Officially the nicest guy in the reggae industry, it is with great respect that I upload Norman Grant’s entire output for Virgin Frontline released between 1978 and 1979. Two excellent showcase LP’s showing the wonderful harmony’s that this reggae outfit produced. The third in the trilogy of Twinkle Brothers late 1970’s recorded UK released LP’s became available in 1980 and was entitled ‘Countryman’. Indeed a fine LP but that LP was released on the plain Virgin label, so I left it off this post!
Norman Grant is still a fine man, polite and kind to this Penguin at all times, and he still continues to perform to this day! Good on him.
This post dedicated to Jock, not the ‘Dub Massacre’ series released in the 1990’s but vintage Twinkle never the less.
Text below courtesy of reggaelicious.pbworks.com and reggaenews.co.uk
The Twinkle Brothers were formed in the early 60’s in Falmouth, Trelawney, Jamaica. Their first success was when they won the Trelawney Mento Festival in 1962. For six consecutive years they won at their parish level. In 1968 they won two gold medals in the all island competition; Norman Grant for best solo and the Twinkle Brothers for best group. Norman said about these years;
“We won at our parish level from ’62 right up on to ’68 we won two gold medals. In the all island. I won as a solo artist and also as a group, as Twinkle Brothers. So there was two gold medals in yunno the whole Island. In ’69 we won again and in 1970 we took part in the festival song contest. It was like Toots & Maytals ‘Wat a Bam Bam’. Desmond Dekker and the Aces. We came third that year. ‘Boom Shacka Lacka’ won. Hopeton Lewis. But yunno, as I say. Within the whole things was also like election. With the festival song It was politics. Where you from? From when we did the shows everybody love us. But when we came to the voting it was political. But it was still good for us because we made our name now. Proving that we where in a different style and category of our own. “
In 1970 the Twinkle Brothers started recording for Bunny Lee and released a couple of acclaimed singles, the first being the festival song ‘You Can Do It Too’. They did approximately 14 tracks for Bunny Lee with songs such as ‘Not Who You Know’, ‘Miss Labba Labba’, ‘Sweet Young Thing Like You’, ‘Best Is Yet To Come’ and Normans solo effort ‘Miss World’. Bunny Lee also helped the Twinkle Brothers in getting a session with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry for whom they did a couple of tracks of which only one got released, ‘Reggae For Days’.
During the years 1973 and 1974 they worked with Phil Pratt doing the songs ‘Friends’, ‘No Big Thing’ and ‘Do You Own Thing’. In 1975 their debut album, ‘Rasta Pon Top’, was released and shortly after in ’75 Norman Grant joined the Sonny Bradshaw Band (with Dean Fraser) in a tour to Guatemala, Mexico.
It was also in the mid 70’s that Norman Grant opened up his record store in Falmouth.
By 1976 their second album, ‘Do Your Own Thing’ (also got released in 1977 as ‘Miss Labba Labba’) was released. It further showed the roots Norman Grants vocals had in soul music. The following year in 1978 they got signed to Virgin Frontline and released the album ‘Love’. The odd choice of releasing it as a 10″ LP raised quite a few peoples eye brows in the record stores but it soon got released as a 12″ release with a couple of more songs added to the playlist, but now on Normans own Twinkle imprint. The second album on Virgin Frontline was ‘Praise Jah’ (1979). Shortly after this the Twinkle Brothers, the Gladiators and U-Roy got transfered to Virgin Records as Frontline got terminated. They released the album ‘Countrymen’ in 1980. It was their last release with Virgin.
After the Twinkle Brothers got dropped by Virgin Frontline (that had by now decimated their reggae output tremendously) Norman Grant focused mainly releasing music on his own Twinkle label that now had moved its headquarters to the UK.
In 1980 when Jacob Miller passed away Norman Grant joined Inner Circle upon arriving from an American tour. He toured with Inner Circle for a short while but no recordings where done with Norman on the vocals. He was soon back with the Twinkle Brothers.
The late 70’s also saw Norman Grant working together with Jah Shaka, cutting dubplates for him and soon also releasing proper records. They released two albums with Jah Shaka the first one being ‘The Right Way’ (1984) and the second one being ‘Rasta Surface’ (1991). The album ‘Underground’ (1982) also featured productions by Jah Shaka. It was the Twinkle Riddim Section that backed Shaka on his recording ‘Revelation 18’.
Interview with Norman Grant – Twinkle Brothers
As I travel my path of life I truly feel blessed to do the works I do. Meeting up with Twinkle Brothers again after nearly ten years was just another blessing. We last meet up at Milliondollar Club in Wolverhampton. Grant said “Me never know it’s been so long”. He firstly told me that Ralston was back home in California USA, they had just finished touring South America, but he would be singing Jehovah for him. This track can be found on the album ‘All The Hits’. It’s a must-have album if you’re a real reggae buff. Previously the brothers had been together doing the normal festival circuit. Twinkle have been performing on the international circuit of festivals for the past ten years, the festivals seem to be evolving into bigger events every year.
Grant said “it is nice to do an event like this evening at the Drum it’s more personal so we can get closer to the people”. Grant was looking forward to doing other stuff apart from the hits. He said “I know de musics been playing cos like there’s lots of sound systems round these parts that’s heavy weight that play roots cos twinkle brothers plays roots reggae. We are still underground in comparison to other major players in the industry”. “The way I put music out I put the message out weather the thing sell or not because in the long run it will sell, some songs take longer to sell than others. I’m not in it for the quick fix”.
So you’re really in it for the love of the music. “Really that’s how we started out. I haven’t done any other job all my life so it is also my business you know. I’ve been paid to sing since I was ten. We started out singing in competitions in 1962, when Jamaica got its independence. These competitions were called Pop and Mento festival and we represented our parish. We won gold as solo artist and as a group we won gold medals from 1962 to 69” .That puts you on 4 decades in the industry. “I think I was doing it before that in the hotels with different bands. I think all these things help me with my melodies and to write my own songs, because a lot of people use other people’s melodies without even knowing it.”
Your style of music is Shaka style – that heavy rootsy style. “Well Shaka style of music was around before Shaka” is what Grant was trying to tell me without taking back anything from Jah Shaka sound system. ” I made my first record for Beverly’s in 1964 – you know Lesley Kong”. Now there’s a man I’d like to meet.
Grant went on and listed some of the artists that worked with Kong. He also says that once you find your own style of music you will stick with it. Sometimes you got to create a style but mostly you just go with it. I asked if Ralston brings the American influence in to the songs and Grant said “no not really because I do most of the writing. Once you have that style you want be influenced by other things. Once you create a market your fans expect you to do it. If you switch you’ll lose your fans.
Talking about albums Grant filled me in with more datails of his career. What’s your label called now because I’m thinking Rasta Pon Top? “Its Twinkle. The first album out was, ‘Rasta Pon Top’ it was put out on the Grounation label in 1974 that’s when I first came to England. We were working with Bunny Lee in 1971 even Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. We did some songs for Dynamics. We were doing it even without thinking about the money. We had to rehearse because even if it was only one track we had to do it in one take. You do what you have to do”.
We talked about music and the youth of today and I said how some of the youths of today’s easy come easy go world think they don’t have to work and everything will be dropped in there laps. ”if you check out the biographies of these stars you will see just how hard they do work.” Grant went on to say that he worked with all the new reggae artists coming out of Jamaica and where ever else they come from to do the reggae festivals, but one artist he calls by name is Fantom Mojah. This was the very same artist that Gramps from Morgan Heritage came up with when I asked what artist you rate that is coming out right now. I know a lot of DJ’s that rate Mojah as a good up and coming artist. Grant also named artists like Aisha who has a new album out on Ariwa music on Mad Professor’s Ariwa label. “The album is the best I’ve ever heard from Aisha, I love it – she has defiantly grown.
Rebecca, Alison, KD Levi & Steve Santana are some of the artist that Twinkle brothers have out all over the world. Grant said, “I often drop in the local record shop to listen to what is out. With my music as soon as I got 14 tracks mastered I put it out but I also put out 7” and 12” There’s always stuff out there for the crowd that support Twinkle.”
We talked about what is out there and Grant said “the DJ thing has run its cause. Back in the old days we used tell the artist that couldn’t sing, You cant sing that’s why them become DJ’s or sing jay’s” That’s the good thing about reggae it takes you so many ways because all over the world there are reggae communities. All I try to do is do my thing I don’t see myself as changing but every day I grow”.
Twinkles advice for you is “remember there is not just one type of people in this world, it’s a melting pot so people have to learn to live with one another, with your neighbours and brothers and sisters. I’m into peace and love in my lyrics. Even when I sing reality I have to remember that lots of people are listening to the music. I sing about how I feel and you must remember that you can get three different meanings from one lyric. Music can influence people so I always try to remember that because as a singer you got to be diplomatic, not like a politician or a preacher, but you still have to know how to get your message across, yah know’ them say Soft answer turneth away wrath’ it’s just how you deliver it. Right now we are living in an aggressive time even the leaders when they give a speech they are aggressive in there speech and the preacher is rar rar in his sermon.” Grant roared like a lion. He’s telling us we are here on borrowed times. “Well really we need more love and love haffi share. Yes and really only the rasta man preach peace and love all dis time”. What is your next project after this? “I’m off to Jamaica to recharge my batteries but I will be back to do some dates in Italy then ill be back in England for Christmas.”