One of the early pioneers of dancehall, first getting his start working with the legendary U-Roy, helping to pioneer dancehall at the end of the 80s. Admiral Bailey is yet another criminally underrated icon, that helped to move dancehall forward and it make into the genre we hear today.
Admiral Bailey, born Glendon Bailey on the 24th of January 1952 growing up in the tough Waterhouse district of Kingston.
Admiral Bailey began his career deejaying for U-Roy’s King Sturgav Hi Fi, working behind U-Roy, one of the early dancehall pioneers, who really pioneered the art of toasting.
Admiral Bailey quickly gained a following with fans attracted to his infectious dancehall anthems which he had been creating whilst working with U-Roy, and his on-stage persona with the deejay often going out on stage in very distinctive military uniforms, really making sure he was living up to his name.
1986 is the year that Admiral Bailey really broke through in dancehall, with Josey Wales persuading him to join King Jammy’s. Combining the electric energy of Admiral Bailey and the incredible innovative production of King Jammy it wasn’t long until Admiral Bailey starting putting out hit records. A string of hits followed Admiral Bailey’s move to King Jammy’s with ‘One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer’ featuring Chaka Demus and ‘Ballot Box’ featuring Josey Wales, these being minor hits compared to what was soon to follow.
Admiral Bailey first big hit record came with ‘Politican’ which was also released in 1986, with Admiral Bailey calling out the tactics used by politicians, which during this time of political instability and violence in Jamaica really hit a cord with the Jamaican people.
The success of ‘Politician’ was relatively minor compared to what soon followed in 1987, with Admiral Bailey releasing one of the most iconic tracks in dancehall history.
1987 saw the release of the incredible and groundbreaking ‘Punanny’ with the record originally banned from radio play in Jamaica, until Admiral Bailey re-recorded a less offensive lyric, re-titled ‘Healthy Body’. ‘Punanny’ was one of the first strongly slack records to be released in dancehall and really helped to direct dancehall to a genre that in large part encourages sexuality and slackness. The impact of ‘Punanny’ really can’t be overstated as it was one of the first major dancehall hit records, at the same time as helping to move dancehall towards some of it’s more defining elements.
Following the release of ‘Punanny’ in 1987, Admiral Bailey kept adding fuel to the fire with further singles releases including ‘Big Belly Man’, ‘Jump Up’, ‘Top Celebrity Man’ and ‘Cater For Women’.
Admiral Bailey’s debut album ‘Kill Them With It’ also landed in 1987. Admiral Bailey also began working with DJ Papa Biggy recording the incredible tracks ‘Neighbourhood Living’ and ‘Newsflash Time’, he would also go on to record songs for Donovan Germain and Jah Life.
Admiral Bailey was unfortunate at this time to be operating at the same time as another icon in Shabba Ranks, who due to his revamped style was dominating dancehall at the time, with Ranks’ success overshadowing some of Admiral Bailey’s incredible work in this period. With incredible singles like ‘No Way No Better Than Yard’, ‘Don’t Have Me Up’, ‘Original Dela Move’ and ‘Science’ all not getting the recognition they deserve during this period due to the hype surrounding newer artists.
Admiral Bailey would respond to this lack of recognition during this period on ‘Think Me Did Done’ which looked to challenge newcomers like Shabba Ranks.
When ‘Ram Up You Party’ did not quite perform to Admiral Bailey’s expectations in 1988, Admiral Bailey retreated from the dancehall scene slightly looking to record far fewer records. With hit records following with Penthouse Records with ‘Help’ in 1990 and Bobby Digital with ‘Ah Nuh Sin’ in 1991.
In 1993, Admiral Bailey went back to working with the legendary King Jammy, building his reputation as a ‘clean’ deejay throughout the 90s looking to move away from the increasing slackness of his contemporaries, which ironically to some extent Admiral Bailey had begin to make popular.
Admiral Bailey is a true pioneer of dancehall, helping to popularise and move dancehall forward as well as introducing and promoting themes in dancehall that have become increasingly popular, perhaps against his wishes looking at his actions in the 90s. Admiral Bailey changed the dancehall genre moving it towards the genre that we hear toward and towards the genre that had incredible international success in 90s. Admiral Bailey is yet another criminall underrated artists and a true icon of the genre.