Arthur “Duke” Reid
(1915 – 1975) was a Jamaican record producer and label owner. He ran one of the most popular sound systems of the 1950s called Duke Reid’s the Trojan after the British-made trucks used to transport the equipment. In the 1960s, Reid founded record label Treasure Isle, named after his liquor store, that produced ska and rocksteady music. He dominated the Jamaican music scene of the 1960s, specialising in ska and rock-steady, though his love of American jazz, blues and soul was always in evidence. Reid had several things going for him that helped him to rise to prominence. He made a concerted effort to be in the studio as much as possible, something his counterparts did not do. He was known as a perfectionist and had a knack for adding symphonic sounds to his recordings and producing dense arrangements. Furthermore, his records were considerably longer than those being produced by his rivals. His tunes often broke the four-minute barrier, while most ska songs were barely longer than two minutes. The material that Treasure Island issued exemplified the cool and elegant feel of the rocksteady era.
U-Roy (Ewart Beckford)
U-Roy (born Ewart Beckford, 21 September 1942) is a Jamaican vocalist also known as The Originator. He is best known as a pioneer of toasting or deejay. Born in Jones Town, Jamaica, U-Roy’s musical career began in 1961 when he began deejaying at various sound systems. This included a stint operating Sir Coxsone Dodd’s Number Two set, while King Stitt “The Ugly One” ran the main set. U-Roy eventually worked with King Tubby at Duke Reid’s Sound System in the late 1960s. Around this period, King Tubby had started to experiment with his studio equipment in an attempt to create new effects and sounds, which would eventually lead to a new style of reggae called dub music. With U-Roy as his most prominent deejay and with access to some of Treasure Isle Studios’ finest rocksteady rhythms, King Tubby’s new sound became extraordinarily popular and U-Roy became a local celebrity. However, his first single – “Earth’s Rightful Ruler” – was not a King Tubby collaboration; it was recorded with Peter Tosh for Lee “Scratch” Perry. U-Roy had become one of Jamaica’s biggest stars by the early 1980s, also garnering significant acclaim in the United Kingdom.
Cecil Bustamente Campbell, (born 28 May 1938), usually known as Prince Buster, and also having the Muslim name Muhammed Yusef Ali, is a musician from Kingston, Jamaica. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he made on the Blue Beat label in the 1960s inspired many reggae and ska artists. In 1960, Buster produced a record for the Folkes Brothers for the Wild Bells label, “Oh Carolina”, under his nickname. Buster dubbed himself ‘The Voice of the People’, and gave a voice to those people with “Oh Carolina”, which expressed black Jamaicans through a commercially successful medium. This record was Jamaica’s first to involve an element of African music – the drumming in the record was provided by Count Ossie, the lead nyabinghi drummer from the rastafarian camp, Camp David, in the hills above Kingston. It was an instant hit in Jamaica, and Buster’s early records, which were released in the UK by Blue Beat Records, contributed greatly to the developing sound of ska. Buster was soon recording his own compositions as well as producing records for others.
Count Ossie, born Oswald Williams (1926, St. Thomas, Jamaica – 18 October 1976) was a Jamaican drummer and band leader. As a young boy Ossie grew up in a rasta community where he learned techniques of vocal chanting and hand drumming under the tutelage of Brother Job. In the early 1950s he set up a Rasta community in Rockfort on the east side of Kingston, where many of Kingston’s musicians learned about the Rastafari movement. In the late 1950s, he (with other percussionists) formed the Count Ossie Group. His first sound recordings were made after meeting Prince Buster. One of those was a song by the Folkes Brothers, “Oh Carolina”, regarded by some music historians as the first-ever ska record. During this period Count Ossie also recorded for Harry Mudie. He formed a group called “Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari” and during his life issued two albums that he recorded with them. His masterpiece was the Grounation three-LP set (1973), which includes songs such as “Oh Carolina”, “So Long”, and “Grounation” (the latter title with over 30 minutes running time).
Horace Swaby (21 June 1954 – 18 May 1999), known as Augustus Pablo, was a Jamaican roots reggae and dub record producer, melodicaplayer and keyboardist, active from the 1970s onwards. He popularised the use of the melodica (an instrument at that time primarily used in Jamaica to teach music to schoolchildren) in reggaemusic. His album King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown (1976) is often regarded as one of the most important examples of dub. He was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica, and learned to play the organ at the Kingston College School. At that point, an unnamed girl lent him a melodica. Fascinated by the instrument, Pablo rarely put it down. He also met Herman Chin Loy, owner of Aquarius store in Half Way Tree. Swaby recorded early tracks including “Higgi Higgi”, “East of the River Nile”, “Song of the East” and “The Red Sea” between 1971 and 1973 for Chin-Loy’s Aquarius Records. “East of the River Nile”, a unique blend of East Asian and Jamaican sounds, became a moderate hit. He soon joined Now Generation (Mikey Chung’s band) and played keyboard with them while his friend Clive Chin began his own career as a record producer. Pablo and Chin recorded “Java” (1972) together, as soon as Pablo quit Now Generation and Clive was able to obtain studio time.
Osbourne Ruddock, 28 January 1941 – 6 February 1989) better known as King Tubby, was a Jamaican electronics and sound engineer, known primarily for his influence on the development of dub in the 1960s and 1970s. Tubby’s innovative studio work, which saw him elevate the role of the mixing engineer to a creative fame previously only reserved for composers and musicians, would prove to be influential across many genres of popular music. He is often cited as the inventor of the concept of the remix, and so may be seen as a direct antecedent of much dance and electronic music production. Singer Mikey Dread stated, “King Tubby truly understood sound in a scientific sense. He knew how the circuits worked and what the electrons did. That’s why he could do what he did”. King Tubby’s music career began in the 1950s with the rising popularity of Jamaican sound systems, which were to be found all over Kingston and which were developing into enterprising businesses. As a talented radio repairman, Tubby soon found himself in great demand by most of the major sound systems of Kingston, as the tropical weather of the Caribbean island (often combined with sabotage by rival sound system owners) led to malfunctions and equipment failure. Tubby owned an electrical repair shop on Drumalie Avenue, Kingston, that fixed televisions and radios. It was here that he built large amplifiers for the local sound systems. In 1961-62, he built his own radio transmitter and briefly ran a pirate radio station playing skaand rhythm and blues which he soon shut down when he heard that the police were looking for the perpetrators. Tubby would eventually form his own sound system, Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi, in 1958. It became a crowd favourite due to the high quality sound of his equipment, exclusive releases and Tubby’s own echo and reverb sound effects, at that point something of a novelty.
Vincent “Randy” Chin
Vincent “Randy” Chin (born 3 October 1937, Kingston, Jamaica died 2 February 2003, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States) was a Jamaican record producer and label owner who ran the Randy’s shop, recording studio, and record label, later moving to New York City and setting up the VP Records empire, now the world’s largest independent label and distributor of Caribbean music. Chin was the son of a carpenter who left mainland China for a brief stay in Cuba, and then permanently settled in the 1920s in Jamaica. As a teenager in the early 1950s, Vincent oversaw the stocking and maintenance of jukeboxes in the island’s bars for Isaac Issa, a prominent Syrian-Jamaican businessman. He kept the excess and replaced records and used them to open up his Randy’s Records store on the corner of East and Tower streets in Kingston in 1958 on (the name coming from an American record store that sponsored an R&B radio show that could be picked up on the island). His son, Clive Chin, explained: “He kept dem records, and that was the springboard of his business, y’know?”. The Chin family expanded their business interests into the United States, with the opening of branches of Randy’s run by Vincent’s brothers Victor and Keith. The family later began pressing records and moved into distribution. In 1979, Chin closed the Randy’s studio and moved to New York and with his wife Patricia, opening the VP Records (the initials of Vincent and Patricia) store and label in Queens. VP became the US’s largest reggae record company, and later acquired Greensleeves Records, becoming the world’s largest independent label and distributor of Caribbean music. In 2002, the label later formed a distribution/marketing partnership with Atlantic Records.
Clement Seymour “Sir Coxsone” Dodd CD
Clement Seymour “Sir Coxsone” Dodd CD (Kingston, Jamaica, 26 January 1932 – 5 May 2004) was a Jamaican record producer who was influential in the development of ska and reggae in the 1950s, 1960s and beyond. He received his nickname “Coxsone” at school: because of his teenage talent as a cricketer, his friends compared him to Alec Coxon, a member of the 1940s Yorkshire County Cricket Club team. Dodd used to play records to the customers in his parents’ shop. During a spell in the American South he became familiar with the rhythm and blues music popular there at the time. In 1954, back in Jamaica, he set up the Downbeat Sound System, being the owner of an amplifier, a turntable, and some US records, which he would import from New Orleans and Miami. With the success of his sound system, and in a competitive environment, Dodd would make trips through the US looking for new tunes to attract the Jamaican public. While he did, his mother Doris Darlington would run the sound system and play the tunes. Dodd opened five different sound systems, each playing every night. To run his sound systems, Dodd appointed people such as Lee “Scratch” Perry, who was Dodd’s right-hand man during his early career, U-Roy and Prince Buster. His wife, Norma Dodd, was the co-administrator of his label and ran all of the accounts. During the late 1960s and 1970s, the “Studio One sound” was synonymous with the sound of ska, rocksteady and reggae, and Dodd attracted some of the best of Jamaican talent to his stable during this time, including Burning Spear, Ras Michael, Delroy Wilson, Horace Andy and Sugar Minott. In 2002 he was awarded a Gold Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica.
Bunny Lee grew up in the Greenwich Farm area of Kingston, where his father was a shoemaker. Lee began his career working as a record plugger for Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle label in 1962, later performing the same duties for Leslie Kong. He then moved on to work with Ken Lack, initially in an administrative role, before taking on engineering duties. Lee then moved into producing (i.e. financing) records himself, his first hit record coming with Roy Shirley’s “Music Field” on WIRL in 1967. Lee then set up his own Lee’s label, the first release being Lloyd Jackson’s “Listen to the Beat”. He produced further hits during 1967–68 by Lester Sterling and Stranger Cole, Derrick Morgan, Slim Smith and The Uniques (“My Conversation”), Pat Kelly, and The Sensations, establishing him as one of Jamaica’s top producers. Between 1969 and 1972 he produced classic hits including Slim Smith’s “Everybody Needs Love”, Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream”, Delroy Wilson’s “Better Must Come”, Eric Donaldson’s “Cherry Oh Baby”, and John Holt’s “Stick By Me”. The mid-1970s saw Lee work with his most successful singer, Johnny Clarke, as well as Owen Gray and Cornell Campbell, and along with Lee “Scratch” Perry, he broke the dominance of Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid. This era also saw the emergence of the “flying cymbal” sound on Lee’s productions, developed by drummer Carlton ‘Santa’ Davis, with Lee’s session band, The Aggrovators.
Bunny Wailer (born Neville O’Riley Livingston, 10 April 1947), also known as Bunny Livingston and affectionately as Jah B, is a singer songwriter and percussionist and was an original member of reggae group The Wailers along with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. A three-time Grammy award winner, he is considered one of the longtime standard-bearers of reggae music. He has been named by Newsweek as one of the three most important musicians in the world of music. Bunny had originally gone to audition for Leslie Kong at Beverley’s Records in 1962, around the same time Bob Marley was cutting “Judge Not”. Bunny had intended to sing his first composition, “Pass It On”, which at the time was more ska-oriented. However, Bunny was late getting out of school, missed his audition, and was told he wasn’t needed. A few months later, in 1963, he formed The Wailing Wailers with his stepbrother Bob Marley and friend Peter Tosh, and the short-lived members Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso. As he was by some way the least forceful of the group, he tended to sing lead vocals less often than Marley and Tosh in the early years, but when Bob Marley left Jamaica in 1966 for Delaware, replacing Bunny with Constantine “Vision” Walker, he began to record and sing lead on some of his own compositions, such as “Who Feels It Knows It”, “I Stand Predominant” and “Sunday Morning”. His music was very influenced by gospel and the soul of Curtis Mayfield. In 1967, he recorded “This Train”, based on a gospel standard for the first time at Studio One. Bunny Wailer toured with the Wailers in England and the United States, but soon became reluctant to leave Jamaica. He and Tosh became more marginalized in the group as the Wailers became an international success, and attention was increasingly focused on Marley. Bunny subsequently left the Wailers to pursue a solo career after refusing to tour when Chris Blackwell wanted the Wailers to tour freak clubs in the United States, stating that it was against his Rastafari movement principles.
Alton Nehemiah Ellis OD
Alton Nehemiah Ellis OD (1 September 1938 – 10 October 2008) was a Jamaican vocalist. One of the innovators of rocksteady who was given the informal title “Godfather of Rocksteady”. In 2006, he was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame. Born Alton Nehemiah Ellis in Trench Town, Kingston, Jamaica, Ellis was raised within a musical family and learned to play the piano at a young age. He attended Ebeneezer and Boys’ Town schools, where he excelled in both music and sport. While at Boys’ Town Ellis performed as a dancer (in a duo) in the first show that a school director called Mr Bailey had organized for Vere Johns who had been invited down to talent scout. He would later compete on Vere Johns’ Opportunity Hour. After winning some competitions, he switched to singing, starting his career in 1959 as part of the duo Alton & Eddy with Eddy Parkins. Ellis and Parkins recorded for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, initially in the R&B style, having a hit in 1960 with “Muriel” (from Dodd’s first commercially-oriented recording session at Federal studios), a song Ellis had written while working as a labourer on a building site. This initial success was followed by the release of “My Heaven”, which like “Muriel” was a slow R&B ballad with the instrumental triplets and vocal harmonizing common to the ballads of that period. Further releases in the R&B style followed: “Lullabye Angel”, “I Know It All”, “I’m Never Gonna Cry” and “Yours”. The duo also recorded R&B tracks for Vincent Chin’s Randy’s label including “Let Me Dream”. The duo split after Parkins won a major talent contest and moved to the United States. Ellis remained in Kingston, working as a printer and after losing his job, he restarted his music career, initially forming a new duo with John Holt. When Holt joined The Paragons, Ellis formed a new group, The Flames. Ellis continued to work for Dodd and also recorded for his arch-rival, Duke Reid on his Treasure Isle label. At the start of his career Ellis recorded with his younger sister Hortense; early tracks with Hortense like “Don’t Gamble With Love” (1965) were still in the R&B style.
Phyllis Dillon was born in 1944 in Linstead, St. Catherine, Jamaica. Influenced by American singers Connie Francis, Patti Page and Dionne Warwick, she began singing in talent contests. It was during a performance at the Glass Bucket Club in Kingston, Jamaica with the group The Vulcans, that Duke Reid’s session guitarist Lynn Taitt discovered Dillon.
Dillon recorded her first record for Duke Reid, “Don’t Stay Away”, in late 1966, a recording that has been described as “perhaps the finest female performance in Jamaican music”. While most of Dillon’s subsequent recordings would be covers of popular and obscure American songs including Bettye Swann’s “Make Me Yours”, Perry Como’s “Tulips and Heather,” The Grass Roots’ “Midnight Confessions,” and Stephen Stills’s “Love the One You’re With”; “Don’t Stay Away” was an original composition featuring Tommy McCook and the Supersonics as the backing band.
Another original song, “It’s Rocking Time” would later be turned into the Alton Ellis’ hit “Rocksteady”. While these early recordings demonstrate Dillon’s mastery of the rocksteady sound, a much slower, soulful, response to the sultry weather that made ska’s upbeat rhythm and tempo undesirable even impracticable, it was no indication of her greatest performance, 1967’s “Perfidia”. Popularized by the American surf rock band The Ventures, “Perfidia” is a 1940 song written by Alberto Domínguez and made popular by the Cuban bandleader, Xavier Cugat. Dillon also recorded duets with Ellis (as ‘Alton and Phyllis’), including “Why Did You Leave Me To Cry” and “Remember that Sunday”. Dillon is regarded as one of the key singers of the rocksteady era