“I Think Music Chose Me” – Val Douglas
Coming from the tiny village of Broadleaf in the parish of Manchester, a place so small that Google Maps cannot find it, this man and his bass have circled the globe, bringing the music and culture of Jamaica to thousands and thousands of listeners. His incredible discography, spanning four and counting decades, includes some of the greatest recordings in reggae’s history. And it is no exaggeration to say that everyone who loves reggae has heard Val Douglas’s magical bass through his work with Dennis Brown, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Maxi Priest, and countless others.
Valentine (Val) Douglas’ extraordinary musical odyssey began at age 2, when he moved with his family from Broadleaf to the village of Ritchies, in Clarendon where he attended primary school. His parents were schoolteachers; both were musical, so Val was exposed to music from day one. His father sang, his mother taught piano and conducted and arranged for the local church choir. Though Val, to his mother’s dismay, managed to avoid formal piano lessons, he was always an avid listener, and a skilled dancer. More to his taste was the music played by the local sound systems at the holiday dances his father kept at the school, the jonkanoo band that played in the street on Christmas and Boxing Day, and tenor saxophonist Mass Reuben.
At age 10 1/2 Val began attending secondary school at St. George’s College in Kingston, a noted incubator of musical talent. Here “Dougy” met and rubbed shoulders with legendary musicians Mikey Chung, Geoffrey Chung, Robbie Lyn, Pluto Shervington, Roger Bethelmy, Garth Creary. All would be comrades and collaborators later. Things accelerated at age 13 when Dougy’s brother Denzil brought home an acoustic guitar, borrowed from Reverend Harrison of the Baptist Church a mile away. Dougy was so fascinated by the new instrument that Denzil soon bought him a guitar of his own.
The next five years found Val teaching himself chord structures and progressions on a very challenging guitar. This difficult instrument was a blessing in disguise, as playing it forced him to develop the exceptional hand strength and control that characterize his bass playing. Dougy’s interest in the piano developed as well, because whenever he went home for holidays he had the choice of playing the piano at home, the piano at his parents’ school, or the organ in the church…they were all in the same yard.
After graduating from “George’s”, Val, who is as proficient an auto mechanic as he is a musician, decided that he would attend CAST (now UTECH) to pursue an engineering degree. However, fate had other plans. A local band, the Mighty Mystics, had an upcoming show and their bass player suddenly became ill. No other bassists were available; then someone suggested that Dougy give it a try. With one day’s notice Val learned the music and successfully played the show. The piano-lesson-dodging, guitar-strumming engineering student was now a bass player.
Word spread quickly, and calls for Val’s services came thick and fast in the musical hotbed that was Kingston at the time. Val was soon too busy playing to do his final year at CAST, though he retained an interest in machinery and technology that persists to this day. Soon he was playing with a series of bands that read like an honor roll of Jamaican music: The Fabulous Falcons, The Mighty Virtues, The Now Generation, The Caribs, The United Stars, Burning Spear, The Sonny Bradshaw Seven, CrossRoads, Monyaka, his own band the A-Team, Maxi Priest, Toots and the Maytals, the Congos, and currently the legendary Skatalites.
Val has performed live with nearly every important classic reggae artist of the last forty years, and many of the important dance hall artists as well. His sterling live performances inevitably led Val into studio work. Armed with his legendary “boat anchor” Fender Telecaster bass, which he customized himself, Dougy soon began playing on an astonishing string of hit recordings that continues to this day.
His first Jamaican Top Ten hit was “Thinking” by Ken Boothe; his first British chart record was “Sometimes” by John Holt. Other hits followed: Beat Down Babylon, Breakfast in Bed, Dat, Goro City, Is it Because I’m Black, Love Has Found Its Way, Mawga Dog, Outback Ska, Pitta Patta, Where He Leads Me, Elsaida, Punky Reggae Party, Silhouettes, Someone Loves You Honey, So Much Trouble In The World, Tears on My Pillow, Top Ranking, Yim Mas Gan, Your Honor, Let Me Down Easy, Wake Up And Live, Love Without Feeling, Pave The Way, Jah Heavy Load, Concentration, Baby Don’t Do It, Fly Your Natty Dread, This Time Baby, Play De Music, Black Green and Gold, Love Don’t Love Nobody, I Miss You, Ride Natty Ride.
And the list continues: in January 2011 Val was in the studio with multi-platinum artist Shaggy laying down tracks for his next release.
Val’s remarkable bass playing has been influenced by James Jamerson, Don Drummond, Lloyd Knibb, Bumps Jackson (of Byron Lee & the Dragonaires), Mikey and Geoffrey Chung, Jackie Jackson, Aston Barrett, Robbie Shakespeare, Eric Gale, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, the Skatalites, and the group Chicago. But his relentlessly inventive, lyrical, and melodic lines are all his own. They manage to be profoundly danceable, emotionally evocative, and musically intriguing simultaneously. Many musicians are fine live performers, others are great studio players. Dougy excels at both, lighting up the bandstand or studio as soon as he plugs in his bass. There are more famous reggae bassists than Dougy. But there is none more respected by his fellow bassists, other musicians, and artists.
Val lists as some of the highlights of his career meeting Reverend Jesse Jackson, the Honorable Portia Simpson and the Honorable Bruce Golding; visiting kids in a barrio in Medellin at the invitation of the mayor of Medellin (Colombia); playing for the City of London Against Racism festival; playing for Prince Albert of Monaco at the Bal de la Rose; the 1991 and 1994 Sunsplash World Tours; and all his tours of Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia. In addition to being a world-class bassist in a variety of idioms, not just reggae, Dougy is also a superb bandleader, arranger, producer, and most important of all, an involved and dedicated parent.
Val is a man of great personal integrity and dignity. He is aware of all that he has achieved in music and in life, but none of it has turned his head. Avoiding the pitfalls that have claimed so many artists and musicians, Dougy still retains the warmth, openness, and respect for life, people, and family that he learned as a boy in Clarendon. Stellar studio experience with : Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Skatalites, Abyssinians, Congos, Rox, Johnny Nash, Patrice, Maxi Priest, Manu Dibango, Meditations, Chosen Few, Ken Boothe, Beres Hammond, Ernie Smith, Pablo Moses, Pluto Shervington, Ernest Ranglin, Eric Gale, Royal Rasses, Now Generation, etc.
From Roots Archives
Abyssinians – Declaration Of Dub [1972-76]
Abyssinians – Satta Massagana 
B.B. Seaton – Colour Is Not The Answer 
B.B. Seaton – I’m Aware Of Love 
Barry Biggs – Sincerely 
Beres Hammond – Beres Hammond 
Beres Hammond – Let’s Make A Song 
Beres Hammond – Soul Reggae 
Cedric Myton & Congos – Face The Music 
Delroy Wilson – Sarge 
Dennis Brown – Love Has Found Its Way 
Derrick Harriott – Born To Love You 
Derrick Harriott & Revolutionaries – Reggae Chart Busters Seventies Style 
Dobby Dobson – Sweet Dreams 
Ernest Ranglin – Ranglin Roots 
Ernie Smith – Ernie … Smith, That Is 
Ernie Smith – For The Good Times [197X]
Ernie Smith – Life Is Just For Living 
Glen Brown & King Tubby – Termination Dub [1973-79]
Glenmore Brown – Dub From The South East [1972-76]
Harold Butler – Gold Connection 
Harry Mudie & King Tubby – Harry Mudie Meet King Tubby’s In Dub Conference Vol 1 
Harry Mudie & King Tubby – Harry Mudie Meet King Tubby’s In Dub Conference Vol 2 
Harry Mudie & King Tubby – Harry Mudie Meet King Tubby’s In Dub Conference Vol 3 
Impact All Stars – Randy’s Dub 
Jah Ruby – Dread Affairs 
Joe Higgs – Life Of Contradiction 
June Lodge Featuring Prince Mohammed – Someone Loves You Honey 
Ken Boothe – Blood Brothers 
Ken Boothe – Imagine 
Lord Laro – Yu Have Fe Dread [198X]
Mark Holder – Cameo 
Mark Holder – Today Tomorrow And Always 
Massive Dread – Strictly … Bubbling 
Meditations – Greatest Hits [197X]
Meditations – Guidance 
Mikey Ras Starr – Fire & Rain [1975-84]
Negril – Negril 
Pablo Moses – Pave The Way 
Prince Lincoln & Rasses – Vortex Dub [197X-8X]
Royal Rasses Featuring Prince Lincoln Thompson – Humanity 
The Rass-es – Experience 
The Rass-es Band & Prince Jammy – Harder Na Rass 
Tinga Stewarts – I Feel The Music 
Tyrone Taylor – Cottage In Negril 
Wayne Jarrett – Inner Circle 
Welton Irie – Ghettoman Corner 
Yellowman – Jack Sprat