Christine Byles, the older of two daughters of foundation singer Kenneth ‘Junior’ Byles, wants it known that she has power of attorney over everything to do with her father and is inviting all those who want to assist him in any way to get in contact with her.
Junior Byles, who turns 74 on February 2, continues to suffer from mental health issues and is living at his family home in Kingston, where he is assisted by two caregivers. He is known for classics such as Curly Locks, Fade Away, Beat Down Babylon, and A Place Called Africa, among others.
“My dad is doing fine. I am in close contact with his doctor and I have changed a lot of his medication. He is resilient, strong and cognisant. I bought him a guitar from Music Mart and when I handed it to him, he knew exactly where his left hand should go,” Christine, who currently lives overseas, told The Gleaner.
She related a story of how when she arrived in Jamaica last November to visit her father, she brought with her a copy of one of his vinyl records to show him.
“I have never seen my father respond with such urgency. He pulled [the record] from my hand and said, ‘Christine, yuh know seh dem tief whole heap a money from me?’ It broke my heart,” she said.
Byles is now on a mission to stamp her authority as she tries to recoup some of what is owed to her father.
“For so many years, he has lain dormant and forgotten and has been exploited. I am trying to dismantle unscrupulous organisations and individuals. We have a situation brewing, and I am trying to work it out with two individuals in particular, but one refuses to speak to me and avoids me like the plague when I come to Jamaica, and the discussions with the other person have not been fruitful. However, in the meantime, I want to make it clear that anything to do with my father goes through me. I have all authority on everything to do with Junior Byles,” Christine emphasised.
“Junior Byles is my sole responsibility and I am taking full ownership,” she added.
Prior to this, it was Junior Byles’ sister who was assisting with taking care of his affairs, but she has relinquished that role to her niece. When contacted by The Gleaner for an interview, her response was, “His daughter would be the best suited person for that. She has taken over all his affairs.”
Junior Byles hit the headlines two years ago when a video of him begging on the streets of Kingston went viral. It was subsequently revealed that the veteran singer has been struggling with depression and mental health issues since the mid-70s and had even been admitted to the Bellevue Hospital at one point. In response to the video, the family had stated that Junior Byles’s condition has worsened with age and they “have always looked for the best options in assisting him”.
HUMBLED BY TRIBUTE
In 2019, as part of the Reggae Month celebrations, Claude ‘Big Stone’ Sinclair had organised a tribute concert and 71st birthday celebration for Byles at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. The family had said that they were “humbled”.
In February 2020, Christine Byles set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of US$15,000. She stated in part, “[Junior Byles] has been in and out of the hospital more times than we can count. Currently, he’s suffering from an abnormal growth and doctors are not sure if its benign or malignant. His medical bills are piling up and creating constant stress. If he can’t pay them, he can’t continue to access the treatment he needs to survive. Junior Byles needs your help! Even a little bit of hard currency can make a big difference in Jamaican dollars. Every donation will make a meaningful difference in his quality of life and give him more treatment options. Junior’s life mission was to spread positive vibes through music: his message was to love your fellow man and trust in the Almighty. Now my family is hoping that reggae fans haven’t forgotten about him and are willing to send some of those vibes back, full circle.”
So far, a little more than US$6,500 has been donated.