Dave Barker was born David John Crooks on 10th October 1947 in Franklyn Town, Jamaica. He began his musical career in the late sixties, performing with Glen Adams, with whom he cut a handful of sides for clebrated producers, Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd and Harry Johnson.
Around this time, he also began singing alongside Bruce Ruffin and Winston Riley in the Techniques, but it was his solo work for Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry that led to him discovering his ‘barking’ DJ style that later brought him both international notoriety and his pseudonym, Dave Barker. Among his most notable early works for the enigmatic producer were ‘Runaway Child’, ‘Prisoner Of Love’ and ‘Shocks Of Mighty’, all of which featured on his debut LP, ‘Prisoner Of Love – Dave Barker Meets the Upsetters’ (TBL 127).
Soon after, he recorded classic skinhead favourites, ‘Funky, Funky Reggae’ and the classic ‘Lock Jaw’ for Duke Reid, while sessions for yielded a series of popular titles including ‘Hot Sauce’ and fine renderings of Garnett Mimms‘ ‘A Quiet Place (aka Johnny Dollar)’ and the Drifters’ ‘On Broadway’.
But Dave’s most famous session from 1970 was issued by his fomer singing partner in the Techniques, Winston Riley. Issued in the UK on Trojan’s Techniques subsidiary, ‘Double Barrel’ credited Dave alongside keyboard wizard Ansel Collins, who played on and produced the rhythm track, featuring future Riddim Twin, Sly Dunbar. Ansel had offered the backing track to a number of producers before eventually persuading Winston Riley to purchase the music. Winston’s brother Buster Riley invited Dave to Joe Gibbs studio where he suggested the DJ imagined he was a giant shouting from a mountaintop. He was also inspired to think like James Bond (W-0-0-0) when he added his now legendary intro take: ‘I am the magnificent, I’m backed by the shack of a soul boast – most thundering storming sound of soul. I am ‘W ‘ O ‘ O – O’ and I’m still up here again’.
The record proved to be a slow starter in the UK, but with repeated airplay on pirate stations and Radio Luxembourg, it finally entered the UK pop charts in the spring of the following year, eventually holding the top spot for two weeks.
Its success led to the similarly-styled follow up, ‘Monkey Spanner’, which peaked at a respectable number seven in June 1971, and soon afte its relase, Trojan released Dave and Ansel’s debut album, ‘Double Barrel’ (TBL 162). The innovative artwork featured a pistol with two smoking beer barrels, each of which contained a Nubian beauty and is surely a classic in reggae album cover art.
Unfortunately, with Dave’s move to the UK, the pair were unable to maintain their partnetship, with no further British pop chart successes for the duo following. In an effort to maintain his identity as a hit-maker, the singer assumed his former partner’s surname of Collins, but despite worthy subsequent recordings for both London-based producer, Larry Lawrence and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, under the auspicies of Bruce White and Tony Cousins of Creole Records, Dave was unable to repeat the popularity of his earlier work, and soon after the release of his 1975 Trojan album, ‘In The Ghetto’ (TRLS 124), he formed an allegiance with Bruce Ruffin and former Sensations‘ frontman, Bobby Davis to form Chain Reaction.
With the group, he focused his attention to the soul, recording a number of popular singles, most notably ‘Never Lose Never Win’ and three albums, namely ‘Never Lose Never Win’, ‘Change Of Action’ and ‘Chase A Miracle’.
Since the break-up of the group in the eighties, Dave has recorded infrequentlym concentrating instead on live work, where he continues to demonstrate the dynamism and vocal range that led to his becoming regarded one of the most soulful and versatile singers of his generation.