Tenor Saw

One of the most important figures in early ragga and dancehall, Tenor Saw (born Clive Bright, 1966, Kingston, Jamaica) is best-known for his 1985 hit “Ring the Alarm,” a song based on the then-ubiquitous “Stalag 17” rhythm which proved to be one of the biggest — and catchiest — hits to come out of reggae’s transition into the electronic age. Tenor Saw followed it up with Fever, an LP that — while it didn’t contain his signature song — proved to be a minor classic of early dancehall, full of simple, catchy melodies, synthesized rhythm-section parts, and Tenor Saw’s floating vocals. (The CD reissue of Fever also appended dub versions of most of the original tracks.) With such a promising start to his career, it seemed Tenor Saw would be around for quite a long time; sadly, his life was cut short in August 1988, when he was hit by a car in Houston, TX, and killed. The album Wake the Town was released posthumously in 1992. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide

Bright was raised in the Payne Avenue district of West Kingston. His first single, “Roll Call” was recorded in 1984 for George Phang’s Powerhouse label, on the “Queen Majesty” rhythm. He moved on, with his friend Nitty Gritty, to work with Sugar Minott’s Youth Promotion sound system and label, having hits in Jamaica with “Lots of Sign”, “Pumpkin Belly”, “Run Come Call Me”, and “Fever”.[1][2] His most successful single, however, was “Ring the Alarm”, voiced over the “Stalag” rhythm for Winston Riley’s Techniques label. The singles’ success saw Tenor Saw work with Prince Jammy, recording “Pumpkin Belly” on Jammy’s (then) new “Sleng Teng” rhythm. Further hits followed in 1986 with “Golden Hen” (on the Uptempo label), and Minott issued Tenor Saw’s debut album, Fever, that year.[1] In common with most dancehall albums of the period, most of the rhythms were digital copies of older tunes from the 1960s and 1970s, usually produced originally by Coxsone Dodd or Duke Reid. Thus, “Shirley Jones” versions Keith “Slim” Smith’s “Rougher Yet”, and “Eeni Meeni Mini Mo” versions “Real Rock” from Studio One, while “Roll Call” versions The Techniques’ “Queen Majesty” from Duke Reid, while “Lots of Sign” versions “Tonight” by Keith & Tex, produced by Derrick Harriott.

By the time the album was released, Tenor Saw had relocated to Miami, joining the Skengdon crew, where he recorded “Dancehall Feeling” and “Bad Boys”. He recorded “No Work On a Sunday” for Donovan Germain, before moving to New York, where he recorded with Freddie McGregor (“Victory Train”). His last recording, “Chill Out Chill Out”, was a duet with General Doggie.

In August 1988 he was killed by a speeding car in Houston, Texas. He died at 22 years of age. Tenor Saw is regarded as one of the most influential singers of the early digital reggae era of the mid-1980s.

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