Dennis Wilson: The Godfather of Reggae Radio (a tribute)

In a touching obituary for former Radio 3 DJ Dennis Wilson, ZBC Classic 263 Station Manager Terrence Mapurisana has described the late disc jockey as a brother, mentor and “unquestionably one of the most charismatic and inspirational Reggae DJs and producers in Jamaica, UK and Zimbabwe.”

Mapurisana, who is also a Producer/ Presenter at the station, says Wilson inspired him me to be the finest Reggae producer/presenter that he is today.

“He linked me up with a good number of Jamaican stars today, the likes of Leroy Sibbles, Young Garvey, Shaggy, Jamaican Reggae DJ Mandingo, Freddy Melody, Big Youth, among others. He also came up with a number of jingles for my Reggae programs on ZBC’s Classic263. He was the first person to let me know about the death of Reggae legendary Bunny “Striker” Lee- a man who produced artists like Delroy Wilson, Cornell Campbell, King Tabby, Tapper Zukie and Johnny Clarke. I remembers him saying to me, “I spoke to him in the UK at a function hosted by John, the owner of Dub Vendor record shops. He did not look too healthy at all. He has been a very influential person within the reggae industry,” says Mapurisana.

“The world of reggae music, Zimbabwe included has lost an iconic figure who inspired a good number of us radio reggae producers and presenters. Dennis Wilson was unquestionably one of the most charismatic and inspirational Reggae DJs and producers in Jamaica, UK and Zimbabwe. He was diabetic and suffered from hypertension for some years. He collapsed at his house in Harare and passed on. He was 66.”

Mapurisana adds that Wilson was a versatile reggae fanatic who could also sing and do a number of covers versions, from Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown to Freddie McGregor.

“Through his reggae programs with Kudzie “Mr Cool” Marudza on the then Radio 3 in the 1980s on Thursdays between 8am and 9pm, Dennis Wilson drove reggae music forward across decades. According to Kudzi Marudza, “one of the reggae songs we popularized include ABC-123 and Push comes to Shove by Freddie McGregor”. Push comes to Shove became his signature tune. Wilson worked with various reggae labels and helmeted hits by Freddie McGregor, Cocoa T, Sanchez, Tiger, Aswad and many more from the mid -1970s onwards,” he says.

According to Mapurisana, Wilson introduced Jamaican dancehall reggae from Jamaican music from Ska and rocksteady styles towards the distinctive tempo and bounce of reggae.

“Wilson was the first to interview a number of visiting reggae groups such as Joseph Hill and Culture, Shabba Ranks, Sugar Minnot, among others. Through his programs, he also helped to pioneer the echoing, eerie sound of dub with its focus on drums, bass and studio effects. Wilson has that radio voice that reggae fans would become accustomed to and would find some kind of comfort and nostalgia and excitement. This led me to invite him to the then SFM Reggae Rhythms in 2006 to co-host the programme.

“Dennis Wilson became known as the Godfather of Reggae Radio because many credited him with introducing Jamaican reggae dancehall and reggae from the 70s in Zimbabwe. Wilson was born in Kingstone, Jamaica and moved to London at a tender age. He came to Zimbabwe in 1982 at the invitation of Dr Obediah Moyo, who at that time was also a big reggae fan having stayed in Jamaica and London as well. He then joined the Post and Telecommunications PTC as a Telecoms Engineer.”

Although he left radio some years ago, and could come in as per Mapurisana’s invitation on the Classic263 Reggae Talk, his die-hard followers stayed with him for decades, and more recently he had become a vocalist and manager for the local reggae outfit Transit Crew. “Dennis Shabba as most of us would love calling him is survived by three sons and one daughter. Who would forget the song, I Will Wait For You by Freddie Mcgregor as he signs off his programme.”

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