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Artist Profile
King Tubby
Jan 28, 1941 ~ Feb 6, 1989
The Dub Inventor, was not only responsible for transforming the music making process but also the way we listen to and appreciate music in the latter half of the twentieth century.
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Real name:
Osbourne Ruddock
Place of birth:
Osbourne 'King Tubby' Ruddock was born in Kingston, Jamaica 28th January 1941 and grew up in the High Holborn Street area of downtown Kingston. On leaving Calabar Elementary School he began an electronics course at Kingston's National Technical College and studied electronics on two American correspondence courses. When he left college Tubby began repairing radios and other electrical appliances and winding transformers in a shack in the back yard of his mother's home. He also began to build amplifiers for Kingston sound systems such as Arrows, Emperor Faith and El Toro.

Tubby built his first sound system in 1957 playing jazz and rhythm & blues records from the USA at local weddings and birthday parties and his reputation as a man who knew both music and electronics began to grow. He purchased his own basic two track recording equipment in the late sixties which he installed alongside his dub cutting lathe, a home made mixing console and his collection of jazz albums in the back bedroom of his home at 18 Dromilly Avenue. Tubby called it his music room but Bunny Striker Lee insisted that this 'music room' had all that was needed to be a 'proper' recording studio.

'Doing over' or 'versioning' another producer's rhythm, or backing track, had always been a part of Kingston's musical rat race and alternative instrumental or vocal versions of popular songs were also an established part of the scene. A 'rhythm' version without vocals, possibly with an added horn or organ part, was the next logical progression. The added space gave deejays the freedom to 'talk over' the rhythm and seemingly answer and question lines from the song's lyrics. Jamaican deejays no longer introduced the records like American radio disc jockeys but 'rode the rhythm' right through the record and gradually developed their very own style of 'toasting'. In 1968 Tubby had taken on Ewart 'U Roy' Beckford as his deejay. Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi with U Roy on the mic. popularised the fashion for playing 'versions' and Tubby recalled that this was when his sound system really began to take off.

The story of either Rudolph 'Ruddy' Redwood or King Tubby taking out the vocals for special mixes of either 'You Don't Care' or 'On The Beach' have been repeated many times. In an interview with Carl Gayle Tubby recalled that it happened when he was cutting test plates for Duke Reid. Tubby was also employed by Duke Reid to maintain the studio equipment, dub cutting lathe and amplifiers at Duke's Treasure Isle studio. But Bunny Striker Lee insists that Rudolph 'Ruddy' Redwood from Spanish Town was the first man to actually play 'versions'.

"Ruddy's was cutting a dub and Smithy (Byron 'Baron'/'Smithy' Smith was the engineer at Treasure Isle) forgot to put in the voice through we were talking and he was going to stop it and Ruddy's said 'No, make it run''. So when it finished they cut it back on the other side and put in the voice.... I used to go over and listen to Ruddy's and Stereo in Spanish Town and on the Monday I came in and said 'Tubby... you know the mistake we made up at Duke's studio? It's a serious mistake, you know, because the people them love it'. It mash up Spanish Town! I don't remember whose tune it was but it was Alton Ellis or John Holt they were playing. They played the singing version and then they said they're going to play part two... and those times you never had any versions... so when they played part two the people just caught the song and sang it over the rhythm...they must have played it about five or ten times and it brought down the house and, as we say in Jamaica., it mashed up the place!" Bunny Striker Lee

There is a saying in Jamaica "every spoil make a style" meaning "if something goes wrong do not fret; use this mishap to your advantage to create something new. The use of serendipity with creativity is wonderful advice" and these acetates, with most of the vocal track left off and just the rhythm playing, were the beginnings of the creation of dub. Tubby began by cutting his own instrumental versions to popular rhythms using two track tapes on loan from Treasure Isle. He would drop out most of the vocal track but always left enough for the crowd to immediately recognise the song. As well as cutting dubs for his own Home Town Hi Fi Tubby also cut acetates for other sound systems. He had lined the bathroom adjoining the music room with egg boxes to create a voicing booth and, as his reputation grew, it was only a matter of time before his acetate experiments began to make it on to vinyl.

The importance of the rhythm to the history of Jamaican music can never be overstated and Tubby was instrumental in the step forward into the music that would become known as dub. In recording terms dub had previously meant to copy and overdub or to add something by recording on top of. It did not take long for record buyers to get used to dub's new meaning of taking away to make a music that had most of the vocals and instruments removed leaving only the bass and drum foundation.

Byron Lee at Dynamic Sounds upgraded to sixteen track recording in 1972 and Tubby purchased the old four track equipment from Dynamic's Studio B. The package included the MCI console (or mixing desk) that Tubby would go on to make world famous. The board came with its own history of experimentation and Dynamic's engineer Lynford 'Andy Capp' Anderson had already used it for his own early experiments in dub.

Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi's reputation was sealed as the top Jamaican sound system after playing out at Kingston's National Arena with Bob Marley & The Wailers in the autumn of 1975. Later that year in the last of a long line of similar attacks the police completely destroyed the sound at a rural dance in St. Thomas and Tubby's Home Town Hi Fi never played out again. But if 1975 was the year of the demise of his sound system it heralded the arrival of King Tubby as 'The Dub Inventor' and the music emanating from his Waterhouse studio as an internationally recognized phenomenon. Music lovers now knew to ask the record salesmen to play the b sides of records first because that was where the most exciting music was to be found.

Hundreds of classic records were voiced and mixed at Tubby's Waterhouse studio yet at the height of his fame King Tubby never actually 'produced' records, not even in the way that the Kingston recording hierarchy had come to understand the term, and never ran his own record label. And, as well as the King, other engineers including Prince Jammy, Prince Phillip Smart and Pat Kelly would take over the controls.

In 1975 Island Records released Jacob Miller's version to Augustus Pablo's 'Cassava Piece' rhythm entitled 'Baby I Love You So' in the UK. They changed the original b side 'King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown' into the a side and promoted it heavily. Dub music had finally arrived and articles on its significance and its 'meaning' belatedly began to appear in mainstream music papers and magazines.

Tubby had stepped back from engineering and dub cutting and was concentrating on the more lucrative electronics side of the business and, with Prince Jammy at the controls, the studio entered a new phase. Demand for studio time was greater than ever. At the close of the decade Tubby worked regularly with radio deejay Michael 'Mikey Dread' Campbell on his groundbreaking 'Dread At The Controls' radio show. Tubby stayed with Mikey when he began producing records for his label of the same name. Their work together in 1978/79 on the DATC and Forty Leg releases 'Parrot Jungle', 'African Anthem' and 'Robber's Roost' were the final anthemic recordings to feature Tubby's engineering skills.

Studio One on Brentford Road is rightly regarded as the spiritual home of reggae and the Dromilly Avenue studio of Osbourne 'King Tubby' Ruddock will be known forever as the spiritual home of dub music. It was there that King Tubby 'The Dub Master' turned the mixing desk into an instrument in its own right. Music would never sound the same again...

In The Digital Age

King Tubby's eighties work is nowhere near as well documented or as well regarded as his seventies music but the music was every bit as inventive...

Dub had ceased to be a phenomenon and was no longer seen as particularly exciting. Many of its more superficial aspects were assimilated into the musical mainstream. Tubby realised that the days of his tiny four track studio were over and so in 1985 he began updating his equipment and his workshop. He recorded minimally, continued cutting dub plates, and concentrated on his electronics work while supervising the building work taking place in his Dromilly Avenue yard. His plan was to have one of the most sophisticated studios in Jamaica with thirty two track potential and a unique voicing loft high up in the rafters.

During the run up to elections, never the easiest of times in the fractious Kingston ghetto wards, gunshots would echo through Waterhouse with such alarming frequency that local residents renamed it 'Firehouse'. Yet this political unrest and attendant edgy, at times downright dangerous, atmosphere combined to produce some of reggae music's brightest stars. Creativity flourished in its maze of zinc fence, breeze blocks and potholed lanes. Tubby was criticised for choosing to upgrade in this notorious ghetto rather than move his operation uptown but he was a true local patriot who believed in the local community. It was said that people would be reluctant to come to his downtown studio but Tubby was sure that his new facilities would attract people into the area and help to rebuild it. It was his belief in his Waterhouse roots that encouraged Tubby to invest in the area and its inhabitants and he truly believed that music could be a force for social change.

Winston 'Professor' Brown, who had taken over the controls from Scientist, skillfully spanned the gap between the analog and digital era before he left to study electronics in the USA in 1986. Although Tubby had now started to produce his own records he still preferred to inspire others and his remarkable self effacement meant that he would still rather fix hair dryers or wind transformers than boost his own remarkable achievements. His latest apprentices, Banton, Fatman, Peego and Phantom, now propelled Tubby's studio into a neck and neck race with his ex apprentice Prince (now promoted to King) Jammy who had begun a musical revolution of his very own in late 1985 when he released Wayne Smith's 'Under Me Sleng Teng'.

Jammy's experimental digital explosion changed the entire nature of the reggae business. It might have seemed as if the apprentice had now overtaken the master but this was not strictly true. As Jammy was busy vanquishing all before him and rewriting the history books Tubby entered the arena with a sound that was also digital yet completely different to Jammy's. There were some obvious superficial similarities but that was it. There have already been far too many arguments over the advent of computer technology in reggae and too many accusations that it finished the music. The critics might have dismissed it but the same critics had said that "all reggae sounds the same" during what they were now calling its 'golden age' in the seventies. The music of the eighties is every bit as exciting and significant as anything that has ever come out of Jamaica. The high prices that many of these early digital records now fetch on the collectors market should give an indication of their true worth.

The first Number One hit in Jamaica from Tubby's brand new Firehouse label was the smouldering 'Tempo' from Anthony Red Rose. This dark, taut record was loaded with all the brooding tension of the Kingston 11 ghetto and sung in a deadpan monotone that would become universally known as the 'Waterhouse' style.

"Our next big hit was when we make Red Rose sing 'Tempo'. That was our big hit then. A little number one tune!" Noel 'Phantom' Grey(Noel Grey)

These new records remained true to Tubby's roots. Released on the Waterhouse, Firehouse, Kingston 11 and Taurus labels they were made for youths by youths and occasionally veteran vocalists including Cornell Campbell, Johnny Clarke and Gregory Isaacs. Built specifically to be played out on sound systems many of the songs lyrics reflected Kingston's sound system rivalry.

Noel 'Phantom' Grey started working at Tubby's in 1985 "after Jammy left" when his old school friend from Norman Manley Secondary School 'Professor' had sent for him with the message "King Tubby want a man who know music beside him".

"I feel say Tubby was the best producer and the best man... All young youth, all upcoming artists, all artist who don't have a name Tubby will put out a song and try with them... him help out a lot of youth in the ghetto you know." Noel 'Phantom' Grey

Tubby started to use the Fire House Crew to build his rhythms and the hits kept on coming.

"We bring them now and start work and cut a lot of hit tune. Hit by hit right up to 1989 we do good in the music business and put out an album named 'King Tubbys Present Sound Clash Dub Plate Style'. It was a sound boy killing album and sell forty odd thousand over the world. It just sell like a forty five." Noel 'Phantom' Grey

On 6th February 1989 'King Tubbys Present Sound Clash Dub Plate Style' was Number One in the charts in Jamaica and the reggae charts in the UK when a gun man shot Tubby dead outside his home in Duhaney Park and stole cash, jewellery and Tubby's own licensed gun. For a short while Tubbys' daughter continued to run things but, without Tubby's guidance, the organisation eventually ground to a halt and Neville Lee's Sonic Sounds purchased the business. Tubby's killer has never been apprehended.
Related artist(s):
U Roy
King Jammy
Lee Perry
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Description of item
[All Items] → [7"] → [Dub / Instrumental] → [Instrumental Reggae] → [Dynamites]
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vinyl 7" 7"
Dynamites / King Tubby
Reggaedelic / Version
Pressure Sounds Uk/Dynamite
¥1450 (US$12.06)
Genre: Dub / Instrumental
Sub Genre: Instrumental Reggae
Produced by: Clancy Eccles
Date added: Feb 15, 2013
Date re-stocked: Sep 30, 2015
Country: England
Catalog number: PSS073
Music type: Insrumental B: Veriosn
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