His journey on the road to success, however, has by no means been easy. Although born into a middle-class family, his early childhood was fraught with parental problems that resulted in much of his time being spent with his aunt in Westmoreland. The arrangement was far from ideal, however, and in 1951, at the age of eleven, he was sent to the Maxfield Park Children's Home in Kingston, where he was fostered by the home's matron. The move was to have a dramatic effect on Andy's future career: although he had always shown a keen interest in music, the variety of sounds to which he was now exposed opened up a whole new world to the youngster. Meringue, calypso, mento, jazz and above all, R&B and Rock & Roll all left their mark and his interest in popular music was further increased after attending the nearby Champion House club where he saw local singers, such as Higgs & Wilson, Wilfred Jackie Edwards, Owen Gray and Laurel Aitken regularly perform. Also around this time he began singing at the local Church of England and it was here that he met Garth 'Tyrone' Evans with whom he struck up a lasting friendship, strengthened by their mutual love of music. Soon the two boys began singing as a duo and in the late fifties auditioned for one of Jamaica's leading producers, Duke Reid. Reid was impressed enough to record two sides by the young singers, including 'I'm In Love', although neither this nor the other long-forgotten title song was ever officially released.
In the early sixties, Andy began working as a student psychiatric nurse, while Evans found employment at the local bauxite factory, but despite these daytime distractions, the duo became increasingly involved in the local music scene. After singing with a number of vocal groups they eventually formed the Binders with two other local singers, Errol Walker and Henry Buckley. During it's formative period, the success of the group was somewhat limited due to the various changes in personnel, with Walker and Buckley later leaving to be replaced by Junior Menz and Leroy Stamp, the latter being replaced some time afterwards by John Holt and Howard Barrett. During this time, the name of the group also under-went a transformation, changing to the Paragons, the American R&B vocal group of the same name having disbanded by now.
Once the line-up was settled the group began to achieve local success, becoming regulars on the club and hotel circuit on the island, often supporting visiting American Soul and R&B acts, including the Drifters, Solomon Burke and Ben E. King. Around 1964 the Paragons finally made their first recordings for producer Coxson Dodd, cutting a number of Doo Wop style ballads, including 'Playgirl', 'Good Luck And Goodbye', 'Lover's Dream' and 'In Love At Last', the latter remaining at the top of both Jamaican radio charts for some five weeks. Despite their growing popularity, Andy became increasingly frustrated over the musical direction of the quartet and around the end of 1965 decided to leave. Although his departure was a devastating blow to the group, they quickly recovered and went on to record a catalogue of Rocksteady classics for producer Duke Reid.
Andy, meanwhile, began working for Dodd, delivering records to the local stores and learning the workings of the Jamaican music business. The producer also helped develop Andy's song writing skills, giving him access to a regular supply of latest British and American releases to study. One such recording, 'Walking Up A One-Way Street', left such an impression that that he felt compelled to write 'Crime Don't Pay', which upon release became the first recording to credit Bob Andy as the featured artist. 'Bob Andy' was in fact a creation of the young singer, whose real name was Keith Anderson - his choice of forename was derived from his admiration for Bob Dylan and fellow Jamaican Bob Marley, while the surname was merely an abbreviated version of his own.
The follow-up to 'Crime Don't Pay' was a version of the Four Tops' 'Stay In My Lonely Arms', but while both this and his debut side proved relatively successful, it was the recording of his composition, 'I've Got To Go Back Home' that truly launched Andy as a major performer in Jamaica. The song soon became an anthem for young disaffected Jamaicans and was also notable for taking social consciousness in popular song lyrics to a new level. A little later, Andy further enhanced his growing reputation as a songwriter with 'I Don't Want To See You Cry', which provided Ken Boothe with a huge Jamaican hit toward the close of 1966.
Throughout 1967 and into 1968, Andy spent much of his time continuing his musical education, writing songs and helping out on harmonies for many of Dodd's vast roster of artists. It was also during this time that he began a romantic relationship with another of Dodd's artists, Marcia Griffiths. Meanwhile the producer began supplying him with rhythms to which he would write lyrics and this arrangement resulted in some of the true classics of Jamaican music, notably 'Desperate Lover', 'Feeling Soul' and 'Unchained'. Other releases by Andy from this period included 'Let Them Say' and 'Going Home' along with a duet with his old friend, Tyrone Evans, 'I Don't Care' and his first recording with Marcia, entitled 'Always Together'.
Although enormously successful, both commercially and artistically, Andy found the arrangement with Dodd too restricting and towards the end of 1968 he decided to leave the Studio One fold, initially working with Rupie Edwards, who had recently launched the 'Success' label. This collaboration resulted in the haunting 'The Way I Feel', the sales of which helped establish Edwards as a serious force in Jamaican music. Around this time, Andy also took time out to help former insurance salesman, Harry Johnson break into the music profession, supervising the rookie producer's initial recording session at Federal Studios, which spawned the Beltones' 'No More Heartaches' - one of the biggest Jamaican hits of the year.
Early the following year Andy cut a couple of self-produced sides with Tyrone Evans that saw issue on his own National imprint before recording a version of the Joe South song, 'The Games People Play' and the original 'The Sun Shines For Me' (which Gregory Isaacs later recorded as 'Salary Is Thin') for Richard Khouri's Federal label. He also continued to work with both Rupie Edwards and Harry Johnson, recording a number of fine solo sides for the latter in particular, most notably 'Peace Of Mind' and 'Weep'. But it was Andy's rendering of Nina Simone's, 'Young, Gifted & Black', on which he was accompanied by Marcia Griffiths that proved the most significant of all his works from this time. Yet his involvement in the recording happened almost by accident, as Johnson recalled a couple of years later in an interview with Melody Maker:
'She (Marcia Griffiths) was due to sing the song, but had forgotten the lyrics. Bob was in the studio at the time and since I heard that someone else (Prince Buster) was recording the same song, I thought it might be better with two singers. So I got Bob to sing along with Marcia, as he had already known the words. Both Bob and Marcia were good and well-known artists in Jamaica and the combination worked.'
Although Johnson enjoyed a degree of success with the record upon its release in Jamaica, Trojan's chief salesman, Clive Crawley felt it could do even better in the UK if enhanced by orchestration. Consequently, upon the producer's arrival in London, he accompanied Crawley to Chalk Farm studios where the original two-track master was transferred onto eight-tracks and, under the auspices of arranger Johnny Arthey, strings were over-dubbed.
The song was finally released in the UK by Trojan and immediately began to receive major radio airplay. Alerted by the degree of interest, Trojan contacted Johnson who arranged for Bob & Marcia to fly to England to promote the single. The couple hastily set off for London and once on UK soil, embarked on an extensive tour of the country and mainland Europe, giving numerous interviews along the way and appearing on the B.B.C.'s 'Top Of The Pops'. Their promotional work quickly paid dividends, with 'Young, Gifted & Black' eventually peaking at number three in the UK charts in the spring of 1970. The couple then returned to Kingston, where Johnson arranged for them to record enough material for their debut album, not surprisingly titled 'Young Gifted And Black'. Other songs recorded by Andy around this time included a cover of Bob Dylan's 'Lay Lady Lay' and 'You Don't Know', the later inexplicably taking almost two years to see issue despite ranking alongside the best of his work.
Over the ensuing months, Andy busied himself writing and recording primarily with Marcia, their work from this period including an uplifting cover of Crispian St Peters' Pop hit, 'Pied Piper'. The recording went on to become Bob & Marcia's next major hit, eventually reaching at number eleven in UK listings the summer of 1971. The remainder of material subsequently appeared on the duo's second album, 'Pied Piper', which also included Andy's sublime version of Al Green's 'One Woman', which despite favourable reviews just missed out chart action.
After another exhausting tour of venues around the UK and a move from Trojan to CBS, the pair began work on their third album, but following the indefinite shelving of what should have been their third album, Andy called time on the partnership. After cutting a number of solo sides, most notably 'Life', 'Honey Child' (also recorded by Delroy Wilson as 'You Won't See') and the magnificent 'Fire Burning' for Lloyd Charmers, Andy decided to concentrate on his production work, recording artists such as Richard Ace, Leroy Smart and Wayne Harmon's group, Time. Griffiths, meanwhile recorded her solo debut album, 'Play Me Sweet And Nice' (aka 'Sweet Bitter Love') for Lloyd Charmers before forming the I Threes with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt.
In the mid-seventies Andy became involved with a new record company, Sound Tracs, for whom he produced and recorded the album 'Music Inside Me'. He also began working as the company's chief talent scout, but despite his efforts, the company soon folded. Disheartened by it's failure, he decided to take a short break from the music business altogether and turned his hand to acting, taking the part of a leading character in a play called 'Reggae', which went on to tour the US. But his love of music proved too strong to leave for long and following his return to Jamaica in 1976, he re-united with Marcia to record the album, 'Kemar' (later renamed 'Really Together'), after which he cut the solo album, 'Lots Of Love And I' for Sonia Pottinger's High Note label. Later in the decade, he re-affirmed his acting abilities when he made his screen debut in the film, 'Children Of Babylon', after which he spent a year in Britain before settling in Negril.
In 1983, Andy reminded the record buying public of his outstanding talent with the album, 'Friends', which saw issue on I-Anka, a label his has continued to run to the present day. In recent years his output has been sporadic, although occasional glimpses of his genius are apparent in such works as his 1997 LP, 'Hanging Tough'. In October 2006, a week before his 62nd birthday, Bob Andy was accorded Jamaica's 'Order of Distinction' in the rank of Commander, for his outstanding contribution to the development of Reggae music. Few have been more deserving of such an honour.