Junior Byles (Kerrie Byles Junior, most known for his 'Fade Away' is a reggae artist born in the poor parts of Kingston, Jamaica 1948. 'Fade Away', with its strong spiritual warnings for materialism and egoism, was recorded in 1975 for producer Joseph Hoo Kim. It was a massive hit in Jamaica and was also a big success in the UK, and was covered five years later by among others Adrian Sherwood's New Age Steppers group and by Salmonella Dub NZ, made a special version of it. By 1975, Byles' health had begun to decline. Suffering from depression, he was deeply affected by the death of Haile Selassie, unable to reconcile this with his belief in Selassie's divinity, and attempted suicide, but survived. He then had a very though life and was living on the street in USA, scavenging for food in dumpsters, and begging from passers-by. Byles occasionally resurfaced, recording albums 1989, and 1992. He returned to live performance in 2004 in Jamaica, receiving positive reviews. His legacy of recordings from the 1970s, however, maintain his status as one of roots reggae's leading talents.
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Junior Byles (Kerrie Byles Junior, aka King Chubby) was born in Kingston, Jamaica 1948.
He first formed The Versatiles with friends Ben Davis and Dudley Earl, and they were soon recording. Their first songs were cut for Joe Gibbs, with Lynn Tait's Band under Lee Perry's direction. From these sessions came "The Time Has Come", which was entered for the 1967 festival.
Another festival entry was 1971's "Rub Up" in 1971, but Byles' debut solo single (1970) was "What The World Is Coming To" c/w "Live As One", and released in the UK with strings and vocal chorus.
In 1971 Byles also recorded "Beat Down Babylon" (co-written by friend Harold Meikle) for Lee "Scratch" Perry, backed by The Now Generation Band (including Val Douglas Bass, Mikey Chung Guitar, and Wire Lindo Organ).
Following the critical acclaim "Babylon" received, Byles then worked with Perry for the whole of 1972. These sessions produced 12 tracks, 10 of which formed the album "Beat Down Babylon".
In what must have been some incredible moments of musical genius, Perry recorded Junior Byles' monumental hit "A Place Called Africa" at the same session that produced Bunny Wailer's phenomenal hit "Dreamland". The musicians at these sessions included the Barrett brothers, Tony Chin (lead guitar), Glen Adams (organ), and the rhythm guitar of Reggie Lewis.
During the mid to late 1970's he was reduced to homelessness, hunger and mental turmoil, and spent much of his life living at the street level. Indeed, his mental condition was so frail at this time, that upon hearing of Haile Selassies' death on August 27 1975, he tried suicide. This resulted in a long stay at Kingstons Bellevue mental hospital.
Byles still managed to record during these troubled times, with releases on Thing, Micron, Lovepower, Well Charge, Clocktower, Hot Shot, Impact, Treasure Isle, Observer, Advance, Soul Beat, Upsetter, Justice League, Wizzdom and Orchid.
Aside from the tracks already mentioned, "The Long Way", "Chant Down Babylon", "Bury O Boy", "Fade Away" and the incredible "Curley Locks" all rank as some of the greatest music Jamaica has ever produced.
Apart from the retrospective looks at his career, Byles still occasionally releases new material, as well as composing for other artist's. He recently performed his first show in the U.S. at the Sierra Nevada Festival in Marysville and the Ocean Rooms in Hackney, though he appeared less than 100% mentally well at the latter.
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