Toppa Top 15: Edward Seaga Selects 15 Jamaican Music Classics

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November 6, 2012

4. U-Roy & The Paragons, “Wear You To The Ball”(1970)

[audio:|titles=Hugh Roy and the Paragons—”Wear You To The Ball”]

While The Paragons were becoming the superstar group of the rocksteady genre, a former deejay from Coxsone Dodd’s Down Beat sound system was planting fertile seed in the foundation of what would eventually be known as deejay music. In 1971, Ewart Beckford, who came to be known as Hugh Roy (later on to be spelled U-Roy), was on a hot streak of hits–very special hits… deejay hits which toast over the music with greetings, nursery rhymes, and bragging.

While toasting was in vogue almost since the beginning of the Jamaican sound system, and although there were already a number of pioneers who just barely preceded U-Roy on record (namely King Stitt and the late, great Count Matchuki), U-Roy was the first one to hit the charts and gain popularity and prominence from toasting on record, when he started recording for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label. (Particularly with “Wake The Town,” in which he spoke over Alton Ellis’ “Girl I’ve Got A Date.”)

Early in his career, U-Roy (who would later join dub pioneer King Tubby’s sound system) had hits ranked in the first three positions on the charts, a feat never before and never since repeated. It was for this particular feat alone that he became known as the Originator, because soon after this, many more toasters came out of the woodwork to address the microphone with their own respective brands of wit. Some were Dennis Alcapone, I-Roy, Dillinger, Big Youth and, yes, U-Roy Junior! A few notable producers began to get into the act for a while, such as Herman Chin-Loy of Aquarius Records and Clive Chin of Randy’s Records.

U-Roy’s toast over The Paragons’ “Wear You to the Ball” was his third recording for Treasure Isle and also his third hit following “Rule The Nation” and “Wake The Town,” both hits best known for their famous opening lines. “Wear You to the Ball” however, is one of U-Roy’s only tracks over a Paragons tune, in which they were credited alongside his name (although only John Holt’s name was mentioned on the UK release). Nonetheless a new style of music dub and deejay was born which, although short lived in Jamaica, was instrumental in the creation of rap and hip-hop, the international music genre of North America. This was a monumental feat.