I have had a long relationship with marijuana. Like so many youths, I was introduced to the "hola herb" as a teenager in high school. A new reggae group called Messenjah was just starting to gain prominence on the Toronto reggae scene in the mid 1980s. The band had a real impact on me and I attended as many of their shows as I could, including one of their early performances at the little Café On The Park on Eglinton Avenue. To my surprise, a pale, skinny youth was filling in on keyboards named Jason Wilson. After introducing myself, this young white keyboardist and I connected through our shared love of reggae music. I have never been a heavy smoker, but I enjoyed my share of ‘bottle tokes’ with our band mates back when Jason invited me to play together in a young white reggae group they called Chester Peg. I found the black hash of the day much more hallucinogenic than the weed I started smoking as my circle of friends expanded into “Little Jamaica” in the Eglinton West neighbourhood of Toronto.
Jason and I went on to form another all white reggae group called Jericho, with some of my schoolmates from Lawrence Park. We performed as part of a ‘battle of the bands’ competition at Toronto’s famous blues club, The Silver Dollar. Among the competitors was a group called Solid Foundation. I was particularly taken with the bass and drum team of Tony Vernon and Mikey Flemmings, who reminded me very much of the Barrett Brothers; Carlton and Aston of Wailers fame, on whom I was now hooked. In time, I boldly approached Tony at his then workplace at Queen and Ossington. In short order, I was invited to join Solid Foundation, contributing keyboards and vocals, where I met Jamaican guitarist and bona fide “ganjaman” Derrick “Jah D” Lambert. From this moment on Jamaican sensi was but an arm’s length away and I would pass the ku sheng peng for the next ten years.
I grew accustomed to the gentle elation that came with Jamaican “Lamb’s Breath”, and relied upon its meditational allure to compose lyrics and music well into my twenties. I knew virtually no other strain of cannabis at this time. My friends and I would travel to every end of the city to secure a baggie of the dark green magical elixir, carefully cured and smuggled tightly into whatever container Jamaican drug runners could manage to get it across the border. As the song says, I took care not to abuse it, but I developed a true love affair with my muse.
When my Mom died I migrated to Nova Scotia, where she had finally secured her dream home after retirement. I slowly integrated into Halifax life but quickly learned that Jamaican Ishen was nowhere to be found. I mean nowhere. In my 20 years of living in the Maritimes I only came across it once! Don’t get me wrong. There was plenty of grass in Nova Scotia, but what my new friends were smoking was what I call ‘stupefying’, light green, skunky, ‘chronic’ weed. I couldn’t get over it. It was like my true love had left me and my only choice was to hook up with some skank; a term I reserve to describe the ‘scratch’ of the reggae rhythm guitar. Smoking this weed made me too high to write music; too stoned to do much of anything. Needless to say I didn’t enjoy it and I lamented the departure from my true love.
By 2002 I had begun playing music with my new friend Brian Atkinson, the legendary Jamaican bass player. He would tell me stories of sneaking out to the bread truck with his colleagues at Studio One to smoke ‘cotton’ between sessions. In response, I began making regular trips to Toronto to secure a supply of Jamaican collie, so that my bredren and I could find the proper meditation/inspiration to create the music found in this track, and many more. Herein lies my tribute to my love for My Jamaican Weed.