King Tubby is one of the most important figures of Jamaican popular music.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Tubby was responsible for turning dub into an art form, the creative re-mixing he pioneered at a tiny front-room studio in the Waterhouse ghetto making a long-reaching impact. Like his friend and sometime rival, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Tubby was one of a handful of Jamaican visionaries whose innovations not only changed the shaped of reggae in unprecedented ways, but which also formed a template for so much contemporary music production, be it in rap and hip-hop, jungle, garage and grime, or various forms of electronic dance music — especially dubstep, the British bastard offspring of Jamaican dub.
Singer-turned-producer Glen Brown got his start with the Sonny Bradshaw 7 in the mid-60s, when they were Jamaica’s leading jazz group. His deep love of jazz underpinned his eclectic approach to music production, and gave him a lot of common ground with Tubby. In fact, the two grew up in the same downtown Kingston neighbourhood, and enjoyed a longstanding friendship. ‘Merry Up’ was largely the result of sabotage: Brown built the rhythm at Dynamics for a song he voiced with Ken Boothe and BB Seaton, ‘Welcome To My Land,’ but found a rival producer had wiped the vocals when he returned to the studio with cash to retrieve the tape. He then got Joe White to blow a little melodica on it, and did the spoken lines himself. But the whole thing was given its final mix-down by King Tubby at Tubby’s studio, and the way Tubby introduces the song with a dose of watery delay meant he was stamping his identity all over the record.
Dub music opened up all kinds of possibilities for audio experimentation, including audible jokes. This trickster of a record, credited to toaster Carey ‘Wildman’ Johnson and singer Lloyd Young, was produced by ‘Prince’ Tony Robinson, and is probably the first to reference King Tubby by name.