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U Roy

Born Ewart Beckford, Kingston, Jamaica, 1942. Although U Roy was not the first DJ to appear on record he was the one responsible for putting the DJ well and truly on the map and therefore his importance in the history of Jamaican music is immense. What?s more his toasting went on to influence a whole new generation of American teenagers, giving birth to the rapper and Hip Hop culture. For this reason he is often referred to as ?The Originator?

As a youth, his inspiration was Count Machuki, the legendary Studio One DJ. At the age of 14 he started following Doctor Dickie?s Dynamic sound, often sneaking out of the house without his grandmother, who he grew up with, knowing. At first he was too shy to take the mike but after a couple of years he began to introduce the singers and make announcements and from then on he never looked back

Next he went to work on Sir George The Atomic?s sound and then on to Studio One owner Sir Coxsone Dodd?s Down Beat, where he played the number two set as another DJ legend, King Stitt played the number one set. Realising this situation was unlikely to change he went back to St George?s and then from there on to King Tubby?s Home Town Hi Fi where he really established himself

At this time, the late 1960s, King Tubby was working by day as a disc cutter for Duke Reid?s Treasure Isle label. He began messing around with the much loved hit tracks the label was releasing, dropping the vocal out at certain points, stripping the rhythms back to just the drum and the bass - with these new ?versions? he had invented dub music. He also discovered that by leaving more space in the music it enabled the DJ?s to be more creative lyrically and they could actually ?ride? the rhythm

With this development U Roy flourished and his extended, powerful jive-talk raps soon had people hailing him as the number one DJ in Jamaica. He recorded discs for Lee Perry, Bunny Lee and Keith Hudson but it was the recordings made in early 1970 for Duke Reid that earned him Jamaican superstar status

Reid invited U Roy in to the studio with King Tubby in an attempt to reproduce his electrifying performances at the dances on vinyl, using the Duke?s popular Rocksteady rhythms as backing tracks. Much to U Roy?s surprise these records were an immediate success and the first three released, ?Wake The Town?, ?Rule The Nation? and ?Wear You To The Ball? occupied Numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the Jamaican charts for an astonishing six weeks

In all U Roy recorded 32 tracks for Reid. He also recorded tracks for Bunny Lee and a multitude of other producers including Winston ?Niney? Holness, Alvin ?GG? Ranglin, Joe Gibbs, Glen Brown and Lloyd Charmers as well as producing his own tracks and releasing them on his own labels

By the mid 70s a new generation of DJ?s, directly influenced by U Roy were beginning to eclipse The Originator?s star status but a series of albums made with Prince Tony Robinson, and later with DJ?s turned producers Prince Jazzbo and Tapper Zukie showed that he was still a force to be reckoned with. He also operated his own very successful Stur-Gav sound system which featured a formidable array of talent such as Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales

Even today, some 40 years after he first entered the public?s consciousness he continues to record and is still much in demand as a live performer

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