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RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen

Posted by Dr Suess 
RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
March 26, 2019 03:54PM
Seeing the news confirmed by a number of people close to him.

Walk good, one of reggae's greatest guitarists
Re: RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
March 26, 2019 07:35PM
Re: RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
March 27, 2019 02:07AM
so many musical gifts give thnx Bo Pee!!
Re: RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
March 29, 2019 12:11PM
Re: RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
April 27, 2019 03:56PM
Andy Bassford wrote:
I wrote a post on my website in memory of my beloved friend and colleague, Winston "Bo Pee" Bowen, whose funeral service is today. RIP my brother.

There Are Many Flowers In The Garden Of Jah: In Memory of Winston “Bo Pee” Bowen
Posted on April 27, 2019 by abassford
I had been in Jamaica six weeks. It was a hot September day in 1980, the worst election in Jamaica’s history was at peak intensity, and a hurricane had just passed. The great singer Freddie McKay had brought me to Channel One Studio in the heart of Whitfield Town at the request of rising producer Junjo Lawes. I was naïve, excited, and terrified at the thought that I might get to play on a recording session in Kingston. I didn’t really understand patois then and had no idea what to expect. I had a feeling that I might not get a warm welcome though.
We walked into the crowded control room in the middle of a take. Roots Radics was in the studio and the sound coming through the monitors was the loudest and most powerful reggae I’d heard up close. Already nervous, I was now totally intimidated. When the take was finished, the musicians came into the control room. After the playback, everyone suddenly noticed that there was a stranger in their midst. There was silence for a minute. A room full of people regarded me with everything from open hostility to veiled curiosity. Then they started talking. I couldn’t catch what was being said, but I knew I was the topic of discussion. I had never felt more lost and out of my depth in my life.
Then suddenly one of the people leaning against the control room window smiled and stepped forward. He wore rectangular gold-rimmed glasses, a cap, and a sports shirt. Extending his hand, he announced graciously and deliberately, “Hello.” He said it like he was greeting a head of state. He paused briefly for effect. “I am Bo Pee.” A half beat of rest. “What is your name? And where are you from?”
“My name is Andy Bassford. I’m from Hartford, Connecticut.” I couldn’t believe my luck. An obsessive reader of liner notes, I knew exactly who Bo Pee was. In fact, he was one of the Jamaican guitarists I most admired and wanted to meet. And he seemed friendly!
He smiled again and we shook hands. Then his curiosity overcame his formality. In an entirely different voice he asked, “And what is that you have under your arm?” It was absolutely the last thing I expected him to say, and probably the best thing he could have said.
Not knowing what might be required on the session, I had brought my guitar and a homemade pedalboard containing guitar effects that my father had built for me. I was holding it under one arm because the power cable would trail on the floor otherwise. In 1980 pedalboards were not common even in America, and mine might have been the first one seen in Jamaica.
Relieved to have someone to talk to, and something to talk about, I opened the case, showed him how it was wired, and what the effects did. Bo was fascinated. So was Sowell Bailey, the other guitarist on the session, who also stepped forward to watch. Now we were three guitar players talking, not foreigner and locals, and the entire atmosphere in the room changed. Junjo cut the conversation short and the band went back into the studio. Later in the session, Bo got up and let me play two songs in his place. Somehow, I got through them, Junjo paid me, and that was the start of my Jamaican studio career.
After the session, Bo Pee was very insistent that I stay in touch, and we met the next day at Lloyd Parks’ record shop on Half Way Tree Road, home base for the We The People Band. We talked guitars and music for hours. Despite our obvious differences, we found we had a lot in common. We both played Gibson SG guitars, we both had learned primarily by watching other guitarists, and we both learned our basic chords from the Mickey Baker guitar book. Bo drove me around Kingston in his little green Anglia, ran errands, went to the betting shop, picked up his kids from school, and finally dropped me off at Cross Roads so I could get the bus back to Portmore. It was an amazing afternoon. Once again, I couldn’t believe my luck. I had a guitar brother in a strange land.
A few weeks later we recorded the Wailing Souls’ “Fire House Rock” album, and I had the experience of playing with Bo Pee for the first time. It was magical from note one, and the magic remained for every note of the five years we worked together. The only way I can describe it is that when I played with Bo Pee, I always felt like I had an extra pair of arms. Two guitars in a band can sometimes butt heads, but that never happened with Bo. Whatever he played fit in perfectly with what I chose to play.
Bo had spent a lot of time in We The People as the only guitarist and had developed a way of holding the rhythm while dropping lead embellishments in the gaps. Once we started working together, he kept this approach, dialing it back a bit to give me room. At times it sounded like there were three guitars playing instead of two. Sometimes I hear our recordings and I’m not sure who played what.
Once I joined We The People six months later, I got to know Bo even better, and appreciate him more. Like all great musicians, the way Bo Pee played was an extension of who he was. There was something courtly about Bo, as if he came from an earlier, slower, and gentler time, or perhaps another dimension where people were kinder to each other and always took time to smell the roses. He was a true gentleman. I never saw him be rude to anyone; the same politeness and warmth he showed to me was there for everyone. It was hard to look at Bo Pee, no matter what kind of mood you were in, and not smile. He was very sensitive to beauty and had a deep love for nature in general and flowers in particular.
I loved his voice. Bo had a deliberate, gracious way of speaking, as if he was tasting each word before saying it. Shema McGregor told me that whenever he spoke to her, Bo Pee would always use her full name, Yashemabeth. I know why he did so; he thought it was a beautiful name, loved how it felt to say it, and couldn’t bear to shorten it and make it less beautiful. And he had a wonderful laugh, almost like a bark if he was surprised.
Bo Pee was a huge influence on me as a guitar player. I literally cannot play reggae rhythm and not think about him. I’ve borrowed from him shamelessly, as have a lot of other guitarists. But as well as I know his playing, I still marvel at how lyrical and graceful it was. Bo was a relentless student of the instrument. He was always practicing and loved nothing more than to learn something new. We spent hours talking about scales, chords, and theory.
When Bo played live, it always looked to me as though he was walking on air. One night in Kansas City, on our first tour of the States with Dennis Brown, we’d had a particularly horrible road day, and everybody was tired and angry. Dennis always featured the band on “The Drifter,” and when it came time to take his solo that night, Bo played some complex rhythms I’d never heard before, and his feet seemed to be floating above the stage as he danced. I’ve never seen or heard anything like it before or since. It was as though he was processing the entire band’s frustration and anger into beauty before our eyes. The audience went crazy, and I felt renewed, not beaten down.
Bo, being a man who loved beauty in all its manifestations, was a great lover and admirer of the opposite sex. Once we were standing outside a hotel in Ocho Rios waiting to get in the van, and a remarkably beautiful woman walked by. We both watched intently until she turned the corner. She was stunning. We looked at each other wordlessly for a moment. Then, after one of his patented pauses, Bo declaimed, as if he were a preacher addressing a packed church, “There are many flowers in the garden of Jah.” It was a perfect summation of how we felt.
And it was how Bo lived. He did his best to cultivate and care for the garden of Jah in which we all live, and to make it more beautiful, not less, through the gifts of his spirit, his love for all things, and his music. I was blessed to know Bo Pee, and to play music with him, and I use what he taught me every time I play the guitar. Thank you, my friend. You planted many, many flowers along your road.

Re: RIP Winston Bo-Pee Bowen
April 30, 2019 07:02PM
Andy Bassford writes really well and his remembrance of Bo-Pee Bowen is really touching. Andy Bassford tells a bunch of cool stories on his website.
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