“It’s been a difficult job collating information about the Aces International sound system and sadly the details remain very sketchy. They were based in Port Morant in the parish of St Thomas. The man who owned Aces was Jimmy and his set competed with sounds like Taurus, King Majesty, Aquarius and Courage International, all sounds hailing from the parishes of Portland and St Thomas.
The early eighties were the halcyon days for Aces and they are probably best known for being the home of Yellowman as he took the dancehall world by storm in 1980/81. King Yellowman (b. Winston Foster) overcame society’s prejudices against albinism and defying great odds he succeeded in reigning supreme in the dancehalls of Jamaica. He had tried to make it as a deejay first with Gemini without success before getting a spot on a small sound, Black South International. Around 1979/80 Yellowman made the move to Aces that would propel him to stardom and this in turn transformed the Aces Disco from local champions to big league players in no time at all. In fact Aces International were the sound featured in the groundbreaking “Yellowman & Fathead Live at (on) Aces” and this recording of the sound was one of the first, if not the first, album to feature live recordings straight from the dancehall. Yellow’s sidekick, the late deejay, Fathead (b. Vernon Rainford) could be heard chatting solo on the sound, but more often than not he was at Yellowman’s side adding his “oinks” and “ribits” to the proceedings.
Another notable Aces deejay was the youthful Little Harry (b. Claude Campbell) who had begun his career holding the microphone first on Port Morant’s Black Lion sound. Later he deejayed for Aquarius and according to Harry, a week later he guested on Aces Disco and gave such a good performance that earned him a contract to deejay on their sound. He worked alongside Yellowman regularly, gaining skills and experience, rising to challenge the other youth stars such as Beenie Man and Billy Boyo.
In the recordings we have, singers didn’t seem to feature very often, but one who did turn up from time to time was the distinctive vocalist Jah Rubbaal (b. Gideon Bolton), a respected roots artist who has been associated with sound systems since the late fifties.
As for the set itself, it was a proper disco sound, having twin decks and was managed by Nigger Butler (b. R. Butler), who as well as selecting, could also be heard singing on custom made Aces “specials”. Other members of the backroom setup included Shaggy, Stereo and Lloydie. Unfortunately there isn’t any indication as to when Aces started to play out but the nine sessions that we have assembled here cover the years between 1981 and 1986 and they give you a good example of Aces International in action.”
Aces International @ Old Harbour St Catherine, 1981
Featuring: Yellowman, Busta, Modelling Joe, Major Manzie, Silver Fox
Crew – Nigger Butler, Stereo, Shaggy
“Musically this sounds like the oldest Aces session and it was recorded in Old Harbour in 1981. This is Yellowman on the move mixing culture and slackness in equal measure and he sounds great. Whether boosting the sound in “Aces Weh Yu Bad So”, through the more serious tunes like “River Jordan” and “Honour Your Mother & Father” to the downright slack “Cocky Did A Hurt Me”, all the styles are there, and the crowd lap it up. There are other artists appearing like Major Manzie, who’s out to “Nice Up Old Harbour”, and Silver Fox, who has the “Remedy”. Apprentice deejay Busta shows promise on “Tell It To The Nation” but really it’s the major talent of Yellowman that is the show stealer here.”
Aces International @ Skateland, Half Way Tree Road, Kingston 5, 1981
Featuring: Little Harrry, Yellowman, Sassafrass
Crew – Nigger Butler, Shaggy, Lloydie
“It’s showtime at Skateland in this rare, but short, recording of the Festival ‘81 JCDJ National Deejay Competition. Up for grabs is a first prize of $600 Ja with some top notch deejays all performing on the Aces Disco. This 30 minute clip is right after the result of the event has been decided. The winner turned out to be Yellowman with Little Harry running him a very close second. Sassafrass came next beating the likes of Nicodemus, Ringo and Toyan. Yellowman celebrates his victory with a “Tribute To Bob Marley” and “Bubble Under Me” and then joins together with the two runners up for a crowd pleasing “Pooping Contest”.
Aces International @ Prospect, Portland, 1981
Featuring: Yellowman, Little Harry, Fathead, Jah Rubbaal
Crew – Nigger Butler, Stereo, Shaggy
“This is a full c90 version to the “Yellowman & Fathead Live at Aces – Feeding In The Dancehall” album and it turns out to have been recorded in the town of Prospect in Portland, which is contrary to what the LP sleeve notes state. Yellowman and Fathead control things both solo and in combination, running through some of their major hit like ”Fools Go To Church On Sunday”, “Leaving On A Jet Plane” and “Bubble Under Me”. Fathead goes solo on a wicked “Operation Radication” and Little Harry joins in briefly on ”Harry’s Having A Party”. On this taped version you also get to hear more of Jah Rubbaal, who sings ”Gunman” and “Give Me My Share” after which the “Yellow Fellow” tears into a memorable “Look Out, Look Out” chanted over the “Full Up” riddim.”
Aces International @ Whitehall, Kingston, December 1981
Featuring: Little Harry, Yellowman, Fathead
Selectors – Nigger Butler, Stereo
“St Thomas’ finest travel to Kingston for this Whitehall dance with a top trio at the helm. Youngster Little Harry controls things here, exuberantly working the microphone, flashing lyrics like “Creamy Corner” and “Mr Mini Bus Man”, before Yellow and Fathead join him. It’s at that point that the tape runs out unfortunately, leaving us with a short but entertaining Aces session.”
“Aces are on the road again, this time in Montego Bay for an end of the year session. With Yellowman’s former apprentice Little Harry spending most of his time working with Volcano he’s now taken on a new trainee deejay Tiger. Not to be confused with Black Star’s Tiger, he’s learning the trade and developing nicely here, following Yellow on the versions of cuts like “DJ Tambourine”, “Entertain Dem” and “Hey Little Johnny”. Shaggy’s selection here consists of music from dancehall rulers Triston Palma and Little John. It’s a pity we don’t get to hear more of “live” singer Jah Rubbaal, but when we do he has a stark message to all bad boys in “Another One Gone.”
Many thanks to Daddy White Squall for this exclusive session..............