sound engineer and musical aesthete
OSBOURNE RUDDOCK aka KING TUBBY
is widely credited with being the original
The results of his experiments in
the early and mid-1970s pervade all areas of contemporary dance
music. KING TUBBY's instrument was the mixing desk, and like jazz
musicians before him, his passion was finding ways to make it do
things that hadn't been done before.
techniques were portrayed in all their glorious splendour, the reggae
music totally transformed and interpreted in Tubbs unique fashion.
curl, swirl, whirl, twirl, explode, corrode, erode, ignite, excite
- upset and agrovate - slipping vibrant echo to shatter the instruments,
and jamming reverberation to re-duplicate the melodies"
...Snoopy, Story Of Dub, Black Echoes, 16th July 1977
"I tell you the
truth. King Tubby never smoke,
I never saw him drink. He was always a smiling man. It was like
the music give him a natural high."
Osbourne Ruddock, 28 January 1941, Kingston, Jamaica,
Died, 6 February 1989, Jamaica, West Indies.
King Tubby grew up around High Holborn Street in Central
Kingston before moving to the capital's Waterhouse district
in 1955. He started repairing radios and by the late 50s
had begun to experiment with sound system amplifiers.
By 1964 he was operating his own Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi,
where he later incorporated a custom reverb and echo facility
into his system. At the same time he was working as disc-cutter
for Duke Reid and it was here that he discovered that
he could make special versions of well-known rocksteady
tunes. By cutting out most of the vocal track, fading
it in at suitable points, reducing the mix down to the
bass only, and dropping other instrumental tracks in or
out, Tubby invented dub. Initially the technique was used
for "specials" or dub plates - custom acetates
made exclusively for sound system use. The spaces left
in the mix allowed sound system DJs to stretch out lyrically,
predating the emergence of US rappers by some years. Record
producers soon began to see the potential of these versions.
Joe Gibbs' engineer, Errol Thompson, working at Randy's
Studio 17, had started employing rhythm versions as b-sides
by 1971. To keep ahead of the competition, Tubby acquired
an old four-track mixing console from Dynamic Studios.
He then introduced further refinements - delay echo, slide
faders, and phasing. By late 1971 he was working with
producers such as Bunny Lee, Lee Perry, Glen Brown, Augustus
Pablo and "Prince" Tony Robinson. The latter
issued records that credited Tubby as mixer, including
"Tubby's In Full Swing", the b-side to a
DJ track by Winston Scotland.
Throughout the 70s Tubby mixed dubs for
all the aforementioned producers, in addition to Roy Cousins,
Yabby You, Winston Riley, Carlton Patterson and Bertram
Brown's Freedom Sounds. His most important work, in terms
of sheer quantity, was with Bunny Lee. Lee used Tubby
for dub and voicing on rhythms he had built elsewhere
with the Aggrovators session band. All the singers who
worked with Lee at this time - Johnny Clarke, Cornell
Campbell, Linval Thompson, Jackie Edwards, Derrick Morgan,
Delroy Wilson, Horace Andy, John Holt and Owen Grey -
made records with Aggrovators rhythms, voiced and mixed
at King Tubby's. Lee began to issue dub albums featuring
Tubby's mixes, and other producers soon followed that
lead. Tubby's name as mixer soon appeared on well over
100 albums. A generation of engineers trained under Tubby's
supervision, including King Jammy and "Prince"
Phillip Smart, both subsequently finding success on their
- from `Ruffn`Tuff Founders Of The Immortal Riddim`
Throughout this period Tubby planned to build his own
studio, and by 1988 he had begun to issue computer-generated
digital music, featuring many of the new-wave ragga singers
and DJs, including Pad Anthony, Courtney Melody, Anthony
Red Rose, Pliers and Ninjaman, as well as established
talents such as Cornell Campbell. Just when it seemed
Tubby was poised to challenge top producers such as Jammy
and Gussie Clarke, tragedy struck.
On 6 February 1989, a lone gunman murdered King Tubby
outside his home,
the motive apparently robbery.
The loss shocked Jamaican music fans and artists. Many
innovations, not only in Jamaican music but in other "dance"
forms as well - the "dub mix", the practice
of DJing extended lyrics over rhythm tracks, the prominence
of bass and drums in the mix - were developed by King
Tubby, both on his sound system and in the studio during
the period 1969-74.
His place as a seminal
figure in the music's development through three decades