The Wailing Souls

The Wailing Souls

The consummate roots band, the Wailing Souls may never have gained the international reputation of their compatriots, at least not at the height of the genre's popularity, but they did outlive most of them. Their very survival has been their greatest strength, that and their ability to diversify over time. Today they are one of the most popular live acts around and they continue to release provocative and popular albums. A roots band they may well be, but their history actually stretches back long before the birth of that genre, as far back as the heyday of ska. the Wailing Souls' story begins with Winston "Pipe" Matthews. As a youth living in Kingston in the early '60s, Matthews learned to sing at the feet of Joe Higgs. Higgs, although himself barely out of his teens, was already a veteran vocalist with a string of hits to his name, and coached up and coming talent in his tenement yard. His most famous protégés were, of course, the Wailers. Higgs' training stood Matthews in equally good stead and by 1963, the aspiring singer and his vocal group the Schoolboys had come to the attention of Prince Buster. The group cut a handful of singles for the producer over the next year, "Little Boy Blue" and "Dream Lover" included. In 1965, the Schoolboys folded, but Matthews was soon back with a new group, the Renegades. This vocal trio comprised Matthews, Lloyd "Bread" McDonald, and George "Buddy" Haye, both of whom were also alumni of Higgs' vocal classes. Initially, the group hooked up with guitarist Ernest Ranglin appearing on a number of singles with him, before they finally debuted on their own with "Lost Love." It was at this point that the trio came to the attention of Coxsonne Dodd and the Renegades embarked on a fruitful career at Studio One. Over the next three years, the group released a clutch of singles on this label. Their debut for Dodd was "Back Out With It," a fine effort, but it was a later cut, "Fire Coal Man," recorded to the rhythm of the Silverstones' hit "Burning in My Soul," that eventually had the biggest impact. Although a number of the Renegades' singles were local hits, the trio never really excited much attention elsewhere during their lifetime.

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