'Sunday gone I jump on a mini bus. - I really late but it's not my fault. - And when we nearly reach by the terminus. - I feel de bus come to a halt. - He lick (hit) a ram goat down a de roundabout. - But just as if that could not suffice. - A bredda run to the bus and start to shout. - You should a dead make we buy a pound a rice. - Ram goat liver good fe make mannish water. - Billy goat teeth make the earring for you daughter. - Curried goat lunch put de bite in your bark. - It make your daughter ... It make your daughter walk and talk.'
This tale of a chance to nourish a carnivore's dietary needs might upset a few conscientious vegetarians. Anyone on a meat free diet may feel that the characters were behaving like vultures, but conversely it disproves the theory that there's no such thing as a free lunch. While a curry goat lunch might put a bite in your bark, more importantly the song highlights the benefits of a ram goat's liver to impotence sufferers. Before the pharmaceutical industry launched Viagra, disconsolate men had to rely on home made remedies to conquer this malady and in Jamaica, the islanders discovered a cure in a stock commonly known as 'mannish water'.
In fact when the Rolling Stones recorded 'Goats Head Soup' at Ken Khouri's Federal Studios in 1973, there must have been a good supply of the broth, as the band are rumoured to have benefited from a little help in that department. Local legend has it that inspired by this concoction Mick & co. acknowledged their new-found vigour through an alternate name for mannish water in the album's title. Locally, the soup is also known as power water and is generally made from goats' heads, goats' liver, garlic, scallions, cho-cho, green bananas, scotch bonnet peppers and spinners. Often, men enjoy mannish water before drinking rum, which is an optional ingredient. It is usually sold on roadside stands where, I am reliably informed, it is culinary heaven when accompanied with roasted yam.
However this compilation is not about just the one song, it is a celebration of the Kingston born artist who was christened Leighton Shervington in August 1950. During his formative years, master Shervington loved to sing, and on completing his education embarked on a career in the Jamaican music industry, becoming popularly known as Pluto Shervington or simply Pluto. His first experience as an entertainer came when he joined a show band called Tomorrow's Children. The band featured Pluto alongside the singers, Ken Lazarus and John Jones with Barry Collins, Cornell Marshall, Steve Bachelor, Garth Gregory, Clive Morris and Jerome Francisque. In 1967, the he group's signed with Federal, their debut single being a version of Cher's Pop hit 'Bang! Bang!', which is featured on the 'Trojan Sixties Box Set' compilation (TJETD174).
The following year saw the release of the group's first album, 'Tomorrow's Children Today' and after the issue of further 45s, including 'Poor Man' and a version of `My Sweet Lord', Federal issued their second collection, 'The Going's Great With Tomorrow's Children', which was released in the UK through Decca's London label. In 1971 the group recorded their memorable version of 'Sister Big Stuff', originally released on Trojan's 'Explosion' subsidiary, and now available on the hugely popular 'Funky Kingston' set (TJDCD054).
It was at this time that Pluto recorded Ernie Smith's 'Bend Down'. Ernie has worked with Pluto throughout his career although he is best remembered for his own hits that included 'Duppy Gunman', 'Key Card', 'Pitta Patta' and 'Life Is Just For Living'. As a songwriter Ernie also wrote for Ken Lazurus and John Jones and later topped several international chart listings with his composition, 'Tears On My Pillow (I Can't Take It)', a song which he originally recorded in 1965 with the Vandals, but which brought major global success for Johnny Nash ten years later.
In the early seventies, Tomorrow's Children went their separate ways, resulting in its various members emabarking on solo careers. John Jones recorded a few hits before pursuing an acting career, although in 1972 he scored internationally with a version of the Dr Hook and the Medicine Show favourite, `Sylvia's Mother', which was released on Trojan's Attack label. Ken Lazarus performed with Byron Lee & the Dragonaires and as a soloist recorded the hit single, 'Hail The Man', before relocating in California where he cut the album, 'Reflections'.
Meanwhile, Pluto released 'Boogie Bump' and 'Here And Now' as well as a superb rendition of the Heptones favourite 'Book Of Rules' and Al Green's 'Here I Am (Come And Take Me)'. These songs were aimed at an international audience although it was when the vocalist performed 'inna patois stylee' that he found his niche in the market. But before Pluto enjoyed his first taste of crossover success, he originally scored as a producer. In 1975 he produced that year's festival song winner, 'Hooray Festival', performed by the late lamented Roman Stewart. The song, which is featured on the Trojan compilation, 'Baba Boom' (TJDDD175) was written by the singer's brother Tinga, who himself had won the competition the previous year with 'Play De Music', produced by the aforementioned Ernie Smith. Following on from Roman's Festival hit, Pluto produced 'Midnight Rider' by a white Jamaican named Paul Davidson, with the song peaking at number ten in the UK Pop chart in December 1975. Davidson used his performing royalties to finance the opening of the Sound Studio in Devon Road, Kingston 10 and by the early eighties, artists such as Freddie McGregor, Devon Russell, the Gaylads and Bobby Ellis were all to benefit from the studio's facilities.
But let's backtrack to Pluto's singing career…
As a performer in his own right Pluto's 'Ram Goat Liver' proved a local hit, which inspired Lee Perry to produce a version with Jimmy Riley. The former Sensations' rendering of the song proved particularly popular, although on the flip-side was another, quite bizarre, interpretation performed by Lee Perry's then infant children, Marsha and Omar.
While Pluto's original hit enjoyed a revival, the singer maintained his popularity when he recorded his other Jamaican classic, 'I Man Born Ya', another chart topper in which he pledged an allegiance to the land of his birth and criticised the islanders who, at the time, favoured a life in Canada. Since then, the song has been associated with the late Michael Manley's speech, widely known as 'There Are Five Flights To Miami, with the PNP leader's political address concerning local objections to the apparent mass migration of the seventies.
In the same sessions as 'Born Ya', Pluto also recorded the famed 'Dat', with backing from the Now Generation Band, a group formed by the late Geoffrey Chung, alongside his brother Mickey 'Mao' Chung with Val Douglas, Lloyd 'Tin Legs' Adams, Earl 'Wire' Lindo and, albeit briefly, a young Horace 'Augustus Pablo' Swaby. The group were one of the top session bands of the day and were frequently employed to record for newly formed Wild Flower label, a collective set up to release productions from Paul Khouri, Lloyd Charmers and Derrick Harriott. Paul Khouri had produced most of Pluto's hits and was the son of the founder of the aforementioned Federal Studios. This studio is accredited by some as the birthplace of Rocksteady and while such statements are always arguable, it was at Federal where the respected singer Hopeton Lewis cut 'Take It Easy' early in 1967. Meanwhile Wild Flower's first release was Ken Boothe's 'Everything I Own', a recordings that topped the UK Pop chart and led to releases such as Bob Andy's 'Fire Burning' and Derrick Harriott's 'Look Over Your Shoulder', alongside many hits from the aforementioned Ernie Smith, Tinga Stewart and of course, Pluto. Through a link with Trojan the label released 'Original Wildflower Hits' (TRLS 101), featuring Pluto along with the label's top performers. While with the collective, the singer relished a series of plaudits for his work, with notable tracks at this time including a fine version of Bob Marley's 'I Shot The Sheriff', alongside 'Letter From Miami' that featured on his album debut 'Pluto' (PL 1002) and the sublime 'If I Don't Get You Back Again'.
Meanwhile 'Dat' was released in London on the newly formed Opal label, resulting in the singer hitting the number six slot on the UK Pop chart in February 1976. In the UK the song was regarded as a novelty hit, although it was in fact a parody of the financial Catch 22 situation faced by ghetto people living in the Jamaican capital. Spurred on by the phenomenal success of 'Dat', Trojan's A&R people realised that they had licensed his earlier hit 'Ram Goat Liver', which they promptly re-released, resulting in Pluto's second UK chart entry, the record peaking at 43, two months after the singer's initial appearance on the chart. Further recordings from this period covered a diversity of subjects, including 'Gimme', 'Ride `Em Cowboy' and 'Winston Spree', alongside a series of cover versions including 'Natty Dread', 'Laughter In the Rain', 'Your Kiss Is Sweet' and 'Jambalaya'.
Although little was heard of Pluto internationally, he continued recording locally and in 1982 returned to the global stage with a re-release of 'Your Honour', which peaked at 19 in the British Pop listings. Surprisingly, the follow-up, 'I Man Bitter', while almost equally as popular somehow failed to chart. Both tracks were featured on the singer's next album, 'Pluto Again' (KRK 3003) that also featured his other earlier hits, alongside 'Dancing Mood', 'Dis Ya Hard Time Can't Last', 'Head Above The Water', 'Reggae Tonight' and 'What Da'.
By this time, somewhat contrary to his assertions in 'I Man Born Ya', the singer moved to Miami, where he performed regularly with his band, Pluto & Co. In 1997 Pluto was a guest of honour on Ernie Smith's celebration of 30 years in the business, performing alongside Ken Lazarus and the surviving members of the Now Generation band at the Pegasus Hotel in Jamaica. The prestigious event was attended by Jamaica's Governor General and led to a series of concerts including a highly praised tour of the Caribbean with Ernie Smith and Ken Lazarus.
Just before the new millennium, Pluto teamed up with the veteran Jamaican singer, Bolivar who topped the island's chart with 'Woman A Ginal' in the early seventies. Both singers shared a love of life in Florida and recruited Trevor Lopez for the release of the concise 'Reggae Jamming' that featured ten alternate versions of Jamaican favourites.
In 2001, Pluto again performed alongside Ernie Smith, although this time they were joined on stage by veteran singer/producer/musician, Lloyd. The trio performed at the ever-popular Heineken Startime events for an Independence Showcase that also included performances from the Abyssinians and Eric Donaldson. Also, as part of the 'Jamaica 40' celebrations, the Kingston-based newspaper, the Daily Gleaner sponsored a Top 40 covering the islands period of independence. The public were invited to vote for their favourite hit recorded between 1962 and 2002, resulting in a hit list comprised of Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dancehall and Ragga hits, including releases by Sizzla, the Wailers, Shabba Ranks and Desmond Dekker. Pluto scored twice with 'I Man Born Ya', which held the number twenty-two slot, and 'Ram Goat Liver', that was a little further down the listing at twenty-six. The singer was in good company, as not surprisingly Bob Marley topped the chart, closely followed by Jimmy Cliff.