By Baldwin S. A. Howe

Reggae Times Magazine joins the other members of the national media corps and operators in the Jamaican music fraternity in expressing our deep regret at the passing of legendary and prolific Jamaican record producer, Joel A. “Joe Gibbs” Gibson; and in the same breath, would like to take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt condolence to his immediate family and other close relations.

Joe Gibbs, one of Jamaica’s pioneer record producers passed away on the night of Thursday, February 21, 2008.The 65 year old Gibbs had a heart attack and died while undergoing treatment at the University Hospital of the West Indies. Joe Gibbs was born on October 14, 1942 in Montego Bay, St. James. His prolific contribution and subsequent legacy spanned one of the longest productive periods in the history of the Jamaican music industry.

Joe Gibbs’ sojourn as a record producer began after he returned home from the United States where he spent some years studying Electronic Engineering. Gibbs then came to Kingston and opened a TV repair shop at 32 Beeston Street. He later ventured into the business of selling records at this location. Encouraged by the rapid growth that began to emerge on the national music scene he decided to get more involved in the music industry. In 1967, he began to record a few artiste in a makeshift recording studio he built at the back of his shop utilizing a two- track tape machine.

Joe Gibbs later recruited the services of experienced record producer, Lee “Scratch” Perry, who had already established a name for himself in the field while working with the late Clement “Coxson” Dodd, creator/owner of the legendary Studio One Recording Studio. In 1968, Gibbs launched his Amalgamated record label, and immediately, with the assistance of another young record producer at the time, Bunny “Striker” Lee, he registered his first major success when he recorded one of the earliest “Rock Steady” hit songs titled, “Hold Them” sung by Roy Shirley.

Lee “Scratch” Perry later moved on to establish his own, now famous, record label, “Upsetter” and Joe Gibbs decided to engage the expertise of yet another then young, established record producer,Winston “Niney” Holness. “Niney”, (later to be known as “Niney the Observer”), was instrumental, as Joe Gibbs’ appointed session adviser, in helping to stabilize and enhance the high standard of Joe Gibbs’ record productions and as a result most of Gibbs productions made it to the top of the charts.

During the inventive Rock Steady period of the late 60s moving into the 70s Joe Gibbs met with remarkable success by registering numerous hits by several of the then popular artistes such as, The Pioneers, Errol Dunkley, Ken Parker and more. At that time Gibbs main set of musicians were Lynn Tait and the Jets, augmented by organist, Ansel Collins plus experienced horn players, Tommy McCook – Saxophone, Johnny “Dizzy” Moore – Trumpet, Bobby Ellis –Trumpet, and Vin Gordon – Trombone. Gibbs also utilized the services of the then popular band, Hippy Boys, (which featured the Barrett brothers, “Carlton” on Drum and “Family Man” on Bass).

As the national music again began to evolve, gravitating to the Reggae flavour, Joe Gibbs again scored big. This time he earned his first international success with the recording of, “Love of the Common People”, which was covered by the late Nicky Thomas. This song went to #9 on the UK Singles Charts in the summer of 1970. With the growing popularity of the new Reggae sound Joe Gibbs intensified his production output and recorded acts like, The Ethiopians, Delroy Wilson, Ken Parker and the Heptones, with whom he recorded two volumes of singles compilation albums titled, “Heptones and Friends”. Both albums went on to become best selling ones in Jamaica and Europe. During this period also, he boldly launched three new record labels; Jogib, Shock, and Pressure Beat, opened his New York Record Mart at 11 South Parade in the heart of busy Downtown, Kingston, (the nation’s busiest commercial centre); and established a new two-track recording studio facility in the Duhaney Park, St. Andrew.

In 1972, Joe Gibbs again moved his recording studio operations from Duhaney Park, back to the busy Downtown commercial centre at 20 North Parade, where he had set up a new facility. With the establishment of this new facility he also drafted young recording engineer, Errol “E. T.” Thompson, who earned his stripes working at Randy’s Recording Studio, on Orange Street for several years, to join his team. Joe Gibbs and “E.T.” forged a formidable partnership which earned them the nicknamed, “Mighty Two.”

dennis-brown.jpgOne of the first hit to come out of the North Parade studio was Dennis Brown’s “Money In My Pocket.” After the success of “Money In My Pocket”, which went to #1 in 1972; the “Mighty Two” went on to chart over one hundred #1 songs over the next several years going into 1974. Joe Gibbs again relocated his recording studio facility in 1975. This time he acquired 24 Retirement Crescent, in Cross Roads, St Andrew (another busy commercial and industrial area); and built a spanking new 16- track recording studio facility and record pressing plant there.

From this new, permanent location Joe Gibbs added new record labels to the ones already existing, namely, Crazy Joe, Reflections, Belmont and Town & Country. Joe Gibbs and new partner Errol Thompson seemed to have received special inspiration and motivation from their new location because during this period moving into 1977 a phenomenal number of hits were produced by them, utilizing the exceptional talents of artistes such as, sly-robbie.jpgSly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Big Youth, Black Uhuru, Jacob Miller, Sylford Walker, Mighty Diamonds, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Byles plus numerous others.

It was in 1977 also, that Joe Gibbs produced and released his most internationally acclaimed recording project, the perennial Two Sevens Clash album featuring vocal group, Culture, with lead singer Joseph Hill whose hauntingly prophetic vocalization enslaved the hearts of people worldwide. It is a known musical fact that this album created an impact in Europe and was a major influence and source of inspiration in the formation of punk band, The Clash.

A few other successful Jamaican artistes who were produced by Joe Gibbs during his lifetime are, Marcia Aiken, Dillnger, Trinity, Prince Far-I, Kojak & Lisa, Althea & Donna, Clint Eastwood, John Holt, Barrington Levy, Cornell Campbell, Dean Fraser, Delroy Wilson, Beres Hammond, Rankin’ Joe, Prince Jazzbo, Prince Mohammed/George Nooks, the late, I-Roy. In the 1980s Joe Gibbs produced what became another international hit recording featuring the vocal style of J.C. Lodge titled, “Some One Loves You Honey.”

It was alleged that he did not remit the royalties owed to the original writer of the song, Charlie Pride. He was sued by Pride and loss. He was unable to pay the huge settlement ordered by the court and this forced Joe Gibbs out of business. He returned to the national music scene in 1993 by reissuing several works from his extensive catalogue. These were released on the Rocky One record label, which his son, Carl Gibson, had started while living in Miami, Florida a few years before. Joe Gibbs rekindled his partnership with Errol Thompson and the “Mighty Two” began rolling again producing new music.

By the time the new Millennium had rolled around Joe Gibbs had began diversifying his entrepreneurial interests and was involved in operating other businesses that had no connection to the music industry. In this regard, his property at 20 North Parade, Kingston which became a major retail record outlet when he acquired the new space at 24 Retirement Crescent, the North Parade Property eventually evolved into being the Grand Central Supermarket, Pharmacy and Bakery. Gibbs still continued to be involved in the music business but to a much lesser degree and after the early demise of his musical partner, Errol Thompson, on November 13, 2004 he established himself in the restaurant business by launching his Jamaica Grill Restaurant, which is located in the busy commercial area of Union Square, in Cross Roads, St. Andrew. Separate and apart from those ventures mentioned above Joe Gibbs had invested in the Island’s agricultural development by acquiring a 100-acre farm, located in Simon District in the parish of St. Catherine.

The death of Joe Gibbs will leave a very large void in the Jamaican music industry, one that will be very hard to fill. He will be greatly missed.

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