Earl Sixteen – Changing World
I leave it to the man himself to tell his story…
(borrowed from an interview conducted by father ‘Small Axe’…maximum respect is always due)
“Basically, I started out on the street corner, under the light post, with all the boys, hanging out at night. I started out at Waltham Park Road, where I grew up, in Kingston, Jamaica. At the age of about 13, I started getting into like, Chi-Lites music, ’cause in Jamaica we’ve got a big influence of American music. I kind of started to listen to a lot of soul American stuff, Chat, (Chuck) Jackson (?), James Brown music, and all this and all that. Usually, after like doing my… ’cause you know, I lived with my Auntie at the time. On Saturdays, I used to turn up the radio and do my housework, and listen to the radio, and in the nights, when we get out on the streets, sometimes I’d be singing, “Trash man didn’t get no trash today,” like “People Makes the World Go Round” The guys kind of liked how my voice kind of sounded, ’cause I used to try to sing exactly like the actual records.
In those days, the good old days, everybody was into singing like Dennis Brown. Dennis Brown at that time was like one of the most influential artists, he was really progressive at that time, he was young still. All the school boys and kids who liked music, we used to like always try to pack on Dennis Brown, because he’s like a role model for us. So I kind of started out with that, but I was more like singing falsetto, like Pavoratti kind of stuff. Afterwards, after that, they had Vere Johns, talent contests going on in night clubs around Kingston. There was one at the Turntable Club, there was one at the Vere Johns, and there was one at the Bohemia Club, which was closer to me in Half Way Tree. One of the guys who used to hang out with us, Donald Hossack, he used to teach music like keyboards, piano. He encouraged me to enter one of the talent contests.
During that time I was still going to Church and singing now and again on the choir, and I started doing solo stuff, out from the choir, just singing songs all on my own, because I had this really unique kind of voice and all the people liked my voice. I was in the Church, but I wanted to get involved in some of the Chi-Lites stuff, some of the soul stuff, because the parties were happening, you get the girls and all that. I went to try and get an audition for the talent contest; I was about 14, 15 then, still going to high school. When I went and did the auditions, it turned out that I got picked in the audition, then went to the heats and I reached up to the finals.
In this final, there was like Michael Rose, Junior Moore from the Tamlins, there was myself, there was a girl called Joy White, she’s brilliant, I still love her, and there was another girl, I think it was Sabrina Williams. There was about six of us in the final, that’s a big night. Anyway, I kind of scraped through, I was biting my nails, but I made sure that I did my homework. I practised this tune 24 hours a day, “Peek a Boo,” one by the Chi-Lites, it was a big song in Jamaica so a lot of people knew it. When I did it, I ended up winning the 25 dollars (on) boxing day, I was too small to drink the beers so I had to give them all away (laughs), but after that I started getting the buzz, I started getting addicted to it. I like how the crowd cheers me, so when I left high school, I passed my exams, and I was meant to go to Commercial High School, which is like a college, St. Andrew Technical. I started going there, but I was really involved in the music, I wanted to form a group. I actually had formed a group called the Flaming Phonics. We were doing school barbecues, school fetes, playing in auditoriums around the country, like Calabar, mainly the high schools, Holy Child Girl’s School……”