Brigadier Jerry
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Brigadier Jerry

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band World Reggae


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"Brigadier Jerry still marches on"

Brigadier Jerry still marches on
published: Sunday | March 25, 2007

Krista Henry, Staff Reporter

Brigadier Jerry - Contributed

Calling out all the soldiers of culture in dancehall music, Brigadier Jerry led the Jamaican music scene in the early '70s as one of the top DJs. Born as Robert Russell and affectionately known as 'Briggy', Russell ruled the mic on various sound systems such as King Stur Gav Hi Fi, before becoming a permanent DJ with Jah Love Muzik, run by the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Known for his unique cleverness on mic and the speed of his creativity as well as his highly cultural content, Jerry combined with Charlie Chaplin and Josey Wales as 'three the hardest way'.

Russell started his career in the business as a stand-up comedian for a brief stint before working with sound systems. While working on the sounds, bootleg copies of Brigadier's work circulated around the world and in the dancehall, which led to packed crowds to see the man himself when he performed. However, Briggy started officially recording late in the game, around 1982, and has only recorded six albums. He had popular singles such as Every Man Me Brethren, Never Let Go, and Jamaica, Jamaica, among others. While several singles were released in the late '80s, Brigadier Jerry always preferred and was always a live DJ at heart. The Sunday Gleaner caught up with Brigadier Jerry, who now lives in New York, with his family.

Sunday Gleaner: How did you get your name?

Brigadier Jerry: I got it from my father, they call him Mr. Jerry. People say I resemble him so much, people in the community said so. The Brigadier, the DJs in my day everyone was called a 'Ranking', Joe or something else. I had many names at first like 'Johnny Reds'. I suppose Briggy suppose to control all the ranks, so I combined the Jerry and the Brigadier.

How did you get started?

In a community you have concerts, you partake and do things. A neighbour of mine started building a component set, named it 'Emperor Marcus'. I messed around with the mic after school until it went off from there.

You started doing stand up comedy. Weren't you originally draw to music or was music something that just happened to you?

The stand-up was just for fun. It wasn't really like I wanted to do music until the sound came along. People encouraged me, just so I was dere wid it, dancehall style.

What did your family think of you becoming a DJ?

What they were really interested in was school. It was a likkle fight. They seh I must get my education. Mi neva jump school, but every weekend I was at a dance.

What was your first big break?

My first big break was when I went to Jah Love Muzik. I used to fish around on sounds, but I wasn't a permanent DJ. In 1983/1984 I was a steady DJ with them, so my first break was there with them.

You are noted for your performances. Where are some of the places you performed?

I go almost everywhere all over the world - Germany, Australia, everywhere. Jamaica worse. Mi circle every parish, most of the dancehalls - Skateland, Spanish Town, Old Harbour. If I start tell yuh all di places it would take up the whole story.

Then why did you record so little?

I had all the lyrics, but I was in an organisation called the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a Rastafari organisation. They didn't want their artistes to go out and do songs wid promoters on the street. They wanted to start an organisation for dat. I waited on that, but after a while I wasn't seeing anything going on. I jump ship and do tings for people. Me mek my name on mic - people record it and bring it across the world.

I heard that your a good lyrical improviser. Why is that?

It come in like dis, if you go to a party tonight and get a new tune you know nutten about, yuh haffi get a topic and put something to it right away. When it comes to lyrics ... DJ's in my time used my lyrics, 'cause I never recorded it, they tek it in the studio. I never mind; I saw myself as a teacher. I was the original cultural DJover 39 years now, neva change. I never talk bout under a girl frock. I'm culture.

How would your describe your style?

Mine is one of the greatest DJ styles. I combine four or five styles and mek mine. I patronise people like U-Roy, Big Yute, Prince Jazbo, Dennis 'Al Capone', mi listen dem man. They were before me.

Did you do any lyrical clashing?

Tell yuh di truth, one I can remember they set up in Skateland wid Nicodemus. I came first and Demus came second. It cause a controversy wid Demus fans and mine, but it was ok. Mi nuh inna di competition. They couldn't stand up beside me. They use my lyrics same way.

How has being a Rastafarian affected your career?

Rastafari big up my career, worldwide and local. Everyone know me as the original Rasta DJ. I sing roots, reality, facts of life and culture.

Where you raised a Rasta?

I grew up in a Christian family, go church every Sunday and ting. When yuh grow yuh see different types of religion, dats how it went. One of the best tings that ever happen to me was no doubt Rasta.

How did you get involved with Sister Carol?

Sister Carol and I were in the same organisation. When I came to America I met her, mi teach her how to DJ in America within the space of three weeks. That was in 1983.

Why did you help her?

I saw she was interested and loves it. She was always round the mic; I showed her what to do and not to do. She had a good head on her body. She give me di respect and I appreciate that. Most young DJs don't respect their elders, not realising one day they will be the elder too.

Why did you decide to move to New York?

Mi buck up a daughter and fall in love and I was travelling back and forth all the time, until kids came along mi decide fi start a family. I moved to the U.S., get married and everything. This year makes it 19 years.

Are any of your children interested in music?

One in Jamaica bad yuh shame. His name is TJ, sometimes he call himself 'Junior Briggy'. I have another one he builds wicked riddims, but he doesn't like deejaying.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

The only thing I wish is that I could take it from the top. I'd do more recording. Only thing not out there for me is recording in the studio. I only have six albums out there. There are many tapes of me but I haven't received a penny from it; the piracy is out of order.

Are you still involved with King Stur Gav Hi-Fi sound system?

Stur Gav wasn't my original sound. Most of di promoters dem from there invite me and I will go. We all still roll same way, the sound, me, Josey and Charlie Chaplin. We go England and all over. So right now you could say I'm wid Stur Gav working 75 per cent.

What are your future plans?

Still recording, want to get a good deal. If I can do it myself I will.

What do you think of artistes today?

Mi nah really watch nobody, but mi woulda like fi dem doing conscious things. It always the same ting - guns, unda woman. Mi just waan big up all the clean-hearted people, who love God.

- Sunday Gleaner



Every Man Me Brethren STUDIO 1 7” 1982
Dance Ina Montreal 7” 1982
Pain Jywanza 7”
Gwan a School Jywanza 7”
Horse a Gallop Powerhouse 7”
Warn De Ashandan 7”
Jamaica, Jamaica Jah Love Muzik LP 1984
Hail Him Tapper Zukie LP 1992
Freedom Street VP Records LP



Brigadier Jerry emerged in the late 1970’s, as one of the most popular cultural DJ’s to regularly improvise over the Jamaican sound systems. Highly respected in Jamaica as a conscious DJ, Briggy was a soundsystem teacher, teaching Rasta culture to the multitudes. Bootleg recordings of these dancehall sessions started to leak out internationally amongst the deeper cultural enthusiasts, spreading Briggy’s name abroad. In the years to come, other DJ’s were to follow his example, but Brigadier Jerry remains as the teacher, who set the standard. His vibe and lyrics have an Old Testament Biblical quality about them, that is both edifying and endearing.

More influential through his live performances than his scant recordings, Brigadier Jerry was one of Jamaica's top DJs at the dawn of the .dancehall era. A brilliant lyrical improviser, Briggy or 'The Teacher' -- as he was affectionately known -- elevated the standards for speed and fluidity in DJ chatting technique, laying the groundwork for much of what followed, along with Josey Wales and Charlie Chaplin. Despite early dance hall's taste for slackness, Jerry's subject matter was almost always spiritual and cultural, though he did have a sense of humor and was an excellent battle DJ. Still actively touring in the new millennium, he also still commanded much of the respect -- among knowledgeable reggae audiences -- that he did in his groundbreaking heyday. Brigadier Jerry was born Robert Russell in Kingston on September 28, 1957. He started his career in show business by trying stand-up comedy in his early teens, but soon moved on to work for sound systems. He started out on a sound system in his community named Emperor Marcus in the early '70s, and soon moved on to the legendary Jah Love Muzik system; this latter was run by the Christian Rastafarian sect to which he belonged, the Twelve Tribes of Israel. While with Jah Love, bootleg cassette tapes of his live performances began to circulate among DJ aficionados, resulting in packed houses wherever he played. Despite his sterling underground reputation and influential, melodic toasting style, Jerry was barely represented on record until 1982. He'd previously cut several tracks for Studio One, including "Every Man Me Brethren" and "Dance in Montreal," and appeared on several local singles with other Twelve Tribes members. In 1982, he cut a new version of the Slim Smith riddim "Never Let Go," which he retitled "Pain" and released on the small Jywanza label. It was a major hit, rocketing to the top of the Jamaican charts. Further singles followed over the next couple of years: "Gwan a School" (Jywanza), "Horse a Gallop" (Powerhouse), "Warn Dem" (for Judy Mowatt's Ashandan label), and the 1984 hit "Jamaica, Jamaica" (on Jah Love Muzik's own label). Meanwhile, he also mentored the career of DJ Sister Carol, Shine Head, Tiger, Sister Nancy, Shabba Ranks and DJed for nearly every prominent sound system in Jamaica. A semi-official live album, Live at the Controls, appeared in 1983, but he didn't record his proper debut LP until 1985. Also called Jamaica Jamaica, it was the closest he came to capturing the excitement of his live gigs in the studio, and featured several signature tunes in the title track, the aforementioned "Every Man Me Brethren," and "Armageddon." Several more singles followed over the rest of the '80s, but Jerry remained a live DJ at heart. He relocated to New York on a permanent basis in 1988, and only put together a second album with 1990's On the Road. In 1992, Jerry returned to Jamaica and revived the Jah Love Muzik sound system; he also recorded his third proper album, Hail Him, for Tapper Zukie's label. Another album, Freedom Street, appeared on the VP label in 1995. Today, Briggy still travels extensively to Europe and Japan touring. Although he's famously known as a 'dance hall DJ' on sound systems, Briggy is now touring with his own band doing stage shows.He released his fifth album in 2009 entitled, "Shower of