The Al Anderson Interview: Part 1, 2, 3

A World-A-Reggae/Midnight Raver Exclusive!

World-A-Reggae recently sat down with Bob Marley and the Wailers’ lead guitarist Al Anderson, who was in Annapolis, Maryland, USA with his band ‘The Original Wailers’ to play the legendary Ram’s Head Inn as part of their ‘Miracle’ tour.

Why Al Anderson?  Anderson was the first of his kind: an American rock guitarist who made the transition to reggae.  In fact, Al Anderson was hand picked by Bob Marley to introduce the rock guitar on the ‘Natty Dread’ album to add a layer of familiarity to the music.  Remember, reggae was still foreign to the vast majority of people in the early 70s.  The world was introduced to The Wailers through the Island Records’ ‘Catch A Fire’ album release in early 1973.  ‘Catch A Fire’ was actually the first album on which Marley and Island President Chris Blackwell introduce the blues/rock guitar with session guitarist Wayne Perkins laying down that unforgettable guitar solo in the album’s opener, “Concrete Jungle.”  Marley had the vision, and the musical smarts to know that adding familiarity to his music was crucial in breaking the band internationally.

In steps Al Anderson, a New York-born, Berklee-trained rock guitarist who had previously worked with Aerosmith and Stevie Winwood’s Traffic before joining Bob Marley and the Wailers.  He would remain with the band until 1976, when he joined Word, Sound and Power, backing Peter Tosh on the albums ‘Legalize It’ and ‘Equal Rights’. He returned to Marley’s band and played on the ‘Survival’ and ‘Uprising’ albums. After Marley’s untimely passing in 1981, Anderson continued to tour with The Wailers Band. In 2008 he formed his own band ‘The Original Wailers (T.O.W)’ with Julian ‘Junior’ Marvin, who also recorded and toured with Marley until his passing.

World-A-Reggae sat down with the legendary guitarist on July 16, 2012 to discuss his career, reasons for leaving The Wailers Band, and his new project with The Original Wailers, an EP called ‘Miracle’, which Anderson executive produced.

(WAR) “So why ‘The Original Wailers?’ Bunny (Wailer) has this campaign to restore respect, music rights, and royalties to the original three.  So why the name?”

(AA) And I support him 100%. I have a big fondness and respect for him because these are the people that I learned the music from. Peter, Bob, Bunny, Familyman, Carly, Tyrone, and Wire were very much my mentors in teaching me the music.”

“OK, this is what happened. I was in Germany with Bob the…(pause) last 4 days before his journey. He told me that he was very worried about the fact he wasn’t going to be able to perform anymore because he was going on his journey. I was aware that the health issue with him touring again was a definite ‘No.’  Bob wouldn’t be touring with the musicians that I had been loving for a decade. Before he passed in the early 80s I asked him to get back together with Peter and Bunny and go on the road as a crusader and a saint and he said “No.” He had missed that time limit and he wanted to spend this part of his life, the little he had left, developing the music with the musicians that lived with him in his house. We all lived around him. It was all about Hope Road, it was all about Ms. Booker’s house and Vista Lane. It was all about being in England on the same ground with him. That’s where I started and that’s where it ended up. So basically he said keep the band together under all the obstacles that we are going to have. He said we would go through a lot of changes with finances. He knew…he said to me that there was something there for all of us, meaning the I-Three and so on and so forth.

(WAR) “So when Bob told you this in Germany, he had already accepted his fate?”

(AA) “Yeah, yeah, without a doubt he knew where he was. Steve McQueen called him just before he passed and said he was checking out. I answer the phone one day at his house and it was Steve McQueen. I was like holy shit!  This is serious.  He says:

‘Can I speak to Bob?’ I passed the phone to Bob, Steve said he was in ultra pain, needles and pins in every nerve center. He was fed up with living and he was ready to go.”

(WAR) “Was that their first conversation?”

(AA)No, I think it was their second. I didn’t even know Bob knew this iconic figure and they had some serious conversation about the condition they were both in. Bobs condition wasn’t anywhere near we would see him make this huge journey from us. The issue was, he told me, he firmly told me to keep the Wailers together because they’re going to try to break up the band.  And there’s gonna be a whole bunch of imitators following his demise. I mean after Elvis left us, look what happened.”

(WAR) “You guys were the biggest band in the world at that point.”

(AA)One of them. Jimmy Cliff was big. He was real big.”

(WAR) “Of course.”

(AA)And we accepted that, but it wasn’t a financial thing. We didn’t work with Bob…(pause)…I mean one person, and I won’t mention any names, but one person asked Bob for money before he passed and he didn’t like it. And this person didn’t show up in Germany either. He was one of the band members who decided to stay behind.”

“Bob’s sole intention was keeping me around to teach me how to, not to be an administrator for the band, but creating a vibe to keep all of us together. That was the whole issue was to keep the original band together, keep the band working and writing our own songs, because you know Rita, Judy, and Marcia have their own albums.  Marcia Griffiths was a huge star with Bob Andy before she ever met Bob and joined The Wailers. Huge star. Judy had number 1 songs in England. There was plenty of new songs. There was no talk about us having to be a tribute to ourselves going forward.”

(WAR) “Was there any talk about who would take the lead?”

(AA) “No, man. The issue for us was to make sure nobody controlled us because that had already been done. Between Island and whoever…”

(WAR) (Wailers manager) “Don Taylor?”

(AA) “Don Taylor, yeah. See Danny Sims wasn’t a problem with me. He was really bad to Bob in terms of his publishing. There were so many tricks going on you know? I just felt that by [Bob] saying to me it’s all about the music, and the band, and the name. Don’t distort the name.”

“It was hard when he passed. There goes Bob Marley. He’s gone. And then there’s The Wailers. What’s going to happen with The Wailers? Who are The Wailers? As far as I’m concerned the Wailers were me, Tyrone, Wire, Aston, Carlton, I-Three, Bunny, Peter… But Bunny and Peter weren’t there for us. OK, let’s put it this way. I got nothing bad to say about nobody when it comes to the Wailers, but I’m talking reality. Where were all these people who now don’t want us using the Wailers name? Where were they when we were the musicians supporting Bob for a decade? We were the ones. Where were they when we were like 48 hours, 72 hours in the studio recording, travelling all over Australia, New Zealand.  All over Europe, Japan?”

(WAR) “You talking about Bunny and Peter?”

(AA) “Yeah, they were doing their own thing. But we were doing more than them. At least, like, 50% more than them. Peter picked it up, Bunny came on late.”

(WAR) “He didn’t want to tour from the start right?”

(AA) “No he didn’t.  He was like ‘I’m going to release albums and tour when I want to tour.’ And I agree with him. Everybody has a right to decide and make their own decisions. But we were going to take 10 years from the time Peter and Bunny left, we were going to take 10 years and just tour, write, produce, arrange, just to get respect. And we did. From Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Sly Stone, Jerry Garcia – he embraced us big time. Carlos Santana – big embracement, you know. These were the people that helped us along the way, and without them it would have been a lot more hard work.”

“Like the Rolling Stones…”

(WAR) “They kind of put you guys on.”

(AA) “They put us on. They helped us out. We had to do all the homework and all the mathematics with the travel. I understand Bunny’s situation, but after ‘Catch A Fire’ and ‘Burnin’,’ it was over. It was up to us – all the touring, all the promotion, everything it took to give Bob his success, it had to do with his band members.”

“Bunny went and did ‘Blackheart Man’.”

(WAR) “Now Bunny with Blackheart Man, he was building off the success that you guys had at the time?”

(AA) “No, Blackheart Man is the greatest record ever made. Bunny didn’t need anybody. He did it himself. He had Robbie and Sly, Carly, Aston, Tyrone, Chinna, he had all the band members we had. He was the man. Blackheart Man is the greatest album ever recorded.”

(WAR) “I like ‘Legalize It’ for that, hold on a second, you played on ‘Legalize It’…”

(AA) “For me, its Blackheart Man. I’m on Legalize It. I’m on a lot of stuff.”

(WAR) “Were you on ‘Blackheart Man’?”

(AA) “No, he didn’t want me on Blackheart Man. I was in the studio, but he didn’t want to hear that ‘Natty Dread’ guitar. Chinna’s a much better session guitarist than I am. Period. He’s one of the all time greats. He’s up there with Ernest Ranglin. I was just a new jack coming to town and trying to find my own way. These were the guys who took me under their wing.”

“Hey can we have a little quiet in here!?” Al yells across the room, and nobody mutters a word.

“These are the guys that took us under their wing and made it happen for me. Getting back to…”

(WAR) “Wait, wait, wait…the name ‘Original Wailers,’ have you had any problem with Bunny over the name?”

(AA) “Yes, yes.”

(WAR) “He doesn’t approve of it?”

(AA) “He doesn’t agree.”

(WAR) “You’ve done nothing but give him mad respect in the press?”

(AA) “Always. 100%.”

 (WAR) “Every interview you respect him, talking about how much you love Blackheart Man…”

(AA) “It’s his. Bob, Peter, and Bunny are the ‘Original Wailers.’ That’s the story.”

(WAR) “And this is a celebration of that right?”

(AA)  “That’s exactly what it is. It’s something that…my whole life changed when I met these guys, my whole way of living, whole way of speaking, just as a human being, changed when I met these three guys. But the issue is this: Where were Bunny and Peter when Bob had to do that 10 years of hard work on his own? They were doing their own thing. So respect the architect. Respect the guy who left the building, went next door and built another building with a bunch of musicians who had nothing to do with the success of these other musicians other than playing on their music.”

“With Bob it was different, he was producing. When you go into the studio with these other guys it’s a whole different world. Bob wasn’t the greatest producer but he was one of the greatest songwriters. He had the best producers. Like Carly could roll in the right place and write his own drum pattern, Familyman wrote his own bass patterns, I had my own guitar lines. Bob didn’t tell me what to play. So we were all producers and directors.”

 (WAR) “So he let you do your own thing?”

(AA) “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to honor that, but that’s their problem.  All I know is after ‘Catch A Fire’ and ‘Burnin’,’ there was 10 years of hard road work to put that man on a pedestal. He could have got anybody to play for him. He chose us.”

(WAR) “Do you really think he could have attained the status he did with just any musicians?”

(AA) “No, it had to be us. The ones he chose. We lived with him and were with him all the time. He even rode coach, he didn’t go first class, until the very last days. You know I left for 2 years and when I came back he was made. You know we were looking for the treasure in ’75 and ’76 and then Don Taylor came in. I said ‘I’m not having it.’ I got out.”

(WAR) “You went to play with Word, Sound, and Power right?”

(AA) “Yeah. I didn’t want anything to do with Don Taylor. He would have the artists displaced and losing respect for themselves.”

(WAR) “Did Don Taylor have Bob’s interest at heart at all, or was it all about money for Don?”

(AA) “It was all about money. He was on his knees. There were a bunch of managers and directors who wanted to take on Bob. We’re talking Barry Gordy, Walter Yetnikoff with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Clive Davis. Clive had a piece of his publishing but gave it back to him before he passed.”

“Why are we called ‘The Original Wailers’? Because of the people that had the greatest influence on us. We tried to keep the band together. But everybody said ‘they’re not the Wailers.’ But Bob bestowed that crown on us by making us producers and directors of our own music.”

“Earl ‘Wire’ Lindo wrote “Redemption Song,” whether they want to believe it or not. Vincent Ford wrote “No Woman, No Cry.” King Sporty wrote “Buffalo Soldier.” Bob had his thing, don’t get it twisted, but those three songs were written by different people. Every single word.”

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of the Al Anderson interview where Al discusses his departure from The Wailers Band, his new project, and much more.

Read Part 2
Read Part 3


3 Comments on this post

  1. […] CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of the […]

  2. Keep up the good works Bro. The POWERS of our People are with you. Its all about ONE LOVE.

    Michael Arkk / Reply
  3. […] HERE for Part 1 and HERE for Part […]

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