Known as the Originator, Daddy Roy wasn't the first DJ, nor even the first to cut a record, but he was the first to shake the nation and he originated a style so distinctly unique that he single handedly changed Jamaica's music scene forever. U-Roy is noted for a melodic style of toasting applied with a highly developed sense of timing. Born Ewart Beckford in Jones Town, Jamaica, in 1942, he received his famous moniker from a young family member unable to correctly pronounce Ewart and the nickname stuck. As a young man U-Roy listened to the music of Louis Prima, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Fats Domino, Rufus Thomas, Smiley Lewis and was especially influenced by the vocal phrasing of Louis Jordan.
U-Roy started his professional career as a DJ in 1961 on Dickie Wong's Sound System (Doctor Dickies or Dickies Dynamic) moving later to the Sir George The Atomic Sound System. U-Roy then worked on Sir Coxsone Dodd's Sound System. This was followed by a period with Sir Percy Sound System before he moved to King Tubby's Hometown Hi-Fi Sound System. U-Roy’s first single was "Dynamic Fashion Way" produced in 1969 by Keith Hudson. This was followed by the single "Earth's Rightful Ruler" with Peter Tosh produced by the Bunny Striker Lee.
In 1970, Jamaican singer John Holt (The Paragons) heard U-Roy’s toasting over a Duke Reid track at a dance. On Holt’s recommendation Duke Reid met and later arranged an informal record deal with U-Roy and released his first two singles released on the Treasure Isle label in 1970, "Wake the Town" and "Wear You to the Ball". These were immediate hits on the Jamaican charts and established U-Roy’s reputation as one of Jamaica's most popular toasters. U-Roy then went on to work with other major producers on the island including Bunny Lee, Phil Pratt, Sonia Pottinger, Rupie Edwards, Alvin Ranglin and Lloyd Daley. 1971 saw the release of U-Roy’s DJ version of The Paragons' "The Tide Is High". U-Roy has toured the world extensively beginning with his 1972 tour of the UK with artists Roy Shirley and Max Romeo
U-Roy is a devoted follower of the Rastafarian faith, the tenets of Rastafarianism has always been a prominent feature of his lyrics from his earliest singles to his latest album “Pray Fi Di People”.
In 1975, U-Roy released the album Dread in a Babylon in the US, Europe and Jamaica by Virgin Records. The album achieved significant sales in the UK which was due in part to the ongoing expansion of the Virgin label. The track "Runaway Girl" from the album was released as a single in Europe that same year. The success of Dread in a Babylon led to a series of Tony Robinson produced albums: Natty Rebel (1976), Rasta Ambassador (1977) and Jah Son of Africa (1978). U-Roy's international popularity led to the album Natty Rebel being released in 1976 on Virgins' imprint Front Line label in Nigeria as well as in France on Virgin and Polydor.
In 1978 U-Roy started his own sound system which he named Stur Gav after his sons; the sound system would launch the careers of a younger generation of toasters and singers including Ranking Joe, Jah Screw, Charlie Chaplin and Colonel Josey Wales. In 1980 the pop group Blondie had a world-wide hit with the reggae track "The Tide Is High" which prompted Virgin to re-release the original Paragons' track from 1967 and the 1971 U-Roy version as a single that same year. His most recent album is Pray Fi Di People which was released in 2012.
In 2007 U-Roy was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music. In June 2013 , the Jamaican Gleaner wrote a tribute article to U-Roy donning him the "The Rightful Ruler of DJs". Daddy Roy continues to tour and his sound system Stur Gav is a staple in the Jamaican dancehall.
To learn more about this great legend, visit his facebook page or listen to one of U-Roy’s extensive interviews here, YouTube.