Delroy Wilson’s unique voice and songs will come to mind when you think of Jamaica. At just 13 years old, Wilson was the first child star in Jamaica’s history and he recorded 350 songs over the course of his career.
Delroy Wilson was born in Trench Town, Kingston, Jamaica, on October 5, 1948, and would go on to have many Ska hits, starting with “Emmy Lou”. He had more hits, including “I Shall Not Remove”, “Look Who’s Back Again” (duet with Slim Smith), and “Prince Pharaoh”.
Throughout his career, Wilson worked with many producers, including LeeScratch Perry, Clement Coxsone Dodd, Robert Livingstone, Bunny Lee, Phil Phatt, Lloyd Chalmers, Keith Hudson, and Leslie Kong.
By the mid-1960s, Delroy Wilson’s voice broke just in time for Reggae’s transition to a new form and he began producing a steady stream of Rocksteady hits. One of his hits was the Tams’ “Dancing Mood”, which was a smash hit.
At just 13 years old, Wilson was the first child star in Jamaica’s history and became the first reggae artist to record 350 songs.
In 1967, Delroy Wilson released the song “This Old Heart of Mine” on Studio One, joined the Trojan label, toured the UK, and released the album “Better Must Come”.
In 1976, Wilson recorded the single “I Am Not a King”, his classic album Lovers’ Rock from Burning Sounds, followed by the album Sarge, which was considered one of his strongest albums.
From 1982 to 1990, Delroy Wilson was represented by Redlight Productions. In 1985 Wilson released a single on Tulip Records entitled “Girls Of Today”. He toured the UK including radio interviews on Capitol Radio with David Rodigan, the late Tony Williams on BBC Radio London, BBC Radio with Herdle White, BBC Manchester. He made a TV appearance in 1987 on LWT Club Mix hosted by the Late Smiley Culture.
Delroy Wilson died from liver cirrhosis on March 6, 1995, at 46 years of age in Jamaica. Often called ‘The Dean of Reggae’, he was posthumously awarded Jamaica’s Order of Distinction in the Commander class in October 2013.
Featuring Reggae legends Little Roy, The Chosen Few feat’ Frankin Spence, Errol Brown, Momo Watt; Frederica Tibbs, Dave Barker, and Lovers Rock newcomer Erral Matik, the Delroy Wilson Tribute Tour is a musical journey sure to please fans of Reggae music and Jamaican culture.
Little Roy met Delroy Wilson at Studio One. He also started his musical career at a young age . He was 12 when he started working with producer Coxsone Dodd, Prince Buster, Lee Scratch Perry and Lloyd Daley. He became one of the founding fathers of Roots Reggae, and his first number one hit was Bongo Nyah.
“Delroy was very influenced by American rhythm and blues and that set the stage for the development of the early vocal that we’ve come to know as the vocal for reggae music,” said Little Roy in a recent interview. “His significance wasn’t only as the first child star of Jamaica, but an artist who was also the first Reggae Superstar out of Jamaica.”
Dave Barker began his musical career in the late sixties, performing with Glen Adams. Introduced to Coxsone Dodd by Tommy Cole of The Jamaicans, Barker he cut a handful of sides for Dodd and Harry Johnson. Around this time, he also began singing with Bruce Ruffin and Winston Riley in the Techniques, but it was his solo work for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry that led to him discovering his ‘barking’ DJ style that later brought him both international notoriety and his pseudonym, Dave Barker. Barker remembers Delroy Wilson as “a giant”.
Reminiscing about Wilson, Barker says, ” (When I first met Delroy) I think I was about either 19 or 20 of age. I think it was 1962 Okay. At the time, both the music was hot, the music was right. Back then back then in Jamaica. The first day we walked into Studio One, that is myself and Glenn, we walked into Studio One. There was an audition happening at the time. And, you know, the artists had to wait outside the studio. You know, each time the door opens of the studio, and then the artists that was in the studio came out because he had completed his recording so he had to come out for the next artists to go in, you know, to do his stuff. So that is where I finally met, Mr. Delroy Wilson, and he was very excited. He couldn’t wait for the door to open for his turn to step in and, and do his wonderful stuff like he normally does. You know, that was the first time.”
A new various artists album featuring some of Delroy Wilson’s classic songs will be released in late September 2022 to coincide with the tribute tour.
Frederica Tibbs, a powerful singer in her own right, is recognized in the world Reggae scene as the go to backing vocalist and support artist providing harmony arrangements for many of Reggae’s top acts on stages in the UK and internationally, artists like the late Delroy Wilson, Gregory Issacs, Tyrone Taylor, Alton Ellis, BB Seaton, Little Roy, Judge Dread, Dave Barker, Dennis Brown and many more.
After meeting Wilson in Studio One at the beginning of their careers, Franklin Spence of The Chosen Few, one of the pioneering groups who crafted the Reggae sound during the golden age of Jamaican music, says that Delroy Wilson influenced other artists – in the studio, with their recording, their singing.
One of the most revered Reggae groups of the 1970s, The Chosen Few not only had an enviable string of hits across the decade but also toured the United States, Canada, and England. Formed in Kingston, Jamaica, they quickly climbed to the stop of the scene with three album releases on the famed Trojan Records
“In those days most of the artists, like ourselves (The Chosen Few), The Heptones, Delroy Wilson – we would help other artists. We would help each other, He influenced other singers – in the studio, with their career, he would encourage others. He had an each one teach one philosophy. I am excited to be a part of this tribute tour and to share his music with the world.”
Delroy Wilson remains influential with younger artists like Erral Matik, a Jamaican singer/songwriter with a fabulous new song called “As Long As I Live”, reminiscent of the sweetness and power of Wilson contemporaries Dennis Brown, John Holt, and Alton Ellis.
The Delroy Wilson tribute tour will travel across the UK in October 2022 to celebrate the life and work of Jamaica’s prolific reggae artist and first child star Delroy Wilson.
Original interviews by Marva Jackson Lord with participating artists.
I recognise the late Great Mr Delroy Wilson as one of the Stalwarts of Reggae Music. His contribution is immeasurable. Hits like ‘Dancing Mood’, ‘Better must come’.’ Cool Operator’,‘I’m still waiting’ are testament to his immense popularity since the ‘60s worldwide.
I had the pleasure of working with him on one of my productions that can be heard on my DuBMaster Anthology release on Trojan Records 2022
Delroy Wilson was a child star in Jamaica, and held in high regard by fellow singers like Bob Marley, Alton Ellis and Dennis Brown, who knew talent when they heard it. Like them, he made his breakthrough at Coxsone Dodd’s famous Studio One, where so many of the island’s musical greats also got their start in the music business. As his voice matured he was widely compared with Marvin Gaye although Delroy, who was raised in Trench Town, had a laidback, soulful style that was uniquely his own. With top producers such as Bunny “Striker” Lee, Lloyd Charmers, Joe Gibbs, Sly & Robbie and Gussie Clarke queuing up to record him, he became the voice of Jamaican lovers rock throughout the seventies and eighties, with hit singles and albums galore ensuring that his popularity rarely faltered until his death in 1995.A reappraisal of his musical gifts is long overdue, and it’s pleasing to see his contemporaries and younger artists now honouring his memory with tributes of their own to Jamaica’s King of The Rub A Dub sound.