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Encyclopedia > Carlton Barrett

Carlton Barrett Carlton "Carly" Barrett was the originator of the one drop rhythm, a percussive drumming style. An essential member of the Wailers since 1969, Carly co-wrote "Talkin' Blues" and performed on every Wailer album since. With Carly's beats and his brother Aston's bass, the Wailer rhythm section planted the seeds of today's international reggae.


"Field Marshal," as he liked to be called, is indeed the marshal of the one drop rhythm who kept the Wailers steady in his own militant style.


Carly was born in Jamaica in 1950. As a teenager he built his first set of drums out of some empty paint tins, and had initially been influenced by Lloyd Nibbs, the great drummer from the Skatalites. He and his brother Aston were raised in Kingston and absorbed the emerging "ska" sound.


The Barrett brothers came to prominence with their band the Hippy Boys. They began working with Lee "Scratch" Perry, and recorded an international hit, "Return of Django," under the name the Upsetters.


The brothers teamed up with the Wailers in 1969-70 for several singles: "My Cup (Runneth Over)," Duppy Conqueror," Soul Rebel," and Small Axe." These songs became part of a double LP set that Perry released: Soul Rebels and Soul Revolution, and formed the early foundation of the one drop sound.


Though original Wailers Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston left the group in 1973, Carlton and Aston remained with Bob Marley and went on to record Natty Dread in 1974. Carlton has songwriting credits for two of Natty Dread's songs: "Talkin' Blues" and "Them Belly Full".


A steady presence, Carlton remained with the Wailers in the studio and on tour until Bob's passing in 1981. His signature style can be heard on every recording the Wailers produced since 1969. Feel it in the one drop.

 On Good Friday April 17, 1987 Carlton Barrett was brutally murdered as he opened the gate to his home. 

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