The Heptones are by far one of my favorite Jamaican foundation groups. Their work at Studio One, and especially at the Black Ark with Lee “Scratch” Perry, is nearly unparalleled. And when you consider the number of songs that they backed or played instruments on (Leroy Sibbles in particular) one has to consider that they are partially responsible for The Golden Age of Reggae.

Leroy Sibbles, Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn first came together as “The Hep Ones” in 1965 in Kingston, but they soon changed their name to “The Heptones”. The name was chosen by Morgan after seeing a Heptones Tonic bottle.

The Heptones recorded for major Jamaican record producers at the time. They began their career, after one unsuccessful single for Ken Lack’s “K Calnek” label, under the watchful eye of Coxsone Dodd of Studio One. The Heptones had a number of Jamaican hits for Studio One, beginning with “Fattie Fattie”, their first Studio One single in 1966. This began a long run of success for Coxsone, including “Pretty Looks Isn’t All”, “Get In The Groove”, “Be a Man”, “Sea of Love” (a cover of the Phil Phillips and the Twilights doo-wop classic), “Ting a Ling”, “Party Time”, and “I Hold the Handle.” They were the chief rivals to The Techniques, who recorded for Arthur “Duke” Reid, as the top vocal act of the rocksteady era.

In 1975, The Heptones signed an album deal with Island Records. Two albums resulted: Night Food in 1976 and Party Time in 1977. Night Food was produced by Danny Holloway, and featured several re-recorded Studio One classics, as well as originals such as “Country Boy” and “Mama Say”. The group toured England with Toots & The Maytals to support Night Food’s release.

In 1977, The Heptones recorded Party Time with Lee “Scratch” Perry. They had issued a number of singles (including a cover of Billy Stewart’s “I Do Love You”) on his Justice League imprint five years previously. Party Time was recorded during Black Ark’s peak period. Party Time also included remakes of Studio One tunes, as well as Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”, along with newer compositions such as “Sufferers’ Time”. In the same era, they released a number of singles with Lee Perry, such as “Mystery Babylon”, “Mr. President” (featuring DJ Jah Lloyd), and “Babylon’s Falling”.

I have collected some of my favorite Heptones versions here for your listening pleasure.


And of course a killer feature on The Heptones penned by none other than our good friend Vivien Goldman…


A few clippings from the always popular UK Black Echoes Magazine…

MARCH 13, 1976
APRIL 10, 1976
MAY 8, 1976

Also some clippings from the vintage Jamaican magazine called Swing…

Last, but certainly not least, Leroy Sibbles talks about how Sirius/XM has financially hurt The Heptones and other foundation artists by turning their reggae channel The Joint into Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Radio, which plays only Marley and Marley family tunes, cheating other talented Jamaican groups from royalties once earned on the channel.