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Harry J Allstars (aka Harry J All Stars, Harry J. All Stars and The Jay Boys), is the best known name of a reggae band, led by record producer Harry Zephaniah Johnson (Westmoreland, Jamaica, July 6, 1945 - April 3, 2013) aka Harry J, head of Harry J Records. They débuted in 1969, with album "Liquidator" (Harry J Records - aka Harry J All Stars' "Liquidator" and Harry J. All Stars' "Liquidator"), plus singles which also included My Cherie Amour (Trojan - aka Harry J All Stars' "My Cherie Amour") and "Je T'Aime" (Trojan - aka Harry J All Stars' "Je T'Aime" and Harry J. All Stars' "Je T'Aime").

Johnson is of African, Sicilian and Scottish descent and started to play bass with the Virtues, then became their manager, until the band split and he worked as an insurance salesman. He first appeared as a record producer in 1968, when he launched his Harry J Records label, with the release of local hit single The Beltones' "No More Heartaches", one of the earliest reggae songs recorded. His agreement with Coxsone Dodd allowed him to use Studio One's facilities, where he produced Lloyd Robinson's hit "Cuss Cuss", which became one of the most covered riddims.

In October 1969, he met success in the UK with "The Liquidator" (number 9 in the UK Singles Chart) recorded with his sessionband, The Harry J All Stars (it was also a hit in 1980, reaching number 42). This single became one of the anthems of the emerging skinhead youth subculture; together with other instrumental hits released in the UK through his own subdivision "Harry J" on Trojan Records, on a compilation album of the same name (see cover). During the 2008 United States presidential election, presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama campaign used the song "I'll Take You There" by The Staple Singers at the closing of his stump speeches on the campaign trail. The beginning of the song "I'll take you there" features an introduction which was lifted from "The Liquidator".

In the beginning of the 1970s he enjoyed another big success with the vocal duo Bob and Marcia with the song "Young, Gifted and Black". His productions also included Jamaican hits with DJs like Winston Blake or Scotty among others, and many dub versions.

Johnson is mainly known for his Harry J Studio where Bob Marley & The Wailers recorded the majority of their albums in the 1970s. The studio was also a must stop hangout of many British musicians including the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Grace Jones. In addition, Chris Blackwell the founder of Island Records the original label of the band U2 could be found hanging out in the sound room prior to moving to England in the early 1970s.

In 1972, Harry Johnson sold his record shop and set up his own recording studio "Harry J", on 10 Roosevelt Avenue, Uptown Kingston, where he employed Sid Bucknor and later Sylvan Morris as resident recording engineer. Harry J Studio soon became one of the most famous Jamaican studios after having recorded several Bob Marley & The Wailers albums from 1973 to 1976 before the Tuff Gong era; such as Rastaman Vibration and Catch A Fire.

Johnson's deal with Island Records led him to record artists such as Burning Spear and The Heptones. Throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, assisted by former Studio One sound engineer Sylvan Morris, he also recorded artists like Ken Boothe, Augustus Pablo, The Cables and the American pop singer, Johnny Nash, and produced albums by Zap Pow and Sheila Hylton. In 2000, after seven years of inactivity, Stephen Stewart (Engineer, Producer, Musician), who worked in the early years alongside Sylvan Morris, refurbished, re-equipped and reopened Harry J Studio. Since then under the management of Stephen Stewart the studio has seen the return of people like Burning Spear, Toots, Shaggy, Sly & Robbie, and newer projects of Shakira, Papa Sam/Kirk Franklyn, Luciano and Sizzla just to mention a few. The studio appears in the movie, Rockers.

Johnson married and divorced Murna Webley; he has fathered several children: Paul Baines Johnson, Melanie Catanese, Harry Jermaine Johnson (deceased), Hayley Johnson (deceased), Tara Johnson and Dale Johnson.

Sites: Discogs and MusicBrainz


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