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Larry Marshall

Perhaps not well known to those more casual reggae music fans, singer Larry Marshall played a pivotal role in the genre as artist, talent scout, arranger and de facto producer at Jamaica’s #1 hitmaker, Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One.

Sharing that distinction with the Soul Vendors outfit who will back him at SNWMF 2006, Mr. Marshall produced crucial output at Jamaica’s most prolific studio, nurturing and championing then-upcoming artists as well as performing on some of the studio’s biggest hits like his signature tune “Nanny Goat”, “Throw Me Corn”,  “Mean Girl” as well as many others. A number of these seminal riddims continue to define reggae music down through the years right up to today’s latest releases by current dancehall artists.

Born in 1941 in Lawrence Hall, St. Anns Parish, Larry Marshall immigrated to Kingston in 1957. In 1960, he made his performance debut at the Ward Theatre backed by the Rhythm Aces. Through this performance, he was brought to the attention of Phillip Yap, producer for the Top Deck label, who recorded his first single, “Too Young To Love”, at Federal studio. He later recorded “Snake In the Grass” for Yap and this became his first big hit.

During his time with Top Deck, he, as so many other talented singers did, aspired to work for Studio One and its owner, Coxsone Dodd.  He managed to gain an audition there and Mr. Dodd recorded and released Marshall’s first Studio One single “Please Stay”. That song, however, never really gained any ground for the singer, so he returned to Yap and Top Deck for a period but, unhappy with his pay there, returned to Studio One, where Mr. Dodd placed him in the lineup of a vocal group called The Checkmates.

This arrangement didn’t work out well for Marshall though, so he again left Mr. Dodd and recorded some sides for Prince Buster (“I’ve Got Another Girl” among them) and Clancy Eccles as well (including a recut of “Please Stay”). Again things didn’t pan out financially quite how Marshall would have liked so he returned to Studio One to continue his career there.

It was at this time that he and brethren Alvin Leslie recorded what was to become one of Studio One’s greatest singles ever, “Nanny Goat” under the name Larry & Alvin. Mr. Dodd expressed displeasure with the song and was reluctant to issue the single. Marshall recalls, “When me do all tune named ‘Nanny Goat’, Downbeat (Mr. Dodd’s nickname) said, ‘This don’t sound like it could go out, Larry, because this sound empty.’ I said to him, ‘No, man – empty? The people await ‘pon this,’ and me just take a dub from him and go to a sound man in Barbican named Duke Anjo. The man want to buy away the dub from me. Alvin Leslie, him play a little set named King Victor at Stanley Park [in the East Kingston neighbourhood of Papine], and it’s there ‘Nanny Goat’ bust out of – all roads lead to Papine off of ‘Nanny Goat’. Fi five months him crash every set, and then people start to ask all about – Duke Reid and everyone – where they can get it. When you look at Tommy’s Lawn inna Papine Square, they’re so ram with people, yet me cook up in a one corner with one little piece of boot ‘pon me foot, all the bottom broke, and Alvin and me have number-one tune named ‘Nanny Goat’!” (Quote courtesy of David Katz’s “Solid Foundation An Oral History of Reggae”)

“Nanny Goat” is often referenced as the first song to use reggae musical patterns after the short-lived period of popularity for its predecessor, rocksteady. For all its success and foresight, Marshall claims all he ever got out of  it was 29 pounds payment!

Despite the lack of financial reward at Studio One, Marshall spent quite a period of time there in this period and it was there that he most helped shape the future of reggae music. He arranged Freddie McKay’s “Picture On the Wall” smash hit, had a hand in the upcoming youngster Horace Andy’s early career (including serving as recording engineer for the taping of the hit “Skylarking”) as well as singing on his own hits including “Throw Me Corn”, “Mean Girl” and “Your Love”.  Many of his singles as well as other freshly recorded tracks were included on his first and only record album for Studio One, “Presenting Larry Marshall”, released in 1973.

Perhaps his biggest coup though was when fellow St. Ann’s resident Winston Rodney approached him and asked for an introduction to Mr. Dodd. Marshall told Rodney to rehearse and then meet him at Studio One and he would see what he could do. When Rodney appeared at the Studio One gates with the Soul Defenders (aka Soul Vendors), Marshall “show him how to sing and portray this African sound”. Of course Mr. Rodney went on to be better known as Burning Spear and in many eyes the albums he cut for Mr. Dodd, “Presenting Burning Spear” and “Rocking Time”, remain at the forefront of his vast catalogue (that’s true for Studio One’s catalogue as well as Burning Spear’s own catalogue!)

Other notable achievements at Studio One were suggesting the title for the Gladiators’ hit “Hello Carol” (previously they were auditioning it under the title “Hello My Love”), as well as serving as co-engineer with Sylvan Morris and doing the actual taping of a young Dennis Brown’s “No Man Is An Island”.

Following his lengthy stay at Studio One, Marshall again felt the need to try the waters elsewhere. This brought him together with producer Carlton Patterson and his Black & White label. There he teamed with Patterson to record “Not Responsible”  as Carlton & Leroy (sic) at Randy’s studio in Kingston as well as “Can’t You Understand”, also in combination with the producer. He recorded “I Admire You” (single, then album by the same name) shortly after, which had a further distinction of becoming the first dub side actually credited to “King Tubby’s” when it was remixed at Tubby’s famous mixing studio in 1974 (“I Admire You”s flip side, “Watergate Rock”). (This track as well as other heavy dub workouts based on tracks from the album “I Admire You” can be found on Motion’s 2003 release, “I Admire You In Dub”.)  Other widely acclaimed tracks featured on the “I Admire You” LP included “Thelma”, “Heavy Heavy Load”, the heartbreaking “Can’t You Understand” and the self-explanatory “Is Whey Deh Money Deh”.

Some time later Marshall went back into the studio (primarily Channel One in this case) with Neville Beckford (aka Jah Woosh) and rerecorded a number of his earlier songs as well as some new tracks with musicians including members of Roots Radics, the Gladiators and We the People band. This release, titled “Throw Mi Corn” was released on Woosh’s Original Music label and saw limited distribution, mostly in the UK. It is truly a release to seek out; it offers a heavy  rockers-style revision of the “Throw Me Corn” anthem as well as showcase versions of “Heavy Heavy Load”, “Bird Song”, and a particularly crucial “Ark of Jah Covenant”. All tracks are accompanied by dub versions remixed at King Tubby’s studio and presented in clean clear dynamic sound and pressure!

In more recent years, Larry Marshall has remained in the background musically, but his legacy has lived big and broad: hardly a month goes by when a new hot single isn’t issued that utilizes the “Nanny Goat” or “Throw Me Corn” riddims. And a smile must cross Marshall’s face every time he hears the latest dancehall hit version one of his venerable songs! Personally, this writer thinks its high time Mr. Marshall reprises his own material for a modern audience and hopefully this time he can reap some of the financial reward he so justly deserves!

With a background so fundamental to the development of reggae music, it’s no wonder we at SNWMF are very excited to present Larry Marshall backed by original musicians of the caliber of the Soul Vendors. This promises to be yet another milestone performance for Mr. Marshall and a real treat for all roots music fans in the audience at this year’s festival!

-  JB Welda


A Message from Larry Marshall:

I want to thank the SNWMF for inviting me to perform at 2006 festival.

There has been an article by William Just released lately. He generously suggested that I could write my own article to clarify and correct certain errors. I appreciate his writing his article about my career.

This is to confirm once and for all that I Larry Marshall I'm the composer of the first Reggae song “Nanny Goat” I am the Reggae originator.

I also composed “Too Young to Love”; “Throw Me Corn”; “Mean Girl”; “Please Stay”; “I’ve Got Another Girl”; “Your Love”; Hello My Love”; “Can’t you Understand”; Heavy Heavy Load”; “Is Wey the Money Deh”; “Ark of Jah Covenant”; You Make me Feel Good”; “I Admire You”; and many others.

The publicity released by “Studio One” Norma Dodd and Carol Dood is deliberately misleading, refusing to acknowledge that I wrote the songs as well as being the arranger, producer and artist.

Coxsone Dodd did not read music and he never played any musical instrument and there are many witnesses that he never wrote my songs.

I am not the only artist that has not been paid royalties by Coxsone Dodd, or his family members who look over his Production and Publishing Empire.

I have never been paid any royalties empire as a composer or for publishing rights, Look forward to my CD release.

Larry Marshall


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