The list below of reggae-related sessions (including reggae-influenced or even pre-reggae steel drums) was compiled largely from a search through Ken Garner’s book The Peel Sessions. Even if the Ruts and the Slits, which some might dispute as being reggae, are excluded, one is left with a major canon of work.
The Ruts and the Slits music became progressively Reggae tinged and their later sessions can definitely be termed as “reggae”. In a demonstration of reggae’s wider influence, New Order briefly joined the party by doing a cross-over cover version of Keith Hudson’s “Turn The Heater On” in their 1/6/82 session.
In 1975 The Cimarons were booked and Aswad were recorded their first session in 1976. Apart from these earlier examples the majority of Peel’s Reggae sessions are concentrated around the late 70s and 80s and leave a great record of British Reggae at a vibrant time. Peel seems to have had a particular liking for roots reggae – a branch of reggae rooted in the rastafarian faith, dreadlocked, smoking the chalice and giving praise to Jah, and Haile Selassie, Conquering Lion of Judah, Ras Ta Fari. Although Peel complained about the difficulty of booking Jamaican artists, Prince Far I, Gregory Issacs and Culture were among those that did make it along to the BBC studios. The ska revival was well represented with sessions from The Beat, The Specials, Madness, Amazulu and The Selecter and Laurel Aitken – an original ska star who toured to new audiences. Dub was present with the Mad Professor and the New Age Steppers and then the likes of Dreadzone produced a late flowering in dub in the 90s. Although Peel did play Dancehall he wasn’t an enthusiastic fan of lyrics that were based on toasters boasting of their sexual prowess and there are no examples of their work here.
The next sessions were a couple of Bob Marley & The Wailers sessions. The first was recorded on their first full tour of the UK from May to July 1973 to promote Catch A Fire that had been released on Chris Blackwell’s Island label. They also recorded for Old Grey Whistle Test and BBC In Concert. Bob had already spent some time living in London in 1971 to 1972 in an attempt by CBS to break him internationally and had done a tour of schools with Johnny Nash including an acoustic set in Peckham Manor School. IBut it was not until they signed to Island that the Wailers started to make an impact outside Jamaica. The second session was recorded on 26/11/73 when they had returned to tour and broadcast as a gift to the nation on Christmas Day. Walters recalls in Ken Garner’s The Peel Sessions:
Some listeners inquired why there were so few reggae sessions, to which John replied that bookings were made but not always fulfilled. Examples are Luciano, who cancelled at 48 hours’ notice to play a gig instead, and Sugar Minott, who was booked three times and failed to turn up to any of the dates.
Peel’s first reggae session, broadcast on 26 December 1970, was by the Rudies. This was their one and only session (recorded 1970-11-23) but the band would reform the following year as Greyhound. British reggae was big at this time and this is a group of Jamaicans who were living in the UK and were intent on riding the interest in reggae. They undoubtedly did a lot to popularise reggae and had a big hit with Black and White.  Rudie and Greyhound found it difficult to pass the audition. They auditioned in 1968 as Glenroy Oakley and the Oracles. According to Ken Garner the audition panel recorded that they felt it was “badly played”, “wrong chords” “pseudo reggae” “out of tune”. Although the Rudies session wasn’t viewed by Peel and Walters as a great success, it was later repeated in the Peel’s Pleasures series on 24 July 1982. Originally it was decided not to broadcast one of The Rudies’ tracks – Oh Me Oh My.
In 1974 the original Wailers were no more as Bob Marley parted company with Tosh and Wailer.
Greyhound (they had almost exactly the same line up as The Rudies) recorded the second reggae session on 29/6/71 which was broadcast (whilst Viv Stanshall was standing in) on 14 August 1971 alongside a session of the Pretty Things.
“Of course all of them were there then. Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh. I seem to remember it took a lot of time to get started, there was a lot of sitting around, as you’d expect, and, at that time, of course, possessing marijuana was an imprisonable offence; they did everything very discretely, but you could smell it even through the double doors.”
The list below of reggae-related sessions (including reggae-influenced or even pre-reggae steel drums) was compiled largely from a search through Ken Garner’s book The Peel Sessions. Even if the Ruts and the Slits, which some might dispute as being reggae, are excluded, one is left with a major…