Jamaican Fruit of African Roots is the lost vocal cut to one of King Tubby's most dramatic and devastating dubs from the 1970s. It was never released in Jamaica, but housed on an obscure compilation released only in Toronto in tiny quantities in the mid 70s.
This release is the culmination of a 10 year obsession to try and find out more about the song's enigmatic singer Sheila Rickards. It all started in a musty Canadian thrift store with the discovery of an incredible 10 cent record credited to one "Shella Record".
The singer's voice was unlike anything I had ever heard in Reggae before and sparked an international quest to find the lost siren. Beginning in Toronto where the record was pressed by local label Monica's in the mid 70s, I quizzed producers, collectors and Reggae artists, all of whom were as mystified as I was.
I travelled to Jamaica and tracked down legendary producer Bunny Striker Lee who recorded the song in 1975 with a full line up of Aggrovators, some of the most prolific and talented musicians who ever worked on the island. -
Bunny revealed that Shella Record was in fact Sheila Rickards, a Greenwich Farm Jazz singer from the Mento era who began performing as a child with artists like Lennie Hibbert and Carlos Malcolm.
He had not seen her since she vanished in 1975 after they worked on this song at Harry Js and later voiced the track at King Tubby's infamous Drumillie Ave studio. -
Despite tracking down many of the musicians who played on the song, Jamaican Jazz artists from the era and even Sheila's family, Sheila's whereabouts remained a mystery.
Hearing rumours of her relocation to Los Angeles or New York, I travelled the States desperate to find out what happened to this remarkable diva. Every clue led to a red herring which led to a dead end.
Now working with a private detective with a sideline in ghost hunting I hope to have more answers soon. The search has been filmed from the outset and will culminate in the documentary film Shella Record, A Reggae Mystery.
Please stay tuned for more details.