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The Gladiators (band)

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The Gladiators
The Gladiators in concert in Rockstore, Montpellier, France, in November 2006
The Gladiators in concert in Rockstore, Montpellier, France, in November 2006
Background information
OriginKingston, Jamaica
GenresRoots reggae
Years active1968–present
MembersGallimore Sutherland
Alan Griffiths
Anthony Griffiths
Clinton Rufus
Vernon Sutherland
Glen Williams
Mark Gooden
Past membersAlbert Griffiths
Clinton Fearon
Errol Grandison
David Webber

The Gladiators are a Jamaican roots reggae band, most popular during the 1970s. The core was Albert Griffiths (lead guitar and vocals; born 1945, died December 15, 2020), Clinton Fearon (bass guitar and vocals) and Gallimore Sutherland (rhythm guitar and vocals). Their two most famous albums are Trenchtown Mix Up (1976) and Proverbial Reggae (1978) with songs such as "Hearsay", "Jah Works", "Dreadlocks the Time is Now". "Mix Up", "Music Makers from Jamaica", and "Soul Rebel" – a song written by The Wailers. Gladiators also cooperated with the toaster U-Roy.


Albert Griffiths, singer and guitar player, was the founder of the reggae group The Gladiators. After some success with the singles "You Are The Girl" (a b-side to The Ethiopians' hit record "Train to Skaville") in 1967, he recruited his childhood friends David Webber and Errol Grandison in 1968 to form the original Gladiators vocal group. The group's name was allegedly suggested by a fellow bus passenger during the time of their first recordings.[1]

The group's first major success was with the single "Hello Carol" in 1969, for producer Coxsone Dodd, which topped the Jamaican music charts. Shortly afterwards, in 1969, Webber was stricken with illness and was replaced by Clinton Fearon, one of Griffiths' proteges. Similarly Grandison left the group in 1973 for family commitments and was replaced by Gallimore Sutherland.[2]

During the early 1970s the Gladiators cut numerous records for various producers such as, Lloyd Daley and Lee Perry, but it was their recordings for Dodd at Studio One that became the biggest hits. During this time at Studio One the Gladiators' hits included "Bongo Red", "Jah Jah Go Before Us", "Mr. Baldwin", and "Roots Natty".[3]

The success of these recordings garnered the attention of Britain-based Virgin Records, who gave the group their first major recording contract in 1976.[3] Their debut album released on Virgin was the Tony Robinson produced Trenchtown Mix Up (1976), which included revisions of many of their early hits.[3] They followed this effort with Proverbial Reggae (1978).[3] At the time Gladiators was a band with Albert Griffiths on lead guitar and vocals, Clinton Fearon on bass guitar and vocals, Gallimore Sutherland on rhythm guitar and vocals, Sly Dunbar on drums, Lloyd Parks on bass, Uziah "Sticky" Thompson on percussion, Ansel Collins on keyboards and Earl 'Wire' Lindo on synthesizer. Errol Thompson and Joe Gibbs were their engineer and mixer, and Robinson the record producer.

Dodd and Studio One also released Studio One Presenting the Gladiators, (1978)[4] a compilation of some early Gladiators' records released 1968 – 1974. The Gladiators' next two albums on Virgin were Naturality (1978) and Sweet So Till (1979).[3] The group's next album Gladiators was recorded at Coach House Studios in the UK with local producer Eddy Grant. It was the first Gladiators' album on which no member of the group played any of the instruments, as a few members of the band Aswad were brought in. The album did worse than their previous work, and they were subsequently dropped from their contract with Virgin.[3] Virgin subsequently released two compilation albums Vital Selection in 1981 and Dreadlocks The Time Is Now in 1983.[1]

At the time, roots reggae was declining.[2] A new type of reggae – based on drum machine, sampler, synthesizers and organ – occurred in the 1980s; ragga. One of the reasons for ragga's swift propagation is that it is generally easier, and less expensive to produce, than reggae performed on traditional musical instruments.[5] Nevertheless, the Gladiators released eleven studio albums in the 1980s. They soon found a home at US-based Nighthawk Records and released Symbol of Reality in late 1982 followed by Serious Thing in 1984.[3] One year later the Gladiators changed labels again, this time moving to Heartbeat Records, where they released albums throughout the latter half of the decade. In 1987 Fearon left the group after eighteen years, but Griffiths and Sutherland have continued to release albums on various labels since then.

With the advent of dancehall in the 1990s, the Gladiators only released three studio albums during that decade. Eventually, the Gladiators, Mighty Diamonds, Bunny Wailer, Heptones and Burning Spear had a renaissance. The dancehall artists had to change their profile and baptised their new showmanship as conscious dancehall.[6]

In 2005, the Gladiators released Fathers and Sons which has been regarded as Albert Griffiths' farewell after ill health forced him to retire from touring, with his sons, Alan and Anthony, joining the group.[2]

In June 2013, the group announced that their next album would be a collaboration with deejay Droop Lion, nephew of original Gladiators' member David Webber, performing new versions of some of the group's most popular tracks.[7]


Studio albums[edit]

Album Release Year Label
Trenchtown Mix Up 1976 Virgin Records
Studio One Presenting the Gladiators 1977 Studio One
Proverbial Reggae 1978 Virgin Records
Naturality 1979 Virgin Records
Sweet So Till 1979 Virgin Records
Gladiators 1980 Virgin Records
Babylon Street 1982 Jam Rock Records
Back To Roots 1982 Stunt Sounds
Symbol of Reality 1982 Nighthawk Records
Reggae To Bone 1982 Jam Rock Records
Serious Thing 1984 Nighthawk Records
Show Down Vol. 3 w/ Don Carlos & Gold 1984 Empire Records
Reggae Jamboree 1984 Roots Reggae Library
Country Living 1985 Heartbeat Records
Dread Prophesy w/ The Ethiopians 1986 Nighthawk Records
In Store For You 1988 Heartbeat Records
On The Right Track 1989 Heartbeat Records
Valley of Decision 1991 Heartbeat Records
A True Rastaman 1992 MPO Records
The Storm 1994 Riddim Mu Records
Something a Gwaan 2000 RAS Records
Once Upon A Time in Jamaica 2002 XIII Bis Records
Fathers and Sons 2005 RAS Records
Continuation 2009 Mediacom
Back on Tracks 2014 Utopia

Index of 1966 - 1975 singles and recordings[edit]

Album Songs Label
Bongo Red 12 Roots Reggae Library
Freedom Train 12 Roots Reggae Library
Live Wire 11 Roots Reggae Library
Peace Truce 11 Roots Reggae Library
Watch Out 11 Roots Reggae Library

Compilation and live albums[edit]

Album Release Date Label
Studio One Presenting the Gladiators 1979 Studio One
Vital Selection 1981 Virgin Records
Gladiators By Bus 1982 Jam Rock Records
Live at Reggae Sunsplash w/ Israel Vibration 1982 Genes Records
Dreadlocks The Time Is Now 1983 Virgin Records
A Whole Heap 1989 Heartbeat Records
Full Time 1995 Nighthawk Records
Alive & Fighting 1997 Mediacom Records
At Studio One: Bongo Red 1998 Heartbeat Records
Sold Out 2000 M10 Records
Live in San Francisco 2003 2B1 Records
Europe Tour 2006: Live in Paris 2006 Unknown


  1. ^ a b The Gladiators – The Story Retrieved on 25 March 2008
  2. ^ a b c allmusic.com Biography Retrieved on 25 March 2008
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 981. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  4. ^ Last fm: Studio One Presenting the Gladiators
  5. ^ Allmusic: Ragga genre
  6. ^ Jamaica Gleander: Roots Reggae Revival Archived 4 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine, July 7, 2008.
  7. ^ Morgan, Simone (2013) "The Gladiators back in arena", Jamaica Observer, 16 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013

External links[edit]