Ed. Note: Rocks Off is giving away a pair of tickets to Toots & the Maytals at high noon on our Facebook page. Please add us here.
If Toots Hibbert didn't actually give birth to reggae, he certainly dated the midwife. Hibbert's legacy traces itself to the earliest reggae recordings as ska slowly evolved into something new and different and entirely Jamaican.
Rocks Off didn't get to interview reggae legend Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals as planned last week. Telephone difficulties in Jamaica kept Hibbert's publicist from being able to patch together the call.
But boning up for the interview, we emailed quite a few people asking their thoughts, what would they want to know if given the opportunity to talk to this Kingston icon who is credited with the earliest use of the term reggae in a song.
Houston Blues Society member and music aficianado Darelle Robbins came up with a quite a list.
- Toots has been one of my favorites since I saw Jimmy Cliff's movie The Harder They Come in the early '90s. Since then, I've enjoyed his records and seen him perform live several times. His performances are consistently joyful and inspiring, and highly danceable. I wonder is he always as upbeat as he sounds?
- He's like the Dalai Lama of Rastafarians. Is he actually a Rastafarian, does spirituality influence his music?
- Also, Johnny Cash had a big presence in Jamaica, funding social projects like schools and clinics. Did Toots run across Cash?"
Musicologist and Afro-Cuban music expert Ned Sublette offered the following:
Stay close to the early days. He saw reggae music appear. And ask him about quadrille calling - roughly the equivalent of square dance calling, but I say it's the forerunner of the dancehall reggae style. Ask him about the tradition of toasting before it got appropriated by reggae.
Andrew Nack wanted to know how Hibbert celebrated 4/20, and whether 54-46 was really his number in prison.
Old friend and guru of all things recorded Greg Ellis chipped in with a winner: "Here's a factoid - first band to play in The Summit - opened for The Who in 1975."
Mark Rubin, formerly of Bad Livers and currently part of the duo Fat Man & Little Boy, suggested, "How has he held onto to his sound so doggedly and defiantly for so long. I was in a band that opened for him in OKC in '81 and he hasn't changed a whit in all that time. This is not a negative, only an observation. How does he makes this music live when he's played it over and over again"
Unfortunately, we weren't able to hook up with Hibbert to find out.
8 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 713-652-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.