King Sounds

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London-based reggae singer started out in the 1970s as a dancer, remained vital into the 21st Century.
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b. c.1948, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, West Indies. King Sounds emigrated to the UK in 1974, but his first foray into the music business was back in Jamaica, where he danced to ska music in talent shows. His friend Alton Ellis asked him to compère a show, which led to further bookings showcasing his ability to work crowds into a frenzy before an artist’s stage appearance; a cameo as an MC in Babylon captured an early performance in this role. In 1975, he recorded ‘Rock And Roll Lullaby’, which was a minor hit, before jointly founding the Grove Music collective based in Ladbroke Grove, London. Together with Mikey Campbell, he introduced Aswad, Delroy Washington and the Sons Of Jah as well as distributing Yabby You’s productions from Jamaica. His debut recording was re-released by the label, but his ‘Spend One Night In A Babylon’, featuring DJ Trinity, captivated the market. Sharing the production with Yabby You, the duo gained a number of hits as the Prophets, including a remake of Slim Smith’s ‘Blessed Are The Meek’. He was frequently involved in performances at London’s annual Notting Hill Carnival where, with the Israelites, he proved a popular live act. King Sounds often performed as a support to Aswad, and the energetic Israelites, including Clifton ‘Bigga’ Morrison, Eddie ‘Tan Tan’ Thornton and Michael ‘Bammi’ Rose, provided the horns and keyboards for both acts. Forward To Africa, a 1981 release featuring the title track, a version of Clarence Carter’s ‘Patches’ and ‘Batman’, was successful in Europe. Sounds also made successful appearances at the British Invasion to Reggae Sunsplash, performing alongside Winston Reedy and Steel Pulse. His success was followed by a hit in Jamaica when he covered the Heptones’ ‘Book Of Rules’, released through his own King & I label. The track was lifted from There Is A Reward which featured some of the top session musicians in Jamaica, including Sly Dunbar, Pam Hall, J.C. Lodge and Dean Fraser. King Sounds ‘bubbled under’ the UK charts when he worked with Lloyd Charmers and B.B. Seaton for the singles ‘Black & White’, ‘I Really Don’t Want To Hurt You’ and ‘Would You Like To Be Happy’. King Sounds’ membership of the Twelve Tribes Of Israel, alongside Freddie McGregor, Dennis Brown and Bob Marley, has influenced much of his work. His desire to educate the youth has not always been popular, but he is regarded with ‘nuff respect’. Now seen as an elder statesman of British Reggae he was one of the representatives in the House Of Parliament for the launch of COBRA, aiming to look after the interests of performers who had previously suffered exploitation in the music industry. In 1996, he performed and toured with Freddie McGregor.