Rose Rouse rocks around Harlesden with Locksley Gichie from reggae band the Cimarons
- Credit: Archant
Writer Rose Rouse is on an adventure – not in Cuba, Bali or the Outer Hebrides but in Harlesden where she lives. Every month, she walks and talks with friends, neighbours around busy NW10 and meets people you may have heard of living on your doorstep. This week, she walks with guitarist, Locksley Gichie from the legendary reggae band, the Cimarons.
Mr Locksley Gichie is a man with an extremely firm handshake, an air of modesty and a hat full of locks.
In Harlesden – as Gerry from Hawkeye Records (the only reggae shop left) says – ‘everyone knows Locksley’.
Everyone that is of a certain age who knows about reggae.
That’s because Locksley was the guitarist in the legendary Cimarons – they got together in 1967 because they all went to the youth club at the Methodist Church in Tavistock Rd – and they became Britain’s first home-grown reggae band.
As well as backing musicians for everyone from Bob Marley to John Nash and Ken Boothe to Toots and the Maytals.
In the 70s, NW10 was heaving with various bits of the reggae business. Trojan Records – the biggest indie label that Chris Blackwell was part of, until he went off to form Island Records – was in Neasden where the Willesden County Court is now; Palmer Records was in Craven Park Rd and the record shop and record label, Jet Star plus there were lots more. Hawkeye, of course, is the only one that is still there.
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Locksley is tells me the tale of the Cimarons. “In the 70s, we played the 31 Club which was in a basement on the hill at Stonebridge. Later it became the Apollo. There was also Burtons on Cricklewood Broadway where all the best sound systems used to meet up and all the latest music from Jamaica was played so that’s where we were inspired,” he explains.
Locksley is a self-taught guitarist.
Delroy Wilson, Alton Ellis, Ken Boothe, the Heptones – they were all were formative for him.
The Cimarons had some momentous times. In 1969, they were the first reggae band to go to Africa. “We went to Nigeria and Ghana,” he says. “They went crazy for us. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think it would explode in that way. We were so successful, all the artists like Jimmy Cliff who came over from Jamaica wanted us as their backing band. Jimmy Cliff taught us how to be disciplined.”
As we pass Odeon Court, Locksley tells me that the band used to go and see Westerns there when it was a cinema.
They were on Top of The Pops supporting Ken Booth, they played Belfast when no-one else would, they were the first reggae band to play Japan, a private plane was hired to fly them to do a gig in Cork one day when they had a night gig in Manchester and they managed both. Paris loved them. They were number one in Jamaica with a cover version of Talking Blues by Bob Marley. And sadly it was all over by 1977.
But there is new news. The Cimarons are coming back in their original format – most of them live still around Harlesden. “Through the internet, we’ve discovered that we’re actually still popular in Europe so we’re setting up a tour,” he says delightedly.
A longer version of this article can be seen at roserouse.wordpress.com as part of her blog Not On Safari In Harlesden.