Leroy Sibbles

Revered singer, songwriter, bass player and producer, Leroy Sibbles, is a beloved legend of rocksteady and reggae, with a career that laid the groundwork for the astronomic rise of reggae.

He began singing and playing guitar in the 1950s, under tutelage by Trench Town Rastas Brother Huntley and “Carrot”. 

In 1958 Barry Llewellyn and Earl Morgan formed The Heptones. Sibbles was in a rival group along with two friends. In 1965 the two groups competed in a street-corner musical battle, after which Sibbles joined The Heptones and became their lead singer. He led The Heptones through the 1960s and 1970s.

The Heptones were one of the most influential groups of the rock steady era. Signature Heptones songs included “Baby,” “Get in the Groove,” “Ting a Ling,” “Fattie Fattie,” “Got to Fight On (To the Top),” “Party Time,” and “Sweet Talking.” The group’s prolific Studio One output between 1965 and 1971 has been collected on albums The Heptones, On Top, Ting a Ling, Freedom Line, and the Heartbeat Records anthology, Sea of Love.

In addition to his work with The Heptones, Sibbles was a session bassist and arranger at Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio and the associated Studio One label during the prolific late 1960s. Keyboardist and arranger Jackie Mittoo encouraged Sibbles to play the bass when he needed a bassist for his Jazz trio. He was described as “the greatest all-round talent in reggae history” by Kevin O’Brien Chang and Wayne Chen in their 1998 book Reggae Routes.

Sibbles was a contributor to iconic tracks including “Freedom Blues” (which evolved into the Jamaican rhythm known as “MPLA”) by Roy Richards, “Love Me Forever” by Carlton & The Shoes, “Satta Massagana” and “Declaration of Rights” by the Abyssinians, “Stars” and “Queen of the Minstrels” by The Eternals, “Ten to One” by the Mad Lads, “Door Peep (Shall Not Enter)” by Burning Spear. The most well known is “Full Up,” which was used by Musical Youth for their worldwide smash hit “Pass the Dutchie”. Sibbles’ legacy also endures in Horace Andy’s tribute to him, “Mr. Bassie”, and is credited with the original “Real Rock” bassline.

After Studio One, Sibbles and the Heptones recorded for other producers including Lee Perry, Harry J, JoJo Hoo Kim, Niney The Observer, Clive Chin, Gussie Clarke, Lloyd Campbell, Prince Buster, Ossie Hibbert, Phil Pratt, Harry Mudie, Geoffrey Chung, Danny Holloway, Rupie Edwards, and Joe Gibbs.

Heptones releases from the early 1970s included Book of Rules (Trojan Records) and the Harry Johnson-produced album Cool Rasta (Trojan), recorded just before the group joined Island Records. Danny Holloway produced Night Food and Lee “Scratch” Perry-produced Party Time were the fruit of the association with Island.

As a solo artist, Sibbles worked with Lloyd “Bullwackie” Barnes, Lloyd Parks, Sly & Robbie, Augustus Pablo, Bruce Cockburn, and Lee Perry, but mainly produced himself. Sibbles moved to Canada in 1973, where he lived for twenty years. He won a Canadian U-Know Award for best male vocalist in 1983, and a Juno Award for best reggae album in 1987. He left the Heptones in 1976. Also in Canada, he recorded an album for A&M and licensed several albums to Pete Weston’s Micron label, including Now and Strictly Roots. In 1990 he collaborated on the one-off single “Can’t Repress the Cause”, a plea for greater inclusion of hip hop music in the Canadian music scene.

Sibbles continued to return to Jamaica, and performed at Reggae Sunsplash in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1986, and 1990. He returned to the Heptones in 1991. His 1996 collaboration with Beenie Man “Original Full Up” brought him in front of a whole new generation. 

Leroy Sibbles is featured in the 2009 documentary Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae. He set up the Bright Beam record label in 2009, and has produced records by singer Sagitar and deejay Chapter, as well as his own recordings, including a successful cover version of “Harry Hippy”.

SNWMF welcomes this  giant of ska and rocksteady Leroy Sibbles back to Boonville for a long awaited performance!

Solo Discography

Now (1980)
Strictly Roots (1980)
On Top (1982)
The Champions Clash (with Frankie Paul) (1985)
Selections (1985)
Mean While (1986)
It’s Not Over (1995)
Come Rock With Me (1999)
Reggae Hit Bass Lines (2009)

June 16 @ 06:00
06:00 — 07:00 (1h)


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