The north London, England-based reggae band Tradition were formed in 1976, performing as Special Brew. The original line-up featured Chris Henry (bass), Paul Thompson (keyboards), Tony Matthews (drums), Michael Johnson (guitar) and Grace Reed (vocals). Following the departure of Reed and Johnson, the vacant roles were filled by Les McNeil and Paul Dawkins (ex-bass player for Junior English). The group linked up with Venture where they recorded ‘Moving On’, which has since become their anthem, ‘Rastafari’, and a version of ‘Summertime’. In 1978, the group released the classic ‘Why Why’ on a then innovative 12-inch discomix single. The song (and its respective dub version), which described some of the hostilities faced by blacks in a predominantly white environment, was a 10-minute opus and was well received. The group had carved a niche and continued to release a series of critically acclaimed hits. The playing skills of the band were utilized by David Tyrone, who employed the group to perform on sessions, including Aurora York’s cover versions of ‘Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue’ and ‘We Do It’, alongside Dennis Pinnock’s classic ‘Dennis The Menace’ and ‘Ride On’. A series of live shows enhanced the group’s reputation when they supported artists including Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Honey Boy and Culture. Their 1978 release, ‘Breezin’’, was voted the Best Single Of 1978 in the Echoes readers poll. The accomplishments of the group led to a contract with RCA Records in 1978, who released their international debut, ‘Born To Love You’. As with the majority of reggae signings to major labels, the contract was short-lived and the band’s output was limited to a few releases. In 1979, Shakeel Khan replaced Paul Dawkins, who had left the group and released his solo hit, ‘Ebony Eyes’. By 1982 the diminishing line-up released an instrumental single, ‘Tribute To A King’, and Spirit Of Ecstasy, which was essentially a showcase of Paul Thompson’s keyboard skills. Les McNeil pursued a solo career with the release of ‘Love Mechanic’ and enjoyed a massive hit performing as part of Eargasm for ‘This A Lovers Rock’. In 1983 David Tyrone set up the Chams label, releasing the band’s back catalogue as well as Les McNeil’s ‘I Gave You Everything’ and ‘Be Gentle With Me’.
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