Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett talks about the Wailers’ early days
Aston “Family Man” Barrett has a message for Lake Tahoe: “We’re gonna dub up the place tonight. (We) are out here to give them all their favorite songs. Songs of freedom, redemption songs, love songs, and to keep them all in line of their almighty God.”
The Wailers appear Saturday, April 4 in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s South Shore Room. The original band was started in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963 by Bunny Wailer, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Barrett, who plays bass, joined in 1970. After Wailer and Tosh left in 1974, the name became Bob Marley and the Wailers. After Marley died in 1981 when the band resumed it was called the Wailers Band, and now is back to being referred to by its original name, the Wailers.
The Family Man calls the pioneering sound “roots, culture and reality.” It was inspired, he said, by rhythm and blues music of the United Kingdom, meringue, samba and United States soul music. Specifically, he cited James Brown, the Jackson 5, the Drifters, the Impressions and the Chi-Lites.
“We love all types of music,” he said. “We used to say, ‘What is the height of music? Is it symphony? Is it classical?’ … Then we realize the height of music is jazz. So, we said, ‘Let’s analyze jazz and see what it’s all about. And it was free form music.’ ”
He recalled how the band came together becoming popular in the U.K. before it caught fire in the U.S.
“I am the one who put the band together, you know,” he said. “I said, ‘Bob, you are going to play rhythm and sing lead, and Peter, you are going to play lead guitar and sing harmonies and sometimes lead, and Bunny (Wailer) Livingstone, he played percussion, harmony and sometimes lead. And that is in when we move off in ’72; then I have Earl “Wire” Lindo as my keyboard player.
“And we hit a club in London called The Speak Easy. We did two shows a night for two weeks and when we finish the write up in the paper is that on the first song we played we cast a spell and then after that it was like magic.”
But after the Wailers released the band’s fourth record “Burnin,” Tosh and Wailer left the band. Barrett confirmed Tosh’s song “Stop that Train” was a direct reference to his exit from the Wailers.
The band was reconfigured as Bob Marley and the Wailers until Marley’s death in 1981.
“We came up with a new concept of music,” Barrett said. “New music, new melodies and that’s how we came up with the album ‘Natty Dread.’ ”
Music of Bob Marley and the Wailers remains popular today.
“The music, it is for all ages and it is for all times, for past, present and the future,” Barrett said. “It’s like the moon. The older the moon, the brighter it shines.”
Music has advanced with technology but Barrett, who reminded that the drum is the original instrument, said some contemporary sounds have too many effects.
“You make sure that you lead it, don’t make it lead you,” he said. “Some of these producers, they are playing war drums so the problems mushroom, globally.
“The drum is the heartbeat of the reggae music and the bass is the backbone of the reggae music. If the drum is not right, it’s like you have a bad heart, and if the bass is not right it’s gonna have a bad back, and we don’t want the music to be crippled.”
The WailersWhen: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4
Where: Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room
ABOUT Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.