It has been said that there is a kind of symbiotic relationship between the development of the music industry on the island and the sound-system movement. This can be traced back to the early 1950s when business operators in and around the city Kingston would play recorded music at the entrances to their business establishments as a means of luring patrons to enter their stores. In time other individuals saw the opportunities present in the entertainment provided by these sound systems, turning this into a business. Since then, scores of players have entered the fray, providing affordable entertainment to patrons while in many instances, serving as a testing ground for new record releases for record producers. One such operator is Earl Daley, better known as Senor Daley, owner, and operator of the Klassique Discotheque. Senor Daley is associated with what used to be the biggest weekly street dance anywhere in Jamaica- Sunday Nights at Rae Town, Kingston. This past Sunday, I along with my Co-host Garth Hendricks sat down with Senor Daley on our Sunday Scoops show for what we would then dub “Conversations with Party DJ, Senor Daley. The program was streamed live on Sunday, July 10, 2022, where we spoke with the DJ. Now in the interest of full disclosure, Senor Daley and I attended Camperdown High School, where I attended for my two-year sixth form stint in the mid-1970s. Suffice it to say that this was where I first met him before falling out of touch in the post high school years, only to reconnect in the late 1990s when he was in full flow as a DJ. He would prove quite helpful in guiding me into the record collection and general music business before I emigrated to the USA in 2008. The following is an excerpt from the program. The full conversation can be enjoyed on www.yaawdmedia.com/sunday-scoops
Garth: How did you come by the name Senor Daley?
Senor Daley: It started out in Hannah Town, Kingston, where I was playing at a session. A young lady ran up to the set and said, “play back that tune Daley.” There was a guy called ‘Sproutie’ for whom I could do no wrong. He rebuked the young lady and insisted that she either address me as Mr. Daley, or Senor Daley. That was where it started, and the name never left. Me : Senor, you attended Camperdown High School but how did you come to the decision that you wanted to play music, to the point where you would want to do this for the rest of your life?
Senor Daley: It started out at Rae Town. I had lived in Rae Town at the time and was a dancer. I was a member of a little dance group. We would practice at Miss Norma’s bar on Saturday evenings and after practicing one Saturday evening I took out a Percy Sledge album and placed it on the turntable. At the time, most homes would have these types of albums- Percy Sledge, Sam Cooke, Skeeter Davis, Drifters. Miss Norma heard the music and commented that she did not know we had these records. My response was that I just had a few records. She stated that she had a number of these albums and suggested that she would bring them over to the bar the following day for me to play. She said too that she would boil some fish tea for patrons I said to her that I did not know anything about playing or selecting music. Her response was that I should just play the tunes. That is how Rae Town started. This was also the birth of what would become the Klassique Sound System.
Me: How did you arrive at the name Klassique?
Senor Daley: We used to be dancers, remember. When we started to play the music at Rae Town we went by the name “Switch.” Some of the elders didn’t like the switch thing so Miss Norma’s son suggested that since we played “Classy” music we could go by “Klassy.” I added my little spin and so we ended up with “Klassique.”
Me: Rae Town became a significant part of the Jamaican entertainment culture. How long did it take you to get Rae Town to the point where it became a staple in Jamaican entertainment?
Senor Daley: Rae Town became the place where there was no hesitation about what to play. This was the place where “old hits” was the forte. People would come from everywhere to soak in the music as we played everything oldies.
You know what made it grow so fast? There was nothing like this happening anywhere. There were other sounds like Afrique, Soul Shack, Grotto Swing…but there was no one playing these old songs- Skeeter Davis, Blues Busters… you weren’t getting that anywhere. Plus, this was a street thing. The music was being played on the street.
Me: You were bringing people into the Rae Town community. How did the people of Rae Town respond to this community dance, how the community benefitted from the people coming in?
Senor Daley: It all comes back to economics. The people benefitted greatly. Lots of money was spent. People were tipped for parking cars, street-food sellers, lots of people, some coming in buses from the country. We would have to announce at a certain time “The bus for Westmoreland will be leaving at a certain time. Lots of people came into Jamaica specifically for the Rae Town Dance. I met Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff at Rae Town. I met the Rolling stones drummer Charlie Watts at Rae Town. He flew in on his private jet most Sundays to take in Rae Town’s Sunday Night dance. I met Carl Douglas (Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting) at Rae Town. Every local entertainer who was anybody, came to Rae Town. It was a disaster for the community when the authorities closed it down.
Me: I am told that you had a hand in the rise of the hugely successful Stone Love sound system coming to prominence.
Senor Daley: When Klassique sound system got famous, we were playing out most nights-Sundays at Rae Town, Tuesday nights at Lissant Road, Wednesday nights at Torrington Bridge, every Thursday we were at Wildman Street. Fridays and Saturdays were promotions at different venues. People now wanted to have the sound play in New York. This meant shipping the entire sound, boxes, equipment…everything. Because we were leaving, the promoters of these venues wanted to have a sound fill in until we came back. I suggested that Stone Love could fit in for us. I vouched for them and so they filled in. They never looked back after that.
Check out the website to enjoy the full discussion with master DJ Senor Daley.