Photo by Colin Moore
By Ray Hurford & Colin Moore
(C) Small Axe 1983
(C) Muzik Tree 1991
(C) Small Axe 2004
All Rights Reserved.
When, in 1979, Willy sang "A lot of people won't get
no supper tonight" the opening line from 'Armagideon
Time' over the 'Real Rock' rhythm for Studio One, it
was clear that this was a singer who was destined to
become a major reggae talent. Succeeding releases
continued to confirm this.
Yet the major breakthrough has yet to happen. Even so,
Willy has at least one great album finished, which
would easily establish him. Why that album has not
been released is still a mystery to me, but it is
something to look forward to. And nothing ever happens
before it's time. You see what never happen in a year,
could happen in a day...
"I did my first tune for Studio One, it's on a various
artist album called 'Party Time In Jamaica'. That was
the first song I recorded for Studio One, it's called
'Calling'. This was the first song I ever recorded,
this was when 1 was still in School." How old were you
"It was done in about '66. At the time I used to check
for foreign artists like Stevie Wonder and James
Brown. Locally my vocal influences were Bob Andy,
Delroy Wilson. He was the first person who I actually
went to the studio with." Who, Bob Andy?
"Yeah Bob Andy. "
You go back a long way then, the Rock Steady era?
"I used to go to Trenchtown High School, Sly and
myself, quite a few more. Other reggae artists used to
go to the school at the same time."
Were you born in Trench town?
"No I was born in St Ann's, in the centre between where
Bob Andy - Ray Hurford
Bob Marley was born and where Marcus Garvey was born. A place called ….
its between Lime Hall and Clement(?)"
When did you go to Kingston?
"I was still a little kid, and just going to school. I
Attended the Whitfield Town Primary School. That was
in the Whitfield Town area, just adjoining Trenchtown.
"Leaving that I went to Trenchtown. That was where I
get the love for the music. I always loved music and
growing up in an environment where you have a lot of
sound systems and thing! I started out owning a sound
system, when I was a teenager. So that kinda
Influenced it more. What was the name of your -sound?
"The name of it was 'Tripletone' it was based in
Duhaney Park let me see it's the northern part of
Kingston going the Spanish Town end.
Going by the cover on 'Messenger Man' and now
meeting you you're very young. How old are you? "Well
to be honest, my philosophy in life, is that a you are
as young as he feels, seen. Like age is just a frame
of mind. So for me to really tell you my age it's not
important, but physically my age is supposed to be
32." You certainly don't look it. There were a lot of
young artists who were coming through around 1979. And
you are associated with that group of artists, who are
still only now in their early to mid twenties.
"Right at the time . . .first to commence with I' am not
An individual who seek for stardom, cause I look on
The music as a very religious thing." That shows in
Your music, that comes very strongly. Your best work
Always as a message and meaning to it.
"To all the nations - internationally. To the
conscious people worldwide."
So what happened between the first tune. 'Calling' and
' Armagideon Time' in 1978?
"In between that time, I didn't take it as a full time
thing. It was just like an hobby. I usually work and
do part time music. Do some producing like I produced
Delroy Wilson and a group called the Versatiles, we do
two nice singles, but due to the tone of these
things . . .I think they were too political. It's more
cultural, but they regard it as a political thing
you know. It's just singing like the songs of the
The Versatiles included Junior Byles. didn't they?
"Well at the time Junior had just left, and had just
started to go solo." So this would have been the early
"The early seventies say about 1971." These tunes were
released on your own label?
"Yeah, the name of the label was 'Soul Sounds'. These
songs weren't popular at the time. They were popular
locally in Jamaica, but on the whole. . So the
International success of these songs were...the
impedance came in, because I was working and didn't
take it as a full time thing. It was just like an
hobby. And it was during this time I work along with
bands like er - Generation Gap. Freddie McGregor and
myself were the lead singers for that band at one
time. I worked with a band called the Throughbreds.
That was mostly like club dates, you know."
"So I did that until 72, when this song a recut of
an old Drifters tune) "Magic Moments' and one called
And they were produced by you?
"I gave the stampers to Randy's to release, and I
don't know what became of them after. The rest of it
was mystery, not history (laughs)."
Can you remember who played on those sessions?
"Geoffrey Chung's brother Mike played on the session
So did Mikey Boo, on drums. We used to have either the
In Crowd or the How Generation at the time."
Both of them were great bands, it's a shame they
didn't get the success that was due to them.
"I guess, it was the success of reggae at; that time.
It was an individual success, more than the music."
Both of the bands made albums, but I don't think they
showed what they were capable of. "Most of the hits
made at the a time by Derrick Harriott etc were made
by those bands."
Tunes like the Heptones 'I Miss You' had a fantastic
"Well as a matter of fact, I was supposed to do that
song. It was recorded for me originally, but 1 wasn't
at the studio that day. And the song was in too much
of a high key. So Leroy who was capable of doing that.
He did that song with the group." So if it had been in
a lower key, we would have heard of you six years
before we did! Although 'Armagideon Time' did sound
like it was sung by a very experienced singer. So your
first productions you didn't know they were released
here? "I didn't know. I have had various songs that
have been pirated here over the years, you know. For
example 'Rocking Universally' that was pirated over
here." I always thought it was pressed in Canada and
imported over here?
"It was originally pressed in New York and exported to
here, but we didn't give permission. We are working on
that to get it settled. It was a big seller, as it was
at the same time as 'Armagideon Time'."
When did you leave Jamaica for Canada?
"It was about 75, I decided to check out the
international market. So I went to Canada. Going to
Canada was a new experience again. They weren't ready
for reggae at that time. They are still not to ready
for it yet? (laughs), but it's building, very slowly."
Where were you in Canada? "Toronto".
There has been a lot of progress in that city, but the
rest of the country is slow?
"It is. I don't know why. It is influenced by the
American market. The funk, disco and things. So you
find it's influence is greater then reggae's. I guess
that is why it's so hard to breakthrough over there,
but you have the younger people who are getting into
Did you make any music when you first got there?
"When I went, I took with me songs that I recorded.
but they weren't ready for that stuff. They need some
more uptempo, with strings and things. And Jackie
Mittoo was into that at the time. He was there, so we
got together and started working." And was this at the
Summer Sound studio?
"This was long before that. Summer sound wasn't about
until the seventies. We were doing more uptempo stuff.
Funk them kinda of things. We recorded those type of
songs, but we never released them."
And that was when you first met Jackie?
"Right, we started working hotels. Any gigs that we
could get. We had quite a number of gigs lined up, for
the years, but it was about 1978, when we decided to
crossover from the type of music we was playing at the
time, to the type of music we prefer. It was about
1978, I did a song called 'Messenger Man'." The same
one as the title track of the album?
"Yeah. I used to think, er well at the time I working
in Canada. And decided to rest the music a little,
cause it was slow. So I was in a record store one day,
and met someone from Aquarius in Jamaica. You know
Herman Chinloy, it was his brother. They had a record
store in Canada. He started saying 'What happen Willy man, you give up the singing' So I said, no man I'm
going to give you something new. I went to Jamaica and recorded 'Messenger Man* it was about '78.
It was a nice effort, it was successful in America."
What was the tune that came out just before
'Armagideon Time' on the Inland label?
"That was 'Unity'." Where was that recorded Jamaica?
"At the same time as 'Messenger Man'. It was recorded
at Channel One, but the mix was done in Canada, at
Summer Sound." That had a nice Lee Perry sound to it,
will it be reissued?
"Well what happen is. we are going to have a chance,
because most of these I did for myself, and sill have
the masters, but owing to the distribution outlets at
the time, you know - it didn't work out right, so I
decided to hold back until something was more
So all the tunes on ' Messenger Man' were recorded
around that time 78/79? "Yes, some of those tracks
were recorded at Summer Sounds in Canada - and some in
Jamaica. In studios like Treasure Isle, Channel One,
Harry J. It was a various studio album." It's a
remarkable album, there are so many different styles.
Where was 'Slave' recorded?
"That was done in Canada. We had a group over there
who played with Leroy Sibbles." Truths And Rights?
"No it wasn't Truth and Rights, it was just after
that. Some members of Truths And Rights, just a few. I
can't recall the name, as it was mainly a studio
"We wanted to give everyone... this album was done out
of giving the musicians in Canada, local musicians a
break, because since I had a name and they didn't have
anything going for them I decided we could do
something together." It's a very positive album.
"Until now it hasn't been released to the full effect
of making anything off it monetarily or whatever. Its
just like to say, here's an album. I guess coming up
in the year we are going to release those works. We
are getting a request for them" Sinbad are due to put
the albums out in the States aren't they?
"Yeah, well Sinbad had the franchise to put it out,
but they didn't actually release it in the U.S., I
don't know what went wrong.
How did you start recording for Coxsone again, was it
"Well not exactly. As I mentioned I had been there
before. And Downbeat he know me. He had heard the
single 'Messenger Man', and it turn him on to really
come and check for me. Check and ask me if I want to
do some work? Well Jackie and myself and Lord Tanamo
were working at the time. Well was resident in
Canada." So Tanamo was there as well?
" We have some good musicians in Canada, but they are
frozen. We are not ready to defrost them yet!
"So during that time we was going to Jamaica, well I
was going to Jamaica. At that time I was there to do
some new works. Which are still not yet released. When
I'm working on an album it takes, like three years to
complete it. I write of, what I see, the times. The
inspiration that I get is from nature. You know, and
the different places I travel. The things that are
It really shows in your music, a great awareness.
"So we decide to go . . . I was working on the album and
We went to Studio One to do this album have you seen
it, 'Armagideon Time'?" I prefer your own album to it.
I couldn't understand what Coxsone was up to with that
album. He's put it out, I've never seen it in a
"There is a sleeve now, a black and white drawing. I
was wondering myself you know. Owing to the fact that
we had done that work together, that was that. We
leave it to him, to make the decision whether to put
How many tracks were available to him to put on the
"Put it this way, we still have quiet a few more
tracks to release from Studio One."
It was only a seven track album, prior to the album he
put out 'Addis Ababa' as a 7". Then after the album
came out, he released ' Jah Righteous Plan' on 10" .
Which seem like better tracks to put on the album?
"Oh yeah, we had quiet a few, we have better tracks
there. The better tracks haven't come out yet."
Some of the tracks on the album didn't seem to go with what
you were dealing with at the time.
"Yeah, at the time, cause this was recorded in '79.
The whole ideology behind the album is different from
now." It took a long while to come out, it didn't seem
to match up with what you had done and what you were
doing with tunes like ' Jah Righteous Plan'.
"Well as you see the truth always get a fight, but I
know there are people who appreciate it, and will
appreciate it at all times. I'm more concerned with
those people." People were expecting something special
from Coxsone with 'Armagideon Time' album. It seemed
like an half hearted effort?
"It was strange to me, and still is, but that's how it
Are you confident in time Coxsone will put out
something more representative of yourself
"Hopefully, but then whether or not. I have my own
productions. As you know I have been producing myself,
and I'm working towards achieving something better
each time. And I can express myself more." Whatever
happened to the album you recorded for Yabby U?
"Well, we still have those tracks. We worked on some
when Yabby U came here, but owing to the things that
happened at the time." Yabby U was ill. wasn't he?
"Right, so everything was put off to a future date. We
took this thing into serious consideration. Maybe it
wasn't the right time."
'Armagideon Man' did well for you for you.
"Yeah, it sold pretty well, but it was more or less a
pre-release. That's what happens to most of my music.
It's like more of a pre-release and you don't get them
after a while. We get a request for them. So what we
are trying to do is put them together and have a good
Yabby U - Tero Kaski
Going back to 'Messenger Man' the album sleeve had a
mention for Joe Gibbs on it. Did he have anything to
do with it?
"No it was a distribution outlet in Canada. A branch
of Joe Gibbs Records. We used to work independently,
but incidently when I start out at one time I used to
sing for Joe Gibbs. That was a long time ago. We had a
group. We decide to do some songs for him, but it
didn't work at the time." Nothing was released?
"No, the vibes wasn't right at the time. So we decide
to give it up." What was the name of the group?
"It was broken up and everyone went their ways. We
used to call ourselves . . . I can't remember the name
now. To be honest it was a long time ago. Around the
time Nicky Thomas was starting out."
Recently you put out another tune on Stinejac called
•Come Along' - 'Repatriation Song' which is as good as
"You see that, whenever I give my music to any of the
places of promotion, they always fight it down. Since
I don't like to sing about water pumpee and girls. I
have to sing about something postive. And I have to
say this. it seems that everytime I sing these songs I
get a fight, because of the content, which is truth
and rights. And then the rhythm that you are talking
of, a dj here told me that he doesn't like the
rhythm. , but he likes the lyrics you know. And that's
his reason for not playing it!"
The sound of the keyboards on that tune is something
else! The organ at one time is like a church organ,
then you get the synth.
"Yeah it's a pipe organ sound. It was done in 1980.
The rhyhtm was recorded here. We took it Canada and
worked on it for the keyboard sound. Jackie Mittoo he
played the keyboards." Where at Summer Sound?
"No, Amora, a bigger tracking studio. It was Masters
Work Shop, one of the big ones in Canada."
Stinejac, is that you and Jackie's label?
"Its Jackie's mine and about 4 other friends
together. We have this little company called
Stinejac." Would you say your vocal style is something
new in Jamaican music?
"Most Jamaican artists or most people who listen to
Jamaican artists or most people who listen to Jamaican
music used to think that if you didn't sound like an
American artist, you couldn't be heard or do anything
with the music, but I decided to look at it with a
different perspective and go about it in a different
way, to prove that using your natural voice or your
own voice, you can sing with even more melody."
That is what I was going to ask you, sometimes your
voice does sound very North American, and then goes
back to something very original. One of the tracks, on
the Studio One album 'People' it sounds very Stevie
"Musically I'm inspired by all music, but it's the
lyrics that make the difference." What inspired you to
write 'Armagideon Time'?
Photo by Colin Moore
"Well 'Armagideon Time' is just...I'am very spritual,
in that I belive in the creator who created us all. I
worship the creator as Jah through Christ. I check for
the happenings and match it with what I read
Biblically, and see what's happening. So at that time,
I was there in Jamaica in when they had the political
violence going on. And then I remember checking back
in the scriptures and finding out that these things
were just normal things. It was just like a song of
consolation. Consoling myself and the people who do
understand that it's really the time - At that time
and this time. "
The rhythm for ' Armagideon Time' is ' 'Real Rock' which
was very popular at the time. Did you want to use that
"They were the first set of lyrics for 'Real Rock'.
This rhythm as been there a long time. And I love the
rhythm. Then it dawn on me that I could do something
with it. I was working on the album at the same time.
So overnight I went and just wrote a song for it. I
couldn't do it -the same time, cause I was sick. After
I wrote the song, it took me about a week before I
went and did it over."
It's strange that a song written when you was sick is
"Looking at the T. V., you can see children, people
from all walks of life, all nationalities. People
couldn't get anything. People are losing their hope in
everything. So it was consoling them."
While 'Repatriation Songs' is a theme song for all
what as come out Jamaica musicwise in the last ten or
"Right, you see that song is a request to the people
who stand for equal rights and justice throughout the
world. This is the coming together of the people,
under one understanding. And this song, I sung it, so
that the people could see what was happening in
general. A lot of People know what is happening. It
don't dawn on them what is happening it don't come to
a realisation. This song, anyone who listens to it, it
give them an historical breakdown. The conversation
then turns on to the political aspects of Willie's
music. A lot of your songs deal in reality doesn't
that make them political?
"The political part of it I don't like to deal with,
cause I know that follytricks can't help. A politicial
solution is useless. There is no such thing, because
each politican or whatever he is dealing with it,
There has to be an head, and power don't belong to
anyman - It's an egotrip. Perhaps there are a lot of
people who think they can do good, but once they get
into it, then that ego trip get hold of them . . .they
lose direction. People are looking for new things to
escape reality, they go into fantasy and the whole
works and that's what people like."
That's what you say on 'No Hiding Place'
"Right, people build up a lot of things to just hide
away from the truth and reality. Sooner or later no
matter where you go, it's gonna find you and you're
gonna have to face up to it. That's why you have so
many people commiting suicide. Reality, this is what
the music is suppposed to be about. I've been noticing
that reggae music what the producers, the money
people . . .they seem "to wanna change the style of the
music and put it into an unconscious state. The kind
of material they are trying to put forward, that is
not reggae music."
Yet within that someone like the Wailing Souls can put
out a tune like 'Waterpumping', and at the same time
you can guarantee that on their next album most the
tracks will be dealing with reality.
"You see, the whole scope of the music is based on the
artist himself. The producer is an individual who just
have the business knowhow or the financial backing. So
I don't think they should impose or restrict the
artist, to make him put something out that is
misleading to the people. I think they will find out
soon that it doesn't work. It's only demoralising the
When you were working with Coxsone, how did you get on
"I think he is one of the best producers to work with.
He make you express yourself. He give you enough time
to work." The ' Armagideon Time' album uses a lot of
old rhythm tracks, with a lot of work done on them to
update them. Who worked on the album?
"Jackie Mittoo, Ernest Ranglin, Bagga Walker, Pablove
The new album is produced by you?
"Yes most of the new tracks were produced by myself.
Some tracks are with Jackie and some with Yabby U.
It's a variation of rhythm structures with the same
lyrical content and same direction. I've done this
because there are some rhythms that mean a lot to me.
I don't like to sing over people's original work, but
then there are some rhythms that really appeal to me a
lot, that I would like to work with."
"And these people are some of the best people in the
business, producing, playing the music. That is why
I've collected some of those rhythms to work with. And
personally Yabby is one of my closest brethren. I
guess we have most of the same ideology." Yabby U has
sometimes come into conflict with the Rastafarian
movement over his beliefs.
"Well my explanation of the whole thing is, that I
believe in Jah, who is the creator. Now who is Jah?
Jah is the spirit, and the truth. Now our structure is
a temple of the creator. That is where he dwells, as a
spirit. And Jah is good, anything that is good."
"So he sent Jesus Christ to - as a man, to live the
words of Christ. So that people can understand that
it's not just a ghost, it can manifest through people
so that all the good we can do, that's god. And god is
not just one person. God is in everyone, cause god is
life. He is the only one that can make life." How do
you feel about Haile Selassie?
"Well I wouldn't look upon the Emperor as the almighty
God, I would look upon the Emperor as a prominent
figure. As the King of Ethiopia. A king that black
people could look to and be respectful to. We are using
a smokescreen - colour to blind up our eyes. You see
no matter what colour you are. there is one God."
"And when individuals who put a picture in the Bible
of a white christ and say you should worship that,
they are being unintelligent to do that, cause Christ
is a spirit, a word of truth. That means that no
matter what colour you are, once you are truthful and
do the right thing, that's Christ. When they try to
portray it as a person it's wrong. It's the way that
you live, the right things that you do. That makes you
the individual close to being good or being bad."
With so much reggae music being released today, it
seems almost crass "to complain about the little "that
some artists release. Yet you can't help feeling that
if certain artists were able to release more music,
the music overall would be in a better state. Willy
Williams is that sort of artist. From the moment you
hear 'Arraagideon Time' you know you are listening to
something very special.
It's not just the powerful reality/prophetically theme of the song
that "makes you want to listen to every word, it's the multi-
cultural vocal delivery. When you hear Willy singing you know
you are listening to most urbanised form of the music
In Willy's voice you not only hear Jamaica - you also
hear Black America. If reggae had been created in the
States - this is how it would sound. Willy's voice is
cool and relaxed - heavily influenced by Stevie
Wonder. If Willy was that way inclined he could just
go through Stevie's lyrics - by adding a reggae rhythm
to them he could make a fortune. Instead - we find an
artist who is motorvated by something more important
to him - and that is the delivery of a message - the
message of Jesus Christ, who was a living man. Willy
is more than able to explain his beliefs, and he does.
He does this not only in person, but also in his music.
' Armagideon Time', was a huge hit, eventually being
released on RSO in the States. It was followed by
'Rocking Universally' produced by Willy and Jackie
Mittoo for the Stinejac label which was essentially
another version of 'Armgadieon Time'. Then came
'Armagideon Man' for producer Yabby U, released on the
Prophets' label. More music followed on the Studio One
label - great tunes like 'Addis Ababa' and 'Jah
Righteous Plan'. Everything looked right for a good
album release on Studio One.
Instead for whatever reason Coxsone, did nothing.
Thankfully Willy had other ideas, and in 1980 he
released the ' Messenger Man' LP, on his own Inland
label. With Willy's name being so strongly linked to
Studio One, there was a certain amount of
disappointment that this wasn't a release on the
label. Yet for those into the artist rather than just
a sound - 'Messenger Man' was no disappointment - far
from it. Over it's 9 reality tracks Willy shows that
'Armagideon Time' was just a glimpse of his talent.
Recorded at "three studios with many talented musicians
It puts his whole range of talent on display. Here
were better songs than 'Armagideon Time', (or as good
as) tunes like 'No Hiding Place' , 'Slave' and
'Dungeon' complemented by other great tunes like
'Valley Of Jehosephat' and 'Zion Time'. In 1982,
Coxsone finally released the 'Armagideon Time' The LP
was a disappointing release considering the promise of
the singles. People were expecting something special
from Coxsone with the 'Armagideon Time' album.
Although Coxsone had more than enough talent on his
books at the time, in the form of Freddie McGregor,
Johnny Osbourne, Lone Ranger, Michigan & Smiley - he
knew enough about the business to make room for one or
two more. Yet for whatever reason Coxsone decided to
demean the release of the 'Armagideon Time' LP by
putting together a selection that didn't really make
sense - and not giving it a sleeve for at least a
couple of years. Of the 7 tracks on the album, only 5
are really and truly Willy Williams: the title track -
'Armagideon Time', 'See You When I Get There', 'All
The Way', 'Masterplan' and 'Easy'. They are conscious
works, what you would expect from a artist who wrote
'Armagideon Time'. They show a concern for mankind -
and at the same time are thought provoking. The
remaining two tracks 'People', and 'Turn On The Power'
move Willy into the unthinking/unconscious state that
he dislikes so much.
It could be argued that Willy should have never
recorded music like this if he felt so strongly
against it. Although this does not take into account
the nature of how artists work for producers. If
Coxsone wanted "to release a showcase - he should have
done, simply by adding one good track to the five
mentioned, plus six dubs. Since the early '80s -
Willy's career as gone through a number of phases. In
'84 he had 5 tracks released on a 'Two Artist LP' with
Barry Brown called 'Roots And Culture' - the five
tracks were excellent, and it was hoped a full LP
would follow, but it didn't. And this at the moment is
really Willy's big problem - at anyone time, he just
doesn't have enough music out or available.
To try to rectify part of that problem Black Star of
Finland released the 'Unity' LP in 1987. This was a
collection of tracks recorded over the last 10 years
or so - and included Willy's own self produced
'Armagideon Time', 'Repatriation Songs', a different
mix of 'Messenger Man', plus new tracks like ' Noh
Worry' 'Active Positive' 'The Elements' and 'Pray'.
Sadly at the time of it's release the reggae market
was changing - and there weren't enough tracks on the
album which fitted into the new style of the day.
Recently - Willy as been working again. And on
'Worries And Problems' a hard reality 12" on Uptempo,
he's right up to date. This is reggae music at it's
very best - from someone who cares.
Willy Williams -
Messenger Man - Inland
Willy Williams 1980
Armagideon Time - Studio One
Coxsone Dodd 1982
Roots & Culture (With Barry Brown)
Uptempo - Willy Williams 1984
Unity - Black Star - Willy Williams - 1987
Magic Moments - Halifax 7"
Willy Williams -- Roots
Unity - Inland 7"
Willy Williams - 1978
Get Ready - Halifax 7"
Willy Williams - Roots
Armagideon Time - Studio One 7
Coxsone Dodd -- 1979
Rocking Universally - Stine Jac 12"
J.Mittoo & W.Williams 1979
Armagideon Man - Prophets 7'*
Yabby You.- 1979
No One Can Stop Us - Studio One
Coxsone Dodd 1979
Addis Ababa - Studio One 7"
Coxsone Dodd - 1980
Jah Righteous Plan - Studio One
Coxsone Dodd 1980
Unification - Inland 12"
Willy Williams -• 1981
One Love - Uptempo 12"
Willy Williams - 1984
Sweet Home - Black Victory 12-
Willy Williams - 1987
Sell Out - Humame 7"
Willy Williams - 1990
Run Dem A Run - Drum Street 7-
Willy Williams - 1991
Rally Round Jah Throne -
Black Root 12" Yabby You 1981
J.Mitto & W.Williams - 1982
Active - Drum Street 7"
Willy Williams - 1986
Worries&Problem - Uptempo 12"
Willy Williams - 1990
Jungle - Watte Music 7**
Willy Williams - 1990