Toots and the Maytals, originally called The Maytals, are a Jamaican musical group and one of the best known ska and rock steady vocal groups. According to Sandra Brennan at Allmusic, "The Maytals were key figures in reggae music. Formed in the early 1960s when ska was hot, the Maytals had a reputation for having strong, well-blended voices. Frontman Hibbert's soulful style led him to be compared to Otis Redding.
Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, the frontman of the group, was born in May Pen, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1942, the youngest of seven children. He grew up singing gospel music in a church choir, and moved to Kingston in the early 1960s. In Kingston, Hibbert met Henry "Raleigh" Gordon and Nathaniel "Jerry" Mathias, forming in 1961 a group whose early recordings were incorrectly attributed to "The Flames" and "The Vikings" in the UK by Island Records. The Maytals first had chart success recording for producer Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at Studio One. With musical backing from Dodd's house band, The Skatalites, the Maytals' close-harmony gospel singing ensured success, overshadowing Dodd's other up-and-coming vocal group, The Wailers. After staying at Studio One for about two years, the group moved on to do sessions for Prince Buster before recording with Byron Lee in 1966. With Lee, the Maytals won the first-ever Jamaican Independence Festival Popular Song Competition with their original song "Bam Bam" (later covered in a Dancehall style by Sister Nancy, and also by Yellowman in 1982). However, the group's musical career was interrupted in late 1966 when Hibbert was jailed for 18 months for drug possession. He stated that he was not arrested for ganja, but while bailing a friend. He also stated that he made up the number 54-46 when writing "54-46 That's My Number" about his time in jail.
Following Hibbert's release from jail towards the end of 1967, the Maytals began working with the Chinese Jamaican producer Leslie Kong, a collaboration which yielded a string of hits throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. These included "Do the Reggay", one of several songs released in 1968 to first use the word "reggae" (spelled "reggay") in a Jamaican recording; "Pressure Drop"; "54-46 That's My Number" the 1969 Jamaica festival's popular song winner; "Sweet and Dandy"; and "Monkey Man", the group's first international hit in 1970. By 1971, they had not only become the biggest act on the island, they were also (thanks to signing a recording contract with Chris Blackwell's Island Records) international stars. In 1972 they won their third Jamaica festival popular song with "Pomps and Pride". The group was also featured twice in the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, the 1972 film starring Jimmy Cliff, named as one of Vanity Fair's Top 10 soundtracks of all time.
After Kong's death in 1971, the group continued to record with Kong's former sound engineer, Warrick Lyn. Their re-instated producer Byron Lee renamed them Toots & the Maytals. The group released three best-selling albums produced by Lyn and Blackwell of Island Records, and enjoyed international hits with Funky Kingston in 1973 and Reggae Got Soul in 1975. Following the release of Reggae Got Soul, Toots & the Maytals were invited to tour as the opening act for The Who during their 1975-76 North American tour. The tour went poorly and Toots & the Maytals never went on to the success of Bob Marley or Peter Tosh in the US.
Toots and the Maytals' compositions would be given a second airing in 1978-80 during the reggae punk and ska revival period in the UK, when The Specials covered "Monkey Man" on their 1979 debut album and The Clash put out their recording of "Pressure Drop". They were also included in the lyrics to Bob Marley & The Wailers song, "Punky Reggae Party" - "The Wailers will be there, The Damned, The Jam, The Clash, The Maytals will be there, Dr. Feelgood too".
On September 29, 1980, the band decided to make the Guinness Book of World Records by recording, pressing and distributing a new album to the record shops all in the same day. A live concert was recorded on reels of 2-inch, 24-track analog tape, then rushed by van to sound engineers. After a running order was determined, the record label was quickly designed and sent to the printers. The album masters, labels and the outer covers were then separately sped to the Gedmel factory near Leicester, and the finished product ("Live") was assembled and delivered to Coventry, where the band was playing the next day, successfully meeting the 24-hour deadline. "Unfortunately," said Island Records' Rob Bell, "the record was not included in the Guinness book, because they required prior notification that the event was going to take place, and no one at Island had informed them of the project!"
In 1982, Toots & the Maytals' "Beautiful Woman", reached number one in New Zealand, but the group had already broken up. They reformed in the early 1990s to continue touring and recording successfully.
In 2004, the group released True Love, an album consisting of re-recorded versions of their earlier hits, alongside Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Trey Anastasio, No Doubt, Ben Harper, The Roots, and Shaggy. The album won the Grammy Award that year for best reggae album.
In 2006, they recorded a reggae/ska version of Radiohead's "Let Down" for the tribute album, Radiodread, by the Easy Star All-Stars. The album was a song for song makeover of the English rock band's album OK Computer into reggae, dub and ska. In August 2007 Toots & the Maytals released Light Your Light, which featured re-workings of older songs such as "Johnny Cool Man", as well as new material. The album was nominated in 2008 for a Grammy in the best reggae album category.
Toots & the Maytals hold the current record of number one hits in Jamaica, with a total of thirty-one.
In March 2009 it was announced that Toots & the Maytals would be performing alongside Amy Winehouse, for their shared record label, Island Records' 50th anniversary. Winehouse had covered the band's "Monkey Man", and the act were supposed to support her at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London on 31 May 2009. However, Winehouse was forced to cancel, leaving the Maytals to play at the more intimate Bush Hall, round the corner from the Empire, to a sell-out crowd.
The 2012 album Unplugged on Strawberry Hill gained Hibbert his fifth Grammy nomination.
- Never Grow Old—1963 Coxsone Dodd production (N.D. Records/Coxsone 1963 JA. LP JBL1113) (Heartbeat 1997 US. CD HB143)
- Life could be a dream—1962-4 Coxsone Dodd production (Studio One 1992 JA.)
- The Original Golden Oldies Vol.3—1964 Prince Buster production (Prince Buster Record Shack 1974. LP PB11)
- The Sensational Maytals—1964-5 Byron Lee & Ronnie Nasralla production (Dynamic 1965. DBL1003) a.k.a. Sensational Ska Explosion (Hol. Jamaican Gold 1993. JMC 200.112)
- Do the Reggay-- 1966-70 Leslie Kong production (Attack 1988 U.K. ATLP103)
- Sweet and Dandy -- 1968 Leslie Kong production (Beverley's 1969 JA. LP005)
- From The Roots -- 1970 Leslie Kong & Warrick Lyn production (Trojan 1973 UK. TRLS65) (Sanctuary/Trojan 2003 UK. CD TJCCD091)
- Monkey Man -- 1970 Leslie Kong production (Beverley's/Trojan 1970 JA./UK. TBL107) (House Of 1997)
- The Maytals Greatest Hits—1970 Leslie Kong production (Beverley's 1971 JA. BLP021)
- Slatyam Stoot—1972 Warrick Lyn production (Dynamic Sounds 1972 US. DY3331)
- Funky Kingston—1972-3 Warrick Lyn, Chris Blackwell & Dave Bloxham production (Dragon 1973 UK. DRLS5002) (Mango 1973 JA. MLPS9330) (Island/Trojan 1975 US.)
- Roots Reggae—1974 Warrick Lyn production (Dynamic Sounds 1974 JA. DY3343)
- In the Dark—1974 Warrick Lyn production (Dragon 1974 UK. DRLS5004) (Trojan UK. CDTRL 202)
- Reggae Got Soul—1975-6 Warrick Lyn, Chris Blackwell & Joe Boyd production (Mango 1976. MLPS9374) (Island 1976 US. ILPS9374)
- Toots Presents The Maytals—1977 Warrick Lyn production (Chin Randy's 1977. CRRLP004) (State Records 1978. ETAT16)
- Pass the Pipe—Karl Pitterson & Warrick Lyn production (Island 1979. ILPS9534) (Mango 1979)
- Just Like That—Chris Blackwell, Karl Pitterson & Dicky Jobson production (Island 1980. ILPS9590) (Mango 1980)
- Knock Out!—Chris Blackwell & Toots Hibbert production (Island 1981. ILPS9670) (Mango 1981. MLPS9670)
- Reggae Greats (Island 1984. IMCD38) (Mango 1985. MLPS9781) (Island 2001. CD remastered)
- Toots In Memphis (Mango 1988 US. 539818, CID9906, L38958)
- Recoup (Alla Son 1997. ASM CD01)
- Ska Father (Alla Son 1998)
- World Is Turning(D&F Music 2003) (XIII Bis 2005)
- True Love (V2 2004)
- Light Your Light 2005 Toots Hibbert production (D&F Music 2007)
- Stinga 1 (D&F Music 2009)
- Flip and Twist (D&F Music 2010)
- Pressure Drop - The Golden Tracks (Cleopatra 2011. B0052EV9FE) - New studio recordings by the group of several of their classic tracks, plus new re-mixes (in various styles, including dubstep) of the new re-recordings.
- Live (recorded 29 September 1980 at Hammersmith Palais) (Island 1980, ILPS9647)
- Live at Reggae Sunsplash (recorded 4 August 1982) (Sunsplash Records 1983, VSLP8901, RS8901) (Mobile Fidelity 19??, MFCD753)
- An Hour Live "Straight from the Yard" Dedicated to Robert Nesta Marley (recorded 4 August 1982) (Sus 1990, SUS8924) (Genes 1997, GNS8924)
- Live in London (recorded 8 June 1998) (Trojan 1999, CDTRD420)
- Unplugged on Strawberry Hil (2012)
- Roots Reggae (The Classic Jamaican Albums ) (Trojan 2005) - six CD album boxset: Sensational Maytals, Sweet And Dandy, Monkey Man, Greatest Hits, Slatyam Stoot, Roots Reggae.
- The Best Of Toots And The Maytals (1979)
- Reggae Greats (1985)
- Do the Reggae 1966-70 (1988)
- Bla. Bla. Bla. (1993)
- Time Tough: The Anthology (1996)
- Recoup (1997)
- The Very Best of Toots & The Maytals (2000)
- 54-46 Was My Number: Anthology 1964-2000 (2002)
- Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard, 2007), performing Domino's "Let The Four Winds Blow"
- The Specials, Peste & Sida, The Aggrolites, Reel Big Fish, Los Pericos, Big D and the Kids Table, Amy Winehouse, Melt Banana, No Doubt, Adam Ant (on the scrapped Save The Gorilla EP) and Ore Ska Band have all covered "Monkey Man".
- The Australian musician Xavier Rudd covered "Famine".
- 311 covered "Reggae Got Soul" on the soundtrack to the animated film, Surf's Up.
- "Bam Bam" has been covered by several artists, including Chaka Demus & Pliers.
- "Chaty chaty" was covered by the Basque band Kortatu in their song "Sarri Sarri"
- "54-46" was covered by Sublime
- "Peace Perfect Peace" was covered by South African reggae singer Lucky Dube in 1996.
- "Pressure Drop" was covered by The Clash on their 1980 compilation album, Black Market Clash.
- The Manchester based band Sonic Boom Six sampled "Funky Kingston", for their song "Monkey See, Monkey Do", on the 2005 Champion Edition of their album, Sounds to Consume. American songwriter and rapper Pitbull also sampled "Funky Kingston" for his 2012 hit "Don't stop the party".
- "Bam Bam" was featured in the soundtrack to the film Countryman.
- "Reggae Got Soul" was featured in the soundtrack to the film Surf's Up.
- "Funky Kingston" and "Pressure Drop" were featured on the reggae radio station, K-Jah Radio West in the video game, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (2004). "Funky Kingston" was also featured in the video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours; in the film, Notes on a Scandal; and in 2004's Broken Lizard production, Club Dread(which also had "Broadway Jungle"). In addition TLC's television series, Miami Ink, used the song as its theme music.
- "Celia" was featured on Weeds: Music from the Original Series, Volume 4.
- "Time Tough" was featured in the soundtrack of Tony Hawk's Project 8.
- "It Must Be True Love" was heard in Skins Series 5, Episode 3 (Mini) (2011).
- List of reggae musicians
- List of roots reggae artists
- List of ska musicians
- List of Caribbean music groups