Pass the dutchie: The story of Musical Youth

In the early ‘80s, reggae was beginning to sweep the British musical landscape. The Police was probably the best-known band to fully incorporate reggae rhythms into their sound, but another British group took their love for the sound of the Caribbean and went straight to the top of the charts, and they would be called Musical Youth.

The “Youth” in Musical Youth would be apt because all of the members of the group were kids. Formed in 1979 by the fathers of Kelvin (guitars/vocals) and Michael Grant (keyboards/vocals) and Patrick (bass/vocals) and Freddie “Junior” Waite (drums/vocals), the group was created to carry on their legacy as reggae artists (the fathers were part of the band The Techniques). After getting numerous gigs at pubs in their native Birmingham, the group went into the studio in 1981 to record their singles, “Generals/Political” on the 021 Record label.

The Youth got even more exposure when they were invited to appear on the BBC Radio evening show, and this led to MCA Records signing the group in early 1982. Frederick Waite, one of the fathers who started the group and was also the lead vocalist, left the group, and was replaced by young Dennis Seaton (percussion/tambourine/lead vocals).

This would be the lineup that would round out the group, and towards the end of the summer of ’82, the Youth went into the studio and recorded “Pass the Dutchie,” the first single for MCA. A cover of the Mighty Diamond’s early ’82 hit “Pass the Kouchie,” the single was released in the fall of that year, and it took off, topping the Billboard 200 and going to number one in eight other countries.

“Pass the Dutchie” would spur the album that produced it, The Youth of Today, to number 23 on the Billboard 200 and went Gold in both the U.S. and Canada in early 1983. The Youth got an extra added boost in popularity when they were nominated for Best New Artists at the 1984 Grammy Awards, but by the time the show aired, the air of excitement that surround the group had sailed.

After “Pass the Dutchie,” the group didn’t hit the Hot 100 again until late 1983 with “She’s Trouble” from their sophomore album, Different Style, which was a commercial flop. Also, the group found themselves in legal, financial and personal turmoil, and by 1985, Seaton left the group, which led to the other members going their separate ways as well.

The Youth stayed off the scene until 2001, when the members decided to reunite for a planned tour. The September 11 attacks scuttled their tour, but they decided to stick together anyway, performing on the Here and Now tour in 2003 that features performances from the artists of yesteryear. The Youth is still performing to this very day.