Fri | May 29, 2020

We the People: a roll call of musicians

Published:Thursday | January 3, 2019 | 12:00 AMMelville Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Lloyd Parks and We the People Band. Current members from left: Earl Fitzsimmons, Everold Gayle, Gibby Morrison, Sting Wray, Robbie Lyn, Lloyd Parks and Junior Bailey.

Bass guitar player, vocalist and bandleader Lloyd Parks lists the original members of the We the People band with a smile that is simultaneously gleeful and wistful. In 1975, Franklyn 'Bubbler' Waul was on keyboards; Winston 'Bopee' Bowen was the guitarist; Devon Richardson played the drums; the horn section was Dean Fraser (saxophone), Chico Chin (trumpet), Nambo Robinson, and Lloyd Kerr (trombone); and Ruddy Thomas the vocalist, with Parks on bass.

There have been many changes in 43 years, but Parks and Bubbler have remained stable in an outfit that now comprises 'Sting' Wray (trombone), Everton Gayle (saxophone) 'Gibby' Morrison (guitar), Junior Bailey (drums), and Robbie Lyn (keyboards). Of course, the name has been adjusted to 'Lloyd Parks and We the People', not by the band's deliberate strategy. "Promoters add 'Lloyd Parks' to it, maybe because of Officially," Parks said, referring to the title track of his 1974 album.

It does not hurt that Parks is the founder and leader. There is another musician who is not a part of We the People who Parks identifies as instrumental in the band's birth. "Myself and Sly Dunbar used to play at Tit for Tat Club on Red Hills Road. When the band broke up, I felt we should have something for ourselves, but not everyone was in agreement," said Parks. "It transitioned from Skin Flesh and Bones Band."

Their first show was at Excelsior High School, which Bubbler had attended. There, they started what became an established tradition of connecting with vocalists. "Marcia Aitken (who will perform at Rebel Salute 2019 later this month) was such a talent. I had to take her to Joe Gibbs Studio, and he started to record her," Parks recalled. It did not take long for the band to become an established part of a Jamaican music landscape in which there were many aggregations of musicians. Parks names the Fabulous Five, Boris Gardiner, Happening, Now Generation, and Zap Pow among those who were there before, with outfits like Riddim Kings and Sagittarius, which became particularly known as backing bands.

"We started out as a show band and backing band. At the time, it was not easy to make it as a backing band. A lot of groups fall along the way. You have to set a foundation, as well as be a self-contained unit," Parks said. As a backing band, their most well-known association was with singer Dennis Brown, for whom Parks was also musical director over the better part of two decades. "He used to tell people I was like his credit card - don't leave home without him," Parks said of their extensive touring together.

On Saturday, January 5, at Mas Camp, National Stadium, a number of vocalists will celebrate the band's 43rd anniversary with them. Among the long list are Luciano, Tinga Stewart, Little John, Gem Myers and Big Youth - the band having had a long association with a slew of those who will sing along with them.

Parks is well aware that 43 years is not a standard anniversary marker. "I just get an urge to do it now. I like to do things that are unusual," he said.