Born in February 1955 in Rae Town, a poor district in Kingston, he left school at the age of fourteen to study as a mechanic, and over the years that followed was forced to supplement what little income he could earn from the profession, by driving a cab and working as a building site labourer. His only real escape from the harsh realities of life in downtown Kingston was popular music and from an early age he began attending local dances, taking every possible opportunity to grab the mike and toast over popular rhythms of the day. By the early seventies he had developed a style of his own and had gained a reputation as one of the island's most promising young talents. His growing popularity eventually led to an offer of becoming the resident dj for one of Kingston's top sounds, Lord Tippertone. By now he had acquired the nickname 'Big Youth', simply because he was tall for his age. Early the following year he marked his recording debut, cutting "Movie Man" for Gregory Isaacs' 'African Museum' label and although the record failed to achieve much in the way of commercial success, the young dj was determined not to be discouraged, sure of his own undoubted talent.
More recordings followed over the ensuing months for a number of producers, most notably Lee Perry ("Mooving Version"), Jimmy El Radway ("The Best Of Big Youth") and Phil Pratt ("Tell It Black" and "Phil Pratt Thing"), but the first major breakthrough came with "Killer" for Augustus 'Gussy' Clarke. Further Jamaican hits followed with a series of impressive sides, including his first number one, "S.90 Skank" for producer, Keith Hudson. Other sides of note included "Tippertone Rocking", also for Clarke, "Medicine Doctor" for Sonia Pottinger and "Chi Chi Run" for Prince Buster, the latter song providing the title for his debut album. The hits continued into 1973 with two more Jamaican number ones, "A So We Stay" (for Joe Gibbs) and "Cool Breeze" (for Derrick Harriott) further serving to enhance his growing stature. Later in the year he made his first attempts at producing with the single "Hot Cross Bun" b/w "River Jordan", the success of which inspired the launch of his own Negusa Negust (Amharic for 'King Of Kings') and Augustus Buchanan labels.
By the time the single, "Hit The Road Jack" was released in 1976, Big Youth was already an established superstar of Jamaican music with a number of best-selling albums under his belt. The single and subsequent album of the same name gave further evidence of his unique talent, with the LP soon becoming one of the most sought-after recorded by the dj. Now, almost twenty years since it's orginal release we are proud to present the album for the first time on CD, with the added bonus of six additional tracks.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Big Youth remains a giant in Jamaican music with his outstanding contribution to it's development, long acknowledged by music historians. His influence can still be clearly heard on countless recordings by a whole new generation of djs, with elements of his style being echoed in the music of modern day rap and dancehall. This long-awaited re-issue not only provides a timely reminder of his influencial style, but also presents the opportunity to pay homage to a true legend of Jamaican music - Manley Augustus Buchanan, the man they call Big Youth.
LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT 1994