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Artist Hall of Fame

TennorsText by Harry Hawks

Vocal harmony group rightly renowned for ‘Pressure & Slide’ and ‘Ride Your Donkey’ whose personnel featured some of Jamaica’s most gifted vocalists
Date Added: Mar 8, 2010, Date Updated: Feb 15, 2019 Copyright (C) 2019 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Members:Albert George Murphy
Maurice 'Professor' Johnson
Norman Davis
1967 -
Place of Establishment: Jamaica
The Tennors inexplicably appear as a footnote in the handful of histories of reggae music but the contemporary record charts and cherished memories of music lovers from their hit making period tell a very different story.

Albert George Murphy, better known as Clive Tennors, and Alvin 'Cheng Cheng' first harmonised as a vocal duo and dreamt of making a record but in 1965 Alvin moved on and, two years later, Clive teamed up with Maurice 'Professor' Johnson to become The Tennor Twins. Not long afterwards they recruited Norman Davis and formed a trio.

As they were taking their first tentative steps towards a musical career The Tennors found themselves at the centre of a pivotal change in Jamaican music as the frenzied pace of ska slowed down and the elegant rhythms of rock steady began to predominate. The talented Trinidadian guitarist, Lynn Taitt, was a key figure in this development and the bass in rock steady no longer gave equal emphasis to every beat but instead played a repeated pattern that syncopated the rhythm. The rhythmic focus shifted to the bass and the drums where it has remained ever since and, although the rock steady period lasted for less than two years, the extent to which it was to influence the later sound of reggae music was immeasurable.

The horns dominated sound of ska was replaced by solo vocalists and vocal groups many of which were influenced stylistically by their USA counterparts but The Tennors lyrical preoccupations were always particularly Jamaican. During the ska era music had been the dominant driving force where it had provided an unspoken expression of solidarity but the space that rock steady now gave to vocalists meant that they were able to voice the aspirations and emotions of their contemporaries. The lyrics helped to confirm their existence and gave an identity to the sufferers for the singers invariably came from same deprived neighbourhoods in Western Kingston's teeming ghettos.

The Tennors' debut recording 'Pressure & Slide' aka 'Pressure And The Slide' for Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) at Studio One was a massive hit, one of the biggest selling records of 1967, and its popularity has never diminished. Prince Buster promptly versioned the tune as 'Shaking Up Orange Street' and it really did! 'Pressure And Slide' has been endlessly versioned ever since and has joined the hallowed ranks of classic songs whose rhythms and melodies have become staples of reggae music's vocabulary. Sugar Minott's beautiful late seventies version, 'Oh Mr. DC' where The Tennors' original was adopted and updated with new lyrics, helped to usher in the early eighties dance hall style. However, this was to be the group's only recording for Studio One and The Tennors disbanded in disarray after the sad and untimely death of Maurice Johnson.

The following year the group reformed with Milton Wilson enrolled as the third member and immediately hit again with 'Ride Your Donkey'. This record proved incredibly popular and it also inspired version after version after version. The Tennors themselves entered into the spirit with their double entendre loaded 'Khaki' and the instrumental 'Copy Me Donkey' while records such as 'Donkey Man' and 'Donkey Returns' continued to echo the theme. 'Ride Your Donkey', 'Copy Me Donkey' and 'Khaki' were all self-productions for their own Tennors label and the group were among the first artists to appreciate the advantages of controlling the rights to their work. They occasionally recorded for other producers, including 'Hopeful Village' (a song about a long running Jamaican radio 'soap opera' show) and 'Weather Report' (a version of a Simon & Garfunkel song) for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, but the majority of their excellent output, including alternative instrumental interpretations of some of their most popular rhythms, was self-produced. Norman Davis left the group for a solo career soon after 'Ride Your Donkey' was released and was replaced by Ronnie Davis who had previously sung with The Westmorlites. This combination of The Tennors, at times aided and augmented by stellar talents including Peter Austin, Jackie Bernard, 'Fats' Brown, George Dekker, Billy Dyce, Eric Monty Morris, Nehemiah Reid, Lloyd Ricketts and Howard Spencer (although not all at once!) recorded over fifty titles that included some of the most memorable vocal group performances of the rock steady and early reggae era.

If The Tennors had never returned to the studio after 'Pressure & Slide' and 'Ride Your Donkey' a prominent place would be assured for them forever in the history of Jamaican music. But they continued to make many more records that deserve to be celebrated every bit as much as these two classics and the captivating sound of their heartfelt harmonies over a smooth rocking beat sums up all that is good and true in Jamaican music. The art of harmony singing persisted in Jamaica long after it had faded from prominence in the USA, but, as the seventies progressed the record buying public's preponderance for deejays and dub made it increasingly difficult for vocal groups to continue to survive and The Tennors disbanded in 1975.
Mar 8, 2010 (Feb 15, 2019 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Debut title(s)
Tennors - Pressure & Slide
7" Tennors - Pressure & Slide Studio One Pressure & Slide
  
¥850 (US$7.99)
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Hit titles
Various - Reggae Girl (2CD)
CD Various - Reggae Girl (2CD) Trojan UK
  
¥2880 (US$27.08)
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Tennors - Rock Steady Classics (With Ronnie Davis)
CD Tennors - Rock Steady Classics (With Ronnie Davis) Nighthawk US
  
¥1880 (US$17.68)
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Tennors - Cleopatra
7" Tennors - Cleopatra Jamixal Music UK
  
¥1200 (US$11.28)
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Tennors - Weather Report
7" Tennors - Weather Report Treasure Isle UK
  
¥1280 (US$12.04)
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Trevor Andy - Real Change
7" Trevor Andy - Real Change Danjuma (Org) Info: Original Press
  
¥1780 (US$16.74)
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Clive Tennors, Mudies All Stars - Just For You
7" Clive Tennors, Mudies All Stars - Just For You / Mudies All Stars - Strings Dub In Rema Moodisc US
  
¥1680 (US$15.80)
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Recent arrival(s)
Tennors - Give Me Bread
7" Tennors - Give Me Bread Tennors/Reggae Fever EU
  
¥1380 (US$12.98)
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Best selling 7"(s)
Tennors - Weather Report
7" Tennors - Weather Report Treasure Isle UK
  
¥1280 (US$12.04)
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Tennors - Do The Reggae
7" Tennors - Do The Reggae / Pacesetters - Nimrod Leap Tennors/Reggae Fever EU
  
¥1630 (US$15.33)
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