Saturday, February 21, 2015


Never underestimate the advantages of being an inquisitive teenage music fiend. Back when he was in high school, an old roommate of mine, Paris, had attended a school function that featured a speaker on the topic of Shakespeare. Somewhere during the presentation, the speaker name dropped Bob Marley. This was well before Marley had become a household name in the states. Paris was keen on reggae when few others were, at least few of his friends. Starved for like minded reggae freaks to converse with, he approached the speaker after the event, to talk to him about Bob Marley. The speaker was Roger Steffens, who would later become better known as one of the founders of The Beat, a reggae magazine, and the host of a syndicated radio show Reggae Beat. He's now known as a reggae historian, and one of the worlds foremost experts on the life and career of Bob Marley.

Leroy Smart

Paris and Steffens began a friendship that day, and Paris would become well connected with the reggae community in San Diego, before he had even reached his twenties. At the time I lived with him, he was recording backing tracks for album of his own, released as Mohammed I, as well as backing tracks used by another singer, A. Doeman. He had converted his extra large bedroom, a former sun porch, into a studio to lay down the tracks, and the sounds seeped through the large seven bedroom house night and day. Needless to say, most of his roommates, including myself, were into reggae enough that it wasn't a bother.

During that period, reggae singer Leroy Smart had hired a San Diego based backing band for his U.S. tour and they needed to rehearse before going out on the road. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but through Paris's connections, they ended up rehearsing for the better part of a week in his bedroom studio. We, the roommates, were pleased as punch. Never mind the fact that many of us had never actually heard Smart's records, this was the real deal, a big name from Jamaica. Even those not quite as into reggae knew his name from the Clash's "White Man (In Hammersmith Palais)". At the end of the week, I asked one of the other roommates, Andrew, who shared the bedroom/studio with Paris, if he was going to see Smart on the opening night of the tour. He answered that he wasn't sure, that nothing could really top seeing him sing in his bedroom. How are you going to argue with that?


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