Renowned rocksteady harmony trio the Gaylads was formed in 1963 by Kingston-born vocalists Harris "B.B." Seaton and Winston Delano Stewart, who as the duo of Winston & Bibby previously enjoyed a series of Coxsone Dodd-produced hits including "Joybells," "I'll Be There," and "Lover Man." With the addition of local singer Maurice Roberts, the newly formed Gaylads returned to Dodd's Studio One to cut their first hits, reeling off a string of well-received sides like "Whap Whap," "There'll Come a Day," and "What Is Wrong with Me." As Seaton began work with another Kingston group, the Astronauts, the Gaylads' activities ground to a temporary halt, but in 1966 the group returned in force with the hits "Lady with the Red Dress," "Stop Making Love," and "Don't Say No"; they also became a regular fixture of other Dodd sessions, backing singers including Slim Smith and Ken Boothe (for whom Seaton authored the classic "The Girl I Left Behind").
The sea change from ska to the slower rocksteady rhythm brought with it a huge shift in the Gaylads' approach -- no longer restrained by the demands of uptempo material, they were free to attempt more complex and sophisticated harmonies, resulting in a number of 1967 hits including "Love Me with All Your Heart," "How Can I Go On," and "I Am Free" (all later included on the trio's debut LP, The Soul Beat). Upon completing the follow-up, Sunshine Is Golden, the Gaylads parted ways with Dodd, signing on with producer Sonia Pottinger for the fine "It's Hard to Confess." The quality of the Gaylads' work with Pottinger remained high over the sessions to follow, with efforts like "A.B.C. Rocksteady" and "Over the Rainbow's End" ranking with the group's very best work. However, in late 1968, Stewart left the trio to mount a solo career; Seaton and Roberts forged ahead as a duo, collaborating with a number of producers during 1969 (most notably Lee "Scratch" Perry, with whom they scored with "Room for Rent" and "I Wear My Slanders").
As the decade drew to its close, the Gaylads signed with producer Leslie Kong, immediately notching the smash "There's a Fire." Under Kong, the group (replacing Stewart with either ex-Paragon Howard Barrett or Ricky Grant) enjoyed one of their most fruitful periods, recording renditions of everything from Tommy Edwards' "It's All in the Game" to Nina Simone's "Young, Gifted and Black"; a cover of James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" even served as the title track of their third LP. 1971 began promisingly with the hits "My Jamaican Girl" and "People Crying," but that August, Kong suffered a fatal heart attack; the devastated Gaylads tapped producer Rupie Edwards to helm their next smash, "Can't Hide the Feeling." By this time, Seaton was also performing as a member of the Conscious Minds alongside Ken Boothe; with Lloyd Charmers and Pete Weston, he also co-founded the Splash and Soul Beat labels. Each project drew him further away from the Gaylads, and after recording a few final records including "The Guy Next Door," "You Can't Get Away," and "Seven in One," Seaton left the group.
Roberts, the lone remaining original member, selected brothers Randell and Hopeton Thaxter to carry on the Gaylads name; the new lineup never matched the success of its predecessor, however, and after releasing the album Love and Understanding as the Gaylads, Roberts dropped any reference to the moniker whatsoever and rechristened the trio the Psalms, landing as backing vocalists for Bunny Wailer. The founding duo of Seaton and Stewart re-formed for the first time in over two decades for an appearance at the 1991 Studio One concert, and two years later, Roberts joined them for a performance at the Rocksteady Reunion in Kingston. Seaton -- who began his solo career in 1973 with the album Thin Line Between Love and Hate and enjoyed success throughout the years to follow -- subsequently relocated to London to helm his revived Soul Beat imprint. ~ Jason Ankeny
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