Dennis Alcapone

Dennis Alcapone (real name Dennis Smith) is one of the original Dee-Jays, a classic performer of extraordinary talent. Born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1947, Dennis first started to DJ for the El Paso Hi-Fi in 1969. Influenced by U Roy, his excellent DJ skills and ability to toast over the tracks made El Paso the leading sound system of the time. U Roy was the first DJ to make records voicing over tracks, but it was Dennis’ skill and unique style that challenged U Roy’s dominance. His first hits were made for the youth producer Keith Hudson who doubled as a part time ghetto dentist. In 1970, Dennis had his first hits with tracks like, Shades of Hudson, Spanish Omega, Revelation Version, Maca Version and the Sky’s the Limit.

Through 1971 Dennis teamed up firstly with Coxsone Dodd at 13 Brentford Rd the famed Studio One. and then to toast over some classic then Duke Reid overTreasure Isle. Bunny Lee over on Orange Street..With his witty, half-spoken lyrics over the top of the classic rhythms, Dennis created some hit numbers. Tunes like Number One Station, Mosquito One, and Alcapone Guns don’t Argue raced up the Jamaican charts. This success continued into 1972. With tunes like Rock to the Beat, Love is not a Gamble, The Great Woogie, Teach the Children and Musical Alphabet placed Dennis firmly on the front ranks of international reggae.  Through the early 70’s Dennis worked making over one hundred tracks and released three albums. He worked with some of the great reggae producers including Coxsone Dodd, Winston Riley, Lee Perry, Joe Gibbs, Prince Buster and others. He toured through Guyana and the UK as well as winning the Swing Magazine award for Best D.J. He worked in collaboration with Dennis Brown, Augustus Pablo and Delroy Wilson and by now his skills were highly prized.

Dennis was living in England, but continued to tour as well as work in Jamaica and through the late 70’s worked on making albums for Sidney Crooks, Bunny Lee and Count Shelly.

In the late 80’s Dennis returned to touring and year on year he has been getting busier. Appearing in Helsinki and at the 1989 WOMAD festival in Cornwall, followed by Paris the following spring, he sold out two nights to a rapturous reception. In 1990 he returned to Jamaica and spent over three months recording over digital rhythms for Bunny Lee, Tappa Zukie and Prince Jazzbo. Since then Dennis has toured almost every year. He took part in the Ariwa Showcase with Mad Professor, the successful south London producer appearing along side artists like Macka B and Tippa Irie. By 1994 he was recording for UK dub master Adrian Sherwood and released a 12″ version of the classic Rome rhythm as well as working on tracks with the On-U-Collective. His 1995 tour dates included a return home to Heineken Star Time show in Jamaica his first appearance in twenty years.

In 1996 he toured Japan, appearing in five cities on the Golden Rock Steady tour which is part of the Japan Splash series, along side such greats as the Heptones, Cornel Campbell, and Norma Frazer. In the same year, demand took him to Italy with Mad Professor and then Spain with Alton Ellis. 1998 saw a return to Jamaica for Heineken Star Time as well as Madrid and Naples, while 99 took him to Sweden, France, Germany, Amsterdam as well as all over England. Dennis has continued to tour all over the world in the last couple of years. By 2002 Dennis performed at the Rototom Festival in Italy and by July was the first reggae artist to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and then by August performed at the Chiemsee Festival in Germany.

Dennis has sung alongside all the Jamaican greats and his appearance list read like whose who of reggae as well as many other artists besides.

It is true to say that Dennis Alcapone is a living legend. His DJ skill, vocal talent and musician-ship have earned him a well-deserved place in modern music history.


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