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The Story Behind the Name “Tuff Gong”

Tuff Gong is not only a clothing label, but the world-famous recording studio where Bob Marley recorded his hits. The name is an homage to Marley’s roots.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” —Bob Marley

What the Name “Tuff Gong” Means

Robert Nesta Marley earned the title “Tuff Gong” for his fierceness as a street-fighter. It was a nod to the early Rastafarian leader Leonard “The Gong” Howell.  Another meaning of the nickname? In some Rastafari settlements it is customary for a convert to strike a gong hanging at the entrance way, announcing their first step into the fold.

Jamaica’s Most Famous Recording Studio

Artists come from all over the world to record at Tuff Gong International, the studio which Bob Marley founded in 1965, and where he recorded his hits, including “No Woman, No Cry,” “Redemption Song,” and “Trenchtown Rock.” While it is a mecca for reggae stars such as Shaggy, musicians of all genres have recorded here, including Snoop Dogg, Sinead O'Connor, Kenny Chesney and Lauryn Hill. Tuff Gong now comprises  a recording studio, mastering room, stamper room, pressing plant, cassette plant, wholesale record shop, booking agency, as well as offices for Rita Marley Music and Ghetto Youths International. The mixing board in the studio is the same one Bob used while recording all of his records.

 

Bob Marley’s Life as “Tuff Gong”

Bob Marley spent most of his early childhood on an idyllic farm in St. Ann, Jamaica. When he was in his early teens, his family moved to the western Kingston vicinity of Trench Town, named for the sewage trench upon which it stood. It was a rough, low-income community of squatter-settlements and government developments, each of which housed a minimum of four families. It was against this backdrop where Bob Marley learned to defend himself, and earned a reputation as a formidable street fighter.

 

Bob Marley’s Attachment to Trench Town

Despite the poverty, Trench Town was a culturally rich community where Bob Marley met fellow musicians and honed his musical voice. A lifelong source of inspiration, Bob immortalized Trench Town in his songs “No Woman No Cry,” “Trench Town Rock,” and “Trench Town,” the latter released posthumously in 1983.


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