Music and curation courtesy of Dubwise Garage

October 1973,

The Wailers are on a whirlwind US tour to promote their new Burnin’ album, which was released by Island Records on October 19, 1973. Filling in for Bunny Wailer – who decided not to participate in the US tour following a grueling UK tour several months prior – was Joe Higgs. Considered by many to be the godfather of reggae, Higgs had rehearsed The Wailers in his Trench Town home for years, honing and shaping their vocal skills, eventually transforming the youths into a formidable vocal trio.

Joe Higgs is a Genius!

Promo ad noting Joe Higgs’ impact on early Reggae
192499_102696309897979_1168510416_o copy

Concert ticket from the 1973 US Burnin’ tour
(image provided by Jack Low’s Archive)

In order to broaden their audience they signed on to open 17 dates for Sly and the Family Stone, who were hot off their new single “If You Want Me to Stay” from their June 1973 album, Fresh. However, they only opened four shows for Sly, who dropped them from the tour after a gig in Las Vegas, leaving the band stranded without many options. Aston “Family Man” Barrett spoke about the incident in John Masouri’s book, Wailing Blues; The Story of Bob Marley’s Wailers :

“Sly Stone’s people left early before we got up. We were left stranded at the hotel, not knowing what was happening and without any money. There’d been some vibration coming from his quarters earlier on in the tour, so I figured something was going on in his mind, y’know? What we were doing, it was a different concept of music from what they were used to and it obviously didn’t sound right to them. Maybe we were too rebellious for them and they weren’t ready for the Rastaman Vibration, coming from the throne of King David. Sly Stone took us for simpletons leaving us high and dry like that.”

The Wailers get left stranded (click < > to scroll)

A Jamaican attorney by the name of Gus Brown stepped in, putting the band in touch with a promoter who immediately booked them to play consecutive nights on October 19th and 20th at The Matrix Club in San Francisco. The Wailers were such fan favorites that they are then booked to perform two more nights at The Matrix on October 29th and 30th. Wailers’ harmonica player and photographer Lee Jaffe discusses the Matrix performances:


The Wailers live at The Matrix in San Francisco, CA
“We were staying in a motel about a mile from the venue— a club with capacity of about 800, aptly called The Matrix. We were on tour supporting the Burnin’ album. The morning after the gig – which for me until now was the most incredible performance I have been witness to – I rushed out to see if we had a review in the newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. I quickly flipped to the entertainment section. The headline said “Wailers Apocalyptic”… I was thrilled. We were a virtually unknown band and I had never seen a performance by any band described any way like that. I rushed to show Bob the ebullient review. He read it methodically then raised his eyes to me–barely smiled. A next step in the struggle. It was time to hit the road.”

SF 1973

Bob reads a view of their Matrix shows
in the San Francisco Examiner

Another review of The Wailers’ Matrix shows,
from the San Francisco Tribune
(click to read on ISSUU)

Bay-area broadcaster Tom Donahue – who had promoted the band’s debut album – attended the Matrix shows and was so impressed that he arranged for The Wailers to do a live broadcast from The Record Plant recording studio on his show at KSAN, San Francisco. “Live From The Plant” premiered in 1973 as a live radio showcase for new and existing talent. It was broadcast on the album-oriented rock station KSAN (FM) from time to time over the next two years, primarily on Sunday nights, and it featured various artists such as the Grateful Dead, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Buffett, and Fleetwood Mac.


The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA

The Wailers treated the small list of in-studio attendees and others listening to the KSAN broadcast to a performance unlike any other the group had ever performed. After opening the set with the ceremonial “Rastaman Chant”, the band takes on songs like “Walk The Proud Land” and “You Can’t Blame The Youth”, two songs which were rarely played during other live performances. The vibe of the KSAN performance takes on a softer, more intimate tone as compared to the high-energy, unrestrained, almost raucous atmosphere of The Matrix shows.


The Wailers perform live on KSAN Radio

Seven tracks from the KSAN performance are featured on the 1991 Tuff Gong release titled Talkin’ Blues. The album also includes outtakes from Marley’s legendary Lyceum performance from the summer of 1975 interspersed with a fascinating 1974 interview with Marley by JBC broadcaster Dermot Hussey. I spoke with Dermot recently about his interview with Bob:


Bob Marley, 1973
(Photo by Lee Jaffe, © Bob Marley Music, Inc.)

“At the time of the break-up of the Wailers, I had approached Bob about doing an interview. As I lived near to 56 Hope Road and in fact passed the house everyday going to work at JBC, I would wait until after he played soccer, as a ritual every afternoon and I kept asking him to do the interview. I think a week passed. Nothing. Then another week, and then unknown to me Skill Cole convinced Bob that he should do the interview. Bob had one stipulation. He didn’t want to do it at the JBC, so find somewhere else. I did. A studio off Hope Road that did jingles and commercials. With all the excitement, I never remembered to note the day in 1974 that it took place. But he arrived promptly, and in the course of the interview he was very outspoken. He was clearly upset by feedback that he was getting about what Tosh was saying about the break-up. In fact after the interview, sometime after it was broadcast, he told me to destroy it. ‘You see that interview? It could value a million dollars, as well as it could value nothin’.’ I gave him a copy of the tape but against his wishes I never destroyed the original tape.”


Talkin’ Blues album cover

Talkin’ Blues is a posthumous release that is absolutely essential listening for any Marley fan, as it captures a transformative period in which Marley breaks from the past and forges ahead into a future unknown. At the time of the album’s release, just ten years after Marley’s passing, his role as a visionary and musical pioneer as well as his place in the lexicon of popular music were undeniable and all but universally accepted. As Rolling Stone’s David Fricke explains in his glowing review of the album “[L]ooking for a new Marley is as pointless as looking for a new Dylan or Hendrix. Bob Marley, like those other two originals, revolutionized pop music in his own singular image, transforming a regional mutant product of Caribbean rhythm, American R&B and African mysticism into a personalized vehicle for spiritual communion, social argument and musical daring. Others, including his fellow founding Wailers, Neville Livingston (a.k.a. Bunny Wailer) and the late Peter Tosh, were party to his revolution. Yet it was Marley, with his rootsy integrity and mainstream-pop savvy, who largely initiated and greatly accelerated reggae’s coming of age as a music of the world, as opposed to simply world music. He still casts a long shadow over reggae because his peers and disciples can still find much to love, and learn from, in his legacy.”

Story by Michael Watson of midnightraverblog.com
Music from Dubwise Garage (bobmarleyconcerts.com)
Photo Curation by Manu Morales
Photos by Chuck Krall, Lee Jaffe & Arthur Gorson
Archival materials thanks to Midnight Raver and Dubwise Garage

The Neville Tapes

In an exclusive and never-before-heard interview with Neville Garrick – Bob’s art director and former director of the Bob Marley Foundation in Jamaica – we learn about the 1973 Burnin’ tour, Bob’s interview with Dermot Hussey, and the development of the Talkin’ Blues album release!

The Archives

A review of the The Wailers shows at the Matrix, from 1973


The original press release from the Matrix announcing The Wailers upcoming concerts

Matrix 19731019

A review of the The Wailers shows at The Matrix Club, from 1973


Bob Marley

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