to promote stage shows with El Suzie A Go Go where his Musical Chariot Disco played at The VIP Club (formerly The Glass Bucket) and The Sombrero Club on Molynes Road. The Wailers were a regular feature at The VIP Club "I wish I had a video of them days" along with The Chosen Few "the best dressed group ever to do stage shows".

By now the ska beat was being overtaken by rock steady and it was with this new beat that Derrick developed into one of the most formidable Kingston record producers masterminding some of the most memorable rock steady records ever made. At one unbelievable session at West Indies Records Limited he produced 'Solomon' which he sang, 'Long Story' with Rudy Mills and 'Tonight' and 'Stop That Train' with Keith & Tex. Apparently 'Stop That Train' was not a particularly big hit at the time but the other three were huge and all four songs have now become part of the fabric of Jamaican music. The musicians on this super session included Joe Isaacs on drums, Bobby Aitken (Laurel's brother) on bass... "although it was supposed to be Jackie Jackson", the inimitable Lyn Taitt on guitar and Winston Wright on organ. "You don't forget a session like that!" Never one to accept the first or second take Derrick now became well known as a painstaking task master in the studio. Unhappy with the original recordings of his interpretation of The Tams' 'You Might As Well Forget Him' which Derrick renamed 'Walk The Streets' he took Lyn Taitt back to the studio to re-record the song. It would become one of his most popular releases.

The hits on Crystal, Move & Groove and the thousands of rubber stamped Derrick's One Stop labels kept on coming. The transition from rock steady to reggae was effortlessly achieved with releases by The Kingstonians including 'Sufferer' and 'Singer Man' serving to define an era in the same way that Derrick's rock steady recordings had done a few years previously. There were hits inspired by Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns including 'The Overtaker', which used his 'Don't Look Back' rhythm, and 'The Bad'. Songs such as 'Psychedelic Train' "Horse Mouth(Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace) was the drummer on 'Psychedelic Train'... a little vibe just a work!" were not only massive hits in Jamaica but also in England with the 'skinhead' audience as Jamaican music finally began to transcend its Kingston origins and break regularly into the international pop market place.

In addition to three other awards Derrick was voted 'Top Producer For 1970' by Swing magazine and his version of The Whatnauts' 'Message From A Black Man' was an early harbinger of the direction that the music would take for the rest of the decade. In much the same way as black history began to be re-examined and explored so the musical legacy of Jamaica was also investigated and brought to the fore. Derrick's back catalogue of superb rhythms proved to be an excellent starting point for many of these releases. Although he was now considered to be an 'uptown' producer by the upcoming 'rebel rock' producers Derrick's roots based productions are every bit as challenging and uncompromising as the work of many of the younger upstarts. He was one of the very first to use the services of King Tubby's Waterhouse studio "Tubby's was the thing! If he touch your tune it can't miss. We had a real good thing... I used to leave all my tapes at Tubby's" Derrick was the first producer to work with the legendary Dennis Brown and Dennis' debut album, 'Super Reggae & Soul Hits', featured two King Tubby's dub mixes... an unprecedented move at the time.

"I used to know his bigger brother... a comedian. Dennis used to sing 'Solomon' on Byron Lee's stage shows. He was a little youth talking about he's a big man "'cause I'm a big man in this town..." The vibe just went around and we became friends. His first recording was 'Obsession' but we changed the title to 'Lips Of Wine'".

During this period Derrick worked closely with David Scott, former lead singer of The Federals now re-invented as deejay Scotty, on a series of hits using Derrick's foundation rock steady rhythms. Scotty's 'Draw Your Brakes' played over the opening sequence of the seminal 'Harder They Come' film as Jimmy Cliff as Ivan arrived in Kingston. Scotty also hit with 'Riddle I This', 'Sesame Street' and the superb 'School Days' album where he ruthlessly exploited Derrick's beautiful rhythms. Derrick worked closely with other top deejays including Big Youth "I searched him out. I hear a thing... a man named Big Youth a do it and I featured him on a couple of dances" and the Youth would later use his Move & Groove publicity photograph on his own Negusa Nagast (King Of Kings) label. I Roy and U Roy both sampled some of the Musical Chariot magic with U Roy in fine style over a version of The Federals biggest hit 'Penny For Your Song' entitled 'Penny For Your Dub' "...it went Top Five. I used to admire U Roy. You can't forget him. I Roy actually came to me... he wanted to bubble 'pon certain rhythms".

In 1973 Derrick moved into another shop uptown in Twin Gates Plaza on Constant Spring Road and recalled that the word on the street at the time was "Bwoy he a get big now!" The King Street shop was broken into on three occasions during this period and Derrick had to close it down. There was only one break in all the time Derrick was actually on King Street. "I was in the back of the shop when a guy came in to hold up the place... I came out and the guy ran! No violence was created". Derrick has continued to make music to this day. After fifty years in the business he is still as involved as ever. A key figure in the advancement of Jamaican music Derrick modestly states "It's nice to know that people really regard the music." His live performances could still show many younger men the way home where his superb vocals are backed by on stage histrionics and lightning fast shuffling demonstrations. It seems as if nothing has changed since the days of The Jiving Juniors! Derrick's involvement with the Jamaican music business stretches back to the days before there was hardly a business at all.

Responsible for some of the most enduringly popular records in the history of Jamaican music his catalogue of hits is one of the very best in the business. With Derrick recently concluding an exclusive deal with Dub Store Records to re-release a superb series of his greatest hits on seven inch singles the timeless music of Derrick Harriott and his Musical Chariot will surely remain in the spotlight for a long time to come.

Sources:
Interview with Derrick Harriott London, UK 22nd May 1998
Interview with Derrick Harriott London, UK/Kingston, Jamaica 20th June 1998
 
Related artist(s):
Jiving Juniors
Scotty
Kingstonians
Keith & Tex
Big Youth
I Roy
U Roy
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Description of item
[All Items] → [7"] → [Reggae] → [Soulful/Funky Reggae] → [Derrick Harriott]
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vinyl 7" 7"
Derrick Harriott / Crystal Generation
Let Me Down Easy / Hell Below
Crystal/Dub Store Records JPN
¥1080 (US$10.64)
Rating: 12345
Genre: Reggae
Sub Genre: Soulful/Funky Reggae
Produced by: Derrick Harriott
Approx. year: 1972
Date added: Dec 27, 2012
Date re-stocked: Sep 5, 2013
Country: Japan
Catalog number: DSR-DH7-031
Music type: Vocal B: Instrumental
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