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PLAY ON MR. MUSIC

The mystery is solved


The Madlighters

For those of us who have marvelled at the footage of Scratch in action at the Black Ark in Jeremy Marre's excellent Roots Rock Reggae video, one segment in particular has always been a real thrill. In the sequence, we see Junior Murvin and The Heptones singing a song with the chorus of "play on, Mr. Music, play on". Since then, a big question mark has hung over the tune: what is it called? Was it recorded? Where can you get it? However, we now have the lowdown on "Mr. Music", thanks to Duane Sherwood in New York.

"Where I work in Brooklyn, there are a lot of Carribean factory workers. One of them is a guy named George Daley, who was involved in the Jamaican music scene in the 60s & 70s. He's not the singer called Reggae George (at least that's what he says), but he is a cousin of one of the Clarendonians and used to sing backups with them as well as having put out a few singles as "Prince George". He's currently working on some music with Barry Llewellyn from the Heptones in Brooklyn, for a possible album release."

"When I had watched the movie (Roots, Rock, Reggae) trying to figure out who was singing, I could identify Cedric Myton and Ashanti Roy from The Congos plus a couple of Heptones, but I wasn't sure if Junior Murvin was one of them because I'm not too familiar with his face and didn't hear his voice. Anyways, when I found out George had a connection to one of the Heptones, I made a cassette of the song, gave it to him and asked him to play it for Barry to find out what it was."

"According to George, Barry told him that it was never released. The Upsetters and the vocalists were at Black Ark recording a commercial for radio (another part of Scratch's career that hasn't been explored?) when the documentary film crew came to shoot the activity. The song was quickly written and recorded for the TV shoot only. In fact if you listen to the lyrics, they say 'the cameras are rolling, getting ready for the show...' at one point. I love this song and would consider it a gift to the world if it was found and released..."

While the Black Ark version of "Play On Mr. Music" was never released, The Heptones did cut a version a few years later. If you don't want to go on a serious vinyl quest for that version, you can settle for a very nice version by Swiss reggae band The Mad Lighters. Their album Ska Town features a swinging version of the tune featuring Rico Rodriguez. Check The Mad Lighters out at their website or look for the album at Amazon.

December 1999 (additional material May 2006)