The Links Records story begins with Harris Lloyd “BB” or “Bibby” Seaton, born September 3, 1944 in Kingston. He grew up in the Allman Town, Rollington Town and Vineyard Town sections of the city and got his start in the music business in the early 1960s. His big break occurred when pianist Evan Lloyd “Richard Ace” Richards brought him to Coxson’s Dramatic & Music Centre, 67 1/2 Church Street, entrance in Love Lane, owned by Clement Dodd. That led to Seaton making his first solo recording, “Only You.”
“Ken Boothe was on the session on the same day and he did he his first recording as a solo artist as well called ‘Prevention.’” [Both songs were issued on the Rolando & Powie label during 1963.]
“Boris Gardiner was my teacher in terms of harmonies. He taught me harmonies because I was living just at the crossroads from him. He had a group called the Rhythm Aces and they used to rehearse and I used to hang out with them and listen to the music. When one of the guys didn’t turn up, I would try to fill in. This is where he was teaching me harmonies. The Rhythm Aces was Delano Stewart, who ended up with our group, Dennis Moss, Boris Gardiner and ‘Richard Ace.’
I did a couple of songs and then I met up with Delano Stewart because they used to rehearse in my area which was Vineyard Town. Then we started hanging out, then we started rehearsing together. We ended up doing a couple songs. One called ‘I’ll Be There’ and ‘When The Lights Are Low’ and ‘Joybells For Independence’ in 1962 as The Rhythm Aces, both of us. Later on we added Maurice Roberts.” (1)
Delroy George Wilson, born October 5, 1949, was the first of 3 children. Went to Boys Town and Cathedral Choir Schools. By age 14 at Choir school he was singing in the choir, at concerts and school functions and began to hear praise for it from classmates and friends. (2)
Wilson made his first recordings at Studio One as a 14 year old in 1963. Several of the songs were written by Lee Perry.
“Delroy’s first mentor, Lee Perry, quit Studio One in 1966 to go his own way. The job of auditioning new acts now passed to Harris ‘Bibby’ Seaton. He’d been with Dodd since the start of the decade as a solo artist, and as one half of the duo Winston & Bibby. Winston became better known later singing as Delano Stewart. The duo was turned into a trio with the addition of Maurice Roberts and they began to record as The Gaylads in 1964. They scored a string of hits for Dodd in 1966, with ‘Stop Making Love,’ ‘Lady In The Red Dress’ and ‘No Good Girl.’ One of the first singing groups Seaton brought to Dodd’s attention was The Melodians. Another Seaton signing was The Heptones, who came to the studio after launching their recording career at Caltone. Along with The Gaylads, Ken Boothe, Alton Ellis and Delroy Wilson, they were responsible for Dodd’s biggest Rock Steady hits.” (3)
Kenneth George Boothe was born March 22, 1948 in Denham Town, Kingston. He started singing as a boy at school, Denham Primary, and in talent contests. His oldest sister, Hyacinth Clover, was a star singer and comedienne when Ken was a boy. She married actor, comedian and promoter Ed “Bim” Lewis and was part of comedic and dramatic group Bim, Bam and Clover.
Ken broke into show business as a teen by forming a dance duo with his youngest sister as “Jack And Jill” before he became serious about singing. His first recordings were made in partnership with Stranger Cole.
Brent Dowe has stated that The Melodians started singing in 1962 but didn’t record until 1966 at Studio One. They were getting 13 shillings for singing at nightclubs as teenagers. (4)
“We started singing in clubs all over the place, sing every Friday night at Kittymat Club.” [5 Maxfield Avenue] (5)
George “Tony” Brevett shared lead singing duties with Dowe and James “Trevor” McNaughton harmonized.
All four acts that formed Links Records recorded for Clement Dodd and left for more money from Duke Reid, Leslie Kong and Sonia Pottinger, respectively.
“It was a money thing. Who was paying more money. Coxson was giving £6 for one shot, down at Duke [Treasure Isle] we got £10 for one shot.” (5)
“During the second half of 1968, Delroy took stock of his career. He’d begun to feel he hadn’t received a fair share of the money his hits had made for Dodd. This was a view held by a number of other artists. Several, including The Wailers, had left Studio One because of it. With his five year contract expired, and this in mind, he decided reluctantly to part company with Clement Dodd.” (6)
“At this point the artists grabbed the reins of production themselves-for a while. ‘We start branching out and doing our own thing. That’s when we-Tuff Gong now, Bob Marley Tuff Gong, that’s from when most of us start to aware that it’s better to produce tunes ourselves. ‘Cause at one time I used to own a company in Jamaica, Links was the company, consist of Ken Boothe, Gaylads, Delroy Wilson, Melodians -four of us have this company. And then you have Tuff Gong with The Wailers. And what I respect with Tuff Gong is that they didn’t give up. But they [big producers] break us up, Links. In those days recording, executive producers, the men who have the money, when they realize that we breaking off from them what they did was come together and start to pressure us. Our songs aren’t playing on the radio anymore. When we go to the radio station they don’t wanna see us. So we were forced, some us were forced to go back and sing with these people.’” (7)
Here’s how BB assessed Links in his biography, as told to Carl Finlay.
“The Gaylads were very close friends with Ken Boothe, Delroy Wilson and The Melodians group. All of us used to hang-out together in a place called Chestnut Lane in West Kingston where The Melodians were living at the time. All of us were having huge hits for various producers but all of us felt frustrated with the ill-treatment we were receiving. It was this sense of exploitation that made us decide to pool our resources and form the first co-operative record label founded by artists in Jamaica. It was Brent Dowe of the Melodians who came up with the name ‘Links’, as in the links of a chain, to represent our connection and collective unity.
We put our money together and we hired Dynamic Sounds [WIRL] to record a number of songs. I had recently recruited Howard Barrett [The Paragons] to fill the space in The Gaylads left by Delano and we recorded ‘Aren’t You The Guy’; ‘Looking for A Girl’; ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ and ‘Mama Look’. I wrote two songs for Delroy Wilson, one called ‘Give Love A Try’ and another called ‘Soul Resolution’ (aka ‘I’ll Never Hurt You’). Ken recorded two more songs I wrote called ‘Can’t You See’ and ‘I Remember Someone’, while The Melodians did ‘Sweet Rose’ and ‘It Comes and Goes’, all for our new ‘Links’ label.
We covered all aspects of the production of these records together, including the printing of the labels and the pressing of the records. We even distributed the records ourselves by going around to every shop in Kingston and making sure they were stocked with the records. We encountered quite a backlash from all the established record producers and labels who were threatened by the idea of artists becoming independent and having success without their input. They wanted to quash our efforts and insisted to the radio stations that they were not to play or promote ‘Links’ records. Despite this pressure ‘Links’ had a breakthrough hit with The Melodians’ ‘It Comes and Goes’. It received huge support from the public who bought it in droves and sent it straight to number two in the charts.
Unfortunately, cracks started to appear in our collaborative endeavour and what finally brought ‘Links’ to an end was a rift between The Melodians and the rest of us who were involved. At the time The Melodians were living in the western side of Kingston while the rest of us were living in the east. In order for everybody to be close we invested some of the earnings we had made from the label into renting a house for The Melodians in the east of Kingston. The ethos at the heart of ‘Links’ was that it was a co-operative effort and any money that was made was to be invested back into the business. But once The Melodians had a hit with ‘It Comes and Goes’ they weren’t satisfied with having just a house, they felt they were entitled to all the money that had been earned. What about all the work each one of us had put in and what about our investment? How come they want to have all the money? That’s not how it works. We were building something together that we hoped could stand the test of time and compete with the larger more established companies. In order to do this we needed to have a sensible investment strategy, but they weren’t seeing it that way. It was as if The Melodians had predicted the demise of ‘Links’ when they sang ‘It Comes And Goes.’”
As BB told Irish interviewer ‘John Public’, “‘It Comes And Goes’ went into the charts and we started making money, but in those days we weren’t prepared, so to speak, for all this happening at once, doing the business, controlling money, so we got carried away. Apart from getting carried away we were getting a fight as well because a lot of people didn’t want [us] to succeed as artists to influence other artists that this could work. It would put a lot of producers out of jobs. The fact is, that most of the songs were produced by the artists themselves anyway because they used to come in with their guitar and sing the arrangement and so forth. So it wasn’t even a total production. They should be co-produced or some credit. But the whole business was backward. We understand that because it was was a learning process. But people should be looking towards rewarding all these people that are still alive. This is why you hear me talking about Ernest Wilson and these guys in that situation. It upset me because they may leave and don’t benefit anything. And there’s a legacy out there.” (1)
Asked if specific producers acted against them, BB replied, “Yes, Links Records started in 1968 and did not last very long as we were given a fight by Neville Lee etc.”
Many Links 45’s were blank label issues that were hand stamped “Links Records, 39 Wildman Street, Phone 24954.” Asked about the address, BB explained that, “I lived at 39 Wildman Street from when I got married to Vinnette Heholt and yes, we used to run the record company from that address.”
The musicians on Links recordings are a bit of a mystery. There were few if any credits on the 45 labels. Lynn Taitt & The Jets are likely suspects for 1968 recordings at WIRL, but BB has said backing was from musicians who later became The Conscious Minds band. That group was led by Seaton and inclusive of Ken Boothe, who explained that, “Conscious Minds was our band, I used to play keyboards and sing. And Gaylads, one played bass, one played guitar.” (8) The complete line up;
Arnold “Willie” Breckenridge – Trumpet
Derrick Hinds – Trombone
Winston Bryan – Tenor Sax
Derrick Stewart – Drums
Harris Seaton – Lead & rhythm guitar
Joe White – Piano
Ken Boothe – Organ
Maurice Roberts – Bass
The band really stretched out on their tuff instrumental “Something New.” The guitar is brilliant and the trombone licks tantalizing!
In addition to the showcase of superb songs and glorious harmonies by Links artists, Randall Thaxter’s hopeful, insistent, limited release “Small World,” a Seaton production, also decorates this package.
The CD adds the contributions, and flavor, of DJ’s Prince Glen and Big Joe, who each ride the Links riddims with assurance and aplomb. Not to forget Shorty Perry, hype man on Boothe’s “Can’t You See Version.”
The Links Records story is a brief but insightful chapter of Jamaican music as it transitioned from the Rock Steady years, 1966 to ’68, to the advent of Reggae. The dozen or so Links recordings are collected here for the first time and tell a tale of talented singers and musicians taking action collectively to try their hands at production. They made great records but their foray was fraught and couldn’t be sustained. Ultimately, they set an example for other artists to follow and to learn from.
-Brian Keyo, tallawah.com February 10, 2022, Worcester Massachusetts.
(1) BB Seaton Interview by John Public and Miss Pat, Full Watts, Vol. 5, No. 2, 2004.
(2) Delroy Wilson interview by Yvonne Parboosingh, Swing Magazine, March 1972.
(3) Page 24, Chris Prete, Let’s Catch The Beat, Issue 13, December, 1995.
(4) Melodians interview by David “H Diggy” Duncan for Whatz Up NY, 2005.
(5) Page 85, Solid Foundation by David Katz, Bloomsbury, 2003.
(6) Page 27, Let’s Catch The Beat, Issue 13, December, 1995.
(7) Page 52, Ken Boothe Interview by Chuck Foster, The Beat, Vol. 15 #4, 1996.
(8) Liner Notes to Ken Boothe, A Man And His Hits, by Chuck Foster, 1999.
BB Seaton interviewed by the author during January and February, 2022.
Thanks to Ashok Mohan, Masato Teraguchi and Masaya Hayashi. Also to BB Seaton, Carl Finlay, Jeremy Collingwood, Theo Van Bijnen, Richard Fletcher, Rich Lowe, Ray Hurford, Chuck Foster, Chris Prete, David Katz, Yvonne Parboosingh, Ray Hurford, David “H Diggy” Duncan, John Public and his producer Pat.