If you had to guess who holds the record for No. 1 singles in Jamaica — we all know who you would guess, but … you would be wrong. And that’s because Toots & the Maytals hold that record with a total of 31.
Toots and the Maytals are a reggae band that formed in Jamaica back in 1962, before it was even called reggae. They are even credited with naming the genre with their 1968 single, “Do the Reggay.” For more than 50 years Toots and the Maytals have been building reggae and touring the world. As always, they are currently out on the road and will make a stop at the Belly Up next Thursday.
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert grew up singing gospel music in a church choir in Kingston. He met Henry "Raleigh" Gordon and Nathaniel "Jerry" Mathias in 1962 and formed a vocal trio, called The Maytals. In the years that followed, they would add instruments and gain some success on the charts recording with the same producer who was working with another up-and-coming vocal group, the Wailers.
In 1966, The Maytals won the first Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition — right before Toots was put in jail for possession of marijuana. When he got out of jail, The Maytals started dropping some of the biggest hits in reggae history — “54-46 (That's My Number),” which is about his time in jail, “Do the Reggay,” “Pressure Drop” and “Sweet And Dandy.”
In the early 1970s, Toots and the Maytals were becoming famous outside of Jamaica with international hits. By 1972, two of their songs were featured on “The Harder They Come” soundtrack, which made reggae a known genre around the world. They headed out on tour opening for The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and The Who.
Toots and the Maytals broke up for most of the ’80s and then started touring again in the early ’90s with a new lineup. In 2004, they released True Love, an album of re-recorded versions of their earlier hits. An all-star list of musicians collaborated to make it, including Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Trey Anastasio, No Doubt, Ben Harper, the Roots and Shaggy. It easily won the Grammy Award for best-reggae-album.
Their career took a break in 2013 after Toots was hit in the head with a vodka bottle while performing in Richmond, Virginia. The injury resulted in a concussion and treatment that required six staples in his head. The rest of their tour was cancelled, and they would not perform live for three years because Toots was fearful of the audience and did not feel safe performing.
Since 2016, Toots and the Maytals have performed live regularly, continuing to inspire and influence other artists. They are one of the most influential artists ever to come out of Jamaica and will show everybody why next Thursday at the Belly Up.
John Zelazny continues to live his life as though the Colorado Rockies are a plus-500 ballclub. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.