Both a wonderful vocalist and fine bassist, Leroy Sibbles initially gained fame as the lead singer for The Heptones, a very popular group, accomplished at both rocksteady and reggae. Sibbles’ wonderously soulful leads and excellent compositions were augmented by his smooth, hypnotic bass lines.
Unfortunately, a once musically profitable relationship soured, but Sibbles has gone on to pursue a very successful solo career which sees him still ranked among Jamaica’s best performers with a rock-solid stage act which is still in demand locally and internationally. In fact, a closer look at his session career reveals an enormous contribution to the feel and direction of Jamaican music through one of its most creative eras.
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 greatest achievement. Sibbles was encouraged to learn the bass by Jamaican music giant and Studio One keyboardist/arranger Jackie Mittoo, who needed a bass player for live performances of a lounge trio.
When Mittoo left full time duties at Studio One, Sibbles arranged sessions, sang harmony, and played bass as a part of the studio crew variously known as the Soul Vendors or Sound Dimension. These musicians, with the notable aid of engineer Sylvan Morris, dropped their rhythms behind vocalists Bob Andy, Alton Ellis, Horace Andy, Carlton Manning, The Abyssinians, The Gladiators, Willi Williams, Ken Boothe, John Holt, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Slim Smith, and scores of others. Sibbles was a key contributor to tracks like Roy Richards’ “Freedom Blues,” “Love Me Forever” by Carlton & The Shoes, “Satta Amassaganna” and “Declaration of Rights” by the Abyssinians, “Stars” and “Queen of the Minstrel” by The Eternals led byCornell Campbell, “Ten To One” by the Mad Lads, “Door Peep” by Burning Spear, and instrumentals like “Real Rock” and “Full Up.”
As a solo artist, Sibbles worked with Lloyd “Bullwackie” Barnes, Lloyd Parks, Sly & Robbie, Augustus Pablo, and Lee Perry, but primarily produced himself. Sibbles moved to Canada in 1973 and became a sizable pop reggae sta. In Canada, Sibbles won a Juno award, recorded an album for A&M and cut several good albums for Pete Weston’s Micron label. These include one of his best albums, Strictly Roots, a heavy drum & bass workout backed by the Roots Radics.
On stage, it’s all dynamic action as he holds his audiences spellbound as he belts out hits like “Party Time, Fattie Fattie, Book of Rules, I’ve Got The Handle, Why Did You Leave, Harry Hippie, Rock and Come On, Country Boy, I Shall Be Released, Baby and Sweet Talking.
In recent years Sibbles has been working on new material at his studio in Kingston. He’s also producing for popular artists, up and coming lyricists, and composing new songs. In the near future, he plans to release more original material. But on Saturday, July 13, it’s oldies time as Leroy belts out the big hits which have made him an artist that the Startime crowds travel miles to see.