nuttyboy ska

Rudy went to Jail, Rudy got Bail

SKA- the sounds of the 'Rudeboy'

Misha Skelly interview with  Kevin Jackson of nuttyboys.co.uk

Characterized by walking bass lines with rhythms on the up beat, SKA combined elements of Calypso, American Jazz, Caribbean Mento and R&B. SKA was developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s, before becoming associated with bands like The Clash and The Specials.

It was around this time when people like Prince Buster and Clement “Coxsone” Dodd were just beginning to form sound systems to play these new songs and record their own versions of them.

The infamous Studio 1 record label was created, and released its first sample entitled ‘Simmer Down,’ featuring an 18-year-old Bob Marley.

The song was dedicated to his mother, in order to calm her nerves, as she was worried about the company he kept in Trench Town.

This fast paced, jazz infested, pounding of SKA gave way to a lower and slower interpretation called Blue Beat.

The slower version became the deeper and more bass heavy rhythm of Reggae.

The music produced at this time became known as ‘Sufferer’s Music,’ as they were songs for the oppressed about the oppressors and troublemakers.

They addressed the issues at hand, and artists sang about the Rudeboy/ Rudy and the trouble ‘he’ caused. SKA music had an urgency that captured the feelings evoked on the streets of Kingston.

As time progressed Reggae replaced SKA and Rock Steady in popularity.

Reggae harks back to archetypal characters such as Shelton Lee, ho was an African pimp in 19th century Missouri, with a notorious reputation.

He was given the nickname Stagolee, as he did not have many friends.

The story goes as follows; Shelton and his close acquaintance Billy Lyons were in the

Curtis Saloon drinking up a storm. Billy, also a crook and part of the St. Louis underworld, was Shelton’s rival.

After much dispute, wherein Billy took off Shelton’s Stetson Hat, the African pimp had enough and shot Billy.

He replaced his hat upon his head and sauntered out. Shelton was pardoned by the court, but later in life was incarcerated for robbery and assault. This act quickly became American folklore, was the theme of many a song.

The Rudeboy look was heavily influenced by Hollywood Westerns and Gangster representation within film, and this was transferred into the music.

“Rudeboy's" were actually influenced by the American Cowboys and Indians, it a weird story- basically what it was- there were Cowboys on the telly, and the ‘Rude boys ‘used to dress like Gamblers.

You know when you see the Gamblers and the Cowboys dressed up all sharp, with a hat and tie, it’s like that. That is how they were influenced and it all evolved from there, ” explains Kevin, in an interview with Misha Skelly.

Kevin who has been labelled with the name nuttyboy after his website. Has a story going back to when he was just 10 years of age. He tells how he grew up with the Jamaican boys in his home in the 1960s.

This all relates to Jamaica’s Independence in 1962, and the emergence of a young generation of men wanting to reinvent themselves.

With the independence came extreme poverty, and the ‘Scuffers’ a subculture, came about.

They were scrounging to get by, and were affiliated or tied to the black market. Instead of begging and stealing, they set up prostitution and saw an economic gain in Shanty Town and West Kingston.

The ‘Rudeboys’ came out of this subculture of ‘Scuffers’ and were typically teenage boys aged fourteen to about twenty-five.

The adolescent criminals would hangout and gatecrash sound systems. These boys would carry German ratchet knives and handguns.

People were able to recognize them coming by their sharp three-piece-suits, and stingy brim or pork pie hats, says Kevin whos has studied the history behind the 'Rudeboy'.

The way they dressed was a mixture of American Gangster and an imitation of upper class. “Within that culture you have people who would go around with sounds systems, which became very big in Jamaica.

They would compete against each other. they would take on these young guys, known as 'Rudeboys'. The boys would go and disrupt the events; this was obviously to get people to go to their own event.

So 'Rudeboys' were gangsters in a way,” says Kevin, they moved into drugs and heavy hand tactics, debt collecting, protection racketeering, some where used as mules to transport drugs to USA.

Many never came back from the states, they found work as hired guns, to protect their crime boss's interest, assassins. Turf wars erupted with Black on Black killings, the drug cartels used them, trying to take over each others territory. This is were they were known as 'Gangsters'.

It was SKA music that helped alter the bad reputation and negative connotations linked to the Rudeboy.

Many Jamaican musicians wanted to speak the truth about what was going on in their society, and openly sang about the violent acts of the ‘Rudeboy‘.

In the songs, they would urge the boys to channel their attention towards political innovation, rather than stirring up mayhem,

“Message to you, Rudy” by Dandy Livingstone is a perfect exampleof this.

“Stop your runnin' about

It's time you straighten right out

Stop your runnin' around

Making problems in town

Aha-a Rudy, a message to you

Rudy, a message to you

You're growing older each day

You want to think of your future

Or you might wind up in jail

And you will suffer” (Dandy Livingstone, 1967)

The song “Message to you, Rudy” was later covered by English SKA band called The Specials and became widely popular.

Although people were optimistic about the Independence of Jamaica, the 1960s saw a huge migration of Jamaicans to England.

With them came SKA and Reggae music. Subsequently dubbed ‘Rudeboy’ music,

SKA was instantaneously picked up by British teenagers. Mods, Suede Heads, Rockers and the notorious Skinheads all quickly attached themselves to this new genre and SKA went off in a multitude of directions.

If you want to identify the English ‘Rudeboy’ without violence, It would have to be the Mods, Suede Heads, their dress is imaculate.

Yes there would  be scuffles with the rockers at sea results.  However most had apprenticeships, and came from decent families. to look at them ‘butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths‘.  The drug taking was not a serious as acid etc, the drugs used where called ‘uppers’ they were to keep them awake, this is were the all nighters came in to play, music until ealry hours.

The second wave of SKA music was called 2 Tone. It incorporated elements of Reggae, SKA, and Rock Steady. It had a faster tempo and a huge influence of bass instruments.

The Specials were one of the first SKA bands to become famous in England.

Because SKA was popular within many different youth cultures,

The Specials managed to unite black and white people, as tensions were sky high within communities inhabited by Skinheads, who attacked black people, mainly Pakistanis, however Jamaicans were also targeted by the mindless thugs.

Lynval Golding of the Specials, was attacked and severely beaten by skinheads and was rushed to hospital in critical state. this brought many an outcry from their followers. ?@

The band did not descriminate against any colour or race. 

Their songs resonated with the youth of Britain because they highlighted issues that the younger generations were facing, like unemployment for example.

The song “Ghost Town” is a prime example of a reaction to society.

“This town, is coming like a ghost town

All the clubs have been closed down

This place, is coming like a ghost town

Bands won't play no more

too much fighting on the dance floor

Do you remember the good old days before the ghost town?

We danced and sang, and the music played in a de boomtown

This town, is coming like a ghost town

Why must the youth fight against themselves?

Government leaving the youth on the shelf

This place, is coming like a ghost town

No job to be found in this country Can't go on no more

The people getting angry

This town, is coming like a ghost town”


Freddie was active during 1960 until 1972 firstly with the band called the 'Rudies' & Freddie Notes and the Rudies, many say 'Freddie' is the Original 'Rudeboy',

 Greyhound was a reggae band from the England.  They began as 'The Rudies' in the late 1960s, with core members Danny Smith and Freddie Notes. They also released material as 'The Tilermen' and 'Des All Stars'. Under the name 'The Rudies', they issued a cover of "Patches"  by clarence carter and also "Montego Bay" by BOBBY Bloom.

Later billed as 'Freddie Notes and The Rudies', "Montego Bay" peaked at 45 in the UK Singles Chart in October 1970.  After Freddie's departure, Glenroy Oakley joined the band and they changed their name to  'Greyhound'  in 1970.

Their first single was an Earl Robinson/David I. Arkin composition, "Black & White", Later recorded by artists as diverese as The Maytones, Sammie Davies Jr and Three Dog Night;

Greyhound scored a Top Ten hit with the tune in the UK Singles Chart. Two more singles, including a cover of Henry Mancini's "Moon River" followed, before the group's fame faded.



Early life Neville StapleS - 'RUDEBOY'

Staple was born in Manchester, Jamaica. At the age of five, Neville left Jamaica to live in the English town of Rugby, Warwickshire but later moved to Coventry. He was initially active in the sound system scene forming his own crew called "Jah Baddis". Neville was a regular fixture at the Locarno ballroom in Coventry where he met its resident DJ,Pete Waterman. Pete was heavily involved in the seventies? reggae scene before going on to become a major pop producer in the 1980s. Pete has written the foreword to Neville's biography – "Original Rude Boy" – and briefly managed The Specials.

The Specials

Neville's first involvement with The Specials was when they were still called The Coventry Automatics, prior to Terry Hall and John Bradbury's entrance. He initially joined as their roadie but at a gig supporting The Clash, Neville took to the stage and never looked back.

For a while, The Specials were managed by The Clash's manager Bernard Rhodes of whom Neville used to toast "Bernie Rhodes knows don't argue" at the beginning of the Specials hit single "Gangsters".

Neville's vocal style is toasting or chanting over a rhythm.

A forerunner of rapping which was brought to Britain in the 1960s by musicians from Jamaica. Neville honed his toasting skills on the sound system scene in Coventry during the 1970s.

Later in his solo career and with the reunited Specials, he would sing as well as toast.

When he joined the Coventry Automatics, the line up already included Jerry Dammers, Horace Panter and Silverton Hutchinson on drums.

Terry Hall subsequently came in as vocalist, replacing Tim Strickland, and Roddy Radiation on lead guitar.

John Bradbury would later take over on drums from Silverton.

 Neville participated in a reunion line up of The Specials from 1993 to 2001, and again from 2009 to 2012, when he left the band due to health concerns.


Original Rude Boy (2009) is the autobiography of Neville Staple, vocalist in ska band?The Specials.

The book was launched in May, 2009 to coincide with the reunion tour of The Specials. It sets out to chart the black British influence on the second wave of ska which originated in Coventry in the late 1970s.

In particular, Staple's involvement in the 'rude boy'' scene.

Major themes

In Original Rude Boy, Neville Staple describes the Sound system (Jamaican) scene that developed in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

He became a DJ with a system called Jah Baddis alongside future Specials road crew members Trevor Evans and Rex Griffiths.

Staple candidly describes how he slipped into a life of crime, eventually resulting in his conviction for burglary. and a period in borstal.

This part of the book has attracted criticism from some ska fans, At the Holyhead Youth Club in Coventry, Staple first heard a band called The Coventry Automatics rehearsing and became their roadie.

After a couple of years touring with them, he joined the band on vocals and they renamed themselves The Specials

Staple details his involvement in the Third Wave or American wave of ska music.

His production work including time in the studio with US ska bands like No Doubt, Unwritten Law and Rancid. Original Rude Boy details how Staple spent several years in California working on various production projects before returning to the UK in 2001.

The Specials announced a reunion tour in 2008 with sell-out UK dates in April and May, 2009.

Specials founder member Jerry Dammers refused to join the tour and Staple gives his explanation why Dammers declined to tour with other band members.

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