One of the most mysterious of all British reggae labels, Negro was the vinyl home for the band of the same name, a southeast London outfit that emerged during the early 1980s, and quickly evolved into Black Gold. The band featured several members of the Fulgence clan, whose St Lucian immigrant father ran the Firelighters sound system and managed a band called the Shadows. The precursor to Negro was a school band called the Shades, later known as the Mighty Shades, that featured Jeremiah ‘Jerry Lions’ Fulgence on bass and his brother Winston ‘Serpent’ Fulgence on keyboards (with brothers Patrick and Terry also in the group at its later stages). Negro was officially formed around 1981 with Jerry Lions on lead guitar, Black Steel on rhythm guitar, Serpent on keyboards, Leroy ‘Animal’ Alcide on drums, Frank ‘Rockstone’ Powell on bass, and a couple of female vocalists, Corinne ‘Sherika’ Dean, and Natalie ‘Coco’ Carlisle. Their debut release was the driving ‘Unite,’ recorded at Easy Street studio, which called for the unification of the black race as expressed from within a British take on Rastafari consciousness; its UK-focussed version was led by the band’s resident toaster, DJ A Humbe I (aka Earl Perkins). The second release on the Negro label was a ten-inch single with a stunning instrumental A-side, ‘Black Dragon,’ which had complex key changes, soulful guitar licks, bubbling keyboards, phased horns, an upfront trumpet line, and subtle percussion. Since the band had recently backed Winston Groovy on a UK tour, Groovy received an executive producer’s credit on ‘Black Dragon,’ having arranged for the band to record it at Gooseberry studio.
David Katz ©