Vivian Jackson AKA “Yabby You” was a man with such unique talent that he continues to make news in reggae circles even today, fourteen years after his death.
It was 1972 when Yabby You gathered Wailers bassist Aston”Family Man” Barrett, drummer Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, and guitarist (and future member of the Wailers) Earl “Chinna” Smith at Lee Perry’s Black Ark to lay down a riddim that would become the foundation of Yabby You and The Prophets’ most enduring anthem. “Jah Vengeance” was voiced at King Tubby’s by The Prophets (Yabby You, Alaric Forbes, Bobby Melody). While some recall Gladiators’ lead singer Albert Griffiths voicing that session as well, Yabby doesn’t address the subject directly in his 1995 interview with David Katz only adding “through me being poor, the man had to look to alternatives. When it was time to record the whole of the persons was like Albert Griffiths….”
Aston “Family Man” Barrett would record many songs backing The Prophets throughout the 1970s. “Run Come Rally” (also laid down at the Black Ark); “Conquering Lion” (credited to Vivian Jackson and the Ralph Brothers and on which Fams plays bass and organ); and the timeless “Love Thy Neighbour” (which is also produced by Fams, then an alternate bass player in Yabby You’s Defenders band which also showcased Robbie Shakespeare when Fams was on tour or in the studio with Bob Marley and the Wailers). He explains:
“[I] use Horsemouth, Chlnna and Family Man. Then Family Man trained Robbie [Shakespeare], and Robbie do that thing named Revolutionary. Whenever me can’t use Family Man me use Robbie.”
(Sly Dunbar and Anthony ‘Benbow’ Creary sat in on drums for Horsey from time to time when he was not available.)
Family Man produced and recorded “Love Thy Neighbour” at Randy’s using Robbie Shakespeare on bass, Carlton Barrett on drums, with Fams taking on rhythm guitar. For the horns arrangement, Fams relied on Vin Gordon’s trombone, Herman Marquis’ clarinets and Dirty Harry’s sax. Interestingly, Fams uses this same riddim for the Wailers’ “Distant Drums.”
As an aside, I love Carly’s drumming on this track, which is my favorite of all of Yabby You’s work. Not being a musician, I am unable to point to the eleme4nts of his drumming that really stand out here except to say that when you hear a roll or fill it sounds so perfectly timed and placed that you cannot imagine anyone else having played it any better.
While Family Man is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and Yabby You’s go-to-guy for organ and keys, it is Earl ‘Bagga‘ Walker who is selected to play organ on tunes like “Anti-Christ” and “Warn The Nation,” most likely because Fams was recording in the studio with Bob Marley. It is clear that Yabby You selected Family Man not only for his musical talents but also for his character, which Yabby praises in an interview with John Masouri (for his book Wailin’ Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers):
“Family Man, when him see that I’m ill, him come every Saturday and cook food and thing. He bring a little bush, buy ganja, but any time him up by Bob Marley and Peter Touch, him stay in the background doing his work, but that is the significance of the tune ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ and Family Man have nuff creativity.”
A review of Yabby You’s DELIVER ME FROM MY ENEMIES which appeared in the December 3, 1977 issue of New Musical Express.
Here is a playlist of Yabby You vinyl transfers from my personal record collection…