ArtistImage

ROY COUSINS


Artist


REGGAE

Roy Cousins was born in Kingston in 1949 and as a young lad of 14, started work for the Kingston Post Office, a job he held until 1978. From the very early 60s, as a youth, he had become involved in the Jamaican music business, working with local artistes like the Congas, Nicky Thomas and Tinga Stewart.

Around 1963, he formed his own vocal group, The Royals who started recording their first tracks in 1966, with tunes like "Ghetto Man," "Blacker Black" and "When You Are Wrong".

The original line-up of The Royals was Cousins, Errol Wilson, Keith Smith, and Berthram Johnson, although the group line-up changed regularly with only Roy remaining as the constant element. When Roy was only 16, the group recorded the first version of their big hit, "Pick Up the Pieces", which was released on Studio 1 in 1967 (under the name The Tempests). The Royals then went on to work with other Jamaican producers like Joe Gibbs, Byron Smith and Lloyd Daley but Roy, always the writer and musical arranger of the group, gradually began to take over control of production too.

In 1971, he set up his first label Uhuru and at his first production session at Dynamic Studios, he recorded a new (and definitive) version of "Pick Up The Pieces", together with another Royals tune "Down Comes The Rain" and the track "Chances Are" with Devon Russell. "Pick Up The Pieces" was his first release on Uhuru but, after an approach by a new band, gave up the name to Black Uhuru and changed his label name to Tamoki Records in 1972 and continued with his project of releasing Royals tunes. Two years later, in 1974, he started his main label identity, Wambesi Records, and it was this label which he would mostly use to release singles and albums during the 70s.

By 1978, he was joining other Jamaican producers in making fairly regular vists to England. His first visit was organised by the early Reggae distributor Mojo who set up the Ballistic label through United Artists. Ballistic released six of his albums: "Pick Up The Pieces", "Israel Be Wise" and "Ten Years After" by The Royals and "Liberated Dub" and "Freedom Fighters Dub" by Force of Music.

For the first time, Roy had money in his pocket and he made the decision to quit his job at the Post Office and move to England. He had been slowly going blind with cataracts but an operation at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London saved his sight. He met his second wife in London and they settled and set up home in Liverpool. There he opened a record shop called "Cousins Cove" and started (though never finished) building a studio upstairs.

The 80s, though based in England, were his most prolific period of recording and releasing records, and he released dozens of albums and singles he had recorded in Jamaica, along with new stuff recorded with Jamaican artists who were passing through the UK. He always recorded live instrumental backing tracks and always in analogue studios to maintain the warm sound he knew from Jamaica. The patience and skill he had once applied to writing and arranging The Royals, he now brought to building rhythms and laying good vocals and harmonies.

In the UK, his label identity became Tamoki-Wambesi and its first release in 1980 was the Winston Jarrett album "Wise Man". While in Liverpool, he also set up the Dove label for album releases which eventually produced his current label identity of Tamoki-Wambesi-Dove.

Apart from The Royals, his catalogue of recordings is mostly known for the deejay Charlie Chaplin (for whom he also did the early hit singles), the vocal group The Gayladds, roots vocalist Don Carlos and toaster Prince Far I but he also released important early dub albums by Scientist, Peter Chemist and King Tubby.

He still has many unreleased early recordings, a fact being discovered by modern Reggae rarities/reissue labels.

The music of Roy Cousins always sprang from and told of the social reality of Jamaica. In an interview with David Katz, he said:

"If you listen to reggae music, you dont need to buy the paper. Reggae music tell you everything what happen in Jamaica".