Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough

21st August 2023 · 1960s, 1966, Music, Reggae, Ska

Rudies don’t fear… This rude boy anthem is the first and best-known of all rocksteady tunes to come out of Jamaica when ska began its evolution towards reggae in the mid-1960s.

With its slower tempo, rocksteady put more accent on the bassline, embellished with flourishes of guitar and piano, catching on around 1966 as ska began to fade in popularity.

This was one of the earliest examples, along with Rocksteady by Alton Ellis, Roy Shirley’s Hold Them, and Take It Easy by Hopeton Lewis.

It heralded a major change of direction, since Derrick Morgan had been the King of Ska, launching his career with the hit single Fat Man in 1960.

Such was his supremacy that once, in 1960, he held down all the top seven positions in the Jamaican singles chart. Not bad for a lad whose career began as a teenager in the 1950s when he won a talent show impersonating Little Richard.

The new style wouldn’t last long – by 1968 the bass and drums were becoming the focal point of the songs, the piano began to be replaced by electric organ, and the guitar was taking a back seat as a scratchy rhythm instrument.

At the same time the growing Rastafarian movement began exerting an influence on the music, politics and protest worked their way into the lyrics, and deejays like U-Roy began toasting over stripped-back instrumental versions created by a young producer called Osbourne Ruddock.

Before long he had become better known as King Tubby and those stripped-back versions, filled with echo and other studio effects, were dubbed “dub” – and reggae was born.