John Holt would change all that. One night early in 1970, he attended a sound system party and caught
U-Roy DJing. The singer was blown away, not least of all because the chatterer was exhorting the
enthusiastic crowd over Holt's own hit
'Wear You to the Ball'.
The next day the singer went around to see Duke Reid and adamantly stated that the producer must
record the DJ. Reid was convinced and U-Roy was promptly put into the studio to cut two songs, over
classic Treasure Isle singles, of course. The first release, 'Wake the Town', did exactly that and an
aroused Jamaica swiftly sent the single to the top of the charts. That song was a version of Alton
Ellis' 'Girl I've Got a Date'; the next, 'Rule the Nation', was cut over the Techniques' 'Love Is Not
a Gamble', and that single was as prophetic as the first. It, too, slammed up the chart, as did its
follow-up, 'Wear You to the Ball'. For a month and a half, all three singles boldly stood astride the
top three spots in the Jamaican charts.
U-Roy went on to cut another 29 songs with Reid, all versions of
most beloved singles. The Frontline label's 1970 compilation
Version of Wisdom
bundled up much of the DJ's classic work for Reid, bringing together two previous albums:
Versions Galore, initially released by Trojan in 1971, and Frontline's own 1979 compilation
With Words of Wisdom.
The British Attack label also sports a slew of this material on 1974's
U-Roy, while Trojan's
Your Ace From Space
grabs up 30 of them. A bogus collection comes from France's Esoldun label and
boasts all the classic cuts the DJ recorded for Reid. "Version Galore, You Can Hear Them By The
Score", U-Roy exclaimed on 'Versions Galore', and indeed you could.
Every producer in town was now vying to record DJs, pillaging through their back catalogs for
appropriate rhythms. In U-Roy's wake came a flood of young hopefuls, Dennis Alcapone, I- Roy,
Big Youth, Scotty, Lizzy, U-Roy Junior, and many, many others. Many of these early progenitors of the
DJ scene, U-Roy included, can by found on the Trojan label compilation
With a Flick of My Musical Wrist.
U-Roy himself would never again place three singles at the top of the chart, but he continued to have
smash hits and made his way happily around the studios. He recorded a number of notable songs for
producer Alvin Ranglin, including
'Way Down South' (a version of Billy
Dyce's hit 'Take Warning') and
Working with Glen Brown, he cut
'Number One in the World'
over the much-versioned 'Dirty Harry' rhythm, while also recording intriguing offerings for Niney
Holness and Lloyd Daley.