On September 11, 2014, 27 years after the passing of Peter Tosh OM, Danny Creatah had the pleasure to reason with the legendary Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee about the Stepping Razor.
DANNY: Since you’re the man with a great reputation when it comes to storytelling, Irie Magazine had to ask you some questions about Peter Tosh and his music. I believe it was in the late 60’s that you first met Peter… Can you recall that moment?
BUNNY LEE: I used to see Peter at Coxsone’s Studio 1 when he was around Bob. Later, I met Peter at VP studios… Randy’s Studio 17. He was already a singer in the Wailers Band when I met him. Peter used to work for me during the period that Bob Marley was in America. I used to employ Peter for 20 Pounds a week. He played his guitar and a do a lot of Harmonies, he and I did a lot of instrumentals together.
DANNY: Peter used to work for you on your sessions in the studio? Why did you pick Peter for these studio sessions?
BUNNY LEE: Well, to me, right… Derrick Morgan is one of the greatest singers in the world. I used Peter, not as a singer, but as a harmony man. And as a musician, a Guitarist and to play organ and things like these things… Peter was a very good musician as well as a singer. In those times, I had the cream of the crop, with artists like Derrick Morgan and Slim Smith and so on.
DANNY: Can you tell us a bit about the special bond you had with Peter, when you worked together for a long time?
BUNNY LEE: Yeah, just like most musicians and most young people in the business, as even now. He and I had a special bond together. We always moved close together. If there’s one banana, all of us ate it, you know?
DANNY:During Peter’s life, your paths crossed multiples times right?
BUNNY LEE: A LOT OF TIMES!! Always when him and policeman clash, dem come take me out of my session at Dynamics and I have to go and talk to the police and make that they don’t kill him.
Peter Tosh was the kind of man that loved to show up on police. Those days in Jamaica you used to have some very bad Police, so I used to keep Peter out of Jail all the while. I was a very popular man, who used to know everybody… you know. They used to call me Mr. Fix-It, what Bunny Lee can’t fix, can’t be done!
DANNY: Is it true that you never produced a solo track with Peter; only as being part of the Wailers?
BUNNY LEE: No, I might have a track named ‘Father Killam From Vere’ (Father Killam was an Obeah Man) another version of the track by Derrick Morgan and some other ones, right. But my thing was with Peter, He played guitar and a lot of instrumentals like on ‘The Return of Alcapone”, ‘Hot Sauce’ and a few others. He played some lovely instrumentals, he’s a good, good, good musician. But we never released a song with him. This was when Peter Tosh was forming his band and I took Robbie (shakespeare) to him and Robbie bring in Sly (Dunbar), when he was living out in Spanish Town.
DANNY: Peter, as they say, was one of a kind. Can you to tell us what made Peter the person he was?
BUNNY LEE: Peter was very generous. When I used to go over to Peter Tosh’ Place, at Cow Town – Trenchtown, where pure cowboy come from, They used to call it Cow town, you Know.. When Johnny Nash come to Jamaica, in search for original material, for the first time, Because my ‘Bangarang’ tune mashed up Jamaica, he came to find me at Greenwich Farm. When they wanted Herbs I sent dem over them to Mortimer Planno (a Rastafari Elder) and the Wailers and then the rest is history, Peter was at Planno every day. Like any man else, when you get a person upset he will tell you to Bomboclaat! His favorite Jamaican bad word was Bomboclaat, Rasclaat! Peter had that vibe! Peter was a true Rastaman, he loved that because he practiced it with Bunny and Bob at Mortimer Planno.
DANNY: Is he comparable to Nowadays Artists?
BUNNY LEE: Peter was a bit similar to that African artist.. Lucky Dube. he was like that, same type of personality, same way. Everybody has his own personality, Peter was a real ‘Reggae Revivalist’, they called him the Bush Doctor. Some new artists maybe trying to be a Peter Tosh, but there is only one Peter Tosh! Peter Tosh is Peter Tosh. Not even his son Andrew Tosh trying to sing like him, can’t ever be Peter Tosh. So all the young artists, the
wannabees and all that, they can try, probably one of them might come through the gate, but you won’t have another Peter Tosh!
DANNY: The stories go that during his career Peter changed as a person more and more. Did you have that impression too?
BUNNY LEE: No, Peter Tosh was a cool, cool youth. Until you get him upset, Peter Tosh liked his lead singer a lot, Bob, and he and Bunny get on. Peter Tosh was his own man, he was no follower. He create and do his own thing, God rest his soul. It’s Peter Tosh’ way. He wasn’t a Badman, but Peter didn’t take foolishness. He didn’t care if you were big and bad, only God him feared.
DANNY: In the last few years, a lot has been written about Peter Tosh, a few books were released with a lot of info in it, Is there still anything you think that People have to know about Peter whats not in the books? Some anecdotes that put a different light on him?
BUNNY LEE: Peter was one great Human being, right? Sly and Robbie will tell you that. As you say, when you rub Peter the wrong way, you might see the wiring side of him. He was a great person, that’s why we are talking about him now. He was a cornerstone of Reggae, same with what he did with Mick Jagger singing “If it’s love that your running from there’s no hiding place”, Yeah? He had to break the Barriers, only that thing that makes Peter not as big as Bob , him have the wrong color, you understand.
All the reggae stars, look at them, from when they started. You have Maxi Priest, Shaggy, Sean Paul look Black Half Caste. You have Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs… and they reached the fence. Even Jimmy now, when he’s still alive and he can’t be like Bob. Or Peter he cannot be like Bob because them have the wrong color. It’s not a race thing you know, but the half caste people get through in the business more than the darker skinned people. You notice that. Yu have to talk the truth, you know. Until I see they make Peter Tosh as big as Bob Marley, right? And that will never happen. As long as Chris Blackwell is alive you won’t have a singer as big a Bob Marley. You know Tricks in trade and matches box in business.”. Me is a man that always talk the truth. If you look at Bob Marley’s album ‘Natty Dread’, look at the cover and you see a white person. If Peter was a white or brown guy he would be the king too! Same for singers like Slim Smith, him had one of the sweetest voice in reggae.
DANNY: Unfortunately Peter left us way to soon. When did you hear about what went on in Peters House?
BUNNY LEE: Well..it was a shock, I heard it on the news, with the killing they also killed my friend Free I (Jeff Dixon), a well known announcer (disc-jockey). Those are the guys that made reggae, Jamaican music. A great loss and a great shock, you know? But Peter Tosh immortalized himself, wanting to legalize Ganja worldwide. That was Peter’s dream! That alone immortalized him. That, and more things he said “Babylon, your Queendom is falling”. Plenty things he said come to pass. He was a prophet in his own right. His name will go on forever! He was a great humanitarian and a great person.
Long live Peter Tosh and his music!
This Interview was previously published in Irie Magazine Issue #10, The Peter Tosh Issue.