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Reggae Legends

King Tubby

King Tubby

By Tom Pryor
Published September 9, 2005

King Tubby was the studio genius and sound innovator who invented dub reggae. He was responsible for some of the genre’s greatest recordings and changed the way people listened to music.

One of reggae’s greatest losses came in 1989 when Osbourne Ruddock, a.k.a King Tubby, was murdered in a robbery outside of his home in Kingston’s tough Waterhouse neighborhood. King Tubby was the studio genius and sound innovator who invented dub reggae. He was responsible for some of the genre’s greatest recordings and changed the way people listened to music. He was also the mentor who helped launch the careers of countless other reggae legends, including U-Roy, Prince Jammy and Scientist.

          Like many of the great reggae producers, Tubby started out as the proprietor of a sound system, Tubby’s Home Town HiFi, which was one of the best, by all accounts. In 1969, he hired the great DJ U-Roy to be the sound system’s public face, and U-Roy’s unique vocalizing over the instrumental “versions” of popular hits was an immediate success. At the same time, Tubby, well-known as a sound obsessive and meticulous craftsman, was often hired by rival producers to work as an engineer and disc cutter for their own versions and “specials.”

Soon Tubby noticed the effect that these versions had at dances, and began to experiment on his own. Using discarded test cuttings from recording sessions, Tubby took individual vocal and instrumental tracks, added reverb and echo, and then re-inserted them into the original song in new, unexpected ways. When he tried these new experiments out at his dances the crowds went wild, and dub, not to mention the modern remix, was born.

          Between 1972 and 1974, Tubby’s dubs were ubiquitous and were often the B-sides of the biggest hits of the era. He unleashed his technique on everything from the hottest, roots tracks of the day to old Treasure Isle rocksteady favorites, and almost every one was a hit. In the middle and later ’70s, Tubby would team up with Augustus Pablo to record some of the heaviest reggae ever recorded.

          By then he had also built his own state-of-the-art studio, which became the test lab for some of the wildest sounds ever to emerge from Jamaica. His sound was as distinct as any in reggae: thunderously bass-heavy, with great, spacey chunks of echo and reverb washing in and out of the mix; while stripping down the rhythm to its most relentless essentials. King Tubby would spawn plenty of heirs and disciples, but none could rival the genius at his best.



Recommended Recordings

 

Dub Gone Crazy: The Evolution Of Dub At King Tubby's 1975-1977 (Blood and Fire)

Dub Like Dirt: 1975-1977  (Blood and Fire)

The Best Of King Tubby: King Dub (Music Club)