featuring roots reggae founder Claudius Linton

Reggae Founder Rediscovered:
After 25-Year Silence, Kingman Is Back

© Walter Carlton

Claudius "Kingman" Linton, considered "one of the greatest reggae singers of all time," has returned to the music scene after a 20-year absence, with his new group Kingman & Jonah. Long-time fans are hailing Linton, creator of the roots reggae vocal style popularized by Culture and Burning Spear, as the "true undiscovered hero of reggae music." The Kingman & Jonah CD "Sign Time" debuts in early 2008 on Sun King Records, following the Nov 07 release of "Claudius Linton Roots Master: The Vintage Roots Reggae Singles Volume One," the first-ever CD reissue compilation of Claudius's 1970s Jamaican hits.

The soulful singer of Jamaican Number One "Crying Time," "Kingman Is Back" and others, Linton walked with the giants of reggae, from the invention of roots reggae in Jamaica's Trenchtown ghetto to reggae's 1970's heyday. Linton is the living history of reggae, from singing lessons with "father of reggae" Joe Higgs (along with fellow students Bob Marley and Peter Tosh) to attending the Rolling Stones' "Goat's Head Soup" recording sessions. During the 1970s, Linton produced a dozen singles, both with his group the Hofner Brothers and solo hits like "Backra Massa" and "Crying Time," which today trades hands for hundreds of dollars. But after recording "Reduce The Arms Race" with famed reggae producer Jack Ruby in 1984, Linton disappeared from the scene.

© Walter Carlton

Today, Kingman is back. A chance meeting on the beach in Negril, Jamaica, brought Linton together with American musician/producer Ian Jones. "Can you tune this thing, sire?" Linton called out to the passing tourist. Jones tuned up Linton's battered Washburn acoustic, and within minutes the two musicians were harmonizing and jamming like old friends. The next day Linton and Jones, christened Kingman & Jonah, were cramped into a tin-roof recording studio to track the first songs for Linton's comeback: the mellow "In The Street" and the elegiac "Baghdad."

In early 2007, Kingman & Jonah entered Bob Marley's Tuff Gong Studios with an all-star roots reggae band to record tracks for their upcoming "Sign Time" album. The players included Ansel Collins, keys, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, drums, Dwight Pinkney, guitar, Keith Francis, bass, Bongo Herman, percussion, Dean Fraser, horns. The recording sessions were also a reunion: Linton hadn't seen his old bandmates in 30 years. A New York documentary crew was on hand to capture the moment, quickly dubbed "the Beuna Vista Social Club of reggae."

Together, Kingman & Jonah have produced new songs with the same irresistible melodies and powerful "conscious" lyrics familiar to fans of Linton's earlier work. These songs speak directly to today's trouble times, just as his classic tunes did three decades ago. Of his 1970s hits, Linton says, "We were telling people of what Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King said; but they wouldn't listen... Today it's Baghdad, today it's Iraq. But it's the same oppression, it's the same urgent message coming through on the new CD."

As Kingman & Jonah sing on their new track "In The Street": "Ain't no border troops can't stop the truth." Kingman is Back!

"A master musician," says producer Jones, "is back and better than ever."