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Bob Marley and the Wailers

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Bob Marley and the Wailers
Bob Marley and the Wailers performing in 1980
Bob Marley and the Wailers performing in 1980
Background information
Also known as
  • Bob Marley & the Wailers
  • The Teenagers
  • The Wailing Rudeboys
  • The Wailing Wailers
  • The Wailers
OriginKingston, Jamaica
DiscographyBob Marley and the Wailers discography
Years active1963–1981
Spinoff ofThe Upsetters
Past members

Bob Marley and the Wailers (previously known as The Wailers and prior to that The Wailing Rudeboys, The Wailing Wailers and The Teenagers) were a Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae band. The founding members, in 1963, were Bob Marley (Robert Nesta Marley), Peter Tosh (Winston Hubert McIntosh), and Bunny Wailer (Neville Livingston).

During 1970 and 1971, Wailer, Marley and Tosh worked with renowned reggae producers Leslie Kong and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Before signing to Island Records in 1972, the band released four albums. Two additional albums were produced before Tosh and Wailer departed from the band in 1974, citing dissatisfaction with their treatment by the label and ideological disagreements. Marley continued with a new lineup, which included the I-Threes, and went on to release seven more albums. Marley passed away from cancer in 1981, at which point the group disbanded.

The Wailers were a groundbreaking ska and reggae group, noted for songs such as "Simmer Down", "Trenchtown Rock", "Nice Time", "War", "Stir It Up" and "Get Up, Stand Up".


Early years[edit]

The band formed in 1963 following self-taught musician Peter Tosh (1944–1987) meeting the singers Bunny Wailer (1947–2021) and Bob Marley (1945–1981). They developed a ska vocal group called The Teenagers. The group soon changed their name to The Wailing Rudeboys and then to The Wailing Wailers before settling on The Wailers.[1]

The band topped the Jamaican charts in 1964 with "Simmer Down", which was recorded at Studio One with the rhythm section from the studio house band The Skatalites. "Simmer Down" was a message to the Jamaican rude boys to "simmer down, oh cool your temper" and became an overnight hit. The record played an essential role in changing the musical agenda in Jamaica from imitating foreign artists, to capturing the lives and spirit of Jamaica.[2]

Wailer, Marley and Tosh recorded with Lee "Scratch" Perry and his studio band the Upsetters. They also worked with renowned reggae producer Leslie Kong, who used his studio musicians, called Beverley's All-Stars (Jackie Jackson, Paul Douglas, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Rad Bryan, Hux Brown) to record the songs that would be released as an album titled The Best of The Wailers.[3]

By late 1963, singers Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith had joined the group. The line-up consisted of Braithwaite on vocals, Marley on guitar, Tosh on keyboard, Wailer on percussion, with Smith and or Kelso on backing vocals. Kelso remembered those early recordings fondly:

After we rehearsed, under this big mango tree on Second Street in Trench Town, the next morning, I think it was in late 1963, we went to Studio 1 and recorded Simmer Down and some other songs. It was Peter, Bunny, Junior, Bob, and me. I will never forget. Sid Bucknor was the engineer, and Coxsone was also there along with Roland and Jackie Mittoo. We recorded Simmer Down about 10 times, probably because Dodd wanted to get the best cut, she said.[4]

In 1965, Kelso left the band. Marley, Tosh, Wailer and Braithwaite took turns on lead vocals.[5] Braithwaite left shortly after providing lead vocals for the single "It Hurts to be Alone", leaving the band consisting of the trio of Wailer, Marley and Tosh.[5] The band's first full-length album, The Wailing Wailers, was released the same year, a compilation of tracks recorded at different times.

In 1966, they created a rocksteady record label Wail N Soul M.[6] Constantine "Dream" Walker provided backing vocals from 1966 to 1967.[citation needed]

In May 1970, the band recorded with renowned reggae producer Leslie Kong; producing The Best of the Wailers, which they released later in 1971 as their fourth album. Over the rest of 1970 and 1971, the band worked with Lee 'Scratch' Perry, producing the bands second and third albums, Soul Rebels (1970) and Soul Revolution Part II (1971). During this time, the Upsetters members Aston "Family Man" Barrett (bass) and his brother Carlton Barrett (drums)[7] were recruited as instrumental backing for The Wailers.[citation needed]

Signing to Island Records[edit]

In 1972, while in London, the Wailers asked their road manager Brent Clarke to introduce them to Chris Blackwell, who had licensed some of their Coxsone releases for his Island Records. The Wailers felt they were due royalties from these releases. Blackwell was not convinced, but he was impressed by their character. He thought they "exuded power and self-possession" despite being poor. Despite not having seen the band perform live, he advanced them £4,000 to record an album. He did not even require them to sign anything, feeling they deserved a break.[8][9] Jimmy Cliff, Island's top reggae star, had recently left the label. His departure may have primed Blackwell to find a replacement. In Marley, Blackwell recognized the elements needed to snare the rock audience: "I was dealing with rock music, which was really rebel music. I felt that would really be the way to break Jamaican music. But you needed someone who could be that image. When Bob walked in, he really was that image."[10] The Wailers returned to Jamaica to record at Harry J's in Kingston, which resulted in the foundational tracks what would make up the album Catch a Fire. Primarily recorded on an eight-track, Catch a Fire marked the first time a reggae band had access to a state-of-the-art studio and were accorded the same care as their rock 'n' roll peers.[10]

The tracks were taken to Island Studios in London and worked on by Blackwell, with Marley supervising. Blackwell desired the tracks to appeal to rock audiences in the United Kingdom and United States, to whom the band would be novel.[11][9] To this end, he made the tracks sound "more of a drifting, hypnotic-type feel than a reggae rhythm".[12] He restructured Marley's mixes and arrangements. The tracks were overdubbed with the help of Wayne Perkins on guitar and John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboard.[11] The mix deviated from the bass-heavy sound of Jamaican music, and two tracks were omitted.[10] The album released in April 1973, closely followed by Burnin' in October 1973.

Tosh and Livingston departure and I-Threes[edit]

The I-Threes from left to right: Judy Mowatt, Rita Marley, and Marcia Griffiths

In 1974, Livingston left the band due to various disagreements with Blackwell, including not getting paid for the English leg of their Burnin' tour, and his refusal to play in the "freak clubs" that Island had booked the band. Tosh believed that producer Blackwell, whom he unfavorably called "Chris Whiteworst", was responsible for the bad relationship between the band members. He thought Blackwell favored Marley over the rest of the band, giving him more attention and money,[10] and with the decision to release their albums under the name "Bob Marley and the Wailers" instead of "The Wailers".[citation needed]

Marley continued with a new line-up, which included the Aston Barrett (bass), Carlton Barrett (drums), Junior Marvin (lead guitar), Al Anderson (lead guitar), Tyrone Downie (keyboards), Earl "Wya" Lindo (keyboards), and Alvin "Seeco" Patterson on percussion. Additionally, the I-Threes provided female backing vocals. The three I-Three members were Marley's wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.[13] Their name is a spin on the Rastafarian "I and I" concept of the Godhead within each person.

The album Natty Dread was released in 1974, the first without Tosh and Livingston and with the I-Threes.

Perry released two compilation albums for Trojan Records in 1974, Rasta Revolution and African Herbsman, which contained songs from Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution Part II, respectively, and he was the copyright holder of several songs from these albums.[14] These changes caused a major dispute between Marley and Perry, when the former saw the albums, six months after their publication, in the Half Way Road in England.[15]

One of the last performances that included Marley was in 1980 at Madison Square Garden. His final live show was performed at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh. Marley died in a Miami hospital in 1981.

Later years[edit]

The music of Marley, Tosh and Wailer enjoyed considerable success as reggae music continued to gain popularity during 1980s.

Carlton Barrett and Tosh died (both murdered) in 1987.[16][17]

The Wailers Band was formed by Aston Barrett in 1989.

Braithwaite was murdered in 1999.[18]

The Original Wailers was formed by Anderson and Marvin in 2008, Cherry Smith died in 2008.[19][20]

Earl Lindo died in 2017.[21]

Alvin "Seeco" Patterson died in 2021.[22]

Bunny Wailer (Livingston) died in 2021.[23]

Keyboardist Tyrone Downie died in 2022.[24]

Aston Barrett died in February 2024.[25]

Donald Kinsey died in February 2024, on Bob Marley's birthday, February 6, three days after the loss of Aston Barrett.[26]

Beverley Kelso and Constantine Walker are the last surviving members of the group's line-ups.


In 2001, Catch a Fire was reissued as a double album, with the first part being the previously unreleased 'Jamaican' versions of the song without Blackwell's overdubs and the second part being the album as it was released in 1972.[11]

In March 2013, an overview of most of the music made by The Wailers prior to their signing to Island Records was published by the Roots Reggae Library.[27]

Band members[edit]



  • Apr–Jul 1973: Catch a Fire Tour (England, USA)
  • Oct–Nov 1973: Burnin' Tour (USA, England)
  • Jun–Jul 1975: Natty Dread Tour (USA, Canada, England)
  • Apr–Jul 1976: Rastaman Vibration Tour (USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, France, England, Wales)
  • May–Jun 1977: Exodus Tour (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, England)
  • May–Aug 1978: Kaya Tour (USA, Canada, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium)
  • Apr–May 1979: Babylon by Bus Tour (Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii)
  • Oct 1979 – Jan 1980: Survival Tour (USA, Canada, Trinidad/Tobago, Bahamas, Gabon, Zimbabwe)
  • May–Sep 1980: Uprising Tour (Switzerland, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, USA)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Grant, Colin (2011). I & I: the natural mystics: Marley, Tosh and Wailer. London: Jonathan Cape. p. 104. ISBN 978-0-224-08608-0. OCLC 660519260.
  2. ^ "Bob Marley | Biography, Songs, Albums, Death, & Facts | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  3. ^ Moskowitz, David V. (2007). "Rebel Music, 1970–1975." The Words and Music of Bob Marley. Westport, Connecticut, United States: Praeger. p. 23. ISBN 9780275989354.
  4. ^ Bob Marley and the Wailers – From ‘Scratch’ to Coxsone to Island
  5. ^ a b Vibes, Mr T. at Reggae (27 May 2016). "The Wailers - The Wailing Wailers". Reggae Vibes. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  6. ^ "Wail'n Soul'm". Rate Your Music. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  7. ^ Lee Scratch Perry Interview, New Musical Express, 17 November 1984
  8. ^ Campbell, Howard (22 March 2011). "Bunny Wailer sets the record straight". The Gleaner. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  9. ^ a b Morley, Chris Blackwell and Paul (29 May 2022). "'Fuck, This Is the Real Thing': Chris Blackwell Remembers Making Bob Marley's 'Catch a Fire'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d Hagerman, Brent (February 2005). "Chris Blackwell: Savvy Svengali". Exclaim.ca. Retrieved 29 December 2010.
  11. ^ a b c "Bob Marley and the Wailers: Catch a Fire / Burnin', PopMatters". PopMatters. 11 June 2001. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
  12. ^ Williams, Richard. Catch a Fire. Catch a Fire (Liner notes) (2001 reissue ed.).
  13. ^ Harris, Craig. "Biography: I-Threes". Allmusic. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
  14. ^ Timothy White (2 May 2006). Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. Henry Holt. pp. 222–223. ISBN 9780805080865. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  15. ^ Timothy White (2 May 2006). Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley. Henry Holt. p. 224. ISBN 9780805080865. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  16. ^ "The Tragic Case of Carlton Barrett". LEGENDARY REGGAE. 8 September 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  17. ^ "Remembering Peter Tosh on 9/11". jamaica-gleaner.com. 11 September 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  18. ^ Katz, David (23 June 1999). "Junior Braithwaite". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  19. ^ Isger, Sonja (12 October 2008). "Ermine Cherry Dempsey-Barker, former member of the Wailers, dies". The Palm Beach Post. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Local News: West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Martin & St. Lucie Counties | the Palm Beach Post". Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
  21. ^ "Earl "Wyaa" Lindo dies at 64". IrieFm.net. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Wailer Seeco Patterson dead at 90". 3 November 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  23. ^ "Bunny Wailer, reggae luminary and founder of The Wailers, has died at 73". www.cbsnews.com. 3 March 2021. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  24. ^ "Tyrone Downie dies in Jamaica". The Gleaner. Retrieved 7 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Aston 'Family Man' Barrett, Bassist and Rhythmic Backbone of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Dead at 77". Rolling Stone. 3 February 2024. Archived from the original on 3 February 2024. Retrieved 3 February 2024.
  26. ^ Piner, Chros. "Bob Marley and The Wailers Guitarist Donald Kinsey Passes Away 3 Days After Fellow Band Member's Death". American Songwriter. Retrieved 21 February 2024.
  27. ^ de Vries, Anton E. (2013). "The Wailers". roots-reggae-library.com. Retrieved 8 January 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]