Veteran Jamaican singer Frederick “Toots” Hibbert, lead singer of Toots and the Maytals, whose six-decade career was halted in 2013 following an injury at a Virginia music festival, begins his much-anticipated return tour of the U.S. on June 15 at Observatory North Park in San Diego, Calif.
While performing at Richmond’s Dominion Riverrock Outdoor Sports and Music Festival on May 18, 2013, Hibbert was hit in the head by an empty glass vodka bottle thrown by a drunken audience member, suffering lacerations to his forehead.
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The following day Hibbert launched an acoustic tour supporting his Grammy nominated Reggae Got Soul Unplugged on Strawberry Hill (Metropolis) at Long Island’s Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Two days later, following a series of medical evaluations, he was advised to cancel the remaining tour dates and return home to Kingston.
In June 2013 Hibbert’s Virginia and Los Angeles-based lawyers filed a $20 million dollar lawsuit against Venture Richmond, producers of the three-day music and sports event (along with Sports Backers); a settlement was reached in March 2016 without public disclosure of the terms.
In an exclusive interview with Billboard at his Kingston home studio on May 20, Toots’ first since that 2013 injury, the singer commented on the Virginia episode and the resulting three-year break from touring, performing and recording.
“This hasn’t been a good time at all; after being away for so long, I have to work harder to gain confidence, to get back to where I was. I am exercising more, eating properly, and up until now I see the doctor for my head,” Hibbert revealed.
“This studio is called Reggae Center and what comes from here is good ideas and great songs so I am happy to be recording again,” acknowledges Hibbert, whose 1968 hit “Do The Reggay” was the first song to mention by name Jamaica’s signature rhythm.
“I sang ‘Three Little Birds’ because of the respect I have for Bob [Marley]; we performed on many shows together over the years and it brings back great memories,” reminisced Hibbert, who will perform alongside Bob’s sons Damian and Stephen aboard the Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise, hosted by Damian, on Nov. 14.
“Bob’s sons are like my nephews and they respect me as their uncle so the cruise will be like a family tour,” he declares.
The Maytals’ Jamaican chart toppers “Pressure Drop” and “Sweet and Dandy” were included on the 1973 soundtrack to The Harder They Come (Mango Records), which brought their music to audiences beyond Jamaica’s shores. The trio disbanded in the early 1980s; Toots reformed the group in the 1990s and they’ve remained a consistently successful touring outfit. Numerous artists have covered Maytals hits including Amy Winehouse (“Monkey Man”), The Clash (“Pressure Drop”), and Sublime (“54-46”).
Despite some apprehension towards returning to the stage after a three-year absence, Hibbert is thrilled to finally be reuniting with his vast international following.
“Sometimes I think about what can happen out there, so I hope no one throw any more bottles when they are drinking because I don’t know how I am going to deal with it,” he disclosed.
“I realize that people out there respect me and will be glad you called my name. They are waiting for me to bring joy in them heart again and I am hoping to meet them and get some happiness, too.”
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Toots and Maytals 2016 Tour Itinerary:
6/15 – San Diego, CA / Observatory North Park
6/16 – Santa Ana, CA / The Observatory
6/17 – Los Angeles, CA / The Fonda Theatre
6/18 – Boonville, CA / Sierra Nevada World Music Festival
6/20 – Seattle, WA / The Showbox
6/22 – Victoria, BC / Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival
6/23 – Vancouver, BC / Commodore Ballroom
6/24 – Portland, OR / Revolution Hall
6/26 – Queens, NY / Groovin’ In The Park
8/13 – Chicago, IL / Reggae Fest Chicago
8/14 – Detroit, MI / Majestic Theatre
8/15 – Toronto, ON / Danforth Music Hall
8/17 – Montreal, QC / Corona Theatre
8/19 – Hyannis, MA / Cape Cod Melody Tent
8/20 – Portland, ME / State Theatre
8/21 and 22 – Nantucket, MA / The Chicken Box
8/24 – Burlington, VT / Higher Ground Ballroom
8/28 – Kingham, ENGLAND / The Big Feastival
8/29 – London, ENGLAND / House Of Common
8/31 – Briston, ENGLAND / Motion
9/1 – Cardiff, WALES / The Tramshed
9/2 – Brighton, ENGLAND / Brighton Dome
9/6 – Canterbury, ENGLAND / The Marlowe Theatre
9/7 – Norwich, ENGLAND / UEA
9/8 – Nottingham, ENGLAND / Rock City
9/9 – Newcastle Upon Tyne / The Boiler Shop
9/10 – Manchester / Manchester Academy
11/14-16 – Welcome to Jamrock Reggae Cruise