U-Roy & John Holt – Wear You To The Ball

21st September 1970 · 1970, 1970s, Music, Reggae

U-Roy is one of the great toasters of Jamaican music, prefiguring the rappers who came along more than 20 years later. Here’s The Originator teaming up with John Holt.

Ewart Beckford began deejaying (that is to say, rapping – or Toasting as it’s known in Jamaica – rather than choosing records, which is the job of the Selecta) back in 1961.

Hence his nickname of The Originator. He may not be the very first toaster – that was Count Matchuki – but he’s the best known of the first wave.

Under his performance name U-Roy (originally spelled Hugh-Roy, as on this disc), he injected new life into many old riddims. His unmistakeable vocal style, with that trademark gasp, can be heard on dozens of B-sides of Jamaican pre-release singles (the 7-inchers with a hole in the middle), toasting over a dub version.

This is one of the tunes that made his name, after John Holt heard him freestyling over his Paragons tune Wear You To The Ball at a dance in 1970 and reportedly demanded that producer Duke Reid record him the very next day at his Treasure Isle studio. Which he did.

His first hit was Wake The Town (a version of Alton Ellis’s soulful 1967 rocksteady tune Girl I’ve Got A Date) and it went straight to the top of the charts, followed by a this one. U-Roy was ubiquitous throughout the early and mid-Seventies, influencing dozens more toasters, including I-Roy, and spawning countless imitators.

The B-side here is a curiosity – a cheesy organ version by Earl Lindo, who went on to become one of the Wailers and play in Taj Mahal’s band.