“General justice, he is the man. If he can’t do it, no one can.
It’s a song that has punctuated Jamdown Vershun for years, spoken by its founder’s then-six-year-old daughter – the Perth reggae veteran General Justice – who recorded four extraordinary decades this year by featuring the radio show on RTRFM.
This milestone makes it the oldest reggae show in the southern hemisphere, whose roots can be traced back to a chance encounter between Bob Marley and a 20-year-old general who had made his way behind the scenes at a concert.
“I grew up in Chapeltown in Leeds with a lot of West Indians. As a child, I really liked music like reggae, ska and rocksteady. But when I came to Perth in 1978 there was no reggae here at all, ”he said.
“About four months later Bob Marley came to town and I couldn’t believe it. I bribed the groupies and I was able to meet him. I took a present from him and as he rolled he told her that there was no reggae here.
“He said, ‘Boy, you should be a DJ and play some music.’ Then I was pushed outside.
It was kismet. He took Bob’s blessing and ran with it.
“I knew he was right. Perth is a do-it-yourself place. If you don’t do it yourself, it won’t happen. So if I didn’t, where was I going to hear it? ” he said.
Given reggae’s absence from the Australian charts, the General had to plead his case to secure a spot on 6USV – Australia’s premier reggae show on Perth’s premier FM radio station.
“It was an educational station that actually only played classical music. They told me I had to write a thesis on why we should play reggae music, so five or six of us wrote a four page article that said there was no black music, so we wanted to educate people about it. We had a three week trial of what we called Vershun Galore, ”he said.
Although his co-hosts declined over the years, the general held his ground until 1990, when the station’s call sign changed to RTRFM and the show was renamed Jamdown Vershun.
Fast forward 40 years after Bob’s blessing and to say that General Justice is a wanted man is an understatement to say the least. The reggae figurehead is apparently tireless when it comes to innovating for the Perth music scene.
His boundless energy and passion for his craft is palpable, and has seen him become good friends with those who meet him, including Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and reggae greats such as Jah Shaka, Mutaburuka, Bushman, Anthony B , Luciano and Gappy Ranks. and UB40.
Among her favorite special guests is one of the greatest drummers of all time – former West Indies cricketer Vivian Richards. The two met when General DJ attended a reception while the team was in Perth and have been quick friends ever since.
Richards introduced him to old-school reggae greats such as Bunny Wailer and Dennis Brown on a memorable 1984 trip to Jamaica.
The visit culminated when the documentary maker won an Australian Hi Fi award for his World of Reggae Music production, as well as one of his’ best moments’ when he won a friendly on-air clash against the ‘ King of the Caribbean ‘the airwaves’, presenter Barry Gordon and hit a chart-topping single.
“Barry G asked me to come face him, so we decided to do a song together. King Tubby was the dub master, I wrote it and Dudley Green was the singer. His name was’ Dangerous Times. “and I squeezed 1000 copies onto my hand-drawn Corroboree label,” he said.
“I kept it on for a week and played piece by piece with Barry G and the listeners voted which DJ had played the best set. And I won! We released the track that went number one for a week in Jamaica and sold out, so I squeezed another 3,000 copies and split them between Jamaica, UK and Australia.
The general’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked off Jamdown Vershun and it is his enduring passion along with the combined energies of co-hosts Mumma Trees and Simba who have over three decades of experience between them that see the show continue to thrive and evolve today.
“I love working with Mumma Trees and Simba. They are by far the best dancehall DJs around, and I’m the one-drop reggae guy, ”the general said.
“RTR is a family affair and on our show we bounce off each other. We are all really passionate. People think we just arrived, but there is a lot of preparation involved. We each spend five to six hours collecting new songs every week and go over all the stuff we’ve listened to together.
“What interests us all is music. You can’t make money playing reggae. You have to love it. As Chronixx says:“ We do it for love, we don’t. not for taste. “
How long can we do it for love?
“In fact, I think I will retire in 2079 because it will be 100 years,” he said with a laugh.
“I’ll stop the minute I lose my passion. “
A century of radio would make General Justice the longest-serving presenter in the world. No easy task.
But if he can’t do it, chances are no one can.
RTRFM celebrates 40 years of Jamdown Vershun on November 16 at the Railway Hotel and the Port Beach Garden Bar. Headliners will be Jah Fyre, Little Pedro, Weapon Is Sound, The U-Nites, Sunshine Brothers, Razor Jack, Bun Dem DJs, Benn Madz and Kreem, DJ Alpha T and the Jamdown Crew. See rtrfm.com.au for details.
An annual Bob Marley Outernational Tribute Concert has been held every year since Marley passed away in 1981. The 39th Outernational will take place on February 1, 2020 at the Railway Hotel. Part of the profits are donated to OXFAM.