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Freddie takes vintage reggae to Los Angeles

Having started his career as a six-year-old at producer Clement Dodd’s Studio One over 50 years ago, singer Freddie McGregor has an enduring respect for reggae’s elders.

His latest venture, the Long Beach Reggae Music Jerk and Food Festival, is scheduled for September in Long Beach, California.

The event features artistes that McGregor has rubbed shoulders with during his long career, including the Abyssinians, the Tamlins, Admiral Tibet, Everton Blender and British deejay Pato Banton.

“Long Beach is the reggae central of LA (Los Angeles), it’s where the Bob Marley Festival was held, so in a way we’re trying to fill that slot,” McGregor pointed out.

While he describes the event as a “family fun day that caters to all”, McGregor says the Long Beach Reggae Music Jerk and Food Festival, is a showcase of acts who do not get much respect in their homeland.

“They don’t get the attention ’cause of all the foolishness in Jamaica. But there is a big market for these artistes in Europe and North America. Long Beach is just one of those places,” he explained.

This is not McGregor’s first major live show as a promoter in the United States. Several years ago, he produced the popular Rock Steady Meets Reggae event in South Florida.

The Long Beach show is not all about music. Its ‘menu’ is built around jerked food, a spicy delicacy introduced to major US cities like New York, by Jamaican immigrants.

With its diverse, liberal demographic, Long Beach has had a love affair with Jamaican music and culture going back to the 1970s when Bob Marley and roots-reggae were the rage.

Freddie McGregor’s career took off during that era with songs like Bobby Babylon and Bandulu. He had a hit-laden run in the 1980s; Big Ship, Prophecy, Push Come to Shove, Just Don’t Wanna be Lonely and And So I Will Wait For You were some of his chart-toppers.

His upcoming album, an acoustic set, will be released in the summer.

Howard Campbell