In a crowded field, toaster Jah Woosh -- born Neville Beckford in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1952 -- left his mark on the roots age with a string of popular singles and a series of seminal albums. Haile Selassie's 1966 state visit to Jamaica prompted Beckford's conversion to Rastafarianism, and Prince Lloyd's Sound System made an equal musical impact, providing a launching pad for Beckford's career. He teamed up with friend Reggae George as Neville & George, but the pair famously failed auditions for both Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid, bringing the partnership to a swift end. George Bell, however, sent the newly christened Jah Woosh into the studio in 1972, although "Morwell Rock" never gained a proper release. However, "Angela Davis" and "Mr. Buyer" arrived on 45 the following year. The single caused a few ripples, and 1974's "Magnet Scorcher" created a few more, but it was when the toaster joined forces with Rupie Edwards that his career took off. His 1974 eponymous album was a smash, rising to the top of the Jamaican chart, and wowing reggae fans in the U.K. as well.
Invariably, producers were now keen to record the toaster, and a slew of singles flooded forth. The DJ also tried his hand at self-production, with the Dreadlocks Affair album giving proof of his talent. The Dudley Swaby-produced Psalms of Wisdom and Leonard Chin-overseen Chalice Blaze both appeared in 1976 as well. All three sets were hits, and featured such smash singles as "Ital Feast," "Dreadlocks Affair," "Shimmy Skank," and "Natty Baldhead." Woosh's self-produced Religious Dread set included another clutch -- "Chant Freedom" and "Marcus Say" among them -- with 1978's Gathering Israel album merely the icing on the cake. A split set with I-Roy, We Chat You Rock, was also recorded during this period. The DJ cut crucial singles for other producers, too, including Keith Hudson and Lloyd Campbell. "I'm Alright" and "Love Jah & Live" were the 45s that clicked in the U.K., but it was Woosh's albums that established his reputation there. Blaze kindled the most excitement, and led to his first U.K. tour. Further visits brought Woosh into Adrian Sherwood's orbit, and he joined Singers & Players, while Creation Rebel oversaw 1979's World Marijuana Tour album. The DJ Legend set, meanwhile, rounded up many of Woosh's crucial recordings from this era.
The '80s were less kind to the toaster, and his output notably slowed, with only a trio of albums released. Instead, Woosh turned his attention to production. He oversaw the Bim Sherman Meets Horace Andy & U Black split set, as well as the Prince Jammy v King Tubby -- His Majesty's Dub collection, and co-produced Larry Marshall's Throw Mi Corn album. His final production, in 1985, was Fight on My Own, a set from old friend Reggae George. Despairing of the new digital sounds running rife through the sound systems, Woosh withdrew entirely from the Jamaican and U.K. scenes. Emigrating to Ghana, the toasting producer threw himself wholeheartedly into West African music. In recent years, however, Woosh has re-emerged to oversee re-releases of his back catalog. ~ Jo-Ann Greene