Dub from the Roots

Looking for Leslie Ruddock, brother to King Tubby and the unsung hero of dub

America hasn't always been friendly: While in Brooklyn, his friends recall, Ruddock's apartment was burglarized. So in 1982 he moved to Miami, but his first studio space here was robbed as well. He relocated to West Palm Beach in 1985, and opened a recording studio at 2811 W. Broward Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. For a time, Young Tubby's Music Center was the biggest studio between Kingston and New York for reggae artists, and Ruddock fondly recalls the halcyon days of sessions with vocal talents Sugar Minott, Johnny Osbourne, Barrington Levy, as well as the late great Dennis Brown and Augustus Pablo. He closed his studio shortly after his brother's murder in 1989.

During the Eighties, King Tubby's studio in the dangerous Waterhouse district of Kingston hosted a revolving door of talent, and new apprentices learned recording techniques at his side. He launched his own record labels, boosted the careers of upstart stars such as Wayne Wonder, and readied himself for entry into the new digital era.

It was not to be. Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on February 6, 1989, King Tubby locked the studio, started his car, and made the ten-minute drive to his home in Duhaney Park. As soon as he pulled into the driveway at 85 Sherlock Crescent, a gunman emerged. King Tubby was robbed (his licensed pistol was stolen, too) and his wife awoke to the sound of a single shot.

The mysterious King Tubby, inventor of dub
The mysterious King Tubby, inventor of dub

Today, Ruddock's passion is for his family: his 92-year-old mother, his two children Michelle and Keith, and his three young grandkids (all under the age of ten). He repairs equipment in the back room at Boca Music a few days a week. "He really knows his stuff," says Boca Music owner Brian Baldwin. "He catches things that we don't normally catch. He's probably the best electronics repair guy around."

"That's all he does," says Ace Kari, salesman at Schumacher Music in Stuart, where Ruddock also works part-time. "He fixes anything that has wires and tubes and transistors, whether it be a TV or a microphone and everything in between." Kari has gotten to know Ruddock a bit, and understands his reluctance to indulge curious writers. "That part of his life is over and done with. He wants to be left alone. It's a shame, but he's done," he observes.

Ruddock insists he's afraid of nothing but losing his precious solitude. While he teases with tales of never-released Bob Marley and Dennis Brown tracks, photographs stacked four feet high of every reggae star imaginable, and enough crazy electronic gizmos to fill a Heathkit catalogue, he has no intention of sharing.

"I don't have to go back, I just continue. My daughter, my son, and I -- we're moving forward in digital." His voice rises again, this time with pride. "They grew up into it, beside me, constantly. It was handed down to them. They're from the foundation -- it's not something they just heard about. It's right there."

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