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Josey Wales

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Josey Wales was one of dancehall’s founding fathers, building on the innovative DJ chatting of his mentor U-Roy and creating a highly influential style of his own. Along with Brigadier Jerry and his sound-system partner Charlie Chaplin, Wales was widely regarded as one of the best DJs in Jamaica when dancehall took over the reggae scene in the early ’80s. His gruff, gravelly voice and half-spoken, half-sung delivery were instantly recognizable, and were copied by many an up-and-coming DJ. Unlike his contemporary Yellowman — perhaps the only DJ of the era who was more popular — Wales pointedly refused to resort to slackness, keeping his lyrics purely conscious and Rastafarian. That meant he grew increasingly unfashionable over the course of the ’80s, but he nonetheless continued to perform regularly, and remained a highly respected pioneer.

Josey Wales was born Joseph Winston Sterling in West Kingston, Jamaica, and took his stage name from the Clint Eastwood Western #The Outlaw Josey Wales; naturally, “The Outlaw” became a standard nickname for him, along with “The Colonel.” Wales first performed professionally as a DJ with the Roots Unlimited Sound System in 1977, and made his name as part of U-Roy’s King SturGav Hi-Fi Sound System, where he spent three and a half years in the early ’80s. There he teamed with DJ sparring partner Charlie Chaplin in one of the most potent one-two punches of the era, which in turn made King SturGav arguably the biggest sound system around.

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