One Jump Up (SJRCD296- 2015)
Mr. Landlord - Basil Gabbidon
Milk Lane Hop - Clue J & His Blues Blasters
Wigger Wee Shuffle - Derrick Morgan
Stew Peas and Cornflakes - Aubrey Adams & Rico Rodriguez
Another Moses - The Mello-Cats & Count Ossie's Warwickers
Wicked and Dreadful - Neville Esson
Proof Rum - Clue J & His Blues Blasters
Leave Earth - Derrick Morgan
Rhythm of the Blues - Lord Creator
Hip Rub - The Jiving Juniors
Little Joe - Lascelles Perkins
Heaven and Earth - Don Drummond & Roland Alphonso
Walk All Over - Owen Gray
Pretty Baby - David Brown
He Will Provide - Toots and The Maytals
Whale Bone - Lester Sterling and The City Slickers
Sit Down Servant - Jackie Opel
Bongo Tango - Roland Alphonso
Go Jimmy Go - Bob Marley and The Wailers
The Slider - Clue J & His Blues Blasters
|Clement Seymour Dodd was born in Kingston,
Jamaica on 26th January 1932, the son of Doris Darlington and Benjamin
Dodd, a local building contractor and trade unionist. Growing up he was
always surrounded by music, whether it was his mother playing jazz
outside her Nanny's Corner grocery and later liquor store, or his
father, who had worked on the construction of the famous Carib Theatre,
occasionally buying 45s from visiting American sailors at Kingston
In the 1930s Jamaica took its first significant steps on the path from colonial outpost of Britain to proud independent nation. The life and musical work of Clement Dodd would imbue these defining and righteous value of self-determination and black pride in an era dominated by prophets, preachers and visionaries.
Marcus Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, 1887. He founded the United Negro Improvement Association in 1914. Two years later he moved to Harlem, New York, where he established the Negro World newspaper and also began selling stock in his Black Star Liner shipping company. Most significantly, his advocacy of black nationalism and pan-Africanism would have a profound effect on African-Americans and Jamaicans alike. In 1923 Garvey was sentenced to five years in prison in the United States for fraud after the FBI investigated his Black Star Liner operation to return people to Africa. He was released from prison in 1927 and deported back to Jamaica. Back home he founded Jamaica's first modern political party, the People's Political Party (which remained in existence until its heavy defeat in the 1962 election, 20 years after the death of its creator).
While Garvey's radicalism is acknowledged by the Jamaican establishment (he has, for instance, a place in the National Heroes Park), it was two different related men who would ultimately shape the political landscape of Jamaica, Alexander Bustamente and his cousin, the lawyer Norman Manley, were the major politicians who helped steer Jamaica into independence. Bustamente rose from treasurer of the Jamaica Worker's Union (JWU) in 1937 to become the first Prime Minister of Jamaica from 1962 to 1967. The 1930s saw considerable industrial unrest in Jamaica and following on from the labour rebellion of 1938, Bustamente was imprisoned in 1940 under charges of anti-colonial 'subversive activities'. On his release in 1943. he founded the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). He had previously been a member of the People's National Party (PNP), founded by his cousin Manley. The two became political rivals. To this day the JLP and PNP remain the two major parties in Jamaica.
Outside of the mainstream political establishment, one of the most charismatic leaders of the time was Leonard Howell. In 1933 Howell began preaching about the crowning of Ras Tafari Makonnen as Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, the first step in the setting up of the Rastafarian faith and movement. As with Garvey and Bustamente, Howell was imprisoned several times, the first time in 1934 for two years for sedition (inciting rebellion). After his release from prison a second time, he set up the first Rastafari commune called Pinnacle in Saint Catherine Parish in 1940.
Vehemently anti-establishment, uniquely spiritual and individualistic, Rastafarianism would have a huge impact on the music of Jamaica - including that produced by Clement Dodd who released music by the master drummer and Rastafari spiritual leader Count Ossie (with songs such as Another Moses, featured here). Dodd would also sometimes attend Count Ossie's drum sessions in the Rastafarian commune in Rockfort, Wareika Hills, Eastern Kingston, where musicians such as Don Drummond and Johnny Moore from The Skatalites also came to listen and play. And - lest we forget - Studio One would become the musical birthplace of two of Rastafari's most eminent prophets - Bob Marley and Burning Spear.
These were indeed prophetic times, and Clement Dodd's life and music was to encapsulate these revolutionary and strident times - independent, proud, black and Jamaican. A man aware of both his cultural heritage and of his destiny.
Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, comments in the book Reggae Explosion: "What was so important in Jamaican music was that it constantly honoured its African roots. That really came out of the Rastafarianism sensibility amongst the musicians not only amongst people like Count Ossie's Afro Combo... but also in all those players who made Studio One such a distinctive sound."
As Blackwell points out, Dodd's music consistently identified itself as not only African but also firmly working class. This was the music of the street, the undeniable sound of the dancehall. Whether it was the nyabinghi drums of Count Ossie, the Baptist beat of The Maytals, or heavy jump-up rhythm and blues from America's south, Dodd readily drew upon African-rooted music rom many sources. Sir Coxsone's music sounded different, partly because it was made to be played LOUD in the dancehall lawns of downtown Kingston - not the glass-clinking bars of the uptown middle-classes.
So it was perhaps not surprising that officials in the Jamaican government should overlook the hottest group in the country, The Skatalites, in favour of the more sanguine and uptown Byron Lee as Jamaica's musical envoy to the World's Fair in New York in 1964. The minister of culture at the time was none other than Edward Seaga who, before entering politics, had been a young anthropologist and music fan who set up the West India Records Limited (WIRL). WIRL was one of the earliest record companies in Jamaica, releasing early recordings by artists such as Higgs & Wilson and... Byron Lee. On entering parliament Seaga sold the company to... yes, you've guessed it, Byron lee. Later Seaga went on to become leader of the JLP in 1974 and Prime Minister of Jamaica in 1980.
The incident highlighted just one profound hangover of 300 years of colonial rule in Jamaica - a highly structured class hierarchy. This helps explain why ska music's creators - including Dodd. a PNP supporter, and The Skatalites, some of whom were members o the Rastafarian faith - were overlooked in favour of the more established Lee.
The music of Studio One was from the outset of and for the people. It did not look down upon them. Flipping any sense of inferiority in terms of race or class, asked if Chris Blackwell ever attended one of his dances Dodd commented, "No, he wasn't that hip." So while the World's Fair may have been witness to a skewed window into Jamaican music, the fans who regularly attended the dancehalls of Kingston knew that Dodd and his Downbeat Sound System most definitely ruled the dance.
A decade earlier, Kingston's music scene was dominated by big band orchestras modeled on American counterparts such as Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Erskine Hawkins. They were led by figures such as Baba Motta, Sonny Bradshaw, Wilton Gaynair and most notably Eric Deans. Deans' orchestra included no less than four musicians who would later reshape Jamaican musical history in The Skatalites: Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Ernest Ranglin and Tommy McCook.
Resident at the Colony Club at Cross Roads, Deans' was one of the first orchestras to break out of Kingston, not only touring the island but also hopping across to residencies in neighbouring Haiti and Cuba. The tropical latinised rhythms of these islands would later become apparent as influences on the sound of The Skatalites - alongside American rhythm & blues, jazz, movie themes and even classical music - and the melting pot of ska, independent Jamaica's most important creation.
Deans' orchestra even ventured out to the United States and Britain (where the band leader eventually settled). Deans was also a music teacher at the Alpha Boys School for Wayward Boys in Kingston, breeding ground of many of the island's finest musicians. Through his privileged position Deans was able to pick the best of these young players for his orchestra, such as a young McCook. Alpha schooled an incredibly large amount of talented musicians: Dizzy Reece, Joe Harriott, Harold McNair, Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Rico Rodriguez right up to Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Leroy Smart and Yellowman.
In the 1960s, Dodd, through his friendship with Sister Mary Ignatius who ran the music division of the school for the Roman Catholic nuns who set up the school, was similarly able to pick and choose the finest of these young musicians to record for him at Studio One, including the vibes player Lennie Hibbert, musical director at Alpha.
Deans was by no means unique in his venturing to far-off lands and starting with the call up from Britain, 'the mother land'. At the outbreak of the second world war, many of Jamaica's best musicians made their way to Britain, America or Canada, leaving the city wide open for the new sound systems to enter the arena and soon dominate Kingston's musical landscape.
Early sound system operators included Count Nick and Count Goody, who first began playing records to crowds both using small amplifier systems linked to PA systems sold to them by Stanly Motta. In the first part of the 1950s Tom Wong, better known as Ton the Great Sebastian, became the most popular of these early sets, playing a faultless selection of American jump-up rhythm and blues tunes on shellac 78s, often with the name of the artist scratched out of the label to maintain exclusivity. At the start of the 1950s Tom's main deejay, Count Machuki, began the historically seismic event of talking on the microphone over the introductions to records, emulating the jive talking rap of American radio deejays.
Clement Dodd was educated at All Saints, a Catholic school in Kingston. He excelled in cricket and was given the nickname Coxson after the then-famous Yorkshire cricket player Alec Coxson. Artists who attended this school at the same time included Bunny and Skully, Lascelles Perkins and Roland Alphonso, the latter of whom became good friends with Dodd.
As a young man in the early 1950s Dodd, like many other young Jamaicans, spent some time in the United States as a migrant worker, working as a fruit picker and cane cutter in Florida. It was here that he discovered the source of the American jump-up rhythm and blues that was becoming so popular in the open-air lawn dances home in Kingston. Dodd commented:
"I went to the States on farm work, to Leesburg in Florida, a camp of maybe 80 or 100 guys, and each of us brought radios and tuned into our favourite stations.. One of these was Randy's Record Shop in Galleton out of Tennessee, which broadcast its own show. You had a lot of local radio station in the south that played a lot of rhythm and blues; Shirley and Lee, Fats Domino. At weekends we would go to parties and hear a lot of American rhythm and blues and blues which was played on jukeboxes."
Here he got the idea of starting his own sound system back in Kingston, with access to both records and equipment. Having trained as a carpenter he was also able to get the necessary speaker boxes built:
"I sent a diagram of how I wanted the box built. So my mother got involved, she sorted out the boxes and she just started playing! As a matter of fact she was the very first female deejay in Jamaica!"
Dodd's return to Jamaica, laden with records and turntable, is captured in the photograph of him being greeted by his mother and music fans at Kingston's Palisadoes airport. He then began playing records in his mother's liquor store, Nanny's Corner, originally located on Lawes Street, later in Beeston Street, Kingston. He also got his first introduction into the dancehall scene with a guest spot of Duke Reid's sound system.
"When I came back with fresh ideas, big boxes, I attend the popular sound systems of the day, to see what they were doing. Duke Reid was a friend of the family. I had the records so I used to go round and play them on his sound system and see how the dance fans would accept it."
In the early 1950s, there were many other sound systems in Kingston, such as Sky Rocket and King Edwards. but in the mid-1950s Sir Coxsone entered the arena to clash with his now (friendly) rival Duke Reid, and the competition really intensified. Coxsone's sound was known as the Downbeat Sound System; Reid was Duke Reid the Trojan. Taking the first step in the musical wars that would follow, Dodd managed to get Tom the Great's original deejay Count Machuki to work for him, later joined by King Stitt, aka 'The Ugly One'. At the height of the sound systems, Dodd had as many as five different separate sounds operating throughout the island each night.
With the success of his Downbeat Sound System Dodd continued to travel to America, to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati and elsewhere, in search of exclusive tunes to play back home, maintaining his position as the number one sound by tracking down more obscure and out-of-date 45s by mainly southern hard rhythm and blues artists such as Roscoe Gordon, Louis Jordon and Smiley Lewis.
In the United States, rock and roll began to take a grip on the nation, and Dodd and others' search for new exclusive 45s became harder with many of the jump-up rhythm and blues artists so popular in Jamaica's dancehalls now falling out of fashion and popularity in America. As the musical well dried up, Dodd began for the first time to produce his own Jamaican interpretation of this American music.
The earliest recordings he produced were made for the sole use of playing on the Downbeat Sound System, beating off any opposition with these new exclusive tracks that the crowd loved. With Duke Reid slower off the mark than Dodd, Sir Coxsone was by now clearly the number one sound. Other producers who began to make local records at this time included the young white Jamaican Chris Blackwell's Island Records and Edward Seaga's West Indies Records Ltd.
"The height of a sound clash was when we started making local recordings. Because at that time as were we recording our own music, we had more songs and better songs than our competitors which excelled us to the top."
After producing these exclusive acetates (one-off records), it soon became apparent that there was a market for this Jamaican-produced music. With the release of Alton Ellis's 'Muriel', recorded at Federal Studios in 1959, Dodd launched himself into the commercial world of recording with his new Worldisc label. Vocalist Ellis was backed up by Clue J And The Blasters, a group made up of Cluett Johnson on bass, Roland Alphonso on saxophone, Ernest Ranglin on guitar, Rico Rodriguez on trombone and Theophilus Beckford on piano.
"So about that time we realise that we really needed to make some music of our own, to keep the people happy. We went in the studio and started recording. And the first couple of times I went in, we did a calypso here, a little tango and we did some rhythm and blues, we try to copy the rhythm and blues with that driving beat, and after a couple of sessions we see how the people like it, we felt that we were on to a good thing."
A keen jazz fan, Dodd used only the finest musicians on these early recordings, including those players that would later become known as The Skatalites, headed by Tommy McCook and Don Drummond. Initially the songs were Jamaican interpretations of the American jump-up rhythm and blues sound so popular at his dances. Young singers such as Derrick Harriott (with his group the Jivin' Juniors) were making songs that if you closed your eyes, sounded like authentic rhythm and blues that were being pounded out of the jukeboxes in any of the southern states of America. Similarly song such as Lascelles Perkins' 'Little Joe' could just as well be played by a New Orleans parade band, complete with syncopated rhythm, riotous horn section and distinctive vocals.
But listen to singer Derrick Morgan's 'Wigger Wee Shuffle' to hear how Jamaican musicians' replication of the walking bass-line structure of American rhythm and blues had already begun subtly changing. The first hints of the emphasis of the second and fourth beats of the bar were already apparent - a slight-of-hand that was to become the defining characteristic of ska music. It's also evident in vocalist Basil Gabidon's 'Mr Landlord', with the piano and guitar now distinctly skanking together on the off-beat. In fact, whether it's these rhythm and blues vocal tracks or the tough jazz instrumentals of Cluett Johnsonn. Aubrey Adams, Rico Rodriguez, Roland Alphonso and Don Drummond, the pushing of the second and fourth beats is always a characteristic. For anyone thinking that this was a reduction or simplifying to a musical formula, check out Clue J And The Blues Blasters' 'Slider' to hear how the musicians were freely experimenting with a fascinating blend of blues piano, jazz improvisation and nyabinghi drumming.
Jamaican independence came to the island on 6th August 1962 and ska emerged as the frantically-paced soundtrack to this joyful celebration, the sense of pride in the country seemingly turning up the heat and increasing the speed and intensity of the music.
The pinnacle of ska music was that created by The Skatalites, who became the central musical figures at the new Studio One empire when in 1963 Dodd opened the first black-owned studio in Jamaica, the Jamaican Recording and Publishing Studio at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston. After the early years of recording with Drummond, Roland Alphonso and Johnny Moore, Dodd knew that he wanted these players to become the foundation for the music that was to be created over the following years.
"The building of 13 Brentford Road was here before, because originally they had a club here by the name of The End. So when that folded we said we were going to make it the beginning instead of the end. people also used to say about number 13 being bad luck, so we said 13 was going to be our lucky number! You know, positive thoughts."
Employed five days a week at the new studio, The Skatalites recorded their own material and backed every singer to come through the doors - from Bob Marley and The Wailers to Toots and The Maytals. By the time tracks such as Alphonso's 'Bongo Tago' and Drummond's 'Heaven And Earth' were created (both featured here), the music had reached an hitherto unknown intensity, a rollercoaster ride with no brakes. Drummond's modal chords and powerful improvisation creating a vision of a future, perhaps darker Jamaica.
In the early tracks featured here you will find the roots of Studio One's unique sound: the first jump-up, boogie-woogie and shuffle recordings made in Jamaica in the late 1950s, as the artists emulated their American idols - Louis Jordon, Roscoe Gordon, Fats Domino - through to the early Rastafarians rhythms of Count Ossie, the Baptist beat of the Maytals and onwards up to the joyous excitement of ska with tracks by Studio One's young vocal protégées Bob Marley and The Wailers, Owen Gray and Jackie Opel as well as the powerful instrumental cuts of the almighty Skatalites.
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