Errol McGowan glows with Tribute

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

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Before the term became popular, Red Hills Road was the hip strip in Jamaica during the 1970s and early 1980s. Clubs like Tit For Tat, The Turntable, and The Rock Club were among the popular hang-outs, and they all had in-house selectors.

For over 15 years, Errol McGowan was head selector at The Rock Club, located near Meadowbrook in middle class St Andrew. He joined their team in 1982 and became synonymous with the venue.

The 65-year-old McGowan is one of the honorees for Tribute To The Greats, the annual awards show, which takes place Saturday at Curphey Place.

“I first got involved with The Rock Club the second week in April 1982. I was invited there one night by a friend who introduced me to the owner Fitzroy Black, whose DJ was about to migrate,” McGowan recalled in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer. “My friend told him I was a DJ and love to play old music. “Fitzy” in turn told me to come back the following week Wednesday. On my return during the day he allowed me to put his records in order and I was allowed also to play that very night for him. Of course, after that night he hired me.”

The Kingston club scene was not limited to Red Hills Road. Other hot spots were Piper's (Constant Spring Road), The Bohemia (Hagley Park Road) and Epiphany, in the vicinity of what is now Spanish Court Hotel.

According to McGowan, it was not only operators of these clubs who had a friendly rivalry.

“My fondest memories of the venue was competing with another DJ from Epiphany in New Kingston at The Rock,” he said.

McGowan was not exactly wet behind the ears when he got The Rock Club gig. He owned a “little disco” and played for other sound systems such as Soul Prince, Gemini, Grotto Swing and Soul Tone.

After leaving The Rock Club, he was part-owner of The Drifters, a club in North-side Plaza. In the 1990s he said his musical tastes expanded to jazz and blues and obscure songs by unheralded artistes.

“I came to like the uncommon music that was not popular but the words and rhythm were good. I took those music and made them popular. I refer to music such as Seven Days For Seven Loves by Adam Wade and I Need You More by The Wanderers,” McGowan said.

The Kingston-born McGowan, who has a fondness for music from the 1950s to the 1990s, still plays at private sessions.

Saturday marks the 21st Tribute To The Greats, which is the brainchild of Kingsley “King Omar” Goodison. Since its inception the event has honoured over 100 stalwarts of Jamaica's music industry, including artistes, music producers, administrators, sound system operators and dancers.

Other recipients this year are vocal trio The Folkes Brothers, bass player Earl “Bagga” Walker, singers Eric “Monty” Morris and Mary Isaacs, deejay Lone Ranger, Frankie Campbell of the Fabulous Five Band, drummer Derek Stewart, and musicologists Roy Black and Garth Whyte.

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