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Owen Gray

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Owen Gray

Owen Gray
Born (1939-07-05) 5 July 1939
Kingston, Jamaica
Genres Ska, rocksteady, reggae, gospel
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, keyboards
Years active 1958 – present
Labels Studio One, Trojan, Island, VP, Jet Star, Culture Press, Vista Sounds

Owen Gray also known as Owen Grey (born 5 July 1939, Jamaica)[1] is one of Jamaica's 'Foundation' singers whose work spans the R&B, ska, rocksteady, and reggae eras of Jamaican music, and he has been credited as Jamaica's first home-grown singing star.[2]


Gray won his first talent contest at the age of nine, and by the age of twelve he was already appearing in public, playing drums, guitar, and keyboards.[1] He attended the Alpha Boys School and turned professional aged 19.[2] Gray was a dynamic performer on stage, who could be gritty or suave as the song dictated.[3] He was the first singer (of many) to praise a sound system on record, with his "On the Beach" celebrating Clement Dodd's Sir Coxsone Downbeat system in 1959, one of the first releases on Dodd's Studio One label.[2][3] He was one of the first artists to be produced by Chris Blackwell, in 1960, and his "Patricia" single was the first record ever released by Island Records.[1][4] His first single, "Please Let Me Go", reached the top of the charts in Jamaica, and featured a guitar solo from Australian musician Dennis Sindrey who was a member of The Caribs, a studio band that played on many early Owen Gray recordings. The single also sold well in the United Kingdom, as did subsequent releases, prompting Gray to emigrate there in 1962.[2] He toured Europe in 1964, and by 1966 he was well known as a soul singer as well as for his ska songs. In the rocksteady era, he recorded for producer Sir Clancy Collins.[2] His popularity continued throughout the 1960s, working with producers such as Clement Dodd, Prince Buster, Arthur "Duke" Reid, Leslie Kong, and Clancy Eccles, including work as a duo with Millie Small, with songs ranging from ska to ballads.[1] He continued to record regularly, having a big hit in 1968 with "Cupid". His 1970 track "Apollo 12" found favour with the early skinheads, and in 1972 he returned to Island Records, recording reggae versions of The Rolling Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy", although they met with little success.[2] During this period, he regularly had releases on Pama and sister label, Camel Records, and one single on Hot Lead Records. He had greater success in Jamaica, however, with "Hail the Man", a tribute to Emperor Haile Selassie, which was popular with the increasing Rastafari following.[2] Gray spent a short time living in New Orleans before returning to Jamaica where he turned his hand to roots reggae, working with producer Bunny Lee, and achieving considerable success. In the 1980s relocated to Miami. He has continued to release new material regularly, often concentrating on ballads and Gospel music.[2]



  • Owen Gray Sings (1961) Starlite
  • Cupid (1969)
  • Forward on the Scene (1975) Third World
  • Fire and Bullets (1977) Trojan
  • Turning Point (1977) Venture
  • Dreams of Owen Gray (1978) Trojan
  • Battle of the Giants Round 1 (1983) Vista Sounds (with Pluggy Satchmo)
  • Oldies But Goodies (1983) Vista Sounds (split with Delroy Wilson)
  • Max Romeo Meets Owen Gray at King Tubby's Studio (1984) Culture Press (with Max Romeo)
  • Little Girl (1984) Vista Sounds
  • Owen Gray Sings Bob Marley (1984) Sarge
  • This is Owen Gray, Pama
  • Room at the Top (1986) World Enterprise
  • Let's Make a Deal World Enterprise
  • Watch This Sound (1986) Sky Note
  • Stand By Me (1986) Hitbound
  • Prince Buster Memory Lane (1986) Phill Pratt
  • Instant Rapport (1989) Bushranger
  • Ready Willing and Able (1989) Park Heights
  • None of Jah-Jah's Children Shall Ever Suffer (198?) Imperial
  • Living Image (1996) Genesis Gospel Singers
  • Out in the Open (1997) VP
  • The Gospel Truth vol 1 Bushranger
  • Something Good Going On Bushranger
  • Gospel Truth, vol. 2 (1997) Jet Star
  • Derrick Morgan and Owen Gray (1998) Rhino (with Derrick Morgan)
  • True Vibration (1998) Jet Star
  • Do You Still Love Me (1998) First Edition
  • The Gospel Truth vol. 3 (1999) Bushranger
  • On Drive (2000) Jet Star
  • Better Days (2002) Worldsound
  • Let's Start All Over (2003) Jet Star
  • Jesus Loves Me (2004) True Gospel
  • Baby It's You (2005) Worldsound
  • Mumbo Jumbo (2005) Revenge
  • Miss Wire Waist Jet Star
  • Excellence (????), Bushranger

Compilation albums

  • Hit After Hit After Hit (1998) First Edition
  • Hit After Hit After Hit Vol 2 Jet Star
  • Hit After Hit After Hit Vol 3
  • Hit After Hit After Hit Vol 4 (198?) Vista Sounds
  • Sly & Robbie Presents Owen Gray on Top (1994) Rhino
  • Memory Lane Vol. 1 (2000) Jet Star
  • Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Anthology (2004) Trojan


  1. ^ a b c d Larkin, Colin (1998) "The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae", Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Eder, Bruce "Owen Gray Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
  3. ^ a b Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004) The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn., Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4
  4. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002) "Reggae & Caribbean Music", Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6

External links

  • Peter I (2004) "A Question of Recognition – Interview with Owen Gray", Reggae Vibes
  • Owen Gray at Roots Archives
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