The Slickers centred on Derrick Crooks, who had been one of the founding members of The Pioneers along with his brother Sydney. In the mid-1960s, The Slickers consisted of the Crooks brothers and Winston Bailey. Derrick was the only constant member, with Abraham Green joining the Crooks brothers at the time "Johnny Too Bad" was recorded. The Slickers have often been wrongly assumed to simply be an alias for The Pioneers due to their similar vocal stylings. The Slickers toured the United Kingdom and United States on the back of the success of "Johnny Too Bad", and continued until 1979, when they recorded the Breakthrough album, before splitting up.
The song "Johnny Too Bad" was written by Trevor "Batman" Wilson, Winston Bailey, Roy Beckford and Derrick Crooks, all at some time members of The Slickers. The song featured on the soundtrack for the 1972 Jimmy Cliff film, The Harder They Come, and later covered by the British reggae group UB40, the American reggae punk band Sublime, American power pop band The Silencers (1980, Columbia Records), and blues artist Taj Mahal.John Martyn covered it with additional lyrics on his 1980 album Grace and Danger. The song was also part of bluegrass artist Peter Rowan's live repertoire during much of the mid-1980s.
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