b. Linval Carter, 3 September 1951, Jamaica, West Indies. Prince Jazzbo is one of the survivors of reggae music. While he has never been as important as other 70s DJs such as U-Roy or Big Youth, it is Jazzbo who retains a charismatic personal style and a reasonably healthy following through his label, Ujama, for which he produces and occasionally records. Like many others, Jazzbo first recorded for Coxsone Dodd’s Studio One label in the early 70s. Legend has it that Jazzbo had come to Kingston from the countryside and was initially passed over by Dodd, who expected little from the skinny youth. However, Jazzbo eventually pestered his way into the studio and took the microphone. Dodd ran a backing track at random - Horace Andy’s ‘Skylarking’ - and Jazzbo delivered on the first take what was to become a monster hit, ‘Crabwalking’. For the next 18 months, Jazzbo remained with Dodd, cutting a string of flawless roots records: ‘Crime Don’t Pay’, ‘Pepper Rock’, ‘School’ and ‘Imperial I’. However, the promised album with Dodd failed to materialize, so Jazzbo, disillusioned, began to record for other producers, including Glen Brown and Bunny Lee. A liaison with Lee Perry on ‘Penny Reel’, originally intended as a one-off single, eventually produced the superb 1976 album Natty Passing Thru, aka Ital Corner, for which he was paid a mere 1, 000 Jamaican dollars (about £100 at the time). Other albums from this time include Kick Boy Face andStep Forward Youth, the latter shared with I. Roy.
By 1977 Jazzbo had launched Ujama, recording as a singer for the label, under the name Johnny Cool. Neither his alter ego nor his label was commercially successful. Jazzbo reached the start of the 80s, and the impending dancehall boom, in much the same state as his fellow DJ pioneers I. Roy, U-Roy and Big Youth: he had talent but reggae’s styles were changing fast. Jazzbo decided that Ujama had to become a viable operation, and from around 1983 onwards, it has been just that - even if his idiosyncratic production style and somewhat off-the-wall ideas have held it back in the larger marketplace. Besides offering a shelter for older DJs such as U-Roy and I. Roy, Ujama specializes in finding the sorts of reggae acts other producers overlook, including Zebra, Manchez and Horace Ferguson. None of them have reached the status of Jazzbo’s most famous ally, Frankie Paul, but this is wholly in keeping with Ujama’s symbol of a donkey, because, as Jazzbo frequently tells people, ‘a donkey may not arrive quickly, but it was good enough to carry Jesus and will not suffer a mechanical breakdown on the way’. The cheaply produced sleeves of his albums nearly always feature a cartoon donkey carrying Jazzbo or taking part in a horse race. While Jazzbo is unlikely ever to achieve great international success, his career received an unexpected boost in 1991 when Studio One finally released his album Choice Of Version, some 18 years late, to ecstatic reviews and considerable excitement. If it had been issued in 1973, Jazzbo might have been in a far stronger position today.