He is a bass player, songwriter and producer born Aston Francis Barrett in Kingston, Jamaica. It has been said that he got his nickname because he is the father of 52 children, but he has stated that he labelled himself this as the man in charge of the family and who keeps the family together.
Before he ventured into music as a profession he was employed as a bicycle mechanic and a welder and would play his first bass, which was homemade from an upturned pan and a fishing line tied to a stick. His brother would play “drums” on an upturned pan and with a friend who played sax they would entertain passers by and eventually attract an audience.
Robert Hemmings, the friend who played sax, gave him his first real guitar and his early days as a musician in 1965 saw him as a member of The Hippy Boys who would play at various nightclubs in Kingston. He then became one of the studio band The Upsetters who had a 1969 hit with “Return of Django” and often accompanied the band The Wailers during the 1960s and ‘70s.
He and his brother, Carlton “Carlie” Barrett, who was also with The Upsetters, then formed and essentially led The Wailers Band who backed Bob Marley from the time he went solo in 1973/4 and he became known for the bass lines that were heard on many hits such as “Buffalo Soldier”, “Could You Be Loved”, “Get Up, Stand Up”, “One Love” and many more.
He also often worked with Bob Marley as a song arranger and co-producer on eleven of his albums such as Babylon by Bus, Exodus, Kaya, Natty Dread, Survival and Uprising. Occasionally venturing out as a solo artist, he has released his own Familyman in Dub, Cobra Style: Lost Productions and Legendary Wailers in Dub, but for the most part remains the leader of The Wailers Band who carried on performing the music of Bob Marley after his death.
However, in 2006, he was involved in a lawsuit against Island Records where he attempted to claim £60 million for royalties due to him and his brother. The case was dismissed and he still continued to perform with The Wailers.
Throughout the course of his career he has peformed with and/or produced many other artists and his work has appeared on Luta Continua by Big Youth, Marcus Gravey by Burning Spear, Humanitarian by Jimmy Cliff, It’s About Time by John Denver, Bionic Dread by Dillinger, True Rastaman by The Gladiators, Mo’ Roots by Taj Mahal, Who Feels It Knows It by Rita Marley, Fallen is Babylon by Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers, Wailin’ For Love by Junior Marvin, Collector’s Collection, Vol. 1 by Sugar Minott, Open the Iron Gate 1973-1977 by Max Romeo, Legalize It by Peter Tosh, King Tubby’s Controls by King Tubby & The Aggrovators, Upsetters A Go Go by The Upsetters, I.D., Live and Jah Message by The Wailers Band and the DVD Legend by Rick Wakeman.
Acclaimed for his bass playing, he was the mentor to Robbie Shakespeare of Sly & Robbie and an influence to Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Bob Marley & The Wailers recordings
Could You Be Loved (Bob Marley )
Island WIP 6610-A (UK 45)
One Drop (Bob Marley )
Island WIP 6610-B (UK 45)
Redemption Song (Band Version)(Bob Marley )
Island: WIP 6653-B ( UK 45 PS)