LLOYD PARKS INTERVIEWED BY JIM DOOLEY
Lloyd Parks has had a very lengthy and prolific career as both a
master bass player and singer. From his first vocal group in the late 60's,
to his continued success as a backing musician, Parks has probably come
in contact with everyone in the reggae music business. There are not many
reggae musicians who have been in demand for 30 years. Parks' current band
'We The People' continue to be an engaging and impressive live force. Now
with the addition of a couple of second generation Parks' (son Craig plays
drums, and daughter Tamika, keyboards), the future looks and sounds as impressive
as the past. I interviewed Lloyd Parks in his hotel room in Ottawa, Canada
on May 15 1997. 'We The People' were just starting a 3 date Canadian tour
backing up long time associate Dennis Brown. Even though Parks claimed to
be 'exhausted' from traveling when we spoke, he didn't show any signs of
fatigue when he hit the stage a couple of hours later. To me the soft-spoken
and diplomatic Parks demonstrates a professionalism that seems rare. I want
to thank him for taking the time out of a very busy day to speak with me.
I understand your first group was called The Invincibles. Who were the members
of that group?
In that group you have: Sly Dunbar on drums, Ansel Collins on piano, a guitarist
named Scott.... he played lead guitar at the time, and I played rhythm guitar
at that time. I don't remember the name of the bass player. There's a guy
who used to play trombone named Lloyd Carr.
So how did the formation of the Termites come about?
The Termites came about before that particular group. Because that group
was like a band ... I was like an instrumentalist. But my first group was
really the Termites.
You sang with a gentleman named Wentworth Vernal.
Where is he now?
Well, he's out of the business. He's not interested in the business. He's
in Jamaica still.
Was working for Coxsone a positive experience?
It's a memorable one. Because, I remember the first time me and my partner
went there to do a song. We thought we were harmonizing good ... we were!
But Coxsone say, maybe he didn't like the song, him say, he called everybody
Jackson, him say: 'Jackson, you have to go home and listen to the radio'.
So we went home and we listen to the radio and we come back another day
for an audition with a song called 'Have Mercy Mr. Percy'. Him say 'Yes,
Jackson! That's the song!' and him record it with us. It was on the top
ten for a little while and then he record an album called 'Do The Rock Steady'.
It's a nice album ... and still sounds nice.
Did you play any guitar or bass when you were at Coxsone's - or were
you just straight vocals?
What musicians were you working with at Studio One?
Bryan Atkins on bass, Jackie Mittoo, a saxophone player called Campbell,
Bobby Ellis, Roland Alphonso and Johnny Moore.
Were you working for any other studios at the same time as Coxsone's?
No, that was the only one. After Coxsone, then we went to an independent
producer, a label called Dampa, and we record a tune called 'Push It Up'.
After that, myself and Wentworth Vernal, we split up. Then I recorded a
song called 'Slaving Everyday'.
By yourself? Singing?
What label was that on?
On 'Parks' label. Then I went solo and start doing stuff. I formed a group
after that now. We really didn't have a name for that group. But at that
time my favorite group was the Techniques. I used to love the Techniques.
And we form a group and we sounded like the Techniques. So at that time
Pat Kelly was the lead singer - he just left the Techniques. We went to
Winston Riley with that group and he ...
And he just took you!
Right. (laughter) That's how it went. And we recorded a song called 'Say
You Love Me' with the Techniques - I was the lead singer. We did a few more
songs, but I didn't stay on there for a long time.
How much music did you record for Leslie Kong?
No, I didn't record for Leslie Kong.
That's funny because there is a collection of Beverly's songs (jd- King
Kong Compilation on Mango) that lists you and Jackie Jackson as the bass
No, I didn't work for him.
How about Sonia Pottinger?
Let me see if I can remember ... I know I worked for Treasure Isle. Played
on some Justin Hinds songs.
Was that when Duke was still around?
Yes, Duke was around then.
Tell me about your relationship with 'Prince' Tony Robinson.
I played a lot of songs for Prince Tony. Like, there was an album with Big
Youth and one with U Roy. I also recorded a song called 'Trench Town Girl'
for Prince Tony. I recorded a version of 'You Don't Care', and a version
with a deejay called Winston Scotland - it was called 'Buttercup'.
Who were the members of Skin, Flesh & Bones?
The members of Skin, Flesh & Bones was: myself on bass, Ansel Collins
on keyboards, and another keyboard player called Tarzan, and Ranchie MacLean
Who all did you backup when you were in that group. Was this mostly recording
or mostly live work?
Live .... just maybe a few record. Maybe 3 or 4 recordings with Al Brown
- sing a song called 'Here I Am Baby'. It was a big hit in Jamaica and England.
Also a singer called Cynthia Richards, she used to sing with that band.
Skin, Flesh & Bones was also Al Brown on vocals and Cynthia Richards
What year did you start working fo Joe Gibbs? Early 70's?
Had you worked for Dennis Brown before that?
I started working for Dennis Brown as a backing band before. But, on record
that's where I start doing recording.
When you were at Gibbs, did you do any sessions with the Abyssinians?
Yes. I can remember one of the songs called 'This Land'. I played on quite
a few songs for Abyssinians.
And the Itals, you said you did some tracks with Lloyd Campbell.
Yes for Itals.
That was at Gibbs as well?
That was at Randy's studio.
And the Gladiators, you did some work with them at Joe Gibbs.
Yes, that Prince Tony too.
How would you say that Gibbs studio compared to the other big studio
at that time, Channel One? What do you think the differences were? Was there
a different feel ... a different vibe?
Both studio have their sound. They had individual sound. Whenever stuff
been recorded at Channel One you could know. And when stuff was recorded
at Joe Gibbs you could know. Channel One had a fantastic drum sound. Joe
Gibbs had a good drum sound as well. People used to talk about Channel One
Sly seemed to be running both places.
Both places (laughter).
Did you do a lot of work at Channel One?
Well, for individual producers.
Not necessarily for the HooKim's though.
I did some records like 'It's a Shame' by Delroy Wilson. Some other songs
that I don't even remember the title.
Did you ever record any songs that got credited to The Revolutionaries?
The Revolutionaries seemed to have a very flexible lineup.
Yeah, because I started it. Like the Skin Flesh & Bones move over to
Channel One and they call it The Revolutionaries. I'm trying to remember
- I know I played songs there ... but I can't remember what was outstanding,
that was a hit.
It seems like you played on a thousand different records in the 70's.
Did you have a favorite studio to work at?
I used to enjoy working at Joe Gibbs, Dynamic Sounds and Federal. Randy's
studio was like 1969-70. The studios that were outstanding at that time
were Dynamic Sound and Randy's, because that was even before Channel One.
Your talking early 70's now.
Yeah. That was like Randy's and Dynamic Sound. They were fully booked everyday
....everyday. We were doing sessions everyday. Sometimes we hide from the
promoters and the producers. For real! Like everyday!
You were working too hard.
Yes, sessions everyday.
How do you think your sound is different from all of the other bassist's
around that time? Robbie, Fully, Ranchie... What makes the Lloyd Parks sound
Well, I have a style where I might be playing a bassline, normal, and I
do something similar ... like a drumroll on the bass. I fill in those spots
I find your bass playing to be faster .... I don't know if you know what
I mean by that.
It's a different sound.
It seems to suit the rockers sound more ...
I know what you mean. Because, I try to develop a unique style. I try to
be different from every other bass player.
You did two or three albums on your own - singing vocals ... that came
out on Trojan in the U.K.. Do you miss singing?
I know you still sing some live ....
Yes, because, right now I have a CD that should be released any time.
People keep bothering me, say 'You shouldn't stop singing'. But, I get so
involved with the bass. I get to love it. I say, well, it's like multi-talent.
I can sing. I can play bass. But, I was into the bass. But, I really and
truly love singing.
What label is your CD going to come out on?
Well, it might be Parks label, or it might be some other ... I might sub
it to someone else.
Where did you record it?
I record it between Music Works Studio and Mixing Lab.
Do you like Mixing Lab?
Yeah man, it has a nice sound.
Do you prefer to play bass or guitar?
(laughter) I know you usually play bass, I was just wondering ...
Because, I used to play guitar first, and then switched to bass.
So you worked for a little bit for Delroy Wright - doing some stuff for
the Mighty Diamonds.
Delroy Wright ... what he does?
He did a couple of albums with the Mighty Diamonds ... I've forgotten
the names now. This would have been in the 80's. (jd - I think the reason
why Parks does not remember his name is because those sessions were run
by Al Campbell. Delroy was more of an executive producer.)
Around 1978 you formed 'We The People' ...
No it was in 1974.
Wow, I didn't realize it has been going that long.
Did you want to set up a touring group so you could have some control
over the situation - over the membership, over what work you did? ... so
you could control your career more.
That was not the purpose. That was just to continue. Because, like I said,
I used to play with Skin, Flesh & Bones band and I shut it. I just wanted
to continue with my musical career. And I say, well, the best bet to form
... it wasn't specially formed to be a backing band or anything else. Because
when we started we used to go places and people dance. Like a dance with
a dance band.
You don't see that much anymore.
Oh no no.
How do you feel about the pervasive digital technology being used in
the studios these days? Do you find that it has changed the quality of reggae
Not necessarily the quality, but the feel. It changes the feel of reggae
music. Like when myself and my brethren playing, together, you know, and
we say: 1 2 3 and roll off and it hits. It's solid, it locks in - a better
feel. You see, the thing is this, you have people who are programming the
drum machines - they are not drummers. But when you are playing live - you
have to be a drummer to play live.
Nelson Miller, the guy who drums for Burning Spear, he said that the
problem with the music today is that you only have one guy's point of view
- and that is the engineer.
Instead of having the various personalities, you get one sound and one
idea - and that is why it is so narrow.
Because sometime the guy who program the drums is a keyboard player, and
he say: I'm going to program the drums, and him feel he can play a bassline
on the keyboard .... and he bang on the keyboard and it's just one idea
- it's not like a combination. That is why the older music lasts so long,
and the new music comes, and hey, big excitement, and by tomorrow nothing.
Well, my thing is, if you buy a single today, do you bother flipping
it over to play the version ... no. Why would you bother? Because there
is nothing unique or interesting there.
No, you see ....
You're right. That is why the music .... the stuff that was recorded
at Gibbs and Channel One - that is why that stuff is still around. You can
go down to the store and find it.
And, although Sly programs his drum machine - when he program the drum machine
it sound like a drummer play. And he's not going to go and lay the bass
himself, he's going to call myself or Robbie or another bass player and
dub the bass. And he's going to call a keyboard player to do the same guise
to the authentic sound.
Did he (Sly) help you with your new project at Mixing Lab?
Yeah, he program like two songs for me on my CD that will be released soon.
Are the rest of the musicians from 'We The People'?
Joseph Hill seems to think that Sunsplash is dying out. You played both
Sunsplash and Sumfest last year - how would you compare the two festivals?
Right now Sumfest is a success. It's ahead of Sunsplash right now, for whatever
reason, I don't really know, I'm not sure. Could be because of the new investors
or whatever - or a new owner - I think them sell something. I'm not sure
what it is. Sunsplash is not the same. It's a shame.
What are your plans for the rest of the year with 'We The People'?
Well, like I say, I'm going to get my CD on the road very soon. And we will
be featuring 'Lloyd Parks an We The People' mostly.
Is there any of the younger artists, younger singers out there, that
you think have the potential to have long careers like Dennis Brown or Freddie
McGregor? Do you think any of the younger guys are going to have 20, 30
year careers like that?
If Luciano continues on the same trend, he will last long. I can't predict
how long, but he will last long if he continues the same way, in terms of
his writing, in terms of his personality and professionalism. If he continue
same way, then he will last long.
Copyright 1997 Jim Dooley