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Clinton Rufus, original guitarist for the legendary Gladiators reggae band, was born in Grant Hill, a community of Lawrence Tavern, in the hills of St. Andrew just outside of Kingston, Jamaica. When he was a little child, he loved the sound of the guitar and the shape of the curved body of the acoustic guitar. At 13 Rufus went to Kingston to visit his mother. A friend that lived in the same yard was playing a guitar, and it “Blew me up!” he knew that he had to get me a guitar. On returning to the country, he borrowed a plastic Ukulele from one of his middle class schoolmates who could afford lots of toys and it put away for a couple of years. He was walking up and down “Banging the strings” when his uncle tuned it and showed him his first cord. After Rufus put his fingers on the fret board and learned to play the c cord, he was mostly self-taught and learned to play by ear. From there he watched other people and learned. At the age of 17, he played by himself as an instrumentalist and occasional percussionist regularly in church, this was mostly done in the revivalist style and their lively up tempo choruses. This helped to develop his ear for music and helped him to recognize music’s motivational impact on people. Outside of church he was mostly around his friends writing songs, he would also roam the streets at night s singing and playing the guitar. He took a little of his style from Lynn Taitt in the rock steady era. After that he started to hear the blues and liked it, he gravitated to BB king borrowing some of his blues licks. He tried his best to capture this “feels” as much as he could understand in his own way. From there Rufus developed his unique bluesy style that would later contribute to the creation of the unique Gladiator’s sound.
He never thought that he was qualified to play in a band until a good friend of his bought a guitar and amp for him to play at church in the Waterhouse area of Kingston for a few years. During that time he got to meet other musicians in Kingston. A lady that had a church had a son that was affiliated with Rufus heard a band rehearsing and told them about Rufus. Albert aGriffiths ( founder of the Gladiators band) was playing in a band called the Set Takers with Bobby Kalphot in Waterhouse. So in 1969 at age 19, Rufus went to audition for them, met Albert and then became the lead guitarist for the Set takers band. This was the earliest beginnings of the Gladiators band. Later Bobby Kalphot left the band and Albert took it over. The two soon became good friends, Rufus continued to work with Albert Griffiths in the studio recording his own music and backing other artistes such as: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Larry Marshall and many others. Soon after Clinton Fearon joined them and the Gladiators band continued to materialize.
The Gladiators band are one of the most quintessential Jamaican roots reggae bands and are known and loved all over the world. The first song the Gladiators recorded was Bongo Red in about 1971. Now over 41 years later and many albums later, Clinton Rufus is still an integral part of the Gladiators sound. Technically he was the band leader on stage so Albert could focus on his performance. As a master song writer, Albert trusted Clinton’s creative skills and allowed him to create his own guitar parts . Even in the studio Albert was in control producing the other instruments, but left the guitar playing to Rufus. Regularly Albert would use Rufus’ guitar lines for bass lines and sometimes Rufus would even play bass on tour. Albert would always affectionately introduce him on stage as “The cool ruler, the man who makes no fuss. The man with the magic fingers”. Rufus’ guitar style can be described as “Cool and deadly”, knowing right when to punctuate the music with his unique and tasteful guitar licks and when to blend back in with the band.
Now Clinton Rufus has his own instrumental album, “Clinton Rufus Plays The Gladiators Best,” dedicated to Albert Griffiths from Rufus and the crew.