Like many before them and many afterwards Albert George Murphy, better known as Clive Tennors, and Alvin 'Cheng Cheng' started out as a vocal duo harmonising locally and dreaming of one day making a record but in 1965 Alvin moved on. In 1967 Clive teamed up with Maurice 'Professor' Johnson to become The Tennor Twins and not long afterwards they recruited Norman Davis and became a trio.
'In musical terms the special qualities of trio harmonising stem for the trio's penultimate flexibility. Harmonies can be relatively full - a triad fulfils the minimum requirements for a chord - but never opulent. Yet the harmonies create a very open sound with wide intervals or, alternatively, two harmony singers can drive the lead with dynamic two part harmonies.'Randall Grass
At the time they were taking their first tentative steps towards a musical career The Tennors found themselves at the centre of a pivotal change in the nature of Jamaican music as the frantic pace of Ska slowed down to the statelier Rock Steady beat. The Trinidadian guitarist, Lyn Taitt, was a key figure in this development and the bass in Rock Steady no longer gave equal emphasis to every beat but instead played a repeated pattern that syncopated the rhythm. The rhythmic focus shifted to the bass and the drums where it has remained ever since. Although Rock Steady lasted for less than two years the extent to which it influenced the sound of Reggae music is incalculable and as the horn aggregation dominated sound of Ska retreated vocalists, influenced by their USA counterparts such as The Drifters and The Impressions, began to gain a hitherto unheard of prominence. During the Ska era music alone had been the dominant driving force and had provided an unspoken expression of solidarity but the space that Rock Steady gave to vocalists meant that they were able to voice the hopes and fears of their contemporaries. The lyrics not only confirmed the existence but also gave an identity to the sufferers for the singers invariably came from same deprived neighbourhoods in Western Kingston's teeming ghettos. A new wave of vocal groups including The Clarendonians, Alton Ellis & The Flames, The Ethiopians, The Gaylads, The Jamaicans, The Melodians, The Royals, The Techniques, The Wailers and The Tennors began 'to take over now because their time had come.'
The Tennors' debut recording 'Pressure And Slide'/'Pressure And The Slide' for Clement 'Coxson' Dodd at Studio One was a massive hit. One of the biggest selling records of 1967 its popularity has never faded since it was first released and it has joined the hallowed ranks of songs whose rhythms have become staples of Reggae's musical vocabulary to be versioned over time after time after time. Sugar Minott's beautiful late seventies version of the rhythm 'Oh Mr. DC' was instrumental in introducing the Dance Hall style when classic rhythms were adopted and 'updated' with new lyrics. Unfortunately what Sugar had done so brilliantly many lesser performers did a lot less well and what had started out as a promising new direction would eventually turn into a musical dead end. This was to be the group's only recording for Studio One and after the sad and untimely death of Maurice 'Professor' Johnson The Tennors disbanded in disarray.
They reformed the following year with Milton Wilson as the third member and hit the big time again with 'Ride Your Donkey'. This proved incredibly popular and inspired version after version while records such as 'Donkey Man' and 'Donkey Returns' echoed the theme with The Tennors themselves entering into the spirit with their double entendre version 'Khaki'. 'Ride Your Donkey' and 'Khaki' were self-productions for their own Tennors label and The Tennors were among the first artists to appreciate the advantages of controlling the rights to their work. Although they occasionally recorded for other producers, including 'Hopeful Village' and 'Weather Report' (a version of a Simon & Garfunkel song) for Duke Reid at Treasure Isle, the bulk of their output was self-produced and included instrumental versions of some of their most popular rhythms. Norman Davis left the group for a solo career soon after 'Ride Your Donkey' was released and was replaced by Ronnie Davis who had previously sung with the Westmorlites. This combination of the Tennors, at times aided and augmented by the diverse talents of Peter Austin, Jackie Bernard, 'Fats' Brown, George Dekker, Billy Dyce, Eric 'Monty' Morris, Nehemiah Reid, Lloyd Ricketts and Howard Spencer (although not all at once) recorded over fifty titles that included some of the most memorable vocal group performances of the Rock Steady and early Reggae era.
If The Tennors had never made another record after 'Pressure And Slide' and 'Ride Your Donkey' their place would still be assured forever in the history of Jamaican music but they made many more records that deserve to be celebrated every bit as much as these two classics. This copious and comprehensive compilation gives an insight into what The Tennors were really capable of and the sound of their delicate harmonies over a smooth rocking beat sums up all that is good and true in Jamaican music. Harmony singing persisted in Jamaica long after it had faded from prominence in the USA but, as the seventies progressed, the record buying public's preponderance for deejays and dub made it increasingly difficult for Reggae vocal groups to continue and The Tennors disbanded in 1975.