Kevin O’Brien Chang and Wayne Chen in their 1998 book ”Reggae Routes” described him as “the greatest all-round talent in reggae history” and a look at the outstanding, multi-faceted career of Leroy Sibbles shows the accolade is well deserved.
A wonderful vocalist, fine bassist, composer and arranger, Sibbles initially gained fame as the lead singer for the Heptones who were among the most prolific and influential groups of the rock steady era, along with the Wailers, Gaylads, Paragons, Uniques, Melodians, and Techniques.
Signature Heptones songs include “Baby Be True”, “Sweet Talking”, “Get In The Groove”, “Ting A Ling”, “Fatty Fatty”, “Why Did You Leave”, “Party Time”, “Book of Rules”, “Sea of Love”, “Pretty Looks Isn’t All”, “Love Won’t Come Easy”, “Darling I Love You”, “Heptones Gonna Fight” and “I Shall Be Released” .
Leroy eventually departed the group to launch an equally successful solo career in Canada and Jamaica as singer and producer of several albums and hit songs.
Beyond his work as a singer/songwriter, Sibbles’ contribution as a bass player to the collective output and enduring legacy of Studio One is perhaps his next greatest achievement. Sibbles arranged sessions, sang harmony, and played bass as a part of the studio crew invariably known as the Soul Vendors or Sound Dimension; Freedom Singers or Brentford Road All Stars. These musicians, with the notable aid of engineer Sylvan Morris, dropped their rhythms and voices behind vocalists Bob Andy, Alton Ellis, Horace Andy, Carlton Manning, The Abyssinians, The Gladiators, Willie Williams, Ken Boothe, John Holt, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Slim Smith, and scores of others.
Sibbles and Deadly “Headley” Bennett are the originators of the “Full Up” rhythm which was internationally popularized by Musical Youth’s recording of “Pass the Dutchie,” a remake of the Mighty Diamonds “Pass the Kutchie.” Other classic riddims were done for the Abyssinians “Declaration of Rights” and the anthemic “Satta Amassaganna”, “Love Me Forever” by Carlton & The Shoes, “Queen of the Minstrel” and “Stars” by the Eternals (led by Cornell Campbell) and Burning Spear’s “Door Peep” among countless others.
His on-stage dynamism and bagful of countless hits have enabled Sibbles, an outstanding product of the 60s and 70s, to maintain his popularity, and it’s a safe bet that he could be the crowd-stealer when Startime makes its highly anticipated return on July 13 at the Mas Camp.