One of Jamaica's most tragic figures, Junior Byles was also one of the island's greatest root stars. His vocals were quite unique, and although his soft, almost husky voice would never ring from the rafters nor give voice to anger, the gentle timbre still expressed deep emotions. His was the voice of the meek and was all the stronger for it. The closest comparison is perhaps with the vulnerable tones of Slim Smith, but while the former Unique made his mark with love songs, Byles would speak not for the lovelorn, but for the oppressed. The two men did share another link, however, both suffered from serious psychological problems that in one case ended one man's career and left the other in ruins. Kerrie "Junior" Byles was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1948. He was still in his teens when he formed the Versatiles with fellow vocalists Earl Dudley and Louis Davis. It was the height of the rocksteady era and vocal trios ruled the land. The Versatiles were just one of many hopefuls at the auditions for the Festival Song Contest in 1967, each desperate to catch the eye of the producers who stalked the contest in search of new talent. The trio was proud of their entry, an upbeat Byles' composed celebration of unity, "The Time Has Come." The infectious song and the trio's obvious enthusiasm caught the attention of Joe Gibbs, who brought the group into the studio. At the time, Lee Perry was working as Gibb's chief engineer, and thus oversaw the Versatiles' first recordings, including their festival entry. Perry left in a huff over production credits soon after, and his assistant, the young Niney Holness, took over. The trio continued to cut singles exclusively for Gibbs over the next two years, but not in the prolific numbers of many of their bigger counterparts. But quality made up for quantity; gorgeous songs like "Just Can't Win," driving religious numbers such as "Trust the Book," and the party piece call and response of "Long Long Time" all cemented their reputation. The group also excelled at writing catchy hooks, as they proved with their debut single and confirmed with "Push It In," one of the most infectious and rudest songs in their repertoire. The Versatiles rode the rocksteady wave into the new reggae era, and as the decade waned, they left Gibbs and linked again with Perry. They cut a handful of singles for him, including such hits as "Children Get Ready" and the harmony drenched "Teardrops Falling." From there, they joined forces with Duke Reid, for whom they recorded the delicate "I Love You Baby." The trio also had a brief encounter with Laurel Aitken before reuniting with both Gibbs and then Perry. The session with Perry was to be their last, and the bandmembers went their separate ways in 1970. Byles joined the Jonestown's fire department, but continued working with Perry. Before the year was out, the pair had cut his debut solo single, "What's the World Coming To," which was given the full orchestral treatment by Tony Hartley in London.