FOR over 20 years, roots band The Gladiators quietly established itself as one of the top touring reggae acts. Differences with their longtime booking agent, however, is threatening to make them reluctant headliners.
The core of the band — guitarists Clinton Rufus and Gallimore Sutherland, keyboardist Veron Sutherland and harmony singer/percussionist Ludlow Robinson — are due to tour Europe in October with singer Droop Lion as Droop Lion and The Gladiators Band.
Their manager, Cabel Stephenson, told the Sunday Observer that they made this decision after discovering that French booking agent Michel Jovanovic allegedly registered The Gladiators’ name in March for use in Europe.
This, Stephenson claims, would allow him to assemble a unit called The Gladiators to perform in that continent.
Jovanovic operates the Paris-based Mediacom which has booked shows for The Gladiators since 1996. He did not respond to the Observer’s phone or email requests for an interview.
Stephenson said the band became aware of the alleged registration when they were booking shows for their 2015 European tour.
“My concern with this, and [that] the members, is why Michel would want to cheat the beneficiaries of The Gladiators and not even tell Albert Griffiths. Its disrespectful,” said Stephenson.
Griffiths started The Gladiators in 1967 while he was a session guitarist at Studio One. Errol Grandison, David Webber, Clinton Fearon, Sutherland and Rufus are some of the band’s early members.
Best known for the song Hello Carol, The Gladiators recorded a number of roots songs in the 1970s such as Bongo Red and Roots Natty.
During the 1980s and 1990s, they assembled a strong catalogue of albums for independent labels in Europe and the United States, including Virgin, Nighthawk and Heartbeat.
Relentless touring throughout Europe, the United States, South America and the Pacific made The Gladiators a top draw. In 2005 illness forced Griffiths permanently off the road.
He was replaced on vocals by his son Albert Jnr. Other sons, Anthony on drums and Rory, who died in 2011, also joined the band. Stephenson said Albert Jnr left in 2013 after a falling-out with band members.
Anthony Griffiths spoke with the Observer, but declined to give his present status with The Gladiators whom he last performed with last year in Europe.
He addressed Jovanovic’s alleged registration of the band’s name.
“I spoke to Michel about it and he said he knows about nothing like that. He doesn’t know where I got that from,” said Griffiths.
He admitted there was friction between he, his brother and senior band members, whom he described as ‘hired musicians’.
Griffiths would not say if he and Albert Jnr plan to tour as The Gladiators.
Mediacom is one of the leading booking agencies for reggae acts in Europe. Their clients include Alpha Blondy, Max Romeo, The Congos and Israel Vibration.
Stephenson concedes working with the company made The Gladiators a force in Europe. Their relationship, he noted, soured in the last three years.
“Accountability was one of the areas we had problems. He (Jovanovic) didn’t want to give us information for things like the budget for shows and total expenses,” Stephenson said. “He refused flatly when we asked, which was disrespectful, so I told him if we can’t get the information we’d move on to another booking agent.”
Tourmaker, also based in Paris, is the booking agent for Droop Lion and The Gladiators’ European tour, which has dates in France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.