Inner Circle Inspired Bob Marley, Helped Pioneer Reggae
Inner Circle helped invent reggae. Now, 45 years after they started, the group is still on tour -- not even a bus crash in Baton Rouge can stop them. They perform at Los Globos on Sunday; we caught up with them at their recording studios in Miami the day they left.
Band portrait: Touter, Skatta, Roger, Lancelot, Ian. Circle Village wall detail
The group formed in 1968 in Kingston, Jamaica, in a lush and rolling tropical paradise area at the foot of a mountain.
Photos by Jacob Katel Roger and Ian Lewis eating ice cream on their tour bus, 4-20-2013
As kids, founding brothers Roger and Ian Lewis would sneak under a fence to see the Skatalites and the Dragonaires. They could hear the bass booming through the hills, at their house near the campus of the University of West Indies.
The tour bus
In high school they picked up guitars and found their way to Byron Lee's Dynamic Sounds Studios. At the national Jamaica Song Festival that year, they backed Eric Donaldson on "Cherry Oh Baby." Donaldson won the competition, and immediately joined Inner Circle at Dynamic Sound to record his hit. Then they toured the Caribbean and Belize with it. The song has been covered over 50 times, including by the Rolling Stones.
In 1971 they played over 150 shows on the "bandwagon tour" with Bob Marley and The Wailers and others, including Clancy Eccles, who is said to have derived the term reggae from the word "streggae" (roughly, 'easy girl').
The tour supported socialist Prime Minister candidate Michael Manley. He rallied votes in the slums and won the election.
Circle Village recording compound in North Miami
Meanwhile, more and more fans started turning out to Inner Circle's concerts.
After the tour, Marley and Peter Tosh drove an Oldsmobile to Inner Circle's house on Chelsea Ave and asked them to back Bob and The Wailers on "Stir It Up" for their new album Catch A Fire.
Inner Circle are the uncredited musicians on the original master tapes cut by wild tempered producer Harry J. The tapes went up to Chris Blackwell at Island who remixed the tracks, and put them on an album with a cover that opened like a zippo lighter.
Wall of fame detail at Circle Village, across street from Circle House