Dynasty of Dub

The descendants of King Tubby still prime the digital dub pump

Adds Silvera: "I've asked him to come to the station and tell people how he did all this, and he'll say, 'Nah, nah -- you do it.' The media in Jamaica, they don't write about the backbone of the music. They write about the leaves that fall off the limbs. There are branches, but he's one of the roots."

Both Wright and Silvera believe few royalties from Tubby's old recordings have made their way to his descendants. Jamaican, American, and even Japanese labels took advantage of copyright and publishing loopholes and swiped much of his back catalog.

"You see a lot of Tubby's things out there making millions," Wright says, "but his family's not getting any of the money."

"My brother was the king!"
"My brother was the king!"
King Tubby at 18 Dromilly Ave., Kingston 11
King Tubby at 18 Dromilly Ave., Kingston 11

Because he's been in the background, quietly observing for so many years, Ruddock has a pretty good idea what to avoid.

"I'm not gonna teach anybody anything anymore," he insists. "And I'm not doing anything with outsiders either. I'm satisfied with what I got out of it. I don't have any needs or wants. I'm very comfortable. I don't need a goddamned thing. I'm not rich, but at the same time, I'm not on the poverty side.

"I just sit back, but what I'm not doing -- and I want you to listen very carefully now -- what I personally am not doing is I am not bringing any outsiders into what remains," he emphasizes. "I did that for 45 goddamned years. It never do a thing for me, and it killed my brother."

During the 1980s, King Tubby's studio in the dangerous Waterhouse district of Kingston hosted a revolving door of talent, and new apprentices learned recording techniques at his side. He launched his own record labels, boosted the careers of upstart stars like Wayne Wonder, and readied himself for entry into the new digital era.

It was not to be. Shortly after 1 a.m. on February 6, 1989, Tubby locked the studio, started his car, and made the ten-minute drive to his home in Duhaney Park. As soon as he pulled into the driveway at 85 Sherlock Crescent, a gunman sneaked up. Tubby was robbed (his licensed pistol was stolen too), and his wife awoke to the sound of a single shot.

Old-school ska vocalist Glenn Darby told an interviewer: "The person who killed him was one of the stupidest person in the world because they would never find a man like King Tubby in Jamaica again."

Concurs Wright: "I never heard Tubbs ever fight in his life. They killed him for no reason." No one was ever arrested in the murder.

While family points to his intense desire for privacy, his associates say Leslie Ruddock's reluctance to emerge from hiding is motivated by fear.

"He's my bredren and everything," Wright says, "but he's kind of a coward too. I said, 'Stagga, man, you need to stop that. You've been in the background too long.' Trust me -- he's scared. He don't want nobody to come and kill him!"

Young Tubby insists he's afraid of nothing but losing his precious solitude. "I'm with everybody in the music business, even though we're not out there rubbing shoulder to shoulder. So what's the big deal? Why do I have to be showing people that I'm still existing?"

While he teases with tales of unheard, never-released Bob Marley and Dennis Brown tracks, photographs stacked four feet high of every reggae star imaginable, and enough crazy electronic gizmos to fill a Heathkit catalog, Ruddock has no intention of sharing.

"This is only for my kids and myself," the patriarch insists. "Because I've noticed what an outsider does -- they destroy what they can't control. It's time to close the goddamned book. I did my time. I tell my kids, 'It's time for you to continue this thing, continue it in your time. '"

Young Tubby is adamant he will never reemerge. "Some people come back after ten years, and you know the first thing they do? Go back where they left off. You can't do that. You're gonna scratch that surface that you smoothed out on the way to the top. Leave it alone! A lot of people don't have the strength, they don't have the courage or the know-how or the understanding how to continue without going back.

"I don't have to go back; I just continue. My daughter, my son, and I -- we're moving forward in digital." His voice rises again, this time with pride. "They grew up into it, beside me, constantly. It was handed down to them. They're from the foundation -- it's not something they just heard about. It's right there."

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