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The Mighty Diamonds: “Harmony can never go out of style” (The Interview)

Multimedia and interview by
Stephen Cooper

On September 25th at the Dub Club in Los Angeles, I interviewed one of the best reggae bands ever, the Mighty Diamonds. What follows is a transcript of that interview; it has been modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.

Q: Tabby, Judge, and Joe, thank you for this interview[, and] great show tonight! It’s [a thrill, an] honor, and [and a blessed] opportunity to [be able to] reason with one of the best harmony bands — and one of the best bands period — in Jamaican history. So I give thanks for this time. Now with great respect for Joe Benaiah and what he brings to the lineup, the original Mighty Diamonds are Bunny [Simpson], [Donald] Tabby [Shaw], and [Lloyd] Judge [Ferguson]. This is the lineup that produced 44 albums and countless hit songs over a fifty-year career. So the question almost all fans of the Mighty Diamonds said I needed to ask [you] tonight — including legendary drummer Sly Dunbar — is: How is Bunny Diamond [doing]?
Judge: Well Bunny Diamond is presently doing terribly. He’s got everything…his senses and everything…it’s just movements.

Q: Is there still a chance that he could rejoin the group?
Judge: Well yes, of course. It all depends on him. Because this kind of business, you have to be–

 Q: You have to be healthy?
Judge: Right.

Q: Now another big fan of the Mighty Diamonds [who goes by the handle @NickiNotNice on Twitter] relatedly asked me to ask you: How do Judge and Tabby feel about not having Bunny with them anymore? And how has Bunny’s absence [from the group] affected the foundation of the Mighty Diamonds, and the vibes that you bring?
Judge: (Chuckling) Well, to really speak, anyone can know how [Bunny’s absence] affects us, you know? Because we [three] have been together since 1969, you know? It’s real sad to me.
Tabby: It come (about) so sudden, you know, [Bunny’s illness]. It’s a change. [But Bunny] can take therapy now.

Q: Another person I [consulted] about this interview is [legendary] Soul Syndicate guitarist, Tony Chin. Tony Chin said I should ask about when he first met you. Because Tony Chin said when he first met you guys, there were 4 members in the group. And, [Tony said,] that this fourth guy had what Tony described as a “bad eye.” Who was this fourth member of the Mighty Diamonds that Tony Chin described? And what happened to him?
Judge: (Laughing) Well actually, he wasn’t a fourth member [of the Mighty Diamonds]. But we [were] schoolmates together. And we did a tune together called “Betcha By Golly, Wow,” and he took part.

Q: What is his name?
Judge: His name was Rudolph Ross. We used to call him “Rossiblemo.”

Q: What happened to him?
Judge: He migrated to the Caymans.

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Q: Since I brought up Tony Chin, Soul Syndicate, and even Sly Dunbar, [yet] another friend of yours from the past asked me to ask you a question. This is [legendary] sound engineer [and] dub [pioneer], Scientist, [also known as] Hopeton Brown. And Scientist said, “Ask them, do they remember when they used to come pick me up at my house to take me to Tuff Gong Studio?”; Scientist says he was about 18 [years old then]. Do you guys remember that time?
Judge: (Chuckling) Well yes, [Scientist] was very young then.

Q: And Scientist says he recalls how dangerous it was in those times [just to walk to the music studio]. Because you had the warring [political] factions [at that time in Jamaica], JLP and PNP, [on opposite sides of the street.] And [sometimes,] when you’d go to the studio, there’d be machine gun battles that would happen [in the street]. Do you guys [also] remember this threat of violence when you’d go to the studio – [either] to Channel One or [to] Tuff Gong?
Tabby: What happened in those days, time[s] when we wasn’t there, you had some shootings, sure, but we wasn’t there.

Q: Were you ever worried about going to the studio? Were you [ever] scared?
Tabby: No, I was never scared. Never scared.

Q: Did the gunmen who were there respect you because they knew –
Tabby: We never crossed them.

Continued on Page Two–>>