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Artist Hall of Fame

MelodiansText by Harry Hawks

One of the most memorable of the many marvellous vocal groups who came to prominence in the mid sixties with the advent of rock steady…
Date Added: Jun 30, 2014, Date Updated: Aug 8, 2014 Copyright (C) 2020 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Members:Tony Brevett
Brent Dowe
Trevor McNaughton
1963 -
Place of Establishment: Greenwich Farm
Kingston
Jamaica
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Saying us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?"
Psalm 137, Verses 1 to 4

Although a three part harmony group in the classical Jamaican tradition The Melodians were unusual in that they had two equally strong lead singers Tony Brevett and Brent Dowe. Trevor McNaughton provided the harmonies and the group was further strengthened by Renford Cogle who played a non-singing song-writing role. The sad, untimely death of Tony Brevett towards the end of last year has prompted this brief overview of their stellar career.

The group came together in 1963 when they were growing up in Kingston's Greenwich Farm district, home to many musically inclined youths, where The Melodians helped Alva 'Reggie' Lewis to tune his first guitar! Tony's uncle, Lloyd Brevett ace bass player with The Skatalites, introduced the youths to Coxsone Dodd(CS Dodd) at Studio One where they recorded 'Throw Down Your Weapon', 'Meet Me', 'I Should Have Made It Up' and 'Lay It On' in 1966. The records were moderately successful but when the group moved on to Mr Dodd's arch rival, Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, the hits started happening... cool, endlessly sophisticated music driven by the faultless perfection of Tommy McCook & His Supersonics down on Bond Street. Their Treasure Isle hits included 'Last Train To Expo '67' and its alternative vocal 'Last Train To Ecstasy', 'You Have Caught Me' aka 'You've Caught Me Baby', 'Come On Little Girl', 'You Don't Need Me', 'Everybody Bawling' and 'I'll Get Along Without You'.

Towards the end of 1967 The Melodians moved on to Sonia Pottinger's High Note label and, backed by the superb sounds of Lyn Taitt & The Jets, the hits kept on coming including 'Heartaches', 'Little Nut Tree' and 'Swing And Dine'. The following year, in an inspired bid for independence and self determination, The Melodians joined together with fellow artists, Ken Boothe, The Gaylads and Delroy Wilson to establish the Links label. A number of faultless releases appeared on the label including The Gaylads' 'Looking For A Girl', Ken Boothe's 'Can't You See' and The Melodians' beautiful 'It Comes And Goes' which would later resurface, slightly modified, as 'Royal Cord' on the Soul Beat label.

As rock steady speeded up into the rapid reggae beat The Melodians moved on to the Beverleys label where Leslie Kong was currently enjoying international success with Desmond Dekker, The Maytals and The Pioneers all troubling the UK National Charts. The Melodians' aching 'Sweet Sensation' narrowly missed making that critical crossover to the higher reaches of the UK National Charts despite hitting the Number One spot on both RJR and JBC. The English release on Trojan peaked at Number 41 in January 1970 after huge underground success.

The Melodians' arrangement of the opening four verses of Psalm 137 and the closing verse of Psalm 19 entitled 'Rivers Of Babylon' was another huge hit on the reggae market later that year. The song was banned in Jamaica because of "its overt Rastafarian references" but Leslie Kong countered that the psalms had been "sung by Jamaican Christians since time immemorial" and the ban was repealed; the record went on to become a massive hit. It was featured on the soundtrack of 'The Harder They Come' in 1972 the film that helped introduce reggae to an international audience. 'Rivers Of Babylon' was later adopted and adapted by Frank Farian for Boney M who hit worldwide with the song in 1978. Their disco version was awarded a platinum disc and became one of the top ten best selling singles in the UK ever.

During the seventies Brent Dowe also worked with Mrs Pottinger as a solo artist and had one of his biggest hits with 'Build Me Up' before working with Lee 'Scratch' Perry(Lee Perry). Brent's mournful Upsetter release 'Down Here In Babylon' became a Twelve Tribes Of Israel anthem and is still regularly played out at Twelve Tribes dances. Tony Brevett's oft versioned 'Don't Get Weary' for the Links label has assumed similar classical status. The Melodians continued to record sporadically as a group with a number of producers including Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Harry 'Harry J' Johnson(Harry Johnson) releasing many fine records including the obscure, but truly beautiful, 'Submission' for the New York based Tops Records label in the early eighties.

In the nineties and on into the new Millennium The Melodians toured internationally at countless concerts including Alton Ellis' celebrated Easter Sunday Rock Steady Gala at London's Hammersmith Palais and California's Sierra Nevada World Music Festival where their polished, professional performances not only proved popular with their long time fans but also won them many new, younger admirers. On 29th January 2006 Brent Dowe suffered a fatal heart attack aged 59 in Jamaica and on 26th October 2013 Tony Brevett died from cancer aged 64 in Miami, USA.

The depth of musical talent that has emanated from Jamaica is nothing short of incredible and The Melodians were at the height of their powers at a time when many other vocal groups including The Gaylads, The Paragons and The Techniques were also enjoying their peak years of creativity. The Melodians' perfectly formed catalogue has left a lasting legacy not only through their own enduring originals but also through endlessly versioned updates of their songs and rhythms. All at Dub Store Records offer their sincere, belated condolences to the families and friends of Brent Dowe and Tony Brevett.

"Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer." Psalm 19, Verse 14
Jun 30, 2014 (Aug 8, 2014 Update) Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit titles
Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon: Best Of 1967-1973
CD Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon: Best Of 1967-1973 Trojan UK
  
¥2280 (US$20.79)
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Melodians - Sweet Sensation (Extended Mix)
12" Melodians - Sweet Sensation (Extended Mix) Harry J (Org) Info: Original Press
  
¥4380 (US$39.93)
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Melodians - You Have Caught Me
7" Melodians - You Have Caught Me Treasure Isle You Have Caught Me
  
¥850 (US$7.75)
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Melodians - I'll Get Along Without You
7" Melodians - I'll Get Along Without You Treasure Isle I'll Get Along B: You Don't Need Me
  
¥1180 (US$10.76)
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Melodians - Sweet Rose
7" Melodians - Sweet Rose Soul Beat UK
  
¥980 (US$8.93)
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Melodians - Everybody Bawling
7" Melodians - Everybody Bawling / U Roy - Everybody Bawling Treasure Isle UK Everybody Bawling
  
¥1280 (US$11.67)
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Melodians - Come Back Girl
7" Melodians - Come Back Girl Melodians US/Rhythm Shack US
  
¥980 (US$8.93)
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Melodians - Come On Little Girl
7" Melodians - Come On Little Girl Melodians US Come On Little Girl
  
¥1100 (US$10.03)
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Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon (edge Warp)
7" Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon (edge Warp) Beverleys UK
  
¥1280 (US$11.67)
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Melodians - Song Of Love
7" Melodians - Song Of Love Stars
  
¥570 (US$5.20)
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Recent arrival(s)
Melodians - A Little Nut Tree (Original Stamper)
7" Melodians - A Little Nut Tree (Original Stamper) Studio One
  
¥850 ¥680 (US$6.20)
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Best selling 7"(s)
Melodians - Everybody Bawling
7" Melodians - Everybody Bawling / U Roy - Everybody Bawling Treasure Isle UK Everybody Bawling
  
¥1280 (US$11.67)
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Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon (edge Warp)
7" Melodians - Rivers Of Babylon (edge Warp) Beverleys UK
  
¥1280 (US$11.67)
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Melodians - Sweet Rose
7" Melodians - Sweet Rose Soul Beat UK
  
¥980 (US$8.93)
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Melodians - A Little Nut Tree (Original Stamper)
7" Melodians - A Little Nut Tree (Original Stamper) Studio One
  
¥850 ¥680 (US$6.20)
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