On this day in Caribbean history, October 5, 1948, Delroy George Wilson, a Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae singer, regarded as Jamaica’s first child star, was born.
Delroy Wilson began his recording career at the age of thirteen, while still a pupil at Boys Town Primary School. Wilson released his first single “Emy Lou” in 1962 for record producer, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. His early years with Coxsone yielded a number of ska hits, the biggest of which, the Lee Perry-written “Joe Liges” was an attack on rival producer and former Dodd employee Prince Buster. This was followed by another Perry-written attack on Buster, “Spit in the Sky”. Further singles followed, including “One Two Three”, “I Shall Not Remove”, “Look Who Is Back Again” (a duet with Slim Smith), and another anti-Buster song, “Prince Pharaoh”, notably the only record featuring the voice of Dodd himself.
His voice matured as he left his teens, around the time of ska’s transition to rocksteady and this period in the late 1960s produced many hits including one of the first rocksteady records, “Dancing Mood”, “Jerk in Time” (with the Wailers), “Feel Good All Over”, “I’m Not a King”, “True Believer in Love”, “Rain From the Skies”, “Conquer Me” and “Riding for a Fall”. “Won’t You Come Home”, a duet with Ken Boothe on a rhythm originally cut by The Conquerors for Sonia Pottinger has become one of the most-versioned Jamaican tracks ever. After leaving Studio One he recorded for other labels, with varying degrees of success, and set up his own short-lived W&C label. He enjoyed success with Bunny Lee in the late 1960s and early 1970s with tracks such as “This Old Heart of Mine”, “Footsteps of Another Man”, and “Better Must Come”. His double A-side “It Hurts”/”Put Yourself in My Place” was a skinhead favourite and narrowly missed UK chart success. He recorded a version of “Run Run”, a song he had originally recorded for Dodd, for maverick producer Keith Hudson.
In 1972, Michael Manley’s People’s National Party chose Wilson’s “Better Must Come” as their election campaign song. The same year saw the release of one of his most popular songs, “Cool Operator”, which became his nickname. He worked with a string of producers in the years that followed, including Joe Gibbs (“Mash Up Illiteracy”, “Pretty Girl”), Gussie Clarke (“Love”), Winston “Niney” Holness (“Rascal Man”), Harry J (“Ask The Lonely”), and Joseph Hoo Kim (“It’s a Shame”).