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Artist Hall of Fame

Third World/Bunny RugsText by Harry Hawks

Roots with quality…
Date Added: Mar 14, 2014, Date Updated: Apr 4, 2014 Copyright (C) 2021 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Members:Bass:
Richard Daley
Drums:
Willie ‘Roots’ Stewart
Guitar & Cello:
Stephen ‘Cat’ Coore
Keyboards:
Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper
Vocals:
Milton 'Prilly' Hamilton & William ‘Bunny Rugs’ Clarke
1973 -
Place of Establishment: Kingston
Jamaica
Related Artist(s):
Inner Circle
Glen Adams
Bob Marley
Wailers
Burning Spear
I Kong
Abyssinians
Third World
Bass: Richard Daley
Drums: Willie 'Roots' Stewart
Guitar & Cello: Stephen 'Cat' Coore
Keyboards: Michael 'Ibo' Cooper
Percussion: Irvin 'Carrot' Jarrett
Vocals: Milton Prilly Hamilton & William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke

Ibo Cooper, Cat Coore and Richard Daley originally played together in the late sixties and all three worked with Inner Circle before forming Third World whose line up, with Prilly Hamilton on lead vocals, became permanent in 1975. They were not only a highly accomplished self contained live band but also helped lay the rhythms as a studio aggregation for a number of reggae hits including Jamaica's biggest selling record ever: Eric Donaldson's 'Cherry Oh Baby'...

"The band that I used was an outside band with my drummer Lloyd Adams who we called 'Tin Leg'. That band was The Inner Circle and later half of it became Third World... Ian and Roger, the Lewis brothers, went to America and 'Touter' used to play organ with The Aggrovators. Ibo Cooper and Cat Coore they went off with Third World so... Third World was a part of 'Cherry Oh Baby'."
Bunny Striker Lee

However, despite becoming internationally recognised stars, this hardworking, extremely talented band had to fight long and hard to gain real respect.

"Reggae snobs have dismissed these sons of the Jamaican middle class, guitarist/cello player Stephen 'Cat' Coore is the son of former Deputy Prime Minister David Coore, as a slick crossover act, ignoring the quality of first Milton Prilly Hamilton's vocals and then William 'Bunny Rugs' Clarke's, as well as the entire band's high level of musicianship." Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton

I first became aware of Third World when they supported Bob Marley & The Wailers at their now legendary concerts at London's Lyceum in the summer of 1975. At the time Burning Spear was a name known only to serious students of the music and the band alerted the UK crossover audience to his message by playing an electrifying version of Spear's 'Slavery Days'. It was reprised on their debut album, entitled 'Third World', released in 1976 to critical and public acclaim which also featured a beautiful version of The Abyssinians' 'Satta Massa Ganna'. The following year saw the release of the follow up long player, '96 Degrees In The Shade', another excellent set that continued in the same sophisticated style but Bunny Rugs had now taken over as an expressive and impressive lead vocalist.

William 'Bunny' Clarke was born 6th February 1948 in Mandeville in the Parish of Manchester but relocated to Johns Lane, in downtown Kingston, two years later. His father was an Anglican clergyman and the Christian religion played a very important part in Bunny's early upbringing. But USA soul music on the radio began to work its influence on the young man and he studied painting at the prestigious Jamaica School of Art and Crafts and sang with Vic Taylor for a short while. Bunny was now given another epithet 'Rugs' because of his habit of sleeping on the floor.

After singing and harmonising with local vocalists Bunny joined Charlie Hackett & The Souvenirs, then house band at the Kittymat Club on Maxfield Avenue, as lead singer. From 1968 to 1974 Bunny moved between Kingston and New York and briefly joined Inner Circle in Jamaica after Bruce Ruffin had left the group. He sang with an American based band known as The Bluegrass Experience alongside Jamaican musical legends Glen Adams, Eric Frater and Sparrow Martin and, after deciding to try his luck at home in Jamaica, Bunny trod his way around Kingston's recording studios. Glen Adams had introduced Bunny to Lee 'Scratch' Perry (Lee Perry) and he settled in at Perry's Black Ark for the next year. Bunny worked originally as a backing vocalist before Scratch linked him with Errol Kong (also known as Ricky Storme and I Kong) as Bunny & Ricky whose 'Bushweed Corntrash' with its fabulous, frightening dub side was a stunning example of the musical heights that were reached in Washington Gardens during this period. 'Freedom Fighter', a version to Junior Byles' classic 'Beat Down Babylon', was another big hit for the duo. Bunny also worked as a solo artist with Scratch on romantically inclined releases including 'Let Love Touch Us Now' and 'To Love Somebody'. But when Scratch released a Bunny Rugs album on the London based Klik label he credited the set to Bunny Scott because "these people like Scottish names... English people like English names". Bunny was not too pleased, and, after an excellent version of William DeVaughn's perennially popular 'Be Thankful For What You Got' credited to Bunny Clarke was released on Orchid, Bunny joined Third World after meeting up with the band in the Bottom Line club in New York's Greenwich Village.

The 'Journey To Addis' album, recorded at Compass Point studios in 1978, finally broke Third World internationally. The set included a beautiful disco tinged reggae version of the Gamble & Huff song, 'Now That We've Found Love', previously popularised by The O'Jays. Third World made it all their own and the subsequent single became the definitive version of this superb, message song. It reached Number Ten in The UK National Charts in the autumn of 1978 and was a huge hit all around the world.

As a studio band and live act performing worldwide Third World were purveyors of a highly sophisticated approach and their complex uptown blend of jazz, soul and reggae was resolutely international. In 1981 the band moved to CBS Records and achieved another Top Ten placing in the UK, 'Dancing On The Floor', culled from the 'Rock The World' album. They recorded five albums in all for Columbia and the 1982 release, 'You've Got The Power' featured 'Try Jah Love' written and produced by Stevie Wonder. Cat Coore's cello solo with the band at London's Reggae Sunsplash, held at Selhurst Park in the summer of 1985, is still discussed in awed tones in reggae circles. Although they were internationally acclaimed the band did not forget where they were coming from and records such as their Jamaican release for Niney The Observer(Winston 'Niney' Holness), 'Roots With Quality', found favour with reggae's discerning hardcore ghetto audience in the early eighties; it could also be regarded as their mission statement. Their late nineties release for Sly & Robbie's Taxi label, the blistering 'Dem Man Deh', once again demonstrated their ability to perfectly capture the roots rock reggae moment.

The band have never ceased performing and recording both as a group and in various solo capacities but Bunny's failing health meant that he was unable to perform at a number of shows during 2013 on Third World's Fortieth Anniversary Tour. Bunny Rugs' excellent 'Time' long player, released in autumn 2012, proved to be his last and profits from the single 'Land We Love' lifted from the album were donated to the Jamaican Children's Heart Fund and Chain Of Hope. Earlier this year he was hospitalised in Orlando, Florida and, although The Gleaner reported "Bunny Rugs On The Mend" at the end of January, he tragically died of leukaemia on 3rd February 2014. Bunny is survived by his wife and eight children and all at Dub Store would like to express their sincere condolences to Bunny Rugs' family, friends and fans worldwide.

"He has been a great ambassador for Jamaica over the decades, thereby helping to build brand Jamaica globally." Dr Wykeham McNeill, Minister of Tourism & Entertainment

Sources:
Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton: Reggae The Rough Guide Rough Guides Ltd. 1997
Noel Hawks & Jah Floyd Reggae Going International 1967 to 1976 The Bunny 'Striker' Lee Story
Jamaican Recordings Publishing 2012
David Katz: People Funny Boy The Genius Of Lee 'Scratch' Perry Payback Press 2000
Mar 14, 2014 (Apr 4, 2014 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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