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Channel 1 Sudio, Jamaica-Revolutionizing Reggae

channel one studio jamaica
Photo of Channel One Studio Jamaica

In 1972 Joseph (Jo-Jo)Hoo-Kim and his three brothers Ernest, Paul and Kenneth joined forces to establish the Channel One Recording Studio at 29 Maxfield Avenue in Kingston 11, Jamaica. According to Jo-Jo, his foray into music started about 1960, when he established a juke-box business after acquiring a number of these from A.E. Issa Company which had begun to sell out their inventory after deciding to leave that business. In the course of this he would visit the local record manufacturers and others involved in the record production business to purchase inventory for the boxes. They were keen to only purchase records that had made it into the “top 10” or those records that they were certain would make the “top 10.” In the course of time this foray into the record business would also birth the Channel One Sound System.

Birth of the Sound System

In 1966, the family purchased a larger building at 29 Maxfield Avenue and moved their existing wholesale and retail business to that location. Everything would change a few years later when Hoo-Kim’s childhood friend, singer John Holt, asked Joe-Joe to accompany him to Dynamic Sound for a recording session. Hoo-Kim was mesmerized with the sound in the studio and was immediately hooked. It was there that the idea for Channel One Studio was born. Hoo-Kim employed the Engineer Bill Garnett to help select and install the equipment at Channel One and tried to ensure that the studio had only state-of-the-art machinery, sparing no expense with the process. The studio opened as a four-track in 1972, with Sid Bucknor, cousin of Clement Dodd of Studio One, as the resident engineer, and hits began rolling out from the get-go with Bunny Lee as the first producer, the studio released the Delroy WilsonCan I Change My Mind” backed by the Soul Syndicate band. Phil Pratt also produced the Gregory IsaacsAll I have Is Love.”

Technical Difficulties

Despite its auspicious beginnings though, the studio soon encountered technical difficulties. The worrying problem with the sound resulted in an album recorded by Alton Ellis being shelved. Multiple other recording efforts had to be discarded and in time Sid Bucknor departed, allowing for the complete overhaul of the studio. Hoo-Kim’s brother Ernest became the resident engineer and Joe-Joe began producing music more regularly. Sly Dunbar who had joined the studio in 1973 strung together a team of some of the island’s best musicians to produce “The Revolutionaries” as the house band. Once the studio upgraded to sixteen tracks, Channel One became an unstoppable force and the hits literally began to fly. There was Delroy Wilson’s reggae cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘It’s A Shame’ and Horace Andy’s forlorn “Beware Of A Smiling Face”, Junior Byles’ “Fade Away” becoming an all-time Rasta anthem. Dillinger’s “CB 200” album became hot property when Island issued it overseas, but the biggest group to make their mark in 1975 was the Mighty Diamonds, whose Channel One debut “Right Time” followed by “I Need A Roof” among others, the Meditations “Woman Is Like A Shadow” and Leroy Smart’s Ballistic Affair”, unsettling the longstanding dominance of Studio One, Treasure Isle, Federal and Dynamics and casting a serious shadow over Randy’s Records. Channel One Recording Studio was also at the vanguard of the dub LP and the place in which the dancehall style first came to fruition. The influence of musicians such as Sly and Robbie joining forces, the impact of Roots Radics, the rise of Barrington Levy and Yellowman would help to concretize the reputation of the studio. Due to the innovations of Hoo-Kim, his brothers and his team, there is no overstating the role that Channel One played in the development of reggae, and indeed, cementing the popularity of Jamaica’s music across the western world.

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