Bob Marley and the Wailers (also known as The Wailing Wailers, Bob Marley & the Wailers, and The Wailers) were a Jamaican reggae band led by Bob Marley. It developed from the ska vocal group, The Teenagers, created by Peter Tosh, Marley, and Bunny Wailer in 1963. By late 1963 singers Junior Braithwaite, Beverley Kelso, and Cherry Smith had joined on. By the early 1970s, Marley and Bunny Wailer had learned to play some instruments, and brothers Aston “Family Man” Barrett (bass) and Carlton Barrett (drums), had joined the band. After Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh left the band in 1974, Marley began touring with new band members as Bob Marley and the Wailers. His new backing band included the Barrett brothers, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson on lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo on keyboards, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson on percussion. The “I Threes”, consisting of Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, and Marley’s wife, Rita, provided backing vocals.
The line-up was known variously as the Teenagers, the Wailing Rudeboys, the Wailing Wailers, then Bob Marley and the Wailers, with three albums between 1971 and 1973 credited to The Wailers. The original line-up featured Junior Braithwaite on vocals, Bob Marley on guitar, Peter Tosh on keyboard, Bunny Wailer on percussion, and Cherry Smith and Beverley Kelso on backing vocals. By 1966 Braithwaite, Kelso and Smith had left the band, which then consisted of the trio Livingston, Marley and Tosh.
In 1964, the band topped the Jamaican charts with “Simmer Down”, which was recorded 1963 at Studio One with the rhythm section from studio house band The Skatalites. Livingston, Marley and Tosh recorded with Lee “Scratch” Perry and his studio band the Upsetters. They also worked with renowned reggae producer Leslie Kong, who used his studio musicians called Beverley’s All-Stars (Jackie Jackson, Paul Douglas, Gladstone Anderson, Winston Wright, Rad Bryan, Hux Brown) to record the songs that would be released as an album titled The Best of The Wailers. In 1966, they created a rocksteady record label, the Wail N Soul M.
During the early 1970s the Upsetters members Aston “Family Man” Barrett and his brother Carlton (Carly) Barrett, were recruited as instrumental backing for The Wailers. The Wailers recorded groundbreaking ska and reggae songs such as “Simmer Down”, “Trenchtown Rock”, “Nice Time”, “War”, “Stir It Up” and “Get Up, Stand Up”. An attempt at creating a full overview of all the music made by The Wailers prior to their signing to Island Records was made by the Roots Reggae Library. The Wailers Band included the brothers Carlton Barrett and “Family Man” Barrett on drums and bass respectively, Junior Marvin and Al Anderson playing lead guitar, Tyrone Downie and Earl “Wya” Lindo playing keyboard, and Alvin “Seeco” Patterson playing percussion. The I Three consisted of Bob Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.
Tosh and Livingston departure
In 1974 Tosh and Livingston left the band due to their refusal to play “freak clubs”. The pair believed doing so would violate their Rastafarian faith. Peter Tosh believed that producer Chris Blackwell, whom he called “Chris Whiteworst”, was responsible for the bad relationship between the band members, as he thought Blackwell released their albums under “Bob Marley and the Wailers” instead of “the Wailers” since 1969, which tested their friendship.[clarification needed] Perry released two compilation albums for Trojan Records in 1974, Rasta Revolution and African Herbsman, which contained songs from Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution Part II, respectively, and he was the copyright holder of several songs from these albums. These changes caused a major dispute between Marley and Perry, when the former saw the albums, six months after their publication, in the Half Way Road in England.
Bob Marley and the Wailers, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer all enjoyed considerable success as reggae music continued to gain popularity during the 1970s and 1980s. One of the last performances that included Marley was in 1980 at Madison Square Garden. Several of the group’s members have died subsequent to Marley’s death in 1981: Carlton Barrett and Tosh (both murdered) in 1987, Braithwaite (also murdered) in 1999, Smith in 2008, Earl Lindo in 2017, and Wailer in 2021. Beverley Kelso, Constantine “Dream” Walker and Aston “Family Man” Barrett are the only surviving members of the group’s original line-up.
The I-Threes were a female backing band formed in 1974 to support Bob Marley and the Wailers after Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer – the original Wailer backing vocalists – left the band. The three members were Marley’s wife Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths. Their name is intended as a spin on the Rastafarian “I and I” concept of the Godhead within each person.
“Simmer Down” (0:30)
A sample of the band’s 1964 single “Simmer Down”.
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- The Wailing Wailers (1965)
- The Best of The Wailers (1970; released 1971)
- Soul Rebels (1970)
- Soul Revolution Part II (1971)
- Catch a Fire (1972)
- Burnin’ (1973)
- Natty Dread (1974)
- Rastaman Vibration (1976)
- Exodus (1977)
- Kaya (1978)
- Survival (1979)
- Uprising (1980)
- Confrontation (1983)
- Apr–Jul 1973: Catch a Fire Tour (England, USA)
- Oct–Nov 1973: Burnin’ Tour (USA, England)
- Jun–Jul 1975: Natty Dread Tour (USA, Canada, England)
- Apr–Jul 1976: Rastaman Vibration Tour (USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, France, England, Wales)
- May–Jun 1977: Exodus Tour (France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, England)
- May–Aug 1978: Kaya Tour (USA, Canada, England, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium)
- Apr–May 1979: Babylon by Bus Tour (Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii)
- Oct 1979 – Jan 1980: Survival Tour (USA, Canada, Trinidad/Tobago, Bahamas, Gabon, Zimbabwe)
- May–Sep 1980: Uprising Tour (Switzerland, Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, USA)
- The Upsetters
- Word, Sound and Power
- The Wailers Band
- The Original Wailers
- Masouri, John (2007) Wailing Blues: The Story of Bob Marley’s “Wailers” Wise PublicationsISBN 1-84609-689-8
- Farley, Christopher (2007). Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley, Amistad PressISBN 0-06-053992-5
- Goldman, Vivien (2007) The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Album of the Century Three Rivers PressISBN 1-4000-5286-6
- Colin Grant (2011) The Natural Mystics : Marley, Tosh, Wailer, Jonathan Cape 978-0-224-08608-0 (U.K.), W.W. Norton & CompanyISBN 978-0-393-08117-6 (U.S.)