Johnny Nash – Guava Jelly
9 August 1940, Houston, Texas, USA. The story of Nash’s association with Bob Marley has been well documented. His background is similar to that of many Jamaican performers in that he first started singing in a church choir. By his early teens he performed cover versions of popular R&B hits of the 50s on a television show called Matinee. He enjoyed his first US chart entry in 1957 with a cover version of Doris Day’s ‘A Very Special Love’. ABC Records decided to market the young singer as another Johnny Mathis, which did little to enhance his career. Disillusioned with the label, he concentrated on a career in films. In 1958 he starred in Take A Giant Step, and in 1960 he appeared alongside Dennis Hopper in Key Witness, which was critically acclaimed in Europe. Returning to the recording studio he persevered with middle-of-the-road material but was unable to generate a hit. A number of label and style changes did not improve his chart potential. By 1965 he finally achieved a Top 5 hit in the R&B chart with the ballad ‘Lets Move And Groove Together’.
Nash was unable to maintain the winning formula, but in 1967 his R&B hit was enjoying chart success in Jamaica. The good fortunes in Jamaica led Nash to the island to promote his hit. It was here that he was exposed to ska and arranged a return visit to the island to record at Federal Studios. Accompanied by Byron Lee And The Dragonaires, the sessions resulted in ‘Cupid’, ‘Hold Me Tight’ and ‘You Got Soul’. When he released ‘Hold Me Tight’, the song became an international hit, achieving Top 5 success in the UK as well as a return to the Jamaican chart. He formed a partnership with Danny Simms, and a label, JAD (Johnny and Danny), releasing recordings by Bob Marley, Byron Lee, Lloyd Price and Kim Weston as well as his own material until the label folded in the early 70s. He returned to recording in Jamaica at Harry J.’s studio where he met Marley, who wrote ‘Stir It Up’, which revived Nash’s career by peaking at number 13 on the UK chart in June 1972.
Nash continued to enjoy popularity with ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, a UK Top 5 hit that was later successfully covered by Jimmy Cliff in 1994 for the film Cool Runnings. Other hits followed, including ‘Ooh What A Feeling’ and ‘There Are More Questions Than Answers’, but the further he drifted from reggae, the less successful the single. He covered other Bob Marley compositions, including ‘Nice Time’ and ‘Guava Jelly’, but they were not picked up for single release, although the latter was on the b-side to ‘There Are More Questions Than Answers’. His career subsequently took another downward turn but was revived yet again when he returned to Jamaica to record an Ernie Smith composition, ‘Tears On My Pillow’, which reached number 1 in the UK Top 10 in June 1975. He also reached the UK chart with ‘Let’s Be Friends’ and ‘(What) A Wonderful World’ before choosing to devote more energy to films and his West Indian recording complex.