Inner Circle Talks Tour Bus Crash in Louisiana: "Everyting Was Flyin' and Turnin'"

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Via Abebe Lewis of Circle House
Inner Circle drummer Lancelot Hall with Louisiana cops.

Yesterday near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Inner Circle's tour bus crashed into a highway cable barrier on Interstate 10 as the classic reggae band traveled to California to kick off its summer tour. A tire blowout was the cause.

"Listen man, God is good," cofounder and guitarist Roger Lewis tells Crossfade. "I thought the whole bus was gon' flip and it was all gon' be over. It was like a movie, everyting was flyin' and turnin'. The only thing that held us from flipping was a wire. And the driver was very good, he held tight. We skid into a ravine and then crash. Somebody great was looking out for us boy, somebody great."

We happened to be there with a camera as the bus prepared to leave for tour Monday night.

See also:
-Inner Circle's Roger Lewis Talks Reggae, Legal Weed, and 4/20: "Marijuana Is A Good Herb"

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Photos by Jacob Katel
Ian Lewis oversees a tire pressure check of the tour bus at the Circle Village compound in North Miami before leaving.

Inner Circle is most famous for writing and recording the theme song to the TV show COPS, as well as "Sweat (A La La La La Long)."

But the group's history stretches back much further, to its essential role in the birth of reggae, recordings and concerts with Bob Marley, session work with production legends Harry J, Joe Gibbs, Sir Dodd, King Tubby, Lee Scratch Perry, Derrick Harriott, and Byron Lee to name a few -- not to mention its run in the 1970s as the most popular band in all of Jamaica, before the tragic death of lead singer Jacob "Killer" Miller in a 1980 car crash in Kingston.

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Originally born as a high school band made up of the Fatman Riddim Section of brothers Ian and Roger Lewis and a bunch of their friends (who would later leave to form the band 3rd World), Inner Circle was formed in 1968 in Jamaica.

But the band has been based in Miami since 1984, when Ian Lewis and Bernard "Touter" Harvey opened Circle House Recording Studio, one of the nation's premier hit-making facilities.

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Ian Lewis in the backyard garden of the Circle Village compound.

Bob Marley handpicked "Touter" Harvey to play keyboards, piano, and organ with him live and in the studio when he was just 15 years old. His work appears on every song of the Natty Dread album. He has also worked extensively with Burning Spear, including on the classic Marcus Garvey album. "Touter" joined Inner Circle officially after extensive studio work for other artists, as a member of The Aggravators and The Upsetters bands. Those groups are spoken of with awe by fans around the world.

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An Inner Circle tour case, ready to hit the road.

The Lewis brothers were no slouches in the studio either. Beginning with session work at Dynamic Sounds Studios, operated by Byron Lee of The Dragonaires fame, Ian and Roger quickly built a reputation as talented youths. They ended up in the studio with Eric Donaldson after his "Cherry Oh Baby" won Jamaica's annual national festival song competition in 1971. It is their instrumental riddim that backs it, and it has been covered over 50 times by artists including The Rolling Stones on their 1976 album Black and Blue.

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An Inner Circle band portrait on a wall inside the Circle Village.

In 1971, Inner Circle joined socialist PNP party candidate Michael Manley on a "Bandwagon Tour" that would see him elected Prime Minister of Jamaica just a year later. Inner Circle was the official backing band for artists like Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Marcia Griffiths, and Clancy Eccles, on the historic tour through every crevice of Jamaica. It was the first instance of politics invoking the use of popular music on the island to help secure the vote of the common people.



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