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Artist Hall of Fame

Boris GardinerText by Harry Hawks

Although his bass guitar beat at the heart of reggae music for over twenty years Boris Gardiner still remains a relatively unknown figure although he has contributed much more to the music than many other far more celebrated performers.
Date Added: May 24, 2013, Date Updated: Aug 22, 2018 Copyright (C) 2018 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Real Name: Boris Gardiner
Jan 13, 1946 -
Place of Birth: Kingston
Jamaica
Related Artist(s):
Winston Turner
Jackie Mittoo
Derrick Harriott
Byron Lee
Earl Sixteen
Born 13th January 1946 the youngest of three children Boris Gardiner's father was a plumbing contractor and Boris spent his early years in Rollington Town but when he was thirteen his parents were divorced and he moved with his father to Vineyard Town. At seventeen he was diagnosed with the heart condition, tachyardia, and spent some time in hospital. However, within a year of being discharged he joined Delano Stewart, Richard Ace & Richard Moss as lead vocalist in The Rhythm Aces who performed for tourists at a number of hotels and clubs along Jamaica's North Coast.

The Rhythm Aces were also early pioneers in Kingston's nascent recording scene and, during 1962 and 1963, they recorded 'A Thousand Teardrops', 'Wherever You May Go', 'Oh My Darling', 'Please Don't Go Away' and 'Christmas' for Chris Blackwell's R & B label, 'Joy Bells For Independence' for Studio One and 'Together' for Lyndon O. Pottinger's Gayfeet label. Although these records proved to be popular the group disbanded due to lack of financial remuneration. Boris then joined Kes Chin & The Souvenirs, a well established fourteen piece orchestra, that included saxophonist Val Bennett in their line up. The Souvenirs played for the tourists on the North Coast too and Boris was originally the lead singer; he began to play guitar for the band and, after a while, graduated to the bass. Some early examples of his sterling guitar work, 'Memories Of Flora' and 'Don't Speak To Me Of Love' (which he also wrote) were released on the Premiere Records long player 'Let's Have A Red Stripe Party'.

When members of the band began defecting to The Caribs in 1964 The Souvenirs broke up and Boris was asked to join Carlos Malcolm's Afro Cubans. At the time the Afro Cubans comprised Carlos Malcolm on trombone and percussion, Derrick Harriott on lead vocals, Carl 'Cannonball' Bryan on saxophone, Trevor Lopez on guitar, Winston Turner on trumpet, Freddy Campbell on drums and Audley Williams on bass, steel guitar and piano. Boris not only sang but also played percussion and danced the bossa nova and the cha cha. When Audley Williams left the band Carlos Malcolm took over as bass player but Carlos not at ease with the instrument and convinced Boris to ease up on singing and dancing and to take up the bass again.

Boris now learnt to read music and soon became sufficiently proficient to sight read and to write the parts for all the members of the band. The Afro Cubans went to the Bahamas in 1966 and stayed for a year working between Freeport and Nassau. Their next move was to New York where Boris discovered that he was expected to get another job to subsidise his musician's wages! He then moved further north to Canada and joined Leslie Butler's house band at Club Jamaica in Toronto but the harsh Canadian winter proved to be far too cold for Boris. He returned home to Kingston where he joined the resident trio at a new club in Cross Roads called The Bronco.

He began to work as a session musician at Coxsone's Studio One on Brentford Road where, playing alongside Crystalitesand Fil Callender, Boris laid the foundation for innumerable memorable rhythms. He fulfilled the same role at Duke Reid's Treasure Isle on Bond Street where he composed a series of bass lines which have subsequently come to be regarded as classics. In fact many of Boris' bass lines have become part of the rhythmic vocabulary of reggae music. Boris also freelanced as a session musician for Lloyd 'Matador' Daley, Federal Records, Sonia Pottinger's High Note label and also played as one of Derrick Harriott's Crystalites.

'Elizabethan Serenade', originally composed by Ronald Binge, was first played by Mantovani's orchestra in 1951 and Boris Gardiner updated the song as 'Elizabethan Reggae' eighteen years later. At first the record was erroneously credited to producer Byron Lee but this was corrected on later pressings. 'Elizabethan Reggae' was one of the first ever Jamaican records to break through internationally, reaching Number 14 in the UK National Charts in January 1970, and Boris toured the UK in the spring to promote his hit record. While working for Harry Harry J' Johnson (Harry Johnson) Boris had laid the bass line for another early crossover hit, Bob & Marcia's 'Young, Gifted And Black', which soared to Number 5 on the UK National Charts in March 1970. Byron Lee produced and released Boris' debut album 'Reggae Happening' but Boris then returned to Jamaica to concentrate on session work and live dates with The Broncos.

By this time The Broncos included Keith Sterling on keyboards and Hux Brown on guitar and their performances were so impressive that the manager of the uptown Courtney Manor Hotel, Robert Lake Junior, persuaded them to leave the Bronco Club and work for him. The Broncos now became The Boris Gardiner Happening and they also played at balls, hotels, nurseries and on political campaigns. Paul Douglas was recruited on drums and Tinga Stewart was drafted in on lead vocals and, alongside Byron Lee's Dragonaires and Lloyd Parks' We The People, the band rapidly established a reputation as one of Jamaica's top live acts. Tinga won the Festival Song Contest in 1974 with 'Play De Music' and left the band. Boris then recruited Earl 'Sixteen' Daley(Earl Sixteen) to take over the lead singer's role who later recalled The Boris Gardiner Happening as "a touristy kind of thing" specialising in the "cabaret treatment'" of current top Jamaican tunes.

The Barrett brothers, Aston and Carlton, had left Lee Perry's Upsetters to play bass and drums as members of Bob Marley's Wailers in 1972. Scratch urgently required replacements for this dynamic duo and he recruited Boris as one of The Upsetters. Earl Sixteen reckoned that Boris Gardiner was "one of the best bass players at the time" with an almost innate ability to play any style of music from calypso to sophisticated soul. Boris Gardiner now made his mark at the Black Ark fashioning deep, dark rhythms of raw roots reggae. His bass parts were always impressive but understated and Boris Gardner's extensive Upsetter repertoire includes countless classics such as Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves' and the classical 'Heart Of The Congos' long player.

In the mid eighties reggae music moved into the digital era and technology took centre stage. Many observers felt that the days of multi-talented musicians, including Boris Gardiner, were now over. Nothing could have been further from the truth and Boris' many years with The Boris Gardiner Happening playing for the more relaxed and mellow hotel crowds were chanelled into his biggest crossover hit ever 'I Want To Wake Up With You'. This slow, sentimental ballad achieved the Number One position in the UK National Charts in July 1986. The follow up, 'You're Everything To Me', was similarly inclined and reached Number 11 in the Autumn of that year. It was followed by Boris' festive record, 'The Meaning Of Christmas', which only managed the lower reaches of the National Charts, but proved to be a perennial seasonal favourite ever since.

Although he has enjoyed three major UK chart hits during his long career Boris Gardiner has inexplicably still remained in the background. A professional musician and producer his place has usually been behind whoever the current hit-makers happened to be and his arrangements and musicianship have provided the solid foundation on which their fleeting success has been built. A permanent fixture in a music fixated with the here and now his major contribution has been to further the sound of Jamaican music and it is no exaggeration to say that reggae would have been all the poorer without his outstanding contribution over the years.

Sources:
Noel Hawks: Interview with Earl Sixteen London 8th January 2003
David Katz: People Funny Boy The Genius of Lee 'Scratch' Perry Payback Press 2000
May 24, 2013 (Aug 22, 2018 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit titles
Boris Gardiner - Best Of: I Want To Wake Up With You
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Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star
CD Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star Jazzman UK
  
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Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star (Japanese Edition)
CD Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star (Japanese Edition) P-Vine Records JPN/Jazzman UK
  
¥2625 (US$23.31)
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Boris Gardiner - Is What's Happening
LP Boris Gardiner - Is What's Happening Dynamic
  
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Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star
LP Boris Gardiner - Every Nigga Is A Star Jazzman UK
  
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Boris Gardiner - Soulful Experience
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Boris Gardiner - Reggae Happening (Jacket Damage)
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Boris Gardiner - Commanding Wife
7" Boris Gardiner - Commanding Wife Giant NY (Org) Info: Original Press
  
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Boris Gardiner - Melting Pot [Coldcut Re Rub]
7" Boris Gardiner - Melting Pot [Coldcut Re Rub] Trojan UK
  
¥1180 (US$10.48)
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Boris Gardiner - Breezin'
7" Boris Gardiner - Breezin' Dynamic
  
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Boris Gardiner - I Wanna Wake Up With You
7" Boris Gardiner - I Wanna Wake Up With You WKS US
  
¥720 (US$6.39)
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Boris Gardiner - Untitled Instrumental
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