b. Roydell Johnson, 12 April 1943, Kendal, Hanover, Jamaica, West Indies. Johnson began his career performing with Ras Michael And The Sons Of Negus, as well as the lesser-known Rightful Brothers. He was introduced to the former vocalist with the Tartans, Cedric Myton, through the DJ Big Youth and producer Trevor Douglas. The combination of Myton’s falsetto vocals and Johnson’s tenor led to the duo forging a perfect vocal partnership. In 1975, the duo began recording as the Congos. The following year Lee Perry produced their debut, ‘At The Feast’. The song led to sessions for the pivotal Heart Of The Congos, recorded as a trio with baritone Watty Burnett and released in 1977 on Perry’s Black Ark label.
By 1980 the original line-up of the Congos had split up and the members were pursuing solo careers. Johnson’s debut as Congo Ashanti Roy, Sign Of The Star, was released on Pre, the label responsible for Gregory Isaacs’ classic Lonely Lover. The album featured love songs delivered in a style similar to Isaacs, although the collection failed to generate equivalent enthusiasm. The release was accompanied by a suitably lauded promotional concert alongside Prince Far I, who had produced Johnson’s solo debut. Encouraged by the critical acclaim, Johnson began sessions for his follow-up, which was recorded in Jamaica and the UK with the Roots Radics and Undivided Roots, respectively. Notable tracks included ‘Roadblock’, ‘Give It To The Postman’ and the emotional ‘Sweet Love’. Johnson maintained a relatively low profile within the music industry in subsequent decades. In 1997, he rejoined Myton and Burnett to play a one-off Congos gig at New York’s SOB’s club. In 2004, the trio announced they were planning a world tour.