Smith was born on 6 August 1955, and raised by family friends in the Greenwich Farm area of Kingston.
His father and godfather were both sound system owners, his father's, Smith's, operated by Bunny Lee. Earl tried to emulate them using a toy sound system, leading to his nickname of "Tuner" (after a hi-fi amplifier), which was corrupted to "Chuner" and later "Chinna".
Smith became interested in guitar as a teenager and made his own from sardine cans and fishing line….
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