The Wailers are on a run down the coastline of California – a rag-tag band of rastas putting on extraordinary shows in front of meager audiences at clubs that closed their doors long before many of you were born. Ride Natty Ride. In tow for this west coast run is self-appointed vocal coach, manager, spiritual guide, “and father-figure to the young dreads, Joe Higgs. “The Godfather of Reggae.” A struggling reggae musician from Trenchtown, Higgs was part of the duo ‘Higgs and Wilson’ together with Roy Wilson. He is perhaps most famous though for being the man who mentored young singers in his yard, and began working with Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, and Garth Dennis in 1959. In fact, it was at one of these informal music lessons held in Trench Town, that the Wailers were introduced to eachother. Marley would acknowledged later on that Higgs had been a most influential figure for him, while Higgs describes being the guy who taught them their craft and certain voice technique. Higgs has replaced Bunny Wailer for this tour because Bunny had recently decided to leave the group.
While in Los Angeles, they are interviewed by freelance journalist Wanda Coleman for the fledgling L.A. Free Press. She describes meeting Bob in his room at the Vagabond Hotel in Hollywood in her book ‘Native In A Strange Land.’
“Bob Marley was staying at the Vagabond Motel in Hollywood. I wondered if it would look like that flea bag he was staying in the last time I interviewed him. Things had really been uncool that day. Not only did the tape cartridge in the recorder louse up, but the Wailers had an abundance of ganja on hand and were busy tuning in. I was so uptight about being busted the doors were wide open that I could barely concentrate on the interview. I had been told Marley had to stay where there was a kitchen available since food for vegetarians on the road is a major problem. When I arrived I checked out the joint. Hmmmm. Not bad at all. It wasn’t the Beverly Wilshire, but…. Marley was in bed when I got there. He was dressed, lying across the bed napping. The Wailers were in and about, and there was still an abundance of ganja. While he got himself together, I set up the tape recorder, cursing it silently daring it to cross me this time. I looked around for a place to sit, put the tape recorder next to Marley on the bed and sat down on the floor beside it so the microphone could pick up my questions.
Marley is fair skinned: about 5’9″, not so much a thin build as a small one. His eyes appear hazel, flecks of gray. His hair is medium brown, styled in the massive dreadlocks worn by Jamaica’s Rastafarians. I wanted to touch them, but resisted temptation. Periodically, as we talk, Marley habitually ran his hands through, rather, over his locks. Between my Black slang and his Jamaican patois, we had difficulty understanding each other.
Getting this from the tape onto paper was murder.”
LA FREE PRESS, DECEMBER 21, 1973