interview by Jim Dooley

I knew when I started to prepare for this interview that I could only hope to scratch the surface on the long career of the Mighty Diamonds. To do a complete job, a very large book would be required. As they have recorded countless songs for a variety of producers over the years, I decided that when I spoke to Bunny (the telephone conversation took place May 13, 1997), I would ask him about some of those producers - some well known and some not so well known. As 'Bunny' has had a hand in producing some of the group's material himself, he has a unique take on the business part of their career. The following is an excerpt from my talk with him. I want to thank 'Bunny' for taking the time to speak with me.

I want to ask you a little bit about your first single for Rupie Edwards.

It was called 'Girl You Are Too Young'.

What year would that have been?

I think that, like about 1974, 75 - in that range there.

And that was before you recorded for Jah Lloyd (Pat Francis)?

Yes. What really happened ... as a matter of fact, Jah Lloyd was a member of a group called the Meditators, and I was in that group. I do a little time with that group. That's why I get to know Rupie Edwards. And then I started to do some recording for the Mighty Diamonds - because that was my original group. But I leave the group, and take a place in the Meditators from somebody else.

So you were already with the Mighty Diamonds before that?

Yeah, but we never have a fermented name. We were trying to find a name. And when I get the bly to go with the Meditators, I do two records with them. And that is why I get to know Rupie Edwards. Then I leave that group and go back with the Diamonds.

With Tabby and Judge.

Right. Then we started to do some recordings for Rupie Edwards.

And how about Pat Francis?

Well, Jah Lloyd, now his group start mash up, and he started to do producing. That's how I get to go back and sing 'Shame And Pride' for him.

In the early days you had your own label for a little while . . .

That was after Jah Lloyd and after we sing for Channel One. That's when we had our own little label.

That was after Channel One?

After we start sing all those hit tunes for Channel One, that's when we started the label.

Tell me about Bunny Lee.

Well, Bunny Lee come along the line, and we do like ... two, three records for him. There wasn't a number one song or anything. But, we done a couple of numbers for him. And we just keep moving on from producer, trying here and trying there.

Did you like working with Bunny?

Well, Bunny alright still, but, you know we never get a number one song with Bunny Lee. So we move on again and we sing our next tune for Stranger Cole. One named 'Oh No Baby'. I don't know if you know that song?

Right, I do.

'Oh No Baby' that was Stranger Cole. As a matter of fact, the story very long. When we sing 'Girl You Are Too Young' for Rupie Edwards, he didn't put out that song. He wait a long time, until we were singing some songs for Stranger Cole, like 'Oh No Baby'. Then 'Oh No Baby' come out before the Rupie Edwards one. That is why Rupie Edwards get to put out his after 'Oh No Baby'. But 'Girl You Are Too Young' was actually, really, the first one.

Recorded first, but released second.

Yeah. So its all kind of a rigamarole. Run around story, you know?

Much has been made, and documented, about your work at Channel One - but I want to ask a little bit about your experience at Joe Gibbs. How did you like working for Gibbs and Errol Thompson? How was it different from Channel One?

We went to Joe Gibbs after Channel One really. We sing the song called 'Identity'.

And a few others.

Right ... and this one called 'Keep On Moving'.

And 'Ghetto Living'.

'Ghetto Living', Yeah .. you have your thing together.

How come you never did a whole album for Gibbs? How come he never put out an album?

We didn't really do an album for him, you know. We never do enough for him to get an album. This was like a singles thing.

Did you like working with him and Errol Thompson?

Yeah. Errol Thompson never too bad. Never too bad. But, it just happen that we just do them couple songs. We always go by Joe Gibbs every day. Every artist always go by Joe Gibbs studio every day.

Did you work much with Lloyd Parks in those days?

Well, yes. Lloyd Parks used to be a bassist in them times, and this guy Bubbler (keyboard player Franklyn Waul -- jd). As a matter of fact, Sly used to be the drummer at the time if you pass by. Sly is the man who always play for all them songs, over and over -- play for everybody.

At Channel One you did an awful lot of recording.

That was where it happened for the Diamonds!

Why do you think the Hookim's didn't last into the mid-80's. How come things died down in the 80's?

I'll tell you what really happened. Channel One was a place at Maxfield Avenue. You know Maxfield Avenue is a place known for gun battle and them things. So after Jo's brother died - he was the one who used to run a part of Channel One around the front, like the bicycle works and things. And from that time, the brother, they shoot him. Maxfield Avenue started to get bad, so Jo Jo started to get a little scared like - moved the recording plant from downtown. Started to get scared of the business. But, them still do a little recording now and them. Start to get scared, so him start to move the plant to New York. Him take time and cut down, cut down ... you know?

Yeah. Tell me a little bit about the album you did with Trinity.

Well, that was my production now.

How did that come about . . . who's idea was that?

That was really my idea. What really happened, we sing this lp for Virgin. First time you used to have DJ and singer together. So there was a little space between them recording. My idea now, I bring in Trinity and do some recordings with him, 'Trinity Meet The Mighty Diamonds'. I couldn't tell when last I see an album like that. But, he have the history. We put out that, and it never do too bad.

What year was that? Do you remember?

Probably that was 78, 79. Yeah, them region there. I don't know the exact year, but within them region there.

Let me ask you a little bit about Lee 'Scratch' Perry. I know you recorded at least one song, 'Talk About It' with him. Did you do more that didn't get released or was there just the one?

We never do any more with Scratch. What really happen, we used to do a lot of background vocals for Scratch. You remember this song 'Hurt So Good' by Suzan Cadogan?


Well, we was the background vocals on that one. We used to do a lot of background vocals for Scratch. Like, every Sunday we go and we harmonize a lot of song.

How did you like working with Scratch?

Well, Scratch is a good producer. They dub Scratch as one of the best producers ... because him have the right vibes.

How come you didn't record more songs with him?

What really happened ... By this time, we taking so much roots down at Channel One - we get a fermenting at Channel One - that we never really want to know about scatter, scatter recordings. So, most of the time Scratch like the background vocals. So we never get to do much more songs there.

Let me ask you about the 'Calling Rastafari' album. The album that came out on Nighthawk Records. You folks rerecorded '4000 years' for that compilation of roots groups.

That was a compilation.

How did that go? That was a good record: You, the Gladiators, Wailing Souls, Culture . . .

That was an album where we mix up with Blacka Morwell, and the whole of them do this production for Nighthawk. Well, Nighthawk just asked us to do, like, I think, two numbers on that album. That was a good album. Funny he never do a follow up.

It's too bad, because I think that one is a classic. I think it's one of the best roots compilations available.

Right. That guy don't come about Jamaica anymore, even, Nighthawk.

I think he is doing a little bit of work with Ronnie Davis right now.

Yes, Ronnie Davis was actually one of his main acts with the Itals.

He just put out a solo album with Ronnie (Come Straight).

Nighthawk . . . him never too bad. You know most of them people a come by no more. Different company come and take over. The business go from one stage to the next.

In the early 80's you did most of your recordings for Gussie Clarke at Music Works and Delroy Wright. How did these two men compare?

Gussie Clarke is a good producer. Coming down the line, we do 'Danger In Your Eyes' . . . We do actually about 3 albums for Gussie. Gussie is a good producer I have to say. Record good songs!

How about Delroy Wright, how did you meet him?

Well, Delroy Wright, he was a producer from Washington. We do a couple of songs for him. He wasn't bad in them times. He was not much of a producer - more like a man who finance the album.

Right. He was just behind the scenes.

Yeah, mostly. Al Campbell used to mostly do the production for Delroy Wright.

I also want to ask you a little bit about your lp with Tappa Zukie, 'Leaders of Black Countrys' (sic). That is an excellent lp.

That one also was more produced with Blackbeard.

Blackbeard, yeah?

You know that Blackbeard and Tappa Zukie are brothers.


When Tappa Zukie was based in England, Blackbeard do his production.

So Tappa wasn't involved in the recording?

Not much.

Blackbeard handled most of it?


Is that record still in print, do you know?

I see Blackbeard put it out. I see Tappa Zukie re-release it down here in a different jacket and thing. But, it never spread much in Jamaica.

That's a shame.

Because, them times Tappa mostly based in England.

That's a real shame because it's a great record.


Tell me about Donovan Germain. How did you link up with him?

Well, Donovan Germain and Gussie was friends. So Donovan Germain come and try and get a couple of songs off of us. Like: 'Juvenile Child','Heads Of Government','Tamarind Farm'. I think now he's done a new album.

Yeah, I have seen a new album out, called 'Heads Of Government'.

Yeah, them songs was like ... songs we record long time.

So that's not new stuff, that's just songs you recorded with him years ago?

Right. Him just re-release them. Everything is old record now. I am now putting an album together.

Right now?


Which studio are you working at?

I working at Music Works.

Are you producing?

Yeah, I producing. You know I produce some other people as well. I still doing my little producing, but in truth it don't get a headline yet.

Well . . . you never know.

But, I've been doing it from long time and I still doing it.

So you like working at Music Works?

Yes, Music Works a good studio, you know.

Is it close by to where you live?

Yes, well. From where I live, it like, a half to an hour to reach.

What part of Kingston are you in?

I am at the Boulevard. But, everything in Kingston the same way, so it's not a problem for reach Music Works. It's that for Music Works I have a preference. Because, it's a really a good studio!

How did you meet Charlie Morgan?

Charlie Morgan, really know us. When we was working in Washington, was on tour in Washington, he came by our hotel and meet us. Because you know most people already know the Diamonds, whether we know them yes or no. So him come by the hotel and told us he wants to do two songs.

'Party Time' and 'Respect Due'.

Yes, them songs actually recorded in Washington.

They are nice tracks.

Right. Charlie say he's not in the business no more, because it wasn't good for him financially.

It's tough, especially when you are trying to work off the island.


Tell me about the album called 'Patience' that you did with Wackies.

'Patience', that one was for 'Tackyan'.

With who?

With 'Tackyan'.

I don't know who that is.

Some Japanese people. We was the one, alongside Sonny Ochiai, who produced that one. That one was released in Japan. It never get released in Jamaica.

I had a hard time tracking that one down.

Well, them never do much this side with them. Mostly record put out in Japan. I think they send a couple overseas in the US.

I managed to find one in New York just recently.


It's a nice CD.

Yes, a good CD.

You recorded those tracks at Penthouse?

Yes. Penthouse. We done so much recording, some time people track them down more than we.

(laughter) Well, that's the way it goes when you stay in the business so long. I want to talk about the 'Bust Out' album with Junior Reid.

Well, Junior Reid, you know is an artist. We and him come together and do a couple of tracks, and it reach the album stage. But, funny, we never get to work together that long. Reason why, if you know the song 'I Need A Roof', we redone it for Junior Reid. After this song he considering us to do an album. But the reason why we never do much together . . . what really happened . . . I think Junior Reid as an artist . . . 'I Need A Roof', right, was supposed to do good for us, but I think Junior Reid never push the song too far. I think him hold it back a little. As an artist, I don't think him know how wide I am. So that why we have an attitude, so we not doing nothing more, because that album and that song could do a lot! So, where we concerned, we feel that him hold back everything so we don't go any further. We just sing that album and make that date. Because, we were trying hard to get back in a number one slot.

And you don't need anyone to hold back.


How did you like working with the more modern sound at that studio?

At Junior Reid?


It's alright. Because, I think everything a kind of pick back up. Things a pick up. Diamonds start to get a couple of shows and things. But, studio never sound bad, but like I say, that's the reason why everything just go so, and we go different ways again. Because, we don't need a hold back right now.

You said you have been working on your own album lately.

Yes, I compiling, like, a set of long songs.

Is it going to come out in America?

Yes, it's going to come out in America. I think VP going to be releasing it.

That's good . . . it's been a while since 'Speak The Truth' came out on RAS . . . which I think, was the last album to come out here in North America.

Yes. I produced that one.

It's been a while.

So what really happened -- I give this new one to VP. It might come out sometime at the end of May or early June.

What's it going to be called?

I think I have a little name for it. If it still come out on that name, I will call it 'Mighty Diamonds Presents 20 Original Classics: Dancehall Mood'. That's the name I have for right now. I don't know if I going to make a change. Probably in Jamaica I just call it 'Dancehall Mood'.

How did you get involved with this 'Fire On The Mountain' - Greatful Dead project?

Well, you know this guy called Henry K?

No, I don't.

He is the producer for that lp. Actually, Henry K, we know him from he was going to high school. Him always love the Diamonds group, and him always say, one day he is going to produce a song with us. Actually, Henry K reach in the business and he say he want to make a compilation album. So he get a different set of artists, Freddie McGregor, Judy Mowatt . . . and he said that the Diamonds have to be one of the artists. The song that we produced, ('Touch Of Grey' -- jd) was one of the favorite on the album when everybody start to review. The album is a good one. It sell a lot.

Did you know that song before?

No, them bring that song and we have to learn it.

I hear that there is going to be a second volume coming out.

Yes, they want to do a second volume, because the first one do good in sales.

So, have you made a second song for them?

Well, actually they do start it, and them don't come to us yet. But them told us that they want to do a second song . . .

I was speaking with Albert Walker of Culture recently, and he was telling me how their group is much better received in Europe when they are touring. Have you found that to be the case with the Mighty Diamonds?

Yes, when we do go to Europe, they still love the Diamonds, we get good response, good crowds the same way. As a matter of fact, we were in France recently, in January with Simon, and they still love the Diamonds.

Albert was saying that they get a lot more people at shows in Europe than they do in North America.

Right, but when we go out in America we still get a good crowd. What really happen ... for the past year and a half, we wasn't doing much show in America. Because, the America market kind of get a little bit economic ... you know, kind of getting a little soft.

Definitely. There seems to be a bit more respect, I think, in Europe for some of the older players.

Yes. Whenever we do go to Europe we see so many bands, and so much group, and single people on the road. It's a shame. Concert every night.

Tell me about the Rebel Salute show in Mandeville. Did you have fun at that one?

Yes. That was a good show. A lot of people was there. I think Tony Rebel have a good thing. It was a good concert.

I heard it was nothing but positive vibes.

Right. Something like . . . something different. It's a yearly thing.

Was this the first year you played?

Yes, the first year we played.

So, you think you will be going back?

Probably, because it's a cultural event. It's not a concert that has been going on that long. I think it's like 3 years old.

What are your plans for the rest of 1997?

We plan to do a lot of recording and go out on tour. We want to go back on the top of the charts. That is what we working hard for. We want to go back on top of the charts.

Are you going to be coming to North America?

Yes, we want to go all over . . . but want to get some record on the road first.

Your group has been around a long time now . . . 27 plus years. How do you account for your continued success and unity?

Well . . .

There have been a lot of groups that have come and gone in that 27 years. Why do you think you guys have survived? Why do you think you are still around?

Well, we go through a lot of problem, you know. My feelings is that, I think something great is out there for the Mighty Diamonds . . . that we don't get it. And, I think Jah is holding the group vibes until that achievement. Because, there has been a lot of songs done. Groups is not very easy to keep. We go through a lot of different things.

(At this point Bunny expressed concern that Tabby has recently been living in New York. His feeling was that this development was slowing the group's progress in completing recordings that were already in progress. -- jd)

The group been getting a hard time, but I try to hang on still, to see how far we can carry it. I don't know if we can carry it to 30 years ... but it's been very long. Everybody ask me 'What's the secret?'. But, we don't have no special secret. It's just that we working .. we've been active, working. That's why, sometimes, when somebody asks, what happen with the group ... tough really to keep a group .. but still happen.

Well ... hopefully Tabby will be back and you can get some more recording done.

Right. It also mean the survival for the group . . . that's the next part of it . . .

Copyright 1997 Jim Dooley