Although their biggest hit, "Johnny Too Bad," is a Jamaican classic and was included on the soundtrack to The Harder They Come, the exact makeup and history of the Slickers is a tangled mare's nest of rumors and contradictions. The first single to appear under the Slickers name, "Nana," was produced by Neremiah Reid, and appears to have been actually recorded on the sly by members of the Pioneers. Derrick Crooks was a member of the nascent Pioneers (along with his brother Sydney Crooks), and seems to have formed the actual Slickers around 1965 with Winston Bailey, although the group essentially consisted of Crooks and hired guns he enlisted to sing with him. A young singer named Abraham Green (later known as Ras Abraham) is said to have handled the lead vocal on "Johnny Too Bad" when it was recorded for producer Byron Lee in 1970. The song itself is listed as having been written by Derrick Crooks, Roy Beckford, Winston Bailey, and either Delroy Wilson or his brother Trevor Wilson, depending on the source, although it appears Trevor may have been the actual author (as well as the protagonist for the rude-boy character portrayed in the song). Nothing concerning the Slickers seems to be written in stone, however, and half-informed conjecture about the group's makeup and history seems to be the norm. "Johnny Too Bad" became a legendary song after its inclusion on the Harder soundtrack, and countless versions have been recorded by other musicians in a variety of styles, including a disco mix rendition credited to the Slickers themselves. Even this second version of "Johnny Too Bad" by the Slickers is tough to pin down. It appeared on an album called Breakthrough and is rumored to have been produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry. It certainly has all the earmarks of a Black Ark production, but there is some doubt as to whether Perry was involved in the project at all. Some version of the Slickers toured both the U.S. and Europe and released occasional singles through the 1970s before ceasing somewhere around 1978. The facts? The original version of "Johnny Too Bad" is one of the most celebrated tracks ever recorded in Jamaica. A couple of the group's other singles, particularly "You Can't Win" and "Man Beware," aren't too bad, either.
Beyond that, the actual history of the Slickers has yet to be definitively established. ~ Steve Leggett