Words by Scott Brown—
One-time Studio One studio sideman Noel Williams started out his music career under the tutelage of prolific producer Coxsone Dodd, but he’s probably better known for co-writing Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier.” You can probably thank Miami, though, for the stark difference between his reggae background and “Do U Wanna Dance.”
Reggae artists have delved into some pretty eclectic musical endeavors but Miami transformed Noel Williams into an electro-funk musician (as well as dancing machine, as seen in the “Do U Wanna Dance” video) known as King Sporty. He produced a plethora of tracks throughout the 70s and 80s that sound like they should have been the backdrops for Miami Vice chase scenes, and released several records under his own name on TK Records, the label responsible for putting Miami soul and disco in general on the map. The two record labels Sporty founded, Konduko and Tashamba, put out a range of different types of music, varying from Sporty’s own reggae tunes to Miami Bass beats that took over the area in the ’80s, but truly found their niche in making electro-funk dance tracks like Connie Case’s “Get Down” and his own “Do U Wanna Dance.”
In the video for “Do U Wanna Dance,” a leather pants-clad Sporty showed that, in addition to skills behind the boards, he clearly had dance moves for the cameras. I guess if you’re a notable musician and label founder across several genres, it’s cool to dance like that one drunk uncle at the holiday party. This performance (which features musician Timmy Thomas, of TK Records and “Why Can’t We Live Together” fame, on keyboards) contains significantly less gyrating from Sporty but still shows him to be a lively entertainer.
Further solidifying Sporty’s legacy in Miami is his marriage to soul singer Betty Wright. Betty was one of the best known soul artists to emerge from Miami in the 1970s, with a myriad of hits for TK Records subsidiary Alston Records, but her musical history has links to reggae just like her husband’s. In addition to touring with Bob Marley, she’s worked with Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, and Toots and the Maytals, among other Jamaican artists.