Dave Barker was born in Kingston Jamaica 29th October 1947 in Kingston Public Hospital. He grew up with is Mum, his Dad's Mum his great Gran’ and his three Uncles. His first home was in Mission Road, Kingston in a tenement block. It was here that Dave’s first hint of where his life would lead. His mother was searching for Dave who was supposed to be playing in the yard. He was only four years of age and had disappeared. Worried out of her wits Daves’ mother ran around trying to find him, until a neighbour told her to try across the road, he had been seen over by the club. Crossing over to the club she found Dave in the middle of the dance floor transfixed by the magic of the sounds. Even as she dragged him off home, all he could do was to look back to the hall and the pumping sounds that were to be the basis of his life.
The family moved to St Albans Lane, which is where he grew up. Dave didn’t see much of his father who was in the army ‘fighting wars all over the world’. The first school Dave went to was Franklin Town School in Victoria Road, which was his primary school until he was eleven years old. He then went to Vauxhall Secondary School and although the school wasn’t too bad, Dave didn’t learn too much as his mind wasn’t into what they were teaching. Dave was really into nature and music and Clare Chung a childhood sweetheart. Dave didn’t really do his homework, in fact he made up the answers before he went off to school each day.
His day would start with chores at six am before getting to school for eight. Every day the teacher would look at his books and ask him where he got the answers from. As he made them up, each day he was taken through to the kitchens, bent over a freezer and caned. As Dave said “ every day started with licks”. The teachers said he would not amount to anything, but each year when the school concert came round it was Dave who they asked to perform. Dave would sing for his class in each concert and the concert were held twice a year. Often children would come from other classes and ask Dave’s teacher if he could sing for their class too. It was only at these times that Dave would become the centre of attention. Using his head as a drum against the wall, he would sing out the tunes, banging in time with his skull. Clare Chung kept Dave interested in school, until one year the school had an open day with Ferris wheels and a Fare. Dave dressed in his best clothes, slicked up went to the fare, to find out that Clare had taken off with another boy. His loss was a hard lesson to learn and Dave lost interest in Clare and school in one afternoon.
But before Dave had even left school, passing the Rialto Theatre one day with friends, they heard music pouring out. Inside was the Vere John Show, ‘ Opportunity Knocks’ and they were rehearsing. His friends pushed him into the audition and the producers were so impressed they put him in the show that night.
When Dave finally left school, his Uncle Roy insisted that Dave learn a trade and so took him to a friend with a garage. Dave started his apprentership at the garage earning 10 shillings a week, which he would take back each week for the family. He caught the attention of the bosses wife. She would shower him with attention when the boss was out and very soon Dave was sacked. So afraid was Dave to go home and face the wrath of his uncle that Dave never went home, but shacked up with some people he knew. He spent his days weight training, until his granny found out where he was and persuaded him to come home. Dave did go back and he stayed until his father sent for his granny. Dave found himself so broke, he took to sleeping in old cars at the back of a garage in Franklin Town.
Dave was already singing with friends as a vocal trio, when he ran into Glen Brown. Glen was intrigued by the quality of their voices and teamed up with Dave to work together. Glen knew Tommy Cowan from the Jamaicans, who upon hearing Dave, called Coxone Dodd for Dave to go in and record. Dave started to record for Coxone sleeping in old cars by night and singing in the studio by day. He was surrounded by the great Jamaican musicians of the day, John Holt, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Ken Booth, Joe Hicks, Judy Mowatt, Bob Andy, Marcia Griffiths, the Belltones and off course Bob Marley. The first tracks recorded were’ Lady love Light & an Arthur Connelly song ‘ Love got me’.
But these were followed by another six tracks, to which Dave was never paid any money at all. But by this time Dave had started a family and so ended up working in the Coxone pressing plant as a casual labourer. Dave ended up doing all the menial work until it peed him off and he ended up leaving, but ended up seeing Coxone one more time only. He was so broke and his family had no food so Dave waited until Coxone got home one night and approached him for some money for the recording that he did. Coxone looked at him, drew $5.00 dollars out of his wallet and turned to Dave and said
“Let this be the first and last time that this happens”
But some time passed and one night Dave and Glen were walking past Randy’s Recording Studio, when a green and black Jaguar drew up and out of it came a whole heap of guys including Lee Scratch Perry. Glen and Dave followed the crowd of Guys upstairs to the studio. The vibe was great inside and Dave found a quiet corner to sit in.
They were recording some tracks with Busty Brown ( Chosen Few ) but Busty couldn’t get the vibe. They were just about to call it a night when someone said, try Dave. Scratch said, do you think you can handle the track and Dave replied, “Scratch, jus play da track man” By the time he had finished the track, Scratch was throwing his hat in the air, and the track was laid. ‘Prisoner of Love’ was released and ended up playing all over the place.
Dave ended up recording for Scratch on a number of tracks and was included the writing of ‘Shock of Mighty’. Dave started recording for Bunny Lee and doing shows as well, following up with ‘Lockjaw’ for Duke Reid and later ‘Funky Funky Reggae’. But Duke did pay Dave very well for his work and it was the first time that Dave saw any substantial money for his recording work. Dave started leading the Techniques and they recorded Monkey Spanner at the Dynamic Studio and Double Barrel was recorded at Joe Gibbs’ studio.
The two tracks never did too much at home in Jamaica. But Winston Riley started to get calls from England where Double Barrel started to take off. After the last call Winston Riley got, he turned to the boys and said
“ Well gentlemen were going to be headed for England to do some shows and you mustn’t worry about anything cos when we reach England, you no worry about lovely clothes, good food, lovely place to stay and of course plenty o money. You man are goin to be rich” All the guys trusted Winston Riley. Within a day the passports were sorted, Riley purchased one set of stage clothes each and they were on a plane to London.
This was only the second time that Dave had met Ansel. As the plane circled London Riley looked out the window and seeing the chimneys of London exclaimed “ Ras, look at all the bakeries them have” They drove from the airport, strait to Trojan where they didn’t stop but went strait down to the BBC at Shepherds Bush and ‘Top of the Pops’.
They left the BBC and went strait out on a tour of England, three shows per night. They toured for six months until Riley went back to Jamaica. But by now living in a terrible bed-sit of Ladbroke Grove, with no money Dave became depressed and locked himself away for about five months. In the end Dave was persuaded to go to Creole and they signed a deal for an album ‘Living in the Ghetto’ under the names of Dave and Ansel Collins for which he was paid £20.00 per week. But even after it was completed there was an argument and the album was never released. Due to the argument with Creole, Dave decided not to sing again until his contract with Creole expired. For five years until 1977, Dave did not sing or perform another note. But by now he was married and living in Kilburn and spraying cars for a living. In 1976 with Bobby Davies and Winston Francis they formed Chain Reaction. Working with Stanley Pembleton at the Manfred Man studio at the Elephant and Castle. They did quite a few tracks over that period, but the company ran out of money and soon dissolved. But Dave continued with Bruce Ruffin and eventually signed with Gull for an album called ‘Indebted to you’
But the option to renew the contract was not taken up so they only completed the one album. He ended up working again this time for John Barnes in their boiler house. But at least it was a time when Dave earned some regular money. Dave ended up staying with Bobby Davies and it was while he was there that he was introduced to Mike Carr from Cargo. A renowned musician, Mike introduced Dave to Tim Cansfield, who played with the Bee Gees. They completed the writing of several tracks and then ran them off in the studio. These tracks went to EMI and ‘Holding on for your Love’ went on to some success, especially in the States. By 1982 and through Mike, Dave was introduced to Bluey of ‘Incognito’ fame and in turn becoming the lead singer. They ended up doing some shows. But by the mid eighties that had dried up and Dave went back to work again doing odd jobs. But since then, the music started to again pick up for Dave.
Through out the late eighties Dave started touring through Europe. With acts like Laurel Aitkin, Judge Dredd and Tony Glenroy from the Greyhound Band, Dennis Alcapone and others, Dave saw numerous tours through Europe. By the 90’s he was touring and singing with the Selector and that work has carried on through to this day.
Dave Barker has often been recognised within the industry as one of the most exploited artists to come out of Jamaica. The classic movie ‘The harder they come’ could almost have been written for Dave, except that Dave never suffered the temptation of crime and a quick return. But now the tables are starting to turn.
Dave completed an album for the famed Prestige-Elite record label in London in 2002.
Commissioned by Keith Thomas of Prestige Elite, the album is a classic selection of Dave’s hits, recorded with famed engineer and producer Lindel Lewis. Since then Dave has continued to record for various producers and has performed at countless shows all over the world.
With new management in place, Dave is looking forward to at last, a brighter future.