( It’s Father’s Day in the year 60 of Jamaica and as part of the Jubilee celebrations, the Entertainment section of the Sunday Gleaner presents the culture of the sound system, which was born in Jamaica in the late 40s and 50s thanks to the creativity of the pioneers “Fathers”.)
Described on the Trojan Records website as an “enigmatic character”, Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid owned one of the greatest sound systems of the 1950s – Duke Reid’s The Trojan – and his colorful legacy is steeped in grandeur.
After spending 10 years as a police officer in Kingston, “soft-spoken, but powerfully built” Reid and his wife purchased the Treasure Isle Liquor Store in the heart of West Kingston. The Duke had a passion for firearms, perhaps nurtured by his decade in the police force, and it is said he was never seen without two pistols.
write in The Sunday Gleaner in November 2014, Roy Black said: “Although he left the force, he always retained a passion for this work and continued to carry his firearms at all times – .45 and .22 caliber pistols – tucked into his belt, with a gun at his side, during recording sessions. Every now and then he would pull out a few lozenges to celebrate his endorsement of a successful audition. One reviewer jokingly claimed he had them even kept in the shower.
In the 1950s, the flamboyant Reid, who reportedly wore rings on every finger, set up his Trojan sound system, which critics said rivaled that of Sir Coxsone Dodd and also Tom the Great Sebastian. He was even crowned King of Sound and Blues at the Success Club in Central Kingston in the late 1950s and it was a title he is said to have held for two years. Business savvy, Reid dabbled in record production and also hosted his own radio show Treasure Island Time, broadcast by RJR. Reid used this program and its sound system to promote his latest releases.
In 1962 he recorded ska hits with Stranger Cole, the Techniques, Justin Hinds and Alton Ellis & the Flames. As ska evolved, developing a slower pace that would eventually become known as “rocksteady”, Reid found great success with hits such as the Paragons – Ali Baba and Do you wear to the ball; Alton Ellis– cry loudly, To break up, Solid as a rock and Isn’t it loving you; The Melodies – You do not need meI will get along,among many others.
RECORD INDUSTRY GIANT
His biography on trojanrecords.com notes that by 1964 Reid was firmly established as one of the giants of the rapidly Jamaican recording industry, with his work, mostly released on his new Treasure Isle label, considered one of the best products at the time ska. The Skatalites, a nine-piece instrumental group that included the cream of Jamaican session musicians, provided musical accompaniment to most of his productions throughout this period. For 18 glorious months, this supergroup dominated the Jamaican music scene, performing on countless sessions for a top producer, with Reid among their most regular employers. As well as supporting artists such as Justin Hinds & The Dominoes, Stranger Cole, Eric ‘Monty’ Morris and Owen and Leon Silveras, the band has also recorded a plethora of great instrumental sides under a variety of aliases.
Elsewhere it is stated that when rocksteady’s popularity waned in the late 1960s, Reid briefly enjoyed success with U-Roy, with such hits as Wake up the city, Do you wear to the ball, Everybody’s yelling and Version galore. However, in 1973 his popularity began to decline due to his refusal to record the lyrics to ‘Rasta’ in an environment increasingly dominated by ‘conscious’ reggae music.
In the mid-1970s, a trip to London to see a doctor confirmed he had cancer. On September 26, 1976, Duke Reid died at St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston. He was 61 years old.
Reid was posthumously awarded the Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music. His nephew, respected studio engineer Errol Brown, accepted the award.