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The Blackstones Story

The Blackstones was formed by Leon Leiffer in 1974. Soon after releasing their debut single with Count Shelly (one of the pioneers of sound system) a cover version of the Melodians ” Little nut tree” which was shortly followed by ” You gonna loose me” produced by Fatman, founder of Fatman Hi-fi. The group then went on to work with Daddy Kool and together released a track entitled ” We nah go suffer” which topped the New Musical Express reggae charts in 74. Later it led to sessions with major producers like Phill Pratt, Lloyd Charmers, Lindel Lewis, Winston Curtis, Jah Larry, Tony Owens, Fatman and the legendary Clement “Sir Coxsone” Dodd.The Blackstones were the last act to work at studio one with Mr. Dodd, who sadly passed away in May,2004.

On tour, they supported Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions , Rufus Thomas, Dennis Brown, Owen Grey, The Heptones and many more. After seven years, Neville Henry left the group and was replaced by Ken Kendricks and Tony Douglas. They went on to work with Lloyd Charmers who produced one of the group’s best album ” Colours of Love” released on Body Music records. Leon and The Blackstones along side the Chosen Few, were the main vocalists for the musical Black Heroes in The Hall of fame at the Hackney Empire. As a result of their success in the musical and great reviews from the international press the Black Heroes in The Hall of fame musical went on tour in the Carribean and USA. On their return to England, Tony, Ken and Neville went solo and were replaced by Tony Mahony and Junior Bailey.

Tony Mahoney, Junior Bailey and Leon Leiffer are three talented individuals who together create the beautiful sounds of The Blackstones. The Blackstones are regarded by many in the industry for bringing forward the traditional vocal style and sound that we have come to know from the likes of The Gaylads, Techniques, The Uniques, Wailers, The Melodians, The Paragons, The Pioneers, The Heptones, The Royals, The Clarendoians, The Chosen Few, The Abyssinians and many more. Who had helped to build the roots of Jamaican vocal style. These influence can be be heard in The Blackstones harmonies, powerful vocals, soulful melodies that will rock your soul.

In October 2004, The Blackstones were presented with an achievement award on behalf of the community for their contribution to the British black Music & Arts Industry as part of the British Black History Day. Tony Mahoney, Junior Bailey and Leon Leiffer are three talented individuals who together create the beautiful sounds of The Blackstones.

Leon Leiffer

Leon is the founding member of The Blackstones, he was born in St. Ann, Jamaica. As a young boy, Leon was inspired by reggae legends such as Slim Smith & The Uniques, The Melodians, The Paragons, Ken Boothe, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer aka The Wailers, Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions among others. Four years after arriving in England, Leon and his school formed their first group –The Mighty Soul Rebels. They were taken into the studio by Fat man, the founder of London’s top sound system, ” Fat Man Hi-fi”. They became local celebraties.

After a four year run, The Mighty Soul Rebels split, which led Leon to have a break from the music industry. Then in 1975, Leon Leiffer met reggae superstar Roy Shirley backstage at his show.

Due to encouragement from Roy Shirley, Leon decided to form another group with Neville Henry & Ben Corkery, as a result The Blackstones were born. After 2 years Ben corkery left the group and was replaced by Byron Otis.

On tour, they supported Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions , Rufus Thomas, Dennis Brown, Owen Grey, The Heptones and many more. After seven years, Neville Henry left the group and was replaced by Ken Kendricks and Tony Douglas. They went on to work with Lloyd Charmers who produced one of the group’s best album “Colours of Love” released on Body Music records. Leon and The Blackstones along side the Chosen Few, were the main vocalists for the musical Black Heroes in The Hall of fame at the Hackney Empire.

Tony Mahoney

Tony was born in St Thomas , Jamaica in a little district called Ramble. From a young age Tony loved singing and also along with his four brothers were the natural entertainers in the district. The boys later joined their parents and new brother in England and very soon after leaving school all the boys followed the music scene , starting with sound system . Tony started to make a name for himself as a promising singer by entering talent contests all over London.

In the mid 70’s Tony’s older brother Desmond’s invited him to join his band Blackslate in which he was the drummer . Tony then became their first lead singer for a short time and gained valuable experience in opening shows for artists like Pat Kelly , Dennis Alcapone , Errol Dunkley , Owen Grey and many more.

Tony however left and resumed his solo career, recording for various local producers with only minor success. Tony went on to form the Chanters with brother Cecil and friends and released they some songs on the Burning Sounds label. After the Chanters broke up , Tony and Cecil and friends formed another band called The Mission Band , they played all over the UK .When the band broke up in the late 80’s , Tony went back to doing solo performing and recordings of which one song ‘ Aint No Love ‘ did quite well. It was about 1995 that Leon Lieffer, the founder member of the Blackstones vocal group asked Tony to join the group.

Earl Bailey a.k.a Junior

Junior Bailey Earl Bailey a.k.a Junior joined The Blackstones in 2002

Junior was born in St Andrew, Jamaica. At the age of 15 he came to England to join his mother, within a year of arriving he set up a sound system known as ” Sir Lord Junior “, continuing in this field for approximately 10 years. Due to family commitments he discontinued the sound system, but as a lover of music he immediately moved sideways to becoming a DJ with another sound system known as ” Sir Jesus”. Junior later joined Zabandis, a six piece band which he was the lead vocalist.

Throughout their career, they toured and supported artists such as the legendary John Holt, Dillinger, Delroy Washington, Sidney Roger and Louisa Marks. Zabandis performed all over the UK in venues such as the Hammersmith Palais.

Junior later joined the S.U.S band. During his time with the S.U.S band, they had worked with Judy Boucher and also performing at the Royal festival Hall charity event show for the miners. Their success brought them numerous support slots on tours, including providing the backing for reggae artist Lee “Scratch “Perry. Junior joined the Blackstones in 2002, in time for the Black Heroes reunion at the Palace Pavilion.

A J Franklin

A.J. Franklin

One of the few true greats of Jamaican music, singer, songwriter, producer and above all, consummate performer

A.J. Franklin is one of the rare talents who can never give less than his best. Whether he’s fronting an international tour, supplying backing vocals for artists on stage or in studio, or teaching singing to disadvantaged kids as part of community programme, A.J. gives an equal level of commitment. And that’s what both his fans and people within the music industry appreciate – he delivers – and that is why, after 30 years in the business, he is still in big demand.

Born Franklin Spence in Westmorland, but growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, A.J. began his musical career in 1969 as one third of ‘The Federals’. The band was regular performers around Kingston and were soon picked up by local musical entrepreneur Derrick Harriott and showcased as part of ‘Derrick Harriott’s Musical Chariot’. Harriott also put them in the recording studio and a couple of minor hits followed, with Penny For Your Song being the most notable.

‘The Federals’ evolved into ‘The Chosen Few’ the following year in 1970, with a change of line up. A.J. and David ‘Scotty’ Scott remained and were joined by Joel ‘Bunny’ Brown and Richard McDonald. Working with Derrick Harriott more hits like Ebony Eyes and Everybody Plays The Fool soon followed. It was during this period that the group’s trademark melodic vocals developed. ‘The Chosen Few’ began touring Canada and the United States. While in the USA they recorded for King Sporty in Miami, which included ‘KC and The Sunshine Band’ guest featuring on some of the tracks.

In 1974 the producer Tony Ashfield persuaded A.J and the band to go to the UK and sign a recording deal with Polydor. One album for Polydor and another for Trojan gave A.J the chance to refine his producing and song writing skills.

Through the late 70’s and 80’s ‘The Chosen Few’ enhanced their reputation as one of the best live shows around playing most of the big UK venues and made national TV with appearances on the then popular ‘Cliff Richard Show’. During this period the group received two awards, the first in 1983 for producing the best reggae song of the year and this was followed in 1987 with an award for their contribution to the development of reggae music.

A fascinating article written by Steve Burrows for Black Echoes magazine

“Well, it’s like this – there’s a singer called Slim Smith, right! He was part of a vocal group along with Lloyd Charmers, Jimmy Riley that made up the Uniques, they sound so sweet, look cool and I always a try fe sing just like how the Uniques came across. The sweet vocal harmonies of the Uniques and The Melodians, The Paragons, The Impressions, The Techniques, The Gaylads, The Wailers and The Pioneers and many more gave me great inspiration to start a vocal group with my school friends. We called ourselves The Mighty Soul Rebels. Featuring Melvin ‘Melous’ Dockery, Brent Soloman, Dennis Daley and Barrington Thomas. We auditioned for Junior Lincoln at Music City, also known as the first Studio One record store based in the uk.

So said Blackstones founder Leon Leiffer, in an interview with UK writer Snoopy that was published in “Black Echoes” December 18th 1976.

That inspiration has continued for at least forty years, although it really began in the late 1960s when Leon Leiffer got together with a schoolmate – Melvin ‘Mellos’ Dockeray – and friends from the local area (North London) and formed a group which later became known as the Mighty Soul Rebels. They auditioned for Junior Lincoln at ‘Music City’ (Studio One record store), Frinsbury Park. He rejected the group and asked them to come back at a later date. Undaunted, they hooked up with the sound system pioneer Fatman and Lord Kools, and went on to record a couple of ‘specials’ and began to build a reputation via exposure on London sound systems. Count Shelly had recently retired from the sound system circuit to start a career in the music industry as a record producer. In 1972, the group recorded a number of titles – “Judgement Day is Near”, “I’m The One Who Loves You” and Your Gonna Lose (1st single released on the Count Shelly recording label’).

Before the Mighty Soul Rebels split up and went there own ways, the group returned to Music City (Studio One record store), to record two songs, written by Melivin Dockery and Leon Leiffer, released as a single entitled “Listen and Observe / “What’s is Love” produced by Junior Lincoln on the Banana label.

The Mighty Soul Rebels became local celebrities, but it was not long after

Melvin and Brent broke away as a duo under the same name of Mighty Soul Rebels and recorded “Jah Jah is No Gimmick”.


Leon Leiffer in the mean while took a break from the music industry and was later encouraged to return to the music business by the great Roy Shirley.

While taking his break, Leon and his now wife Fay contributed by preparing and putting together complication albums and sleeve note biographies for Count Shelly Records Co. Because of encouragement previously from Roy Shirley and others in the music fraternity, Leon Leiffer decided to return to the industry and formed The Blackstones in 1974. Featuring Leon Leiffer, Neville Henry, and Ben Cockayne. After six months Ben Corkayne left and was replaced by Byron Otis. Their 1st release was a cover version of The Melodians “Little Nut Tree”, produced by Leon Leiffer in 1976 and was released on Count Shelly Records. Leon Leiffer also produced “Can’t Get No Money to

Spend”, released on Dennis Harris’ ‘Dip’ label, based in Brockley Rise, South East London. It made ‘Single of the Week’ in “Black Echoes weekly music paper” Sept. 1976. Denis Harris of Dip Records also asked The Blackstones to cover “Babylon Trap Them” originally recorded by The Meditations. On the release version by The Blackstones, credit was given to D Brown, instead of the group name. which caused a split between the group and Dennis Harris of Dip Records.

The Blackstones (reality tune) “We Nah Go Suffer”, was released on the Daddy Kool Record label and went to No.1 in the New Musical Express Charts. The group also headlined the 1st Black Echoes Awards show in 1977. These early successes eventually led to the group recording their 1st album (“In sight” in 1979), rhythm tracks featuring Sly & Robbie recorded in Jamaica and produced by producer Phil Pratt.

The very first music Award Ceremony in the UK for musicians and singers coming from the Caribbean islands was the brain child of Leon Leiffer and his good friend Jah Scorcher.

The Awards was mainly spotlighting Jamaican artists who had dominated the

British Reggae explosion in the 70’s. Even from the heydays of Ska and Rock Steady to salute them alongside the British based artists. The name of the award ceremony was: “The Black Echoes British Reggae Awards

This Award was also to recognise and nurture the British Reggae based artists who were now recording their own songs, based upon the influence of Jamaican music that was flooding the UK market. the first awards ceremony was held in 1977 at Stoke Newington High Rd cinema, headlining the show was The Blackstones, Tradition, Brown Sugar, 15-16-17, Glen Solely, Black Slate and special guest Dennis Brown plus many more .

The British based artists were now under the banner Lovers Rock instead of the original name Reggae. The name Lovers Rock was first published as a title of an album released on Third World Records produced by Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee and Count Shelley, featuring Jamaican soul style. The title Lovers Rock was created by Leon Leiffer and Count Shelley.

The Awards Ceremony was made to inspire each and every one of these artists. Allowing the public to vote in the weekly Black Echoes music paper that specialised in Reggae & Soul music. Their readers could nominate and vote for their favourite artistes. The Ceremony gave these artistes an opportunity and platform to come together for the first time at the end of the year and celebrate in a good vibes to get recognition and satisfactions for their hard work over the years.

In 1980, Leon realised another long-standing ambition; the group toured with Curtis Mayfield, the founder of classic US soul trio the Impressions. By the early 1980s, the group line-up changed again – Byron Otis had already left, and around 1982, Neville Henry left the group after seven years. Leon was then joined by Tony Douglas and Ken Kendricks; this group recorded for the late Lloyd Charmers, who issued their albums“ Take Another Look At Love” [1983] and “Colours Of Love” [1988]. The same group line-up contributed to the British Reggae Artists Famine Appeal in 1985, with a charity single released on Island/Mango Records. The group also appeared at the live show for the charity, which was attended by Princess Anne. The group continued to perform live and record albums; by 2000, the group had recorded seven albums and numerous singles. By this time the group had been a mainstay of the UK reggae scene, without ever ‘crossing over’ to a wider market; however, they remained popular with the core audience, the Jamaican expatriate community.

In the early 2000s, the group line-up changed again, Leon being joined by current member Tony Mahoney, born in Ramble, St Thomas, Jamaica, who had started out with Black Slate in the mid-1970s, his older brother Desmond being the drummer in that group. After a brief stay with the group, Tony went on to form the Chanters, who released a couple of 12” on Burning Sounds subsidiary Burning Rockers. When the Chanters broke up, Tony formed the Mission Band, who performed live but never recorded.

Also joining The Blackstones around this time was the third current member, Junior Bailey, born in St Andrew, Jamaica, who joined the Blackstones in 2002. He arrived in the UK in the mid-1960s, initially running his own sound system called “Sir Lord Junior”, but later became a deejay on “Sir Jessus” West London set. In the late 1970s, Junior joined the reggae band Zabandis, who toured and supported many visiting and UK-based reggae artists, including John Holt, Louisa Mark, Delroy Washington, Dillinger and Sidney Rogers. After leaving Zabandis, Junior hooked up with the S.U.S Band, who supported lovers rock vocalist Judy Boucher.

During the last decade, the Blackstones – Leon, Tony and Junior – have continued to perform and record. Today, they are one of the few outfits maintaining the great Jamaican vocal group Tradition. Indeed, only The Blackstones in the UK and the Mighty Diamonds, The Jayes and the Tamlins in Jamaica are still around to follow in the footsteps of such legendary acts as the Uniques, the Techniques, the Paragons, the Gaylads, the Heptones, Carlton & the Shoes, the Abbyssinians, the Royals and the Melodians.

Latterly they have achieved success by recording over classic rocksteady and reggae rhythms laid down in the late 1960s and early 1970s, their harmonies as beautifully precise as those of the groups who inspired them. In this way they have revisited the Treasure Isle catalogue, and delivered a deeply-felt tribute to one of Leon’s original inspirations, the Uniques, on their CD “The Blackstones Salute Slim Smith & the Uniques” [2011]. Most importantly, Leon had contacted the late Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd in February 2004, and the group subsequently travelled to Jamaica and recorded for the foundation producer. Mr Dodd was so impressed with the group that he immediately put them in the studio, cutting enough material for two albums at the Brentford Road studio in April 2004. The group also performed at the ceremony to rename ‘Brentford Road’; from early May the road carries the name ‘Studio One Boulevard’. Sadly, just after returning to the UK, The Blackstones learned that Mr Dodd had passed away, a few days after the ceremony to honour his contribution to Jamaican music.

Nevertheless, the relationship with Jamaica made during this recent period remains intact and operational; this present CD features rhythms recorded in Kingston by the ace session band Firehouse Crew and also (legendary Studio One band), Vin Morgan and the Soul Defenders from whose CV stretches back to the early 1970’s with Freddie McKay and Joseph Hill. Thus Leon Leiffer, Tony Mahoney and Junior Bailey aka The Blackstones – maintain their place in the great ‘Jamaican music tradition of vocal groups’, thereby ensuring that it continues in time to come.

The Blackstones “Salute to Slim Smith & the Uniques tribute album” was voice on the original rhythm track that was 1st recorded back in the 60’s heydays of rock steady by the Uniques and was produce by Bunny “stricker” Lee, the group members was then: Lloyd Charmers, Jimmy Riley, Keith Slim Smith aka the Uniques, and they made hits with these songs 1st time around in 60’s and most the tracks that The Blackstones had re-voiced was Rock Steady anthem by the Uniques back in the 60’s which was revisit and voice on the original recordings in London, England by The Blackstones at Supatech Recording Studio with Engineer Junior Powell and produced by Bunny “Stricker” Lee, joined by Ken Kendrick and then later by Tony Douglas. By this time Neville Henry had returned to the line-up of The Blackstones and was now recording as a quartet vocal group and started recording with the top singer, recording producer Lloyd Charmers and recorded “Colours of Love Album” and singles at Easy Street Recording Studio, London for Fixtroy Stering, Body Music label

Once again Leon Leiffer stepped up to lead and bring the reggae industry together for the (BRAFA Team) British Reggae Artiste Famine Appeal in 1985 to raise funds for the famine in Ethiopia. Brought on board to help him with the project was Gene Rondo, Ras Elroy Bailey of Black Slate, Raymond Dangarembizi also Tony Douglas, Ken Kendricks at that time was members of the Blackstones, and together they recorded a song entitle “Let’s Make Africa Green Again” which was written by ” Leon Leiffer, Tony Douglas and Gene Rondo and recorded at Eddie Grant Stagecoach Recording Studio, London. Eddie Grant donated his recording studio time free of charge for the cause, the song “Let’s Make Africa Green Again” featuring on vocals: Trevor Walters, The Blackstones, Dennis Brown, Winston Reedy, Janet Kay, Ken Parker, The Pioneers, Gene Rondo, Keith Drummond of Black Slate, Aswad, 15.16.17, Byron Otis, Brown Sugar, Junior English, Trevor Hartley, Joy Mack, Mafi & Flux, Mike Brooks, BB Seaton, Ginger Williams and up to 200+ people had sang on “Let’s Make Africa Green Again” chorus line, and was supported by all Reggae Radio Stations all over the UK including Rankin Miss P and Tony Williams of BBC Radio London and David Rodigan of Capital Radio. Also Janice Long of BBC Radio 1. Most of the national newspapers supported BRAFAand all royalties of “Let’s Make Africa Green Again” was handed over from Island Recording Company to Sarah Winfield of Save the Children’s Fund to help towards the famine in Ethiopia on behalf of The British Reggae Artists Industry.