Toots & The Maytals' “54-46 Was My Number” Certified Gold In UK On Toots Hibbert's 81st Birthday

Toots and The Maytals‘ genre-defining hit 54-46 Was My Number was certified Gold in the United Kingdom on what would have been the band’s frontman Toot Hibberts’ 81st birthday.

According to the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), 54-46 was issued a BRIT Certified Gold award on Friday (December 8), after it sold over 400,000 copies in the UK, as measured by The Official Charts Company. This is the Reggae band’s first song to reach this milestone.

Hibbert, born on December 8, 1942, passed away at age 77 in September 2020.

Written while incarcerated in 1966 for marijuana possession at the Richmond Farm Prison in St. Mary, 54-46 proved to be a triumph for the then side-tracked Reggae legend. First released in 1968, the song was produced by Leslie Kong, a Chinese-Jamaican businessman who operated Beverley’s Records.

In 2012, Toots revealed that his arrest was a set-up, likely orchestrated by a competitor. It came at a time when the young band had been planning a massive European tour. “They flopped,” he told Rolling Stone of the unnamed competitor. “They helped me more because I think about it, and I keep singing about it. And I get a number one record about it.”

In 2018, he expounded on his suspicious arrest, telling the Jamaica Gleaner, among other things, that ’54-46′ was his ‘prison number,’ and that the arrest threatened to derail his budding career after he had won the National Festival Song Competition.

“The arrest was a thing that was planned, but I didn’t know about it until a policeman told me afterwards. A promoter planned it. They didn’t want me to go to England and hit first. That act affected my career seriously because I was about to go on the biggest tour of my career,” Toots shared in the book Reggae Routes by Kevin O’Brien and Wayne Chen.

Toots, who revealed that he hadn’t been a smoker at the time of his arrest, also added: “When me win the festival thing, that’s where the badmind thing come in – people saying how me just come in and gone ahead a fi them artiste, and them just politics it out. Put me eight months fi stay up at Richmond fi no reason. Never smoke herb yet. It was some time afterwards that I started.”

The singer had been detained while traveling to Ocho Rios by a police officer who had been trailing them. The lawman first arrested one of Toots’ colleagues for “carrying a pillion rider without a license to do so.”

toots-the-maytals
Toots and the Maytals

According to the Gleaner, “Bail was requested, and Toots had to leave his luggage at the Linstead Police Station and ride back to Kingston to fetch their manager, Ronnie Nazrala, to bail his two friends. When they returned, Toots was greeted with the news that ganja had been found in his luggage, and he, too, would be arrested.”

The ganja charges were later expunged from his record.

54-46, one of the first Reggae songs to reap significant success and popularity outside of Jamaica, is also among the genre’s most sampled. Some of the songs to sample and cover the iconic tune include Foxy Brown and Spragga Benz’s Oh Yeah; Yellowman’s Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt; Double Trouble and Rebel MC’s Street Tuff, KRS-One’s The Bridge Is Over and Major Lazer and Bad Royale’s My Number.

The list also includes Cutty Ranks’ Rude Boy Number, Christina Aguilera’s Red Hot Kinda Love, and Flo Rida and FITZ’s That’s What I Like.

The song has appeared in the TV series Small Axe (2020), The Sara Cox Show (2019), Narcos: Mexico (2018), and My Name Is Earl (2008), and in the films Bad Teacher (2011), Repo Men (2010), Run Fatboy Run (2007), This Is England (2006), and Almost Heaven (2005).

Toots and The Maytals’ other popular songs are Pressure Drop, Country Road, and Funky Kingston.

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