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Studio One Women (SJRCD 121 - 2005)

Claudette McLean - Give Love Another Try
Jennifer Lara - My Man
The Soulettes - Deh Pon Dem
Della Humphrey - Dream Land
Jennifer Lara - Consider Me
Denise Darlington - War No Right
Hortense Ellis - I'm Just A Girl
Angela Prince - No Bother With No Fuss
Jerry Jones - There's A Chance For Me
The Soulettes - King Street
Jennifer Lara - Tell Me Where
The Tonettes - I'll Give It To You
Marcia Griffiths - Tell Me Now
Jay Tees - Come To Me
Angela Prince - You A Fool Boy
Jennifer Lara - I Am In Love
 
Studio One Women refers not just to the small selection of artists featured here. Women have taken integral roles throughout the Studio One empire - starting with Doris Darlington, mother of Clement Dodd. Indeed Sir Coxsone's Downbeat Soundsystem - which ruled the dancehalls of Kingston throughout the 1950s and 60s - started off as the musical entertainment for customers of Mrs Darlington's Nannys Bar; and Coxsone sometimes referred to his mother as "Jamaica's first female DJ", as she would play records at the bar whenever he was on trips to the US hunting down R&B records. As the Downbeat Soundsystem grew larger and played at Forresters Hall, Success, Kings Lawn and other famous Kingston venues, Mrs Darlington would often work a food stall on the night. When Brentford Road studios opened in the early 1960s, Mrs Darlington continued to run a food stall for workers, artists and musicians in the yard. "Mr Dodd's mother ran a canteen in the back and she did very well, very well," remembers Norma Dodd. "She was the queen of soupees, she could cook that dish very well. So all the workers patronized her and ate the food from her kitchen - which was very tasty!" In the late 1970s when the studio closed and Clement Dodd moved his operation to New York, Mrs Darlington ran the Muzik City store in Spanish Town, as well as the export side of the business. Her death was a determining factor in Mr Dodd returning to Jamaica.

Norma Dodd met her future husband Clement whilst working in Kingston. "We met on a street named Love Lane where I was working in a store. Well, he used to admire me passing by there, which I didn't realise until a friend of mine told me! And we made a date and got to be friends and from there we eventually got married." Norma's role at Studio One began in the Muzik City record store on the corner of Beeston Street and Orange Street but with the opening of the studio at 13 Brentford Road and the expansion of Studio One, Norma Dodd's role grew to include office and general manager, book-keeper and even writing sleeve-notes. "Oh yes, that was my hobby, I enjoyed doing that a lot. I used to love reading and poetry, and when we really started putting out these albums, my husband came to me and said, "This is your job", and I just started to write and that was it!"

With the passing of Clement Dodd in 2004, Norma Dodd - their daughter Carol by her side - has taken over the running of the family business in the Jamaican tradition of strong women involved in the music business - such as Lucille 'Duchess' Reid (who ran her husband Duke Reid's Treasure Isle label after his death), Sonia Pottinger and her Hi-Note label, and Rita Marley and her administration of the Marley estate.

Rita Anderson came to Studio One as a young teenage member of the all-female group The Soulettes, which originally featured Rita alongside Marlene Gifford and Constantine Walker (both replaced by Hortense Lewis and Cecile Campbell in 1969). Besides their own releases, the Soulettes were backing vocalists on many Studio One sessions. It was at a recording of The Wailers that Rita and Bob Marley fell in love. Marley had been living at the time in the care of Clement Dodd who took care of the wedding arrangements. As his career went into overdrive in the 1970s, Rita Marley became a member of the I-Threes, alongside Judy Mowatt and another Studio One icon Marcia Griffiths, as well as continuing a successful solo career.

Martcia Griffiths is one of Jamaica's most famous singers. She joined Studio One in the mid-60s and soon hit the charts with classic tracks such as 'Truly', 'Feel Like Jumping' and 'Tell Me Now', before recording 'Young Gifted And Black' for producer Harry Johnson with her partner Bob Andy (another Studio One legend), as the decade ended. Her career still thrives today.

Hortense Ellis - who died in 2000 - cut a series of duets at Studio One with her brother Alton. She recorded for many Jamaican producers - Duke Reid, Clive Chin. Winston Riley, Prince Buster, Jo Jo hookim, and Lee Perry - as well as Sir Coxsone Dodd. From the late 1970s, the killer discomix included here revives her brother's huge rocksteady hit of 1967, 'I'm Just A Guy'.

One woman at Studio One perhaps not so well known to the general public is Enid Cumberland. In 1963 however, she was known to everyone as one half of singing sensations Keith and Enid, whose 'Worried Over You' was a huge hit. "It was number one for seven weeks and twenty one weeks up and down the top ten. I was twenty-eight years old". At Brentford Road, Enid came to have a number of roles aside from singing - one of which was managing the record store at the front of the studio. "I worked in the store doing sales. The shop was right at the front of the studio building on the right hand side. Other girls were there and I taught them how to arrange themselves and how to approach customers. We sold releases from across the whole island, even foreign records. We also sold jeans, shoes, audio tapes and even little accessories for motor cars. It was a busy store, especially on weekends."

But probably her most important role was as vocal coach in the studio and as leader of a backing vocal group alongside Larry Marshall and Horace Andy. "Horace often says that if he didn't come to this studio he would never have been able to harmonise. We did backing for Owen Grey, John Holt, the Heptones and many more. The in-house bands we mainly worked with were the Sound Dimension, Soul Defenders and the Selected Few". Her other duties included tape-filling in the studio and helping run the record manufacturing plant at the back of the studio. She still helps out at the studio today: her contribution to the Studio One story is immeasurable.

Outside of the Studio One ranks, the most important woman in its history is Sister Ignatius. From 1939 to 2003, when she passed away aged 81, Sister Ignatius was head of the Alpha Boys School. This institution for wayward children is responsible for the education of a large proportion of the Jamaican music industry, many of whom were employed by Studio One after leaving the school. Aside from jazz greats such as Dizzy Reece, Joe Harriott, Wilton Gaynair, Rico Rodriguez and Eddie Thornton who would leave the island to have international success, Alpha was the school for Don Drummond, Johnny Moore, Tommy McCook and Lester Sterling who would form the Skatalites, perhaps the most important group in the history of Jamaican music. "Well I didn't ever see them in concert, but a few times we saw them practicing at the Bournemouth club. We used to take the boys down there because it was near the sea and they would always want to see them play."

Sister Ignatius has claims to the throne of First Woman DJ that Mr Dodd bestowed upon his mother. "Well I bought records from the 1940s onwards. I remember buying records when they were 2/6 from Montagues. Well he's long dead, those were the breakable records, and then came the forty-fives, they cost 7/6. then later on we had a lot of old boys who had their own records out. Then there was Don Drummond who had 'Reload' and 'Eastern Standard Time', those were really outstanding records."

"We had a sound system which I bought for £35 from an ex-pupil and we used to play on Saturdays and the boys would play dominoes and dance to Ska, because they liked to dance in those times and Ska had its own movements. We played from after lunch to about five in the evening. Then we would pack up and go."

This album is dedicated to Jennifer Lara who passed away in 2005. Songs like 'I'm In Love' and 'Tell Me Where' defined a more soulful reggae in the late 1970s and early 80s, which paved the way for the crossover style of Lovers Rock in the UK. "It was 1979 when I first came to Studio One, with Richard Ace. I was doing harmonies for him with two other girls. It was Richard who first taught me. He booked the studio and it was there I met Mr Dodd and he liked what I was doing so soon after I started working here full-time and recording on my own."

"I'd be there everyday, because mostly what I did was harmonies on songs by other artists, like Freddie McGregor, Johnny Osbourne, Willie Williams, The Jay Tees, Angela Prince - a lot of artists."

"The first songs I did on the Studio One label were in late 1979. One of the first was 'Consider Me', on the 'Movie star' rhythm. I liked Betty Wright, Aretha Franklin, Evelyn King, a lot of the American soul singers. It was a big influence on the music."

Jennifer Lara perhaps best summed up the spirit of Studio One and the part of women at the label.

"My grandfather was Adrian Duncan, a great pianist, and I always used to hear this song 'Worried Over You', so when I came here I asked sister Enid if she knew my grandfather and from there on we were friends. Angela Prince, that's my girl too - I tell you it was a family, we eat together, we talk and sometime we even cry together. Get some food - sometimes Mr Dodd's mother would cook some soupees - I miss that a lot! I met a lot of artists here that were heroes of mine. Alton Ellis, Hortense Ellis, John Holt, Ken Boothe - so many. You feel relaxed, you feel loved because everybody was like a family and Mr Dodd is like you can speak with him, you can joke with him, and Mrs Dodd is always like a sister to me."

 
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