The Veteran Deejay (Toaster) Still Holds Court
The innovator and originator of the ‘deejay phenomenon’ (formally known as ‘toaster’ and now sometimes referred to ‘sing-jay’ – in the USA, a Rapper or MC) was none other than Daddy U-Roy nee Ewart Beckford. The foundation that he had set started a craze which made huge impact on the sale of records; that phenomenon is still the most popular segment of the versatile Reggae genre. In 1969, U-Roy held the top three positions in the Reggae charts with his versions of Duke Reid’s popular Rocksteady riddims but his legacy still continues into the Y2K and beyond. But, although U-Roy was almost like a super natural force on the deejay/ toaster scene, a young Dennis Alcapone entered the arena and turned the whole Reggae world upside down. He was voted DJ of the year in 1971 and 1972 and, right up until the time he left Jamaica in 1973, it was Alcapone mania in the Dances.
Alcapone’s clearer, more distinctive voice was what the young people most loved to hear. He mesmerized the people with his stylish lyrics and possessed a delivery that no-one could quite copy. He regularly topped the charts with tunes like ‘Alcapone’s Guns Don’t Argue’, ‘Ripe Cherry’, Teach The Children’, ‘Love Is Not A Gamble’, ‘Mosquito One’, ‘Wake Up Jamaica’ and ‘Number One Station’. Producers would queue up to record him knowing literally that any tune he chatted on would sell. Even U-Roy had recorded a tune acknowledging him titled ‘King Tubby Skank’ where he states, ‘…my name is not Alcapone but I can still tip those tones…’. That gesture only was testimony to Alcapone’s prominence and popularity. Forty years later, his music is still in demand all over the world.
Dennis Smith was born in Clarendon, Jamaica but grew up in Kingston from the age of one. “From I was a youth, I loved music full stop. In the old days, we used to have a thing called radio fusion which was a speaker in a box that only had volume, it didn’t have wave band on it or anything, just volume and an ‘on and off’ switch. There was a disc jockey name Charlie Bancock who used to play lovely music and that is where it all started. I’d listen to RJR and JBC as we only had two stations in Jamaica at that time. U-Roy was my inspiration and a Sound called Kentone who had a DJ called Pompado. One night I watched Pompado select and deejay on Brotherton Avenue (I also lived on the Avenue); Pompado was so good, he really knew what he was doing and so, it just went on from there.
We used to ride on the Rocksteady riddims (myself and U-Roy) but the Rocksteady riddim was
changing to Drum and Bass. Big Youth was the master of the Drum and Bass with his ‘S 90 Skank’ and all of those songs. I didn’t clash with Big Youth or U-Roy at all. U-Roy was over Tower Hill side, Big Youth was Down Town and I was more or less in the middle of Kingston 13, Waltham Park Road area. I ruled my roost; U-Roy ruled his roost and Big Youth ruled his roost. If we buck up, we hailed each other. When my Sound ‘El Passo’ was not playing, I would go to Spanish Town and listen to I-Roy cah he used to play a Sound called Roddies Supreme. This was one of the musical Sounds with no end of music; any music that you can think of and you’d never heard before Roddies played them and of course, I-Roy was a very good deejay. When I first came to England, I met a man who told me that he had actually witnessed people fist fighting over who was the best between Alcapone and U-Roy. But, I feel that all deejays, from the past to the present, come second to U-Roy especially when it comes to musical timing”!