Gunmen Coming to Town...

The use of gangs of toughs and enforcers by both political parties in Jamaica was crucial in swaying public opinion further against Rudies, and also against the carrying of guns. A gun law was passed which gave a special court appointed specifically for this purpose the power to detain indefinately anyone found in possession of guns. Though the law and public opinion had taken notice and condemned the Rude Boys for their questionable way of life, their exploits were nonetheless the stuff of legend in rude circles and ska music.

The Wailers: Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer & Pete ToshAn anti-gun sentiment slowly rose from within the heart of the ska movement itself. It was seen reflected in the lyrics and titles of ska songs of the time, and also by such icons as the fictitious and mythical character Judge Dread, who handed down 400-year sentences to gun-carrying Rude Boys. It was also around this time that Dodd was supporting a group of young musicians who fancied themselves Rude Boys. Their names were (from l-r) Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer, and Peter Tosh: The Wailers.

Though Coxsone, for the most part, was more in touch with the people living in the ghetto, it was Reid who was crowned King of Sound and Blues at the Success Club from 1956 to 1958. Nonetheless, it was Dodd who opened his own recording facilites in Kingston in 1963. To this day, Studio One is still the most widely recognized label for all of Dodd's productions. Prior to 1963, the earliest records and singles had all been produced at Federal Studios.

However one chooses to view them the Rude Boys were a well-established part of Jamaican life by the mid-1960's and had been around long before the flood of musical releases they starred in. Those releases simply helped to draw attention to their activities. One of the main reasons behind the sudden interest in Rude Boy lifestyle was the sudden explosion of violence in the summer of 1966, which was without doubt caused by unusually high temperatures. By October 6 deaths had occured in the streets, leading the government to take action. The Jamaican government declared a state of emergency, instructing the police and the military to cordon off the trouble zone in Kingston. A curfew was enforced between 10pm and 6am.

 It is an interesting point of note that this period in Jamaica coincides with dramatic changes in Jamaican music. The same heat which had caused tempers to flare and made dancing to Ska an exhausting experience also caused the tempo of Ska music to be slowed accordingly. Eventually the rhythm slowed to such an extent that it became an entirely new style... Ska had been transformed into Rocksteady.

By early 1967 the weather had cooled to such an extent that violence in the streets became a less common occurence, and the Rude Boy theme became less prominent in song lyrics. In the following years Rude Boys were hardly mentioned in song lyrics anymore, despite the success of Perry Hanzell's The Harder They Come, which stars but is not based on the life of reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. More likely the doomed anti-hero of the film represented Ivanhoe Martin Rhygin, a real-life Jamaican rudie.

Towards the end of the 1970's, such British Ska bands as The Specials and Madness would reinvent the image of the Rude Boy. Here he would be represented attired in a stylish two-tone suit and pork-pie hat, more similar to the original Mods of the 1960's than to Jamaican Rude Boys.

Today, a "Rude Boy" or "Rude Girl" is a dedicated ska fan, with a sense of history, style and a love for the ska scene. A trendy poseur cannot be rude.