In his late teens, he moved to Ocho Rios where he made his first musical steps, performing at night in various shows, with artists like The Blues Busters, Higgs & Wilson or Buster Brown. He moved to Kingston in 1959 where he started his musical career as a singer. He first recorded for Coxsone Dodd, who noticed him at a talent show, and had a Jamaican hit in 1961 with the early-ska tune "Freedom" recorded actually in 1959 but a sound system favorite since then. Talking about the repatriation to Africa, an idea developed by the growing rastafari movement, "Freedom" was one of the first Jamaican songs with socially oriented lyrics. Curiously, it also became the first Jamaican hit to be used on political purposes with Alexander Bustamante, founder of the Jamaican Labour Party and at this time Chief Minister of Jamaica adopting it for his fight against the Federation of the West Indies in 1960. In the years after, Eccles had other successful songs, mixing boogie/R&B influences with emerging ska rhythm, like "River Jordan" or "Glory Hallelujah". In 1962, he started promoting concerts and set up his "Christmas Morning" talent show in association with Coxsone at the beginning, then on his own.
He organized shows for The Clarendonians in 1963 and in 1964-1965 for The Wailers in different locations. He launched other talent search contests with "Battle of the Stars", "Clancy Eccles Revue", "Independent Revue" or "Reggae Soul Revue", from where emerged such stars like Barrington Levy or Culture... From 1963 he recorded with different producers like Charlie Moo, Leslie Kong's business partner, or the husband of Sonia Pottinger, Lyndon, but couldn't make a living of his music and so decided to quit in 1965 for working as a tailor in Annotto Bay. During this period, he made stage outfits for musicians like Kes Chin, The Mighty Vikings, Byron Lee and the Dragonnaires, Carlos Malcolm or The Blue Busters. He went back to music in 1967, producing his own recordings as well as other artists and soon scored with Eric 'Monty' Morris' hit, "Say What You're Saying" and his own song "Feel The Rhythm", both now recognized as being among the first early reggae tunes. He entered then a very prolific period with popular success both in Jamaica and UK (his first hit "What Will Your Mama Say" was released by the recently created UK label, Pama Records). In 1968, his song "Fattie Fattie", became a skinhead classic, along with his productions of the DJ King Stitt ("Fire Corner", "Van Cleef", "Herbman Shuffle"...). He also recorded many organ-led instrumentals with his session band named The Dynamites (same band has Derrick Harriott's Crystalites) featuring Winston Wright.
By releasing in 1970 an instrumental version of "Herbman Shuffle" called "Phantom" with a mix focusing on the bass line, Eccles paved the way along with other innovators, to dub music. Eccles launched different labels, "Clansone", "New beat" and above all "Clandisc" (also a UK subsidiary of Trojan for his works) on which he recorded artists like Alton Ellis, Joe Higgs, the Trinidian Lord Creator ("Kingston Town"), Larry Marshall, Hemsley Morris, Earl Lawrence, The Beltones, Glen Ricks, Cynthia Richards, Buster Brown and in the early 1970s, Beres Hammond... He helped Lee Perry to set up his Upsetter label in 1968, and Winston 'Niney' Holmes later known as 'The Observer' to record his first hit as a producer in 1971 ("Blood & Fire"). A socialist militant, Eccles was appointed as an adviser on the music industry to Michael Manley's People's National Party (PNP) and took part in Jamaica's 1972 prime ministerial elections by organising a "Bandwagon" featuring musicians such as Bob Marley & the Wailers, Dennis Brown, Max Romeo, Delroy Wilson and Inner Circle, performing around the island in support of Manley's campaign. Throughout the 1970s, he remained close to Manley and wrote several songs in praise of the PNP program, including his hits "Power for the People", "Rod of Correction" or "Generation Belly". Eccles' political interests meant that he spent less time on music, although in the late 1970s, Eccles had further success as a producer with recordings by Tito Simon and Exuma the Obeah Man, as well as collaborations with King Tubby. After the 1970s, new Eccles recordings were rare, and he concentrated on live concert promotion and re-issues of his back catalogue. In the 1980s, Eccles slowed down his musical activities, and he never met success again, apart from a few political songs, such as "Dem Mash Up The Country" in 1985. Eccles died on 30 June 2005, in Spanish Town Hospital from complications of a heart attack. Eccles' son, Clancy Eccles Jr., has followed his father into the music business, initially performing as simply "Clancy".
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