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U Brown - as he is popular known in the reggae business,
is one of the greatest roots toasters in reggae history and
he was also one of the most significant figures in the
transitional period between the roots and dancehall period.
He was born Huford Brown on June 8, 1956 in western
Kingston, Jamaica. His musical education started as a
youth, where he used to accompany his dad to local bars,
spending most of his time listening to jukeboxes and
hanging around Treasure Isle Studios on Bond Street.
Heavily influenced by Great U Roy the original Godfather,
master and teacher, but also citing Big Youth, Dennis
Alcapone, Prince Jazzbo and I Roy as influences, U Brown
began his career in the dance hall in 1968 on a sound
system called Silver Bullet. As he deejayed on the sound
he got a lot of encouragement and compliments, which
gave him a great push and confidence in what he was
doing and in the long run helped him to establish his
characteristic and well known personal style.
At the age of 15, U Brown began working for the Philip
Monroe owned Sound of Music Sound System. As
developing his skills, he was initially given a chance to
record two tracks "Wet Up Your Pants Foot" and
"Jamaican Tobacco” for producer Winston Edwards. This
was also leading to record the track “Dem A Wolf” for The late Vivian Jackson AKA Yabby U.
His greatest break of all came about around 1975 when
the great U Roy was involved in an accident and was out
of action for a while. U Brown was invited to deejay in place of U Roy on the King Tubby's Hi-Fi Sound System,
since he had a style that resembled the Godfather.
This opportunity turned out to be a truly blessing in disguise, as in the same year - 1975, U Brown began working with Bunny Lee and cut his first
album “Satta Dread” which was released only in Jamaica and England.
As U Brown became more and more noticed, he continued
to work with Bunny Lee and different producers. He had a
local hit in 1976 with "Starsky and Hutch", which was
produced by Bunny Lee and followed by a series of albums produced by Bunny Lee.
Most notable were the 12" disco-mix records that kept
flowing and got a lot of air play in Jamaica, London and
America. He did "Keep On Knocking" with Late Ever Great
Jacob Miller. For producer Joe Gibbs and with the Crown
Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown, he did "Say
What You Saying" and "Foundation". With the cool ruler
Gregory Isaacs he did "Border" and with The Chantells he
did "Children Of Jah". With Linval Thompson, he did “Train
to Zion”, which became a title track of one of his albums.
All the above 12" disco-mixes are great master pieces that
anybody should have in their U Brown collection, as he
was at his peak, although up to date he has not lost his panache, not even an inch!!!
Around 1977 U Brown set up his own Hit Sound label as an
outlet for his work as a producer. He managed to make a
number one hit with the first album he produced for
himself in 1978, titled "Weather Balloon", which was a
great hit and seller all over Europe and America. He also went on to produce other artists such as Al Campbell,
Carlton Livingston, Earnest Wilson, Freddy MacKay, Peter
Metro, Dickie Ranking and even an album with the legendary Delroy Wilson.
U Brown was signed to Virgin Records in the late 1970s,
releasing two albums on their Front Line label titled “Mr
Brown Something”, and “You Cant Keep A Good Man
Down”. He was at the peak of his considerable powers
here, effortlessly riding dub versions of world-class
Channel One rhythms, provided by the Revolutionaries,
who at the time were Jamaica's reigning studio outfit.
Although U Brown's influences were clear, the irresistible
sweetness of his voice and consistent skill of his delivery was enough to set him apart from his peers.
The Virgin contract enabled U Brown to travel frequently
to England, where he performed with Equater Band,
Fatman Sound System and Unity Hi Power Sound System.
Unlike most of his colleagues, U Brown survived the
transition from rockers to the rub-a-dub era in the eighties
remarkably well. He returned to prominence in 1982, with
the big hit "Tu Sheng Peng" (a version of Dennis Brown's
"If This World Were Mine") and the album “Jam It Tonight” in 1983.
Later on in the 1980s, U Brown relocated to Miami where
he worked on an album with producer Kenneth Black on
the Skengdon Label. The album was never released - only
two songs were released and the track “Ready when you ready” became a big hit in Miami.
In 1990, U Brown returned to Jamaica and continued to
produce, record and deejay all though with less frequency
than in the past. He lived a life of semi-seclusion, able to
pick an choose projects he wanted to be involved with. He
did some strong mid nineties recordings for labels like
Roof International and Barry O' Hare's X Rated. In 1997
Blood & Fire released a compilation of Brown's 1970s
work, raising his profile and leading to new recordings.
Recordings like the album “ Rougher Than the Rest” for
Jah Warrior Records and “Long Time Mi Ah Dj” for Ras
Dennis of Dub Vibes production in 2002. U Brown also took
to press what should have been pressed 33 years ago, the
brilliant “Don't Cuss Rasta” by Carlton Livingston on the
Hit Sound imprint. He continues to produce on his own Hit
Sound Label and the latest being the album “Still Standing Strong”, which was distributed by Jet Star.
At the present U Brown is still touring all over the world
Currently he has 2 new albums ready to get released, so
look out for more uplifting and conscious roots rock
reggae music from one of Jamaicas biggest original foundation Dj ́s ever.