b. Edward O'Sullivan Lee, 1941
Bunny 'Striker' Lee was one of the most important producers in reggae music during the 1970's, being one of the first producers to re-use old rocksteady rhythms for new songs. Among the most notorious singers he produced are Johnnie Clarke and Cornell Campbell.
He started his musical career in the late sixties working with B.J. Kalnek (aka Ken Lack) and producing records for his Caltone record label. Among the artists he produced the following years were Slim Smith and Pat Kelly. Lee had his first crossover hit in 1969 with Max Romeo's "Wet Dream", which was banned from BBC because of its dirty lyrics. He had further hits in Jamaica during the early 1970's, among others Delroy Wilson's "Better must come".
However, it wasn't until the mid-seventies he made a really big impact on the Jamaican music scene. Lee did not own a studio like some other producers did, but he was forced to buy time from his competitors, like Joseph and Ernest Hookim at Channel One or Clive Chin at Randy's. Because of this he could not afford to stay in the studio for too long, so instead of creating new rhythm tracks for every new song he re-used classic rocksteady rhythms the musicians already were familiar with. By the end of the century this was common practice among most reggae producers, and even more so during the dancehall era in the early eighties and the ragga era following that.
In 1974 'Striker' and his session band the Aggrovators created a sound known as the 'flying cymbals' sound (open hi-hat on beats 2 and 4), which pretty much dominated the dancehalls until the 'rockers' sound from Channel One took over.
The first singer to voice the new 'flying cymbals' rhythms was Johnnie Clarke, who quickly became one of the hottest singers in Jamaica. His first hit for Bunny Lee was entitled "Move out of Babylon Rastaman", and was followed by a stream of successful tracks, both 'conscious' songs about Rastafari and covers of old love songs.
Another major star for whom Bunny Lee produced several hit records during this period was Cornell Campbell. He entered the music business in the early sixties cutting ska songs for Clement Dodd's Studio One label. However, his falsetto voice was more suited for the rocksteady era, when he was a member of the vocal groups the Eternals and the Uniques. That was when he first got in touch with Bunny Lee. His solo career started in the early seventies after the Eternals split up. He had his first major hit for Bunny Lee in 1975.
In 1975 the dances changed as Channel One introduced its rockers type of rhythm, created by drummer Sly Dunbar. The Aggrovators updated their rhythms accordingly, and Bunny Lee continued making hits. During the mid-late seventies Lee produced a lot of singers, the most notable probably being Linval Thompson, who became one of the most important producers of the early dancehall era. Following the fashion of the decade Lee also recorded a lot of deejay tracks, by among others I-Roy, Prince Jazzbo and U-Brown, and of course instrumental cuts with soloists such as saxophonist Tommy McCook and organist Winston Wright.
From around 1974 and onward the b-sides of the Bunny Lee produced 7"s were dub mixes by King Tubby, but as he mixed less and less as the decade went on most dub cuts to Bunny Lee productions after 1976 were mixed by Tubby's apprentice Prince Jammy.