THE LEGENDARY WAILERS FEATURING JUNIOR MARVIN – THE CON CLUB, LEWES 9.8.23
The last time I witnessed Junior Marvin performing live was an astounding 15,737 days ago, which equates to more than 43 years. He was 31 years old and I was just 17 and we were together in the same Brutalist style building, that being the Brighton Centre, which had only then been open since 19th September 1977. We were both there in the company of a living legend, one that was to depart a mere 307 days later at the tender age of just 36, this being Robert Nesta Marley aka Bob to the world.
Junior and Bob were on the stage and I was a fan that was almost at the very front of the standing crowd. As far as I can tell the two Brighton Centre gigs on 8th and 9th July 1980 were the only times that Bob Marley performed live in the city. Although, somewhere in the back of my mind, I seem to recall that he may have also turned up at the Brutalist built Brighton National Spiritualist Church situated up Edward Street, (or maybe a building nearby) whilst he was staying in Brighton and possibly sang a few tunes there as well. Maybe someone out there can verify this?
What I remember about this Brighton Centre concert was that there was a long intro from the backing singers, who were Bob’s wife Rita Marley, with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, and they were chanting “Marley”! He then came on stage dressed in blue denim with his dreadlocks flowing and looked a little strained. Obviously I now know why but at the time none of us did. I also recall that myself and my mate both purchased tour programmes and that he was with his then girlfriend. As we were near the front, we were like sardines and getting jostled about with the dancing. I also recall that after the gig had finished, we saw a white minibus appear from behind a metal garage on the corner of the junction of Russell Road (behind the Brighton Centre) and Cannon Place and it was Bob and the band! Fabulous stuff!
Talking of “the band”, the musicians for the Brighton Centre shows according to the programme were the following:
Bob Marley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1963–1981; died 1981)
Junior Marvin – lead guitar (1977–1981)
Al Anderson – lead guitar (1974–1975, 1978–1981)
Tyrone Downie – keyboards (1974–1981; died 2022)
Earl ‘Wya’ Lindo – keyboards (1973, 1978–1981; died 2017)
Aston ‘Familyman’ Barrett – bass (1970–1981)
Carlton Barrett – drums, percussion (1970–1981; died 1987)
Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson – percussion (1975–1981; died 2021)
The backing singers: The I-Threes
Rita Marley – backing vocals (1974–1981)
Marcia Griffiths – backing vocals (1974–1981)
Judy Mowatt – backing vocals (1974–1981)
After the two Brighton concerts, it seems that they only played around 9 other concerts before Bob passed away, so this makes my encounter even more cherished. If only I still had my ticket!
It appears that no less than five of the people I witnessed that night have sadly died and so this made me even more determined to witness this evening’s encounter with guitarist Junior Marvin who had brought along eight friends to accompany him on stage at The Con Club in Lewes, courtesy of African Night Fever in collaboration with Easy Skankin’.
There is no support act this evening, which was an opportunity lost for some up-and-coming reggae act, but possibly on reflection, it was for the better judging by how much kit there was on stage tonight! On our left (stage right) there were no less than four mighty keyboards, which were positioned in a two-tier V shape format, with two Korg’s and two Yamaha’s. To the centre rear of the stage on a high-rise was the drumkit and to the side of that nearer the punters was the percussion, made up of tom toms, shakers, tambourine and the like. The bass player was stationed to the back as well with his 5-string Yamaha. Front right (stage left) were the two female backing singers, one of which was actually married to the keyboardist. There was a second guitarist on stage, and centre front (as you would anticipate) was Junior Marvin on lead vocals and guitar. The band is an octet, although they are briefly joined mid-set by a rapper for one of the numbers. The rest of the time he is stationed at the rear and merrily dances away to the other 14 numbers.
The Legendary Wailers feat Junior Marvin kicked off our decent night out of top Bob Marley & The Wailers reggae tunes at 9:01pm with ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, which was covered by Eric Clapton a year after its release in 1973. Incidentally, almost all of the material tonight stems from the 1973 to 1980 period. As you would expect the venue appears to be at capacity or extremely near it, which equates to around 225 eager souls awaiting to be entertained. The music was hot as was the atmosphere and especially the temperature, which added to the Kingston, Jamaica vibe.
‘Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)’ was the band’s second selection and a popular choice it was too, as was the following number ‘Positive Vibration’. An extended version of ‘Stir It Up’ followed and benefitted from some rather decent swirly synth notes. A number of tonight’s offerings were elongated mixes of those that we are accustomed to hearing on the original vinyl, this included song five ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ (found on the 1973 ‘Burnin’’ album), which was a rather decent offering. Talking of “decent”, I must flag up the guitar work from the other player on his Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘100’ during 1976’s ‘Roots, Rock, Reggae’.
The lady that was married to the keyboardist took control of lead vocals for the next number, but her vocals weren’t as loud as they could have been and thus I was unable to identify this tune. Arguably Bob Marley’s most successful tune was delivered next in the form of ‘Three Little Birds’, which certainly went down a treat. Things then headed off into a ska direction with what I believe was ‘My Friend’, a tune that was a 1991 single by The Wailers Band, which obviously Junior was a member of. The keyboardist notably rapped during this uplifting number and was surprisingly one of my set highlights. The chorus was rather catchy too!
As the stage was full, there was no real room for the band members to move about, so they simply stuck to their allotted positions and then next headed into hard hitter territory with a trio of megahits, these being ‘No Woman, No Cry’ from 1974’s ‘Natty Dread’ album (which saw many punters get out their mobile phones to record the moment), after which were ‘Jamming’ (a real set highlight for me) and ‘Exodus’ (both from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album). The latter signalled the arrival of the dancer at the back to offer up some rapping as this tune was offloaded as another extended mix. ‘The Heathen’ (also from ‘Exodus’ was up next with it’s Jamaican Patois chorus of “And (de heathen back dey ‘pon de wall); Heathen back, yeah, ‘pon de wall!; And de heathen back dey ‘pon de wall!; And de heathen back, yeah, ‘pon de wall!”.
The penultimate track of the set was another tune culled from 1977’s ‘Exodus’, this being ‘One Love’, which got many joyfully singing along. We had been told by Junior that this was to be the final number, but photographer Nick Tutt and myself turned to each other and uttered “one more song” as we could see a setlist that proudly boasted ‘Could You Be Loved’. The band stayed put and simply played it as opposed to vacating the stage for a fake encore. The fans jumped when instructed and I suspect that this was many fans choice cut of the night. Unfortunately they did not play their renditions ‘Satisfy My Soul’ or my favourite Marley tune ‘Waiting In Vain’, which was a real shame. They concluded their set at 10:32pm, but I think the curfew was 11pm, so we could have had the tunes, but maybe they were just contracted for a circa 90 minute set., but nonetheless it has been a great night out!
The Legendary Wailers Featuring Junior Marvin setlist:
‘I Shot The Sheriff’ (from 1973 ‘Burnin’’ album)
‘Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock)’ (from 1974 ‘Natty Dread’ album)
‘Positive Vibration’ (from 1976 ‘Rastaman Vibration’ album)
‘Stir It Up’ (from 1973 ‘Catch A Fire’ album)
‘Get Up, Stand Up’ (from 1973 ‘Burnin’’ album)
‘Roots, Rock, Reggae’ (from 1976 ‘Rastaman Vibration’ album)
(Unknown) with female singer
‘Three Little Birds’ (from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album)
‘My Friend’ (from 1991 single by The Wailers Band)
‘No Woman, No Cry’ (from 1974 ‘Natty Dread’ album)
‘Jamming’ (from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album)
‘Exodus’ (from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album)
‘The Heathen’ (from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album)
‘One Love’ (from 1977 ‘Exodus’ album)
‘Could You Be Loved’ (from 1980 ‘Uprising’ album)
Julian Junior Marvin was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He moved to London as a child, where his family and the UK theatre community nurtured his love for acting and music. He appeared in The Beatles’ film ‘Help’, followed by a number of successful appearances on British television. Julian Junior was also a member of the London cast of the musical ‘Hair’ and can be heard on the original London cast recording.
After playing in various London-based bands, including Blue Ace Unit, Herbie Goins & The Night-Timers, White Rabbit, and Salt & Pepper, Julian Junior continued his musical apprenticeship in America, playing with such Blues and R&B legends as T-Bone Walker, Billy Preston and Ike & Tina Turner. He quickly earned a reputation as an innovative and expressive blues/rock guitarist.
Invited to join the Keef Hartley Band, pioneers of the burgeoning British blues/rock scene, Julian Junior made a significant contribution as a writer, singer and lead guitarist to their acclaimed ‘Seventy-Second Brave’ album. He also appeared on their follow-up release ‘Lancashire Hustler’.
Julian Junior followed up with his own rock band, Hanson, who was quickly signed to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Manticore label by Mario “The Big M” Medious, label manager. This was followed by the Hanson album Magic Dragon.
Finding himself an in-demand session guitarist, particularly for artists on the Island Records label, Julian Junior contributed to albums by Traffic, Fairport Convention, Reebop Kwaku Baah, Toots & The Maytals, Stomu Yamashta, Remi Kabaka, Eddie Quansah, Rico Rodriguez, and Steve Winwood.
On 14th February 1977, Julian Junior was invited to join both Stevie Wonder’s band and Bob Marley & The Wailers band. His parents and musician friends helped him decide to accept Bob Marley’s invitation because they were both Jamaicans. The rest is history. The acclaimed ‘Exodus’ LP became Julian Junior’s debut with Bob Marley & The Wailers. In 1999, Time Magazine declared ‘Exodus’ ‘Album Of The Century,’ while ‘One Love’ was named ‘Song of the Millennium’ in 2000. Julian Junior was lead guitarist and musical contributor on all subsequent Bob Marley & the Wailers albums, and toured worldwide with the Wailers until Bob’s passing in 1981.
Since then, Julian Junior has released four CDs with The Wailers Band: ‘ID’, ‘Majestic Warriors’, ‘Jah Message’ and ‘My Friends (Live)’, numerous solo projects include ‘Wailin’ For Love’, ‘Smokin’’, ‘To The Big M Music’, and ‘Lion To Zion Dub Wise’. In 2002, Julian Junior was included in Guitar World Magazine’s “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time” for his guitar solo on ‘Africa Unite’ from the Bob Marley & the Wailers ‘Survival’ album. Julian Junior has also been a featured player on albums by Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Beres Hammond, Culture, Joe Higgs, SOJA, The Meditations, Israel Vibration, Alpha Blondy, The Congos, and Alborosie, amongst others.
After touring with many incarnations of The Wailers since Bob Marley’s passing, Julian Junior has stepped out to front his own unique version of The Wailers, playing and singing Bob Marley & the Wailers hit songs the way Bob intended them to be heard. Julian Junior Marvin’s first new single ‘Message of Love’ dropped worldwide in 2019; an introduction to the forthcoming album ‘Message Of Love’.