Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

TOOTS and the MAYTALS

Reggae trio of Raleigh Gordon, Frederick 'Toots' Hibbert (b 8 Dec. '45, May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica) and Nathaniel 'Jerry' Mathias. Early material was released under the ludicrous name of the Vikings, which Hibbert asserts was never their name; single 'Hallelujah' '61 brought them local attention. They became an institution in Jamaica and later, along with Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and the Wailers, became major forces in the popularization of reggae abroad. The derivation of the name was said to be from Hibbert's birthplace 'May Pen' and 'I-tal' (a Rastafarian coining for 'real' or 'natural', extended like the Yiddish 'kosher' to the use of food); Hibbert dismisses this as ingeniously plausible folly. Performing R&B and gospel music, they drew on both US R&B and Jamaican religious and traditional music, recording for Clement 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd, Prince Buster and Byron Lee; Dodd's anthology Never Grow Old on Studio One paired them with the Skatalites, the sleeve notes getting all their names wrong. Later records were on labels incl. Black Swan, Blue Beat, Island and SkaBeat; video This Is Ska '89 on Island Visual Arts incl. '64 footage of Maytals' 'Treat Me Bad' and 'She Will Never Let You Down'. Won the Jamaican Song Competition '66 with 'BAM BAM', re-recorded for inclusion in the film Countryman '82. Hibbert went to jail '66 for dealing ganja, out of which came one of his best, '54-46 (That's My Number)' (though it had origins in Marcia Griffiths's 'Feel Like Jumpin'' -- 'versioned' in the slang of the day). Next recorded with Leslie Kong on his Beverley's label; local hit 'Do The Reggay', whose proto-spelling was one of the first recorded usages of the word. Album From The Roots '73 was on Trojan; they signed to Island and contributed 'Funky Kingston' and 'Louie Louie' to important sampler This Is Reggae Music '74. Debut US album was Funky Kingston '75, followed by Reggae Got Soul on Island '76, Pass The Pipe on Island in UK and Mango USA '79, The Best of Toots And The Maytals on Trojan '79, Just Like That '80 and Toots Live '80. Hibbert's album Toots In Memphis on Mango '88 was an especially accomplished collection in soul/reggae style. Representative samplers of the Maytals' best-known songs are Do The Reggae 1966--1970 on Trojan and Toots And The Maytals on Mango '85. Daughters formed trio called 54--46 after their father's anthem; had local success with adaption of Dionne Warwick hit 'You'll Never Get To Heaven' on Jamaican 5th Avenue South label '90, reissued by Mango same year. 54--46 signed to Mango '90 for singles; they disbanded on the death of one of them. As with most Jamaican artists, Hibbert's work is the very substance of compilations. The Tougher Than Tough anthology, subtitled The Story Of Jamaican Music on Mango '93, placed him in the company of his peers and successors.