The Wailing Souls

The Wailing Souls (originally The Renegades) are a Jamaican reggae vocal group whose origins date back to the 1960s. The group has undergone several line-up changes over the years with Winston "Pipe" Matthews and Lloyd "Bread" McDonald the only constant members. They have been nominated for Grammy Awards three times.

The Wailing Souls
Also known asThe Renegades
The Little Roys
The Classics
Pipe and the Pipers
OriginKingston, Jamaica
GenresRocksteady, reggae
Years active1968 (1968)–present
LabelsStudio One
Channel One
Live & Learn
MembersWinston "Pipe" Matthews
Lloyd "Bread" McDonald
Past membersGeorge "Buddy" Haye
Oswald Downer
Norman Davis
Joe Higgs
Rudolph "Garth" Dennis
Ziggy Thomas
ROTR - 2018 -Wailing Souls-1-25-Pipe.jpg


Formation and Studio One eraEdit

The group was originally formed as The Renegades in 1966, comprising Winston "Pipe" Matthews, Lloyd "Bread" McDonald, and George "Buddy" Haye, who had attended the same vocal classes held by Joe Higgs in the early 1960s as The Wailers.[1][2][3] Matthews had previously recorded as a member of The Schoolboys for Prince Buster.[1][4]

They recorded as backing singers with Ernest Ranglin and released their own debut single, "Lost Love", before recording several singles for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One label, including "Back Out With It", "Row Fisherman Row", and "Mr. Fire Coal Man".[1][4][5] The group became The Wailing Souls in 1968 and in the same year Haye left and new members Oswald Downer and Norman Davis joined.[1] Under the new name they recorded singles such as "Dungeon" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal".[1]


In 1970 the group began working with producer Lloyd Daley, releasing the "Gold Digger" single.[1][5] In this period, their singles were often released under names such as The Little Roys, The Classics, Atarra, and Pipe and the Pipers, to avoid confusion with The Wailers.[1][6] They went on to record with members of the Wailers later that year on the Tuff Gong singles "Harbour Shark", "Walk Walk Walk", and "You Should've Known Better".[1]

By 1974 Downer and Davis had left, and original member Buddy Haye returned, along with Joe Higgs, although Higgs' tenure in the band was short-lived as he was recruited for a US tour with Jimmy Cliff.[1][5] His replacement was Rudolph "Garth" Dennis, a founder member of Black Uhuru.[1]

In the mid-1970s, The Wailing Souls association with producer Joseph Hoo Kim and his Channel One Studios brought them a string of hits, backed by house band The Revolutionaries, including "Back Biter", "Very Well", "Things and Time", "Jah Jah Give Us Life", and "War".[1][2] In 1977 the band started their own 'Massive' label, further hits following in "Bredda Gravalicious" and "Feel the Spirit".[1][6] The band's success reached another level in 1978 when their Wild Suspense album, featuring remixed tracks from their singles, was released internationally by Island Records.[1][6]


In the early 1980s they recorded with Sly and Robbie for the duo's Taxi label and continued to record at Channel One for producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes, singles from this era including "Fire House Rock", which was the title track from their 1980 album, released by Greensleeves Records.[1] In the same era they also worked with other producers such as Linval Thompson (Wailing).[1] From 1981 to 1984 they were largely based in the United States, and on their return to Jamaica, Haye stayed behind as did Dennis, until he returned to Jamaica and Black Uhuru in 1985.[1][6]

Remaining members Matthews and McDonald launched a new era of the group in 1986 with singer Ziggy Thomas added to the line-up, working with producer Delroy Wright and going on to release the albums Lay It on the Line (1986) and Kingston 14 (1987), and recording Reggae in a Firehouse in 1988, although it was not released until 1991.[1][6] They moved on to work with King Jammy on the 1989 album Stormy Night which was successful enough in the US to prompt the group to return there in 1991.

Major label era and later workEdit

After moving to the US they added new member Maisha and signed to Sony's Chaos label.[1] Their first major label album, All Over the World (1992) received a Grammy nomination the following year, and they became the first reggae group to appear on The Tonight Show.[1][6] Four tracks from the album were used on the soundtrack of the film Cool Runnings.[7] A second album for Sony, Live On (1994), this time released on the Zoo label, failed to repeat the success of its predecessor, and the group were dropped.[1]

They continued to record, releasing the Tension album in 1997, and the covers album Psychedelic Souls in 1998, which was recorded with members of Sublime and the Long Beach Dub Allstars, and brought the group a second Grammy nomination.[8][9] The self-produced Equality followed in 2000, which featured reworkings of old songs recorded with Sly and Robbie, and saw the band receive their third Grammy nomination.[1][7][9][10][11] They also contributed the song "Renegade Survivor" to the soundtrack of the animated motion picture Titan A.E. in 2000.[11]

In 2006 they released Classic Jamaican Flava, a two disc set featuring a compact disc and a DVD of a live performance in San Francisco, California. In 2008 Dennis returned to the group.[12] Their track "Things and Time" was included in the soundtrack of the 2010 film Dear John.[13]

In April 2015 it was reported that McDonald and Matthews were working on a new album with Sly and Robbie. The group released the album Island Girl in 2017.[14]

The group have recorded cover versions of a wide variety of songs, such as Kate and Anna McGarrigle's "Heartbeats Accelerating", The Who's "My Generation", The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows", Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone", and The Rolling Stones' "Black Angel".[15][16] Influenced by "War Deh Round a John Shop", Sublime altered the Wailing Souls song and renamed it "Pawn Shop".[citation needed]


Studio albumsEdit

Year Title Label Notes
1979 Wild Suspense Island/Mango
1981 Fire House Rock Greensleeves
Wailing Jah Guidance
1982 Inchpinchers Greensleeves/Shanachie
1983 On The Rocks Greensleeves
Baby Come Rock Joe Gibbs Music
1984 Stranded Greensleeves/Gorgon
1986 Lay It on the Line Live & Learn
1987 Kingston 14 Live & Learn
1989 Stormy Night Rohit International
1991 Reggae Ina Firehouse Live & Learn recorded 1988
1992 All Over The World Chaos
1994 Live On Zoo
1997 Tension Big Ship
1998 Psychedelic Souls Pow Wow
2000 Equality MusicBlitz
2003 Square Deal Studio One
2003 Souvenir From Jamaica Artists Only!
2017 Island Girl Black Oak Studios
2020 Back A Yard [17] Greensleeves

Live albumsEdit

Year Title Label Notes
2006 Classic Jamaican Flava 2b1 recorded live in San Francisco


Year Title Label Notes
1975 The Wailing Souls Studio One recorded 1969–1970
1982 Soul and Power Studio One recorded 1969–1970
1984 The Best of Wailing Soul Empire/Channel One
1985 The Best of Wailing Soul Sunset
1987 The Very Best Of The Wailing Souls [18] Greensleeves
1999 Reggae Legends Vol 1 Artists Only!
2002 Face The Devil Silverline reissue of Wailing with dubs
2003 Classic Souls Artists Only!
2004 Wailing Souls at Channel One Pressure Sounds
2007 Most Wanted: Classic Cuts 1978–1984 Greensleeves


  • "Lost Love" (196?) – as The Renegades
  • "Bongonyah" (1969), Camel – as The Little Roys
  • "Fight Them" (1970), Camel – as The Little Roys
  • "Gold Digger" (1970), Camel – as The Little Roys
  • "Selassie Want Us Back" (1970), Camel – as The Little Roys
  • "Row Fisherman Row" (1970), Banana
  • "Back Out" (1970), Banana
  • "Mr. Fire Coal Man"
  • "Walk Walk Walk" (1971), Banana
  • "Harbour Shark" (1971), Green Door
  • "Dungeon" (1972), Punch
  • "You Should've Known Better" (1972), Punch
  • "Don't Fight It" (1972), Coxsone
  • "Wicked A Go Dread" (1973), Del Prado - as Pipe & The Pipers (also Micron '75 reissue)
  • "War" (1974), Channel One – with Ranking Trevor
  • "Things and Time" (1974), Channel One
  • "Back Out" (1976), Conflict
  • "Feel the Spirit" (1976), Massive
  • "Bredda Gravalicious" (1977), Massive
  • "Something Funny" (1978), Island
  • "Fire Mus Mus Tail" (1978), Channel One
  • "Very Well" (1978), Channel One
  • "Joy Within Your Heart" (1978), Well Charge/Hitbound
  • "Kingdom Rise Kingdom Fall" (1980), Greensleeves
  • "Lawless Society" (1980), Channel One
  • "Old Broom" (1980), Taxi
  • "Sweet Sugar Plum" (1980), Taxi
  • "See Baba Joe" (1980), Greensleeves – B-side of Michael Prophet's "Help Them Please"
  • "Stick Together" (1980), Studio One
  • "Rude Boy Say Him Bad" (1981), Cha Cha
  • "Penny I Love You" (1981), Cha Cha
  • "Waterhouse Rock" (1981), Jah Guidance
  • "Bandit Taking Over" (1981), Jah Guidance
  • "Run Dem Down" (1981), Jah Guidance
  • "Up Front" (1981), Greensleeves
  • "Who No Waan Come" (1981), Greensleeves
  • "Stalk a Sensimenia" (198?), Thompson Sound
  • "Down Hearted" (198?), Thompson Sound
  • "Wha Happen Dey" (198?), Gorgon
  • "I Shent Thee" (1982), Jah Guidance
  • "Baby Come Back" (1982), Volcano
  • "Take a Taste" (1982), Jah Guidance
  • "Sweetie Come Brush Me" (1982), Arrival
  • "Grabbing and Running" (1982), Cha Cha
  • "Take We Back" (1982), Jah Guidance
  • "Diamonds & Pearls" (1982), Greensleeves
  • "They Don't Know Jah" (1982), Greensleeves
  • "Rastaman" (1982), Jah Guidance
  • "Bounce Back" (1983), Greensleeves
  • "Water Pumpee" (1983), Greensleeves
  • "Take a Taste" (1983), Upfront
  • "War Deh Round A John Shop" (1984), Greensleeves
  • "Who Fa Say a The Best" (1985), Rockers Forever – B-side of Johnny Osbourne's "If Jah Didn't Love You"
  • "Dance Hall Nice Again" (1986), Tuff Gong
  • "Lay It on the Line" (1986), Live & Learn
  • "Informer" (1987), Live & Learn
  • "Dog Bite" (1987), Live & Love
  • "Full Moon" (1987), Live & Learn
  • "Shark Attack" (1992), Chaos
  • "All Over the World" (1992), Columbia
  • "If I Were You" (1992), Chaos
  • "Wild Wild Life" (1994), Columbia
  • "Row Fisherman Row" (1997), Big Ship
  • "Tension" (1997)
  • "Kingdom Rise" (2000), Thompson Sound
  • "World Abomination" (2004), Famous
  • "Firehouse Rock" (2006), Jah Guidance


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Thompson, Dave (2002) Reggae & Caribbean Music, Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-655-6, p. 297-300
  2. ^ a b Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter (2004) The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd edn., Rough Guides, ISBN 1-84353-329-4, p. 22, 160
  3. ^ Steckles, Garry (1984) "Souls 'discovered' after 20 years", Montreal Gazette, 16 February 1984, p. D-10, retrieved 14 September 2012
  4. ^ a b Greene, Jo-Ann "The Wailing Souls Biography", Allmusic, retrieved 14 September 2012
  5. ^ a b c Larkin, Colin (1998) The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae, Virgin Books, ISBN 0-7535-0242-9, p. 313
  6. ^ a b c d e f Foster, Chuck (1999) Roots Rock Reggae, Billboard Books, ISBN 0-8230-7831-0, p. 81-90
  7. ^ a b Oumano, Elena (1998) "Pow Wow's Souls Put Spin on Classic Songs", Billboard, 12 September 1998, p. 17, retrieved 14 September 2012
  8. ^ "Reggae's Wailing Souls Play Monday", Arizona Daily Star, 4 May 2001
  9. ^ a b Taylor, Lewis (2000) "Wailing Souls Return to Roots, Rock, Reggae", Eugene Register-Guard, 8 December 2000, p. 22, retrieved 14 September 2012
  10. ^ Hay, Carla (2000) "Wailing Souls Promote 'Equality' on MusicBlitz Set", Billboard, 24 June 2000, p. 13, retrieved 14 September 2012
  11. ^ a b Deeds, Michael (2001) "Wailing Souls Pack Quite a Resume", The Idaho Statesman, 13 April 2001, retrieved 14 September 2012
  12. ^ "The 'Souls' Reunite", Jamaica Gleaner, 7 October 2008, retrieved 14 September 2012
  13. ^ "Wailing Souls' Things and Time featured in Dear John soundtrack", Jamaica Observer, 10 February 2010, retrieved 14 September 2012
  14. ^ Campbell, Howard (2015) "Wailing Souls hope to chart comeback", Jamaica Observer, 9 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015
  15. ^ "No Reggae, No Cry", Monterey County Weekly, 30 August 2007,
  16. ^ Tanzilo, Robert (1992) "Wailing Souls Return to the Roots", Milwaukee Sentinel, 10 July 1992, retrieved 14 September 2012
  17. ^ "The Wailing Souls – Back a Yard". Allmusic.
  18. ^ "The Wailing Souls – The Very Best Of The Wailing Souls". Discogs.

External linksEdit