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Studio One Rockers (SJRCD 048 - 2001)

Sound Dimension - Real Rock
Marcia Griffiths - Feel Like Jumping
Freddie McGregor - Bobby Babylon
Horace Andy - Skylarking
Lennie Hibbert - Village Soul
Brentford All Stars - Greedy G
Johnny Osbourne - Truth And rights
Ernest Ranglin - Surfin
Michigan & Smiley - Eye Of Danger
Dawn Penn - No, No, No
The Skatalites - Phoenix City
Prince Jazzbo - Crabwalking
Jackie Mittoo - Hot Milk
Lone Ranger - Badder Dan dem
Cedric Brooks - Ethiopia
 
Studio One is, without doubt, the most important record label in the history of Jamaican music. It is in many ways the foundation label of Reggae.

Studio One has led the way throughout the evolution of Reggae music in Jamaica. From the very first Ska records through Rocksteady, Roots, DJ, Dub - Studio One has produced music of the highest quality throughout its reign. Even today, where the actual output of new material is minimal, Studio One rhythms are as popular as they were thirty years ago as singers and producers in Jamaica re-use and re-record them for new songs on an almost daily basis.

Synonymous with Studio One is Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd, owner and producer of Studio One Records. Here are some of the artists who started their careers, or recorded, at Studio One: Horace Andy, Bob Andy, Roland Alphonso, Freddie McGregor, Burning Spear, Jackie Mittoo, Don Drummond, Marcia Griffiths, Bob Marley And The Wailers, Lee Perry, prince Jazzbo, The Skatalites, Dawn Penn, Lennie Hibbert, Dillinger, Ken Boothe, Cedric Brooks, Dennis Brown, Pablove Black, Dobby Dobson, The Cables, Carlton And His Shoes, Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis, The Gaylads, The Gladiators, The Heptones, John Holt, King Stitt, Joe Higgs, The Lone Ranger, The Maytals, Larry Marshall, Freddie McKay, Sugar Minott, Michigan & Smiley, Jackie Opal, Johnny Osbourne, Roy Richards, Slim Smith, Sugar Belly, The Soul Vendors, The Soul Brothers, The Termites, Wailing Souls, Count Ossie, Willie Williams...

Clement Seymour Dodd began his musical career playing records in his mother's restaurant in Kingston, Jamaica, shortly progressing to running the famous Downbeat Soundsystem, and later, record shops, a recording studio, a pressing plant, and, of course, the historic Studio One record label. Mr Dodd developed a love of American R&B from travelling to the US regularly, initially as a farm worker  bringing back exclusive R&B 45's for his soundsystem, and later, bringing them back to sell in his shops. Soon after this he began to encourage Jamaican musicians to record their re-interpretation of American R&B, in a style influenced by the soundsystems and dancehalls of Kingston. This sound developed into the music style now known as 'Ska'. Ska can be considered as the beginning of Reggae, the musical voice of Jamaica.

He now divides his time between New York and Jamaica, where he continues to run the label and his shops. The following interview was recorded in New York (Winter 2000) where Mr Dodd talks about the first part of his career.

Were you a musician? Did you play an instrument?
No, only percussion, just percussion.

What inspired you to become involved with the music industry?
Well, actually I started a love of the music business when I attended several orchestra dances and things like that. And my Mother had a restaurant so I bought me a Morphy Richards radio and an extension speaker and started playing records there. And, at that time I was purchasing a lot of Louis Jordan records and Billy Eckstine, because that's the music we were playing.

Were you able to buy American records in Jamaica, and how did that music go down in your Mother's restaurant?
Yeah, in Jamaica. Because of the music we were playing we got a lot of customers.

Could you hear the American radio stations from Jamaica?
Yeah yeah yeah, because I was tuned into Nashville Tennessee, you know, where Randy had their programme at that time - that was the big retailers in Tennessee. And then you had like, Voice of America, we used to tune to listen to, like bee-bop, like Billy Eckstine, stuff like that was playing.

Did you prefer Jazz or R'n'B?
No I started off Jazz. Jazz was my thing you know, but Rhythm and Blues came in when you had a lot of farm workers going to and from America and coming back with these records, so you heard them and got to love them. So who knows, that may be one of the reasons why I got me a ticket to travel to Miami. Then while in Miami you turned on the radio station and all you was hearing was "Blue Cherry" and whatever it is...


Where did you find out about R'n'B?
Well I went to the US farm-working on the fruit and vegetable section, and there I was exposed to a lot of Rhythm and Blues, so I actually bought me a Bogan amplifier and speakers, and sent them home.

What part of America did you go to?
That was Liesburg, Florida, picking oranges and stuff like that, you know. So... but all this time, while in Jamaica I'm always close to the music, playing it, so my Mother had an idea what it was like. So when I sent down the amplifier and speakers she got the box built because I sent her a drawing of how I wanted it to be done. And actually the first session it was my Mother who operated the soundsystem. So I'd say that's the first female disc-jockey in Jamaica! Right?

Did you go to dances in America?
Y
eah yeah yeah we went dancing, because Jamaicans are happy people, you know. Jamaicans, they love fun, you know.

Was it because you had the soundsystem that you wanted to produce some recordings using local musicians?
What really gave me the idea that we needed to produce some local recording, at about 1960 the Rhythm and Blues dried up and in came the Rock and Roll, but Rock and Roll wasn't so popular in Jamaica. It never went over. So I figured, more or less, that we'd have to get in the studio and get with that heavy dance beat, you know. So that's how we really thought of doing it.

Did you hire a studio when you did your first recordings?
Yes, I did my first recording session at Federal Records, run by Khouri, they were on Foreshore Road, so we used them a lot.

What was your first recording session and how did it come about?
Well my first recording session was with Roland Alphonso, Clue J, Johnny Moore and a few others I don't remember offhand.

And did you ask them or did they come to you?
No, I went to them because this was something new, you know. Even the idea of going into the studio knocked them out, because they hadn't ever thought of anything like that you know.

Were you asking them to record this music to play on your soundsystem, or was it to sell the records?
Yeah, for the soundsystem. So our first session we did a little Calypso, Tango and tried a little Rhythm and Blues. And it came back, and at that time we took it from the dub to the demo - reference disc - which they actually called Dub-plate., but in those days it's known as reference disc, and when we played it back at the session everybody went wild! So the we realised this could be a thing, you know.

Was your soundsystem only playing in your Mother's restaurant?
No, this was after I had the soundsystem on the road, now playing all over Jamaica. And the people enjoyed it so much that we realised that we could have a couple more sessions.

When you made your first recordings, did you think you were making Jamaican music?
Well yes, we aimed at, like, the crowd I'm used to. After being there a couple of years playing, ... and we saw the music that they go for and we started to aim in that direction. But after a couple of releases, and we saw how it went, and we realise we're aiming for the world. Get lyrics, trying to please, that's it after we see how the first set of records went over. When we actually started I didn't dream it could be a business. I thought it would just be suitable for my dances and whatever it is.

When or how did Ska first come about?
Well after maybe a year or two of experimenting and trying to come up with a beat of our own we came up with Ska. With that pounding rhythm and that guitar riff on the off-beat. We realise it was so strong, so we set off and we decided we make that our national songs and you know it went on for a good while, let's say from about '61 to about '66, or around that time. Then we did a little experimenting again and slowed down on the rhythm and getting things on the rock side, and came up with that, what it was, Ska Rocksteady we came up with. And up to now I think the Rocksteady period was really a very good period in the music history, Rocksteady. So now there's quite a few what's ruling the dancehall are copy of the Rocksteady, say '66, '68, ...

When did you first have your studio?
First had my studio in '61.

Was that before Studio One the label?
Yes, that's before Studio One.

By the time you started releasing music on Studio One, did you know that you were making a business out of music?
Well yes, because after like say about '58/'59 I was going into the studio so regular that I realise, that I figured more or less, if I had my own studio I could spend more time on perfection. So that's really where I got into having my own studio.

So in the 1960s how many people were involved in Studio One?
Well, say weekly - we had ten to twelve musicians employed weekly, say Monday to Friday working from 10 to 5.

And how many other employees did you have?
That would be say twelve persons in the factory because we press our own records and we had another twelve persons inside working. We had three retail outlets, right, all in Kingston and that would be another six person there, and in the office we may have about four or five. And three sales rep. For roughly we have employ about fifty persons. It's just that looking back it look like that much but at the time ... it look like that, you understand.

Was your Mother still working in her restaurant at this time?
Well no, she was in charge of the factory. She ran the pressing plant and she also cooked for the workers and stuff like that.

Did you only press and record Studio One records?
No, I press a lot of outside records like Bunny Lee, the Upsetters, I even press for Duke Reid at the time - a producer like Duke Reid he use it before he had his studio, you know - and then Harry J he use it a lot ... Mudie...

Which were the first records you produced which were sold?
Well, we release a song by the name of "My Baby", Jacky Eckstick, an instrumental, because instrumental was big in those days. Instrumental by the name of "Shuffling Jug", and one of the early records was "Easy Snapping" by Theo Beckford. And that was pressed up and sold.

Was one of them a hit? Were they played on the radio?
Well, no the people who attended the dance was more than happy to buy the records that they were dancing to, because we were playing for two to three years before we started releasing our first music, you understand. And people now started to send the records that we released abroad, and they'd get a lot of feedback, you understand, and it took off from there, England and the United States. And actually why it take off so heavily in England is because a lot of Jamaicans migrated to England, like say early '50s and '60s, so they were buying the records and they were partying out. Then come the mixed marriage, so white and blacks got together and it just took off.

Did people live at your studio?
Well the only people actually living at Brentford Road was the Wailers, Marley, Livingstone and Peter Tosh. Actually, I did it for Marley, because when I signed Marley, his guardian, she co-signed, and explained to me that where she was living, wasn't really quite suitable for him to stay, you know. So I set up a room at the back. actually, when we bought the place, it was a place that someone was living in, so actually at the back we had about three rooms, so I furnished the room and set up Bob and then I realise I give him a guitar to help him practice on and stuff like that. So Peter Tosh and Bunny, they wouldn't go home in the evening ... they would stay there with him! (Laughs). So I cleaned up two more rooms, put in beds and stuff like that you know!

Would Jackie Mittoo come in and work there everyday?
Yeah he come in Monday to Friday.

Did all the musicians, like Jackie Mittoo, go home each evening?
Yeah, they go home in the evening.

Was Jackie Mittoo a good musician from the beginning?
Yes, he was very good, but I got him on to becoming a thorough musician. To help him along the way, I got him to Ernest Ranglin, Clue J, who plays bass...

Were they better musicians than he was?
Yeah yeah they were thorough musicians, Jackie both learn and earn by me, but he have the rhythm... inside of him, and I be so close to the music, playing the music, I had stuff of my own, little lines and stuff like that and getting it together, but Jackie really turn out to be a musical giant as time go by.

Many Jamaican musicians trained at the Alpha School, Did people like Ernest Ranglin and clue J go to the Alpha school? (The Alpha School, in Kingston, run by Roman Catholic nuns, was, and still is, a school for wayward or runaway children. It is famous for its excellent music tuition which has led to it producing many of Jamaica's finest musicians - for instance, Tommy McCook, Dizzy Moore, Harold McNair, Lester Sterling, Rico Rodriguez.)
No, Clue J I think, yes, he went to Alpha.

Was Alpha the best school for musicians?
Alpha, yes, well Alpha was a place for unruly kids who gave their parents problem and the parents had the option to take them there and while they were there Alpha would learn them a trade, a compulsory trade, so music at Alpha was the main thing.

So was Alpha the best school?
Yes, 'cause other than that it was just little private schools which maybe would only tutor you on the piano, but at Alpha it was a wide section from horns, you know, wind instruments, going right down to drums, or whatever it is.

Who were the teachers at Alpha?
Well you had some early teachers like Lenny Hibbert and a few that I can't remember right now.

Was Don Drummond a teacher there, or a student?
A student, student. But he himself was really a monster on the trombone, I never see anything like it, a unique sound and, you know, he got out of the instrument what others couldn't get, you know. He was really a genius, well gifted.

Did you know Eric dean's band? (Jamaica's most popular Big Band Orchestra)
Oh well yes, the Eric Dean Band. Well, that band, and the bandmaster, was very helpful after like, coming out of the school, because he'd be producing the different music that he needs and then actually he'd sort out the kind of tone. Because coming out of the school, maybe you'd play a certain way ... but he'd be able to tell you, like, how to play. But Eric Dean was an early band that they put in a lot, they helped some of the musicians also.

Who else taught those early musicians to play?
Well, the military always play a good part down there. the military band always teach a lot of the guys. away from individual musicians who would help another guy, and so forth. But the main source was really Alpha, and next place, Tony Hill. Roland Alphonso didn't go to Alpha, he went Tony Hill.

And would you go to Alpha or Tony Hill to find musicians?
Well now, by the time I got in the business, and going to the different orchestra dances, I spot the people who I think I needed to play.

Was there always a live band at the orchestra dances?
Yes, at the different places you know like the Beaumont Club, where you'd have seen quite a few different bands.

Were the Skatalites formed before you met them?
No, the Skatalites were formed in my studio.

Were they recording for other people but not under the name "Skatalites"?
Not recording under the name, yeah, but the full band wasn't recording under Treasure Isle because I knew Jackie Mittoo never play for Duke Reid you understand.

Did anyone else record the Skatalites?
Yeah, I think his nap was Yapp, yeah, Justin Yapp, yeah but he recorded by me and he use the Skatalites as the band, you understand.

So the musicians in the Skatalites recorded for other people under different names, but they only recorded under the name "Skatalites" for you.
Actually as a point of correction, up until about '80 I was the only person using the name Skatalites, yeah, recording. Because Duke Reid, he maybe mention Baba Brooks or like Tommy McCook or whatever it is, but because the idea was in my studio, the band was formed there also ... at Brentford road. And like, even the music was started there, and all those stuff ... and even the amplifier I donated to the band, so they could really go on the road. But it's just really after the '80s everything get so mixed up, everybody say, like, Skatalites, Skatalites [When re-issues of other producers began to say "The Skatalites" on the sleeve]. But I actually, I was the first person.

Did the bands you recorded perform live?
Yeah I was the first person to get the Skatalites to perform live.

Were they performing live to promote the records?
No, they were performing live as a means of, like, a living. Then what helped them to, we ... actually, brought them into the dancehall, where the soundsystem was playing and bring them on, like say, midnight and let them play for an hour or two and there's other people playing the records.

Did people dance to them?
Yeah man, because they were all worked up and they always loved it on the disc.

Was that exciting?
Exciting, yeah.

How many records did you press each month or week?
Like you would ask, how many records I made? I made roughly twenty songs a week.

Recorded or released?
Recorded, recorded right. Because we sold a lot. From day to day from ten to five we might do about four songs or five songs, we have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday - five fours would be twenty.

Would that be recording the singing as well as the backing track?
No no that would be like the backing track. What we do now - in the evening at times, the artist who work, they may ask for lunch time, or they ask for early one hour, so that way they come in in the evening and put the voice on. And we have Saturday and Sunday that we also do the voices. Musically setting up the rhythm during the week, and in the evenings and on the weekend doing the vocals, because why we did it like that, them artist would sing the song five/ten different times until we got the one that we figure is the best.

But the musicians didn't need that?
No! The musicians, we just get them inside there and within three/four takes we figure this is good take, right? But in the early days before multi-track everybody had to be singing and playing together. And sometimes the musicians they get well miserable after four or five takes and the artist can't get it right so the producer would say, "Oh it's such a nice tune it looks like we have to make an instrumental of this if you can't sing it!" (Laughs). So the artist would tighten up his style and try and sing because two more tries, if he doesn't sing it, he's going to make it into instrumental! (Laughs). So he focus hard on trying to make it! So it was real fun. But those are the days when it's mono, it's monotrack, so everything had to be right while going, because if you make a mistake you have to stop and start from the top again. so you can imagine when the musicians are starting and stopping and it's not their fault it's the artist's fault, this is how they got miserable at times. so then now, when multi-track came in, now that's when we were able now to lay the backing track, spend time to get it well tight! Then you come in the evening, or another time, and then nobody rushing you to sing something to get it right ... sometime ten different takes before you get a good take. And you say "That's it" and move on to something else.

Were you in the studio most of the time?
Yes, I spend a lot of time in the studio. But if I had to go out, before I go out I gave a sense of direction about what I needed and Jackie knew me alright, so that was that.

Jackie Mittoo understood what you wanted?
What I wanted, yes. And sometimes we rehearse in the evening you know.

Did you rehearse in a different room to where you recorded?
Yeah we have a different room and then we set up the work for the next day, you understand.

So if a singer came in in the evening, would you do just one track or...?
No. What we did, we had auditions on Sundays.

Every Sunday?
Yes, every Sunday.

So you never had a day off?
(Laughs). No but we enjoy it, as a matter of fact we didn't want to go to sleep! because in the nights we all over town. So on Sundays we get a list of people we select. So then we say "You come back on Monday evening, you come Tuesday evening, you come whatever time". And then we would do their recording thing and ... we're getting away from the mono days, the mono days were more difficult and we weren't recording that much... but when it came to the time I had the studio of my own, we had the different artists from Monday to Friday. Well there were times during the week that an artist comes in from the country and you find time to listen to him and whatever it is, and sometimes you so happy to hear him that you figure "Boy! take him in the studio right away!" You understand? (Laughs). So that was the main thing.

So were they always singing over a rhythm that had already been made?
No no no, at this time all rhythm was made for the artists, the only thing was that you did the rhythm first and sign the tape with the name and whatever it is, and the singer came in in the evening, or Saturday, or Sunday. Because we have some other people residing in the outskirts, they recorded here Monday, but they wouldn't be able to come back until maybe Saturday or Sunday, so they come back on Sunday. But the boys who reside in Kingston, most of them come back in the evenings. After the recording session is over, you'd term it as "voicing session" is on now, playing back the rhythm and singing to the rhythm.

So when were the words written? At the vocal recording session?
No, the words would have to be written before we do the recording you know.

Would the artist bring the melody with them?
Yes the artist... You listen to it and say "Come in on Tuesday". Then get the band to lay down the backing track before. Yes, get the band now to, while he's singing here, now, the band is rehearsing and practising and do that now a couple of times, 'til when they figure they get it together. 'Cause how we did the recording: when the artist comes in, sings his song, then, after a couple of times listening to the melody, we work up an introduction, you know? So now we arrange an introduction, plus a solo just in the middle part - usually where the artist stops singing - you have a horn or guitar play a little solo, and then the artist comes in.

So though the singing is recorded after the backing track has been laid down, the artist and the band have met the day before?
Yeah yeah that's right, to fit the song. And the artist being here he can have a good memory of whatever it is, you know? So when he comes in he hears it, he knows when to come in.

Was it mainly solo singers, or trios?
No it was either, whether solo or a group, you know? Yeah.

Did people specifically come on Sundays to Studio One Records for the auditions?
Yes, at Brentford Road, yeah Brentford Road, because after operating for a while everybody knew that on Sundays they could come as a matter of fact. And Sundays even before I get to the studio the road is blocked! Yeah man. (Laughs). Everybody outside.

How many people would come to an average Sunday audition?
It be like two/three hundred! Yeah yeah, just like that - because some not even artists you know, but some interested just come to hang about, hang around you know, so we open the gate and let them.

So what happened with all these people hanging about, how did you get any work done?
Well that day we got through because, what it was like, we had at the front, a portion of Brentford Road here, and then we have a fence there (he describes with his hands). The studio is here, so we go through the gate, the fence here, no-one could get to where we are, we take them per artist or per group, one by one, take them round to the back and then sit them down, you know.

What if somebody was no good?
Yes yes well! "Come back next year" You know! (Laughs). Yeah that's right. We got through it fast, because we had an idea from when the guy open his mouth, we know whether he can do whatever it is. There were guys who come who haven't got a good song, but he has a good voice.

So could you get him a song from somebody else?
Yes, yes, we had people working for us who just write you know. Their job by me, and they got paid, they used to write songs. You understand?

Who were the most famous people who you discovered through auditions?
Everyone had to come through that, you know, from Bob Marley come right down, everybody had to go through that process.

So when Bob Marley played he was one of hundreds of people?
No he wasn't really one of hundreds of people, because a friend told me of these guys and I heard of them through Joe Higgs. Because Joe Higgs was one of my regular artists and he had always been telling me about this group that he's rehearsing.

Because he was teaching them to sing wasn't he?
That's right. So this friend of mine, Seecup Patterson brought them. When they came I loved that youthful sound that they had, you know. That's a good sound, wasn't so heavy on the lyrics, they did some spirituals and stuff like that, and in the meantime, we arrange writing for them like "It Hurts To Be Alone". And that was one of the first.

When they came did they start to live with you straight away?
No, no, no, no. That was after I realised this was a good group and I decide to sign them up.

You thought they'd so much in them you wanted to keep them around?
Yes, so when it came to signing them, then they, the guardian, came and she co-sign and she explain to me that living by her wasn't quite right and if I could help them out that way. I was just certain because I felt the vibes that this guy was a good guy, a good vocalist, so then we set up the room at the back of the studio.

When did Lee Perry become involved? What did he start doing?
Well now, Lee Perry was like a handyman around me. Lee Perry was visiting Treasure Isle place before he came by me. As a matter of fact, how he came by me now is, there was a incident going between him and Duke or what ever it is, I heard it and I tell him, "if that is the case, try somebody else, if you're not getting justice there". So he came by me and... He was more like a handyman, when I have to do certain errands, he'd go. But we drove up together and went all around, so this is how he got into the idea of recording, because he was at the Studio with me from time to time.

Why did you approach him in the first place?
Well this vibe I got about him. Is first between him and Treasure Isle, there was a song that he was saying it was his song, and Reid gave it to somebody else. you understand.

But did you feel he was a creative person?
Well yes. As far as ideas of writing songs, you know and we got together and we co-wrote together, and he didn't have any great voice but I gave him a chance and he recorded with me a lot, but he was more like handy you know, to send out to do this, to do that. He was like a little right-hand man you know! I don't know if you now that term? (Laughs).

Was he a lot younger than you?
At that time he was quite young, I think Perry might be about six years younger than me, but he was from the country again, the outskirts, yes.

And was it the same situation when you met Prince Buster at the start?
Well, yes, because Prince Buster, earlier, he came by me and his mother asked me to take care of him, you know. He was like the gate man, when we had a session he would stay at the gate.

He was a boxer wasn't he?
Yes! (Laughs). That's the fun part of it, he was never a great boxer, it was a gimmick because he had a bout at the stadium, and he had paid the guy to lose, so the guy be like was showing and punch Prince and Prince get close to him, so Prince had him and Prince punch him on his back and he lie down, not even a good knock! You know! They held the purse for a few weeks, 'cause they couldn't see how the guy got knocked out!

But he was a successful musician wasn't he?
Yeah man!

Did you think he was going to be that successful?
Yes yes yes.

Were you rivals?
Well, yes, but we get on together, because everybody know he was coming out of my camp, that he was my student as well. yeah yeah. that's when I told you he used to keep gate for me.

Were you rivals with Duke Reid?
Well, he was a good friend of mine, but he was more my senior.

Was it true that he used to send people to mess up the dance?
Yes he did that, but it wasn't all that, because it was before the gun come into play, so it would be like throwing stones at our back and stuff like that you know.

Sort of being naughty rather than being dangerous?
Yeah that's right, even the rude now. We call 'rude' naughty. Instead of dangerous. I like that tern yeah! (Laughs). Because we made the first set of rude boy songs you know. With Wailers.

Was that the beginning of Rocksteady?
Yeah that's right.

So is that what rude boys are, people with a bit of attitude?
And rude and things like that...

With a lot of people with a lot of attitude, how come running a business didn't end up in chaos quite often?
Well you see, the respect is there for you.

So you could walk in and everyone would respect you straight away?
Yeah, that's right you know. And well, what can we say... In the early days you know there was a lot of love. You know the rude part came in long after, and as a matter of fact that's when I quit the soundsystem.

Did you stop the soundsystem in the late '60s?
Yeah the late '60s and that rude attitude and carry-on you know. Well, in my own way I was a disciplinarian you know. I felt you got to be straightforward and you don't do anything wrong. I'm a God-fearing person, that sort of thing. Manage ok because it was before the gun thing and all that. So when I stopped the soundsystem thing, there was so much other person who wanted to work with me that they would go and play my record and promote my recording anyway.

So you didn't need to be there?
I didn't need to be there. Somehow somehow, but then the freedom was there for me to really concentrate with the business side even more. Because work with the soundsystem, I had to be there different hours of the night and out there with them. But now I could spend more time in the studio, get more sleep, you understand? 'Cause at one time I was a wandering man! Didn't go to bed, just went on going to the different dances and having fun.

Were the dances at the weekend or everyday?
Well almost everyday. Because Monday nights we call that Matinee Dance, and we have Wednesday nights Matinee Dance. They would start about say 8 o'clock, and end say about 2 o'clock, but there come a time when nobody want to go home, so you just go with it, you understand! And there was no strict rules, you know in England things got to be closed by a certain time, you understand, but out there things just go right on! You understand. Then we usually serenade on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I say serenade, it's going somewhere, play free and announce the dances coming up: "Saturday we be playing such and such, spend a couple of bucks, see the guys, buy them a beer," you know.

Would that be for an hour or all night?
No, that generally go on 'til 11, 12 o'clock.

Did you ever have a radio show?
Yes, after a while we have a radio show to promote the records. Yeah. We had the Sounds of Young Jamaica. And Winston Williams used to do the ... and Jackie take care of that.

How many records were released each week?
Well I'd say, released about 4 or 5 per week.

45s?
45s Uh huh.

How many would you press initially?
We'd press like five hundred.

Would the original pressing have a label and packaging?
White labels first. That's how you'd find out if you were going to press any more. Well, that's right. Then people come in buying it right, because by this time you got a lot of soundsystem all over Jamaica. In the early days it was like maybe 6 or 10 soundsystem total in the whole island, but by about mid '60s man you had soundsystem all over. This is when I realised I didn't have to go out playing the records, because the soundsystem was a means of promoting the record also.

If you had a big hit how many would you press?
Actually after that first 500, you realise how big the thing is and it depend on how fast that goes, then if you go to the jukebox place they might have had 2000 or whatever it is.

Just for Jamaica's jukeboxes?
Yeah man Jamaica, yeah man! There were jukeboxes all over, and that was the thing that helped promote the record also, you understand.

How many copies would a good record sell?
In them days 4000 was a good seller.

Which record do you remember as the fastest selling?
Well I'd say like "Cry Me A River", "One Love", "Simmer Down".

How much did you sell a good record for?
7 and 6.

And how much was it wholesale?
We used to sell it for 4 shilling and sixpence.

Did you have the same currency as England?
At that time, yeah, because after Independence, it changed to the dollar, the Jamaican dollar. About '69.

So it wasn't much money?
No, no, it wasn't much money, what really usually help was if you had a good record and you was selling it on pre-release, you'd be able to sell the pre-release for say 15 shillings. Yeah. So you'd make a killing. If it was that strong you could cash in on say 2000 15 shillings, and after that now it goes to 7 and 6.

So was it to your advantage to keep it on pre-release?
Yeah, but if it's not selling on pre-release you might see if you lower the price and see if you can't get some action.

Was a pre-release always more expensive?
Yeah yeah pre-release was always more money, because some records you go straight to release. some records didn't have that quality for pre-release.

Was the pre-release for exclusivity?

Not only that but you find the sound-men, the club, would buy it to play at their club, but the ordinary person would wait 'til it come on ordinary release.

If you sold 4000 in Jamaica how many would you sell in England?
In England now it was all different, because I have statement from Island Record up to now. Just few record really sell up to 7000 for Island Records.

But sometimes they would have a hit, wouldn't they?
Yeah yeah sometimes they have good hit, like Lee Harvey Oswald and stuff like that you know.

So how many would that sell?
That was always 7000 always! No well actually you know what was messy then, you had some of the producers here was selling this stuff for little and nothing or whatever it is. They used to bring up a grip load of music and just sell it for a round figure. Well these records now, both whoever had the person who buy it over there, since they never spend no great money on the purchase of the records, they put the money into promotion and those were a lot of stuff went into the charts or what.

You started with Ska and Rocksteady and then Reggae. Were you always trying to do something new?
Yes yes we always try, because out of a lot of people who were producing in Jamaica, I think we were the most steadiest in the business and I think we were the only person with a regular studio band playing weekly. Because actually I still have at least 60% of my stuff unreleased you understand. But actually I'm re-doing, the music was good then, but I don't think much of the voices. So what we are doing now, is writing new songs and putting them on these rhythms and then it's done again.

When you recorded Roots music, would it be fair to say that Rastafarians wanted to record, and you were the only person who wanted to record them?
Yes. Well, we, I am the person who brought out the Rastafarian. Because what happen, in the early days you have people like Don Drummond, Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, used to go in the hills and rehearse with the Rastafarian, which was like Count Ossie. Because this was a means of, like, rehearsal and really ... with the drums.

Were they Rastafarians, Don Drummond...?
No no they just go where the drums is because then rehearsal space wasn't so much available where you have guitars and, you know, so you go in the hills and rehearse, you know, as with the boys, just beating the drum, exercise, ideas. So after a while now, I brought ten to like a dancehall, the Rastafarians who usually play the drums. This was after we make a couple of tracks with them, like, "Another Moses" and quite a few songs and after get them inside, at the dance, feature them at midnight, and you have like guys beat the drums and long haired Rastafarians and things like that, you know.

Were other producers scared of them?
Well they usually figured like they could be bad guys, but I never see that though, you know. They had their different ideas and philosophy and whatever it is, and God, and whatever it is.

Did they live in the countryside?
Yes on the hillside and whatever it is. But I didn't fear them, and then it was a form of music. With me now I was fairly friendly and had a wide experience of things, so after I brought them in everybody start using them after. Because it was just drums and whatever it is, so what you could put together with it so the average person could listen to it... because they would just be chanting and you know whatever it is, but you could really get a melody on top of that and whatever it is.

Did you notice a change in music from the '60s to the '70s?
Well in the '70s now you more certain that this is a business you understand? And lucky for me I always approach it that way from about '68, getting everybody on proper contract and whatever it is. there's a question you asked me regarding "Were you trying to build something like Motown?" Well when I started I didn't know of Motown. The record companies that I knew of were Imperial in Hollywood. And then you have Aladdin Records, you have King Records, Speciality Records, Atlantic was a very good record company, and Modern Records.

So you were collecting the records, but did you know any of the record company people?
Well, people I know personally was like King.

Was that Sid Nathan at King records?
Yeah I met Nathan, yeah. these are the companies now I really pattern Studio One after in the early days, then... But I've always loved Motown Recordings. Berry did a great job.

Have you ever met Berry Gordy?
No I never met him. But I did release Motown in Jamaica. Yeah I am the person who got Motown very famous in Jamaica.

Did you distribute Motown or license it?
Yes I license, I press them down there, time I had my own pressing company. Well it did well for a while but after a while Dynamic Sounds came in and took it from me, Byron Lee.

Was that similar to the 1964 World Trade Fair? (In 1964 Edward Seaga organised a group of Reggae musicians to go to the US World Trade Fair to represent Jamaican music. Byron Lee was among the musicians, while the Skatalites, at that time extremely popular, were conspicuous by the absence.)
Yeah. He went, but it was all politics, because we were the person who created the music who really had it going, you know, so he just came on the bandwagon. Because up to now, Byron Lee can't play good Ska. (Laughs). No honestly. Wishy washy that hard beat isn't there, isn't there.

So you had the shop, studio and label to juggle?
But, yes, but I had good help you know. Me and my wife, you know, we been married a long while you know, 30 odd years.

Did your wife work in the business as well?
Yes, in the early days yes. because we work awhile before we had the studio now, when we had the studio we had a retail outlet in Orange Street a number of years and we had another outlet on Barrow Street, no Bedford street, and this was a busy area, was in the market area. And the bus used to park along there for the people who's going out of town, the country people who comes in to sell whatever it is so we can be there pumping music to the people before they get on the bus, and they come buy the spiritual or whatever it is. And that was a good situation, then we had another store along east Green street.

Did the people in the countryside all have record players?
Yes, they all have record players then, because I'm talking like in the '60s they didn't have a great amount, but there was record players about.

And you say it would often be spirituals that they'd be buying?
Yes, they bought a lot of spirituals and stuff like that.

Was Reggae more for people in town?
Yeah yeah, the city people were more hep to that, you know. But as time goes by it spread you know. To Montego Bay and the big cities...

You said you had three sales reps, did Studio One distribute itself in Jamaica?
Well yes, one would go on the outskirts of town: like Montego Bay and all sorts of places, at that time we'd send out the record on consignment, you did rack jobbing, we had whole racks in cities all around Jamaica, so we had one person doing that. Well let's say, by the time the record business get going to me the shop was like... well at about that time we had about six record stores around the city, in Kingston.

Were you selling domestic material and imported releases?
Imported stuff, yeah. Imported stuff, that's right. Well you see before then we really cut them off because in my store now I was like a champion, bringing in the Rhythm and Blues, knew the records, what was happening, what was going, and the latest records.

Were you importing the music from America for your shops?
Yeah yeah from America. As a matter of fact I did so well that after a while I was releasing records for King Label, yeah, like Nina Simone "My Baby Just Cares". And quite a few others I got the rights to.

How did you keep up with what was going on in America at that time?
Yeah, go back and forth and then in the early days. Now, when we were buying records from America for Jamaica, these were old records. These weren't current records that's happening at the moment, so most of the time we had to go into places that had those old records. Going into the basement, you take off your clothes, and put on something - you going all through dust! And sometimes the record-seller turn oh so happy! because he was getting ready to throw them out and those were the records that were moving! It was really current Rhythm and Blues because Rhythm and Blues really went down. And then came the Rock 'n' Roll, you understand, but it never went strong in Jamaica: Rock 'n' Roll.

Where did you go to buy records in America?
I went to the New York area, you know, and Philly and Ohio - Cleveland, Ohio, but mostly Philly, and all about here because New York had a few record company, you know.

did you always go to buy records direct from warehouses?
Warehouses, right, the warehouses.

How many records did you bring back at a time?
Numerous records. And there were some warehouses were selling records, but these records were like blind guys. But it was so cheap it was worth the effort, so I was buying, like say, five and ten thousand lot. But you see after you buy a couple of time, you were able really to get to the owner and say "Send me anything of the following artists and don't send me whatever it is", and he was happy to send it. And then what trigger it off, whatever it is, sometime, out of ten thousand records you got, you might get about four hundred that is good, but you'll be able now to say, four or five, four hundred different record, maybe two hundred each and whatever it is... because the ten thousand lot cost you about 2 cents at that time, you know there is only the freight to come in, and it came too by the ship, so it wasn't too much. But it was what you could discover out of this ten thousand say it was stuff like what you call "bush", but out of the ten there was stuff and you could make back your money out of it. Because at that time you could ask for good money for a good record. Because say the going price was at the time 7 and 6, if you had a good record you could get three pounds and three pounds was a lot of money! (Laughs)

Did you ever buy records from the Southern states of America?
No. Imported records from there, but sorry I wasn't able to go down there because that is where the meat of the stuff was coming from, New Orleans. New Orleans oh, but sure I got on to Randy's in Galleton, he was able to get what we need from there you know, and while we really stick to New York or Chicago, sometimes maybe you have a friend or a relative in the area, you understand, to take care of business.

Are you proud of your role in music history?
Well, looking back at the music business I really have no regret and I can safely say this, I am responsible about 80% of the artist that have a career today coming out of the West Indies, because if the person didn't even sing for me, they using my rhythm, do you understand? So all the current artists you got out there, they because of Studio One. They using studio One rhythm.

Do you think a lot of them know that?
Yeah they know that, they know that. and this why it keep the label alive, because here come a artist with a big song, and it obvious it coming from this Studio One rhythm way back, so even the youths who didn't have that record would like to know and buy it. You know! So it have them advantage then and there, you know.

Do you feel complimented by people using Studio One material as an influence?
I've been ripped off, really, but somehow God is good to me, and the sensible people that's in the business are giving us the credit so we are able to collect here and there, you know.

It seems like Hip hop in America, and James Brown?
Yeah because James Brown was made more popular when Hip hop came in than the time he was singing first!

Thanks for your time.
Yeah man. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

 
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