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Chicken Chest

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b. Alton O’Reilly, 28 November 1962, St. Thomas, Jamaica, West Indies. Demonstrating his skills as a wordsmith during his formative years, O’Reilly won several awards for drama, speech and poetry. On leaving school he was employed at his brother’s Fried Chicken restaurant in downtown Kingston, and would often entertain the customers by chanting in a DJ style, which led to his pseudonym. He performed on the sound system circuit whenever the opportunity arose, and eventually released his debut, ‘Ragamuffin Selector’. The song brought him national fame in Jamaica and in 1988 he was invited to tour Africa and Europe alongside Gregory Isaacs and Edi Fitzroy. Although he had only one hit, audiences were entertained by his strutting and chest-beating, interspersed with the occasional crowing. Following the successful tour, Chicken Chest was invited to perform at the Jamaican Nelson Mandela birthday celebration, followed by an equally successful appearance at the annual Reggae Sunsplash Festival. His follow-up, ‘Negative Can’t Conquer Positive’, pre-empted his rivals’ accusations that he was a one-hit-wonder. He maintained his dancehall credibility by performing on the Arrows sound system in Jamaica, where he introduced Leslie Thunder to the dancehall massive. His popularity in the dancehall lasted only briefly, and he has since returned to anonymity.

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