The Mystic Radics story, episode 1 : meet me at the Youth Club

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Being born is St Andrews, Jamaica, how did you end up in England?
Tony Moody:
I came here when I was 13. My mother came, when I was seven, and I remember I missed her so much. So in 1967, I wrote her my first letter and I explained how much I missed her and so on, and within six months she sent for me. She was working on the buses, as a conductress.

It was a cultural shock—the change. In comparison to Jamaica, it was very cold, but I liked it. The thing that I noticed more than anything else was that there was no leaves on the trees [laughter]!

Had you started singing already, back in this time?
Well, when I came to England, the first thing I saw in my mother’s new house was a piano. And I always wanted to play the piano when I was in Jamaica, but I didn’t have one.

I also liked the trumpet because the most famous band back in Jamaica was the The Skatalites, and I met Dizzy Moore and so forth, I loved the way he played. But I bought a trumpet and I realized it was quite difficult, so I didn’t bother.

So… the piano, then.
Yes. And I had a friend who we used to go to youth club with and his brother was one of the best pianist in Jamaica, and he used to attend the youth club: Harold Butler himself! I used to watch him play ath the Youth Club. I even paid him to play for me. So when I came and I saw the piano I then asked my Mom if I could play it and she said yes. And then I started singing as well.

What area of London did you reach when you first came? Lambeth?
Lambeth, yes. West Norwood. It’s a beautiful area. But then while I was there, one day, two days, three days, playing songs I brought over from Jamaica, Alton Ellis songs and different songs to remember Jamaica, the Skatalites’ songs, I’d play them, and then finally my mom said, “Okay, we’ll have to go and get your school uniform to go to school”. So then she took me to Brixton. I could not believe it. Absolutely wonderful. I just loved it. The vibes, just the area. I’ve loved it ever since. It was like a small version of Jamaica. It’s the feeling. I felt like I was at home. I wrote back a letter to my grandmother and I said, “This place is like little Jamaica”.

Was anybody from your family in the music business at all?
No. My mom is a very good singer, though. She’d sing Sam Cooke songs, things like that, or The Platters or Dusty Springfield songs. She’s back in Jamaica now.

But anyway, when I started at my school, Kingsdale School, all of my friends and l would sing because we would go to youth clubs and we’d listen to music and then we just start singing. My friends would always be saying, “Tony, sing! Sing!” That’s when I recognized that okay, they liked my voice. They didn’t even know that I play the piano.

The band, now, came about because of my piano playing, I taught myself to play good enough. I played the organ as well, so my friend Sami Francis wanted to form a band and asked me if I would play the keyboards. I said yes, and that’s how it started.

But the most important step for me to really get serious about putting out music was when I was playing cricket. I joined the Brixton West Indies Cricket Club and I remember playing a match against the BBC. I remember telling everybody, “I want to take a cricket team to Africa.” I was 19. So they said, “Where you’re going to get the money [laughs] to take a cricket team to Africa? You know you’re talking nonsense.” It’s like a pipe dream, you’re thinking, but you’re just dreaming.

At the time, the apartheid system in South Africa was really bad. And I knew that if they were exposed to cricket and exposed to music they wouldn’t have no time to fight because the spirit that cricket has. I believed that it they were exposed to that, they would try to rectify their differences rather than fight. So I thought if I could get at team to go to Africa to demonstrate that it actually can work if we use cricket and music linked together. It can work. So then I said, “I am going to use my music to do it”. So that’s when I start writing and producing and so on.

What wacarltnw109261637564530s the first song you put out?
It was called Night Work. I married when I was 20. So my wife, she was doing night work, and it was very lonely [laughter], very, very lonely, because I had to look after my children. I missed her so much and I thought that by putting it into words, and writing a song and all of that she would understand how I felt. So I wrote the song for her.

So The Mystic Radics had formed already?
Yes. I was in a youth club, and I taught them to play, then I recorded with them. On Night Work, you had Desmond Carter playing the rhythm, myself, and then my eldest son, Paul, playing the drums…

Wait. You were 20 and you had your son play in the band?
Oh yes, he was like — he was young, 15. He’s my step son. When I did the first song he was about 15 and I was about 20 something. I can’t remember exactly. Then you had Marvin Augustus who usually played drums, too—just not on Night Work. And then his brother, Patrick Augustus, played steel drums. He still plays steel drums with Mad Professor today. Then Michael played the clarinet and melodica, Andrew —I forgot his last name—played the bass. Franco Scalisi played the saxophone. Everybody was from The Gypsies Youth Club in Lambeth. I did meet Franco at a hotel where I worked for a while, though. He would play at restaurants and that’s how I met him, and then I asked him to come and join me.

Episode 2 coming out next week… Hold tight!

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