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JAMAICA'S RECORDING INDUSTRY- The Early Years.


Recording industry
Coxsone Dodd in his recording studio


It was the competition led growth among the raft of Sound Systems that ultimately opened up the interest in Jamaica's Recording Industry material in Jamaica and the development of the industry. According to David Katz (Solid Foundation- An Oral History of Reggae) the earliest recordings were done on direct-to-disc as a novelty venture and as early as July 1947 Jamaicans were being encouraged to record their voices or instruments at 76 West Street for a small fee. In August of the same year the public was invited to a special Gala at The Glass Bucket to record their songs backed by the club's resident Orchestra.


Jamaican businessmen and their influence on the music


The event identified one Byfield Norman Thomas a.k.a Lord Flea with his Mento rhythims. The success of this event led to The Gleaner newspaper leading a campaign for the commercial development of recording on the island. Spurred by this interest, in 1951 Jamaican businessmen (mainly of Middle-Eastern descent) took up the challenge and invested their monies in setting up recording operations. Two of the early pioneers were Ken Khouri and Stanley Motta who recorded and released the first 78 RPM discs circa 1951. Motta had recorded Rupert Linley Lyon a.k.a Lord Fly while Khouri recorded Byfield Norman Thomas a.k.a Lord Flea.

Rupert Lyon (Lord Fly) was born in Lucea, Jamaica in 1905 and loved music from an early age. He came to prominence in the war years of the 1940s playing his saxophone for the USO troops stationed in Sandy Gully (Clarendon) and at Goat Island. In 1948 he was dubbed Lord Fly by the manager of The Colony Club in Cross Roads where he played a wily variant of Trinidadian Calypso backed by the Dan Williams Orchestra. Flea was born in Kingston, Jamaica and began his career in entertainment at local dancehalls like the 'Adastra Gardens' and 'Success Club'. In 1949, he earned himself a year-long engagement after he had performed in the talent competitions held at the Sugar Hill Club.

Early singles featuring Flea's vocal performances were attributed to 'The Blue Mountain Caroleers' or 'The Jamaican Calypsonians. Ken Khouri and Stanley Motta both consolidated as leading producers of recorded material throughout the early to late 1950s, supplying the sound systems operators with one-off sides. This was started by Khouri circa 1956/57 when he recorded the first Trojan and Hi Lite 78 RPM for Duke Reid's Trojan Sound featuring Lord Power with a tune called Penny Reel.

Thus were opened the gates for exclusive recording and the birth of the recording of local talent. More anon.

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