Head Top: Guitarist Michael Spence plays the guitar atop his head while people pass him by along Gravel Lane in Montego Bay.

written by: Michael Nattoo/Alan Lewin

“I need my recognition now! I can use my teeth to play the guitar. I can also play it atop my head. I am in a class by myself where the guitar is concerned and I am now ready for the big leagues to back local and international artistes,” said the man known by many as Sam, or more popularly, Half-A-Dog, whose real name is Michael Spence.

Originally from Grange Hill, Westmoreland, Half-A-Dog, for the past 10 years, has called St. James his home. It is for that reason why almost everyone in the Western City is familiar with the self-taught guitarist, who, by his own admissions, is a prodigious talent.

Half-A-Dog explains that ever since he was growing up, playing the guitar has always come naturally to him. He admits to using sardine cans and fish lines to create makeshift versions of the instrument that would go on to thrust him into the entertainment spotlight. Those makeshift guitars were as realistic as he could make them, with even keys being added to them, which would serve as tuners to get a desired sound from each pluck of the strings. That early obsession with his now mastered instrument would even see the young Spence using plates, and damaging them, which would often earn him the ire of his mother.

Fast forward years later, and Half-A-Dog has shared the stage with iconic names such as King Yellow Man, John Holt, ET, Webster, President Brown, and Jack Raddix. He has also made a reputation in the hotel circuits as a gifted bass player, and has flaunted his talents in hotels such as RIU, Half Moon, Holiday Inn, Hedonism II, and Iberostar, among others. On Sundays, you can find the veteran musician doing gigs at Margaritaville.

The musical genes have seemingly been passed on to Spence’s children, who have all dabbled on some level in music. With a son who likes to rap and daughters showing an interest in gospel music, Spence is keeping an eye on how each will develop.

Guitarist: A man strikes a pose next to guitarist Half-A-Dog as he plays some sweet music.