This year marks the 5oth anniversary of Randy’s, one of Kingston, Jamaica’s most acclaimed studios. As a celebration, VP Records has compiled a double disc of cuts spanning the years of 1960-1976. Even more important than the vibes is the documentary they put together featuring interviews with family and friends of the owner, Vincent “Randy” Chin.
Vincent was a giant of the Jamaican record industry and one of the first to issue locally recorded music in Jamaica, he founded the VP label and distribution company, currently one of the largest publishers of Jamaican music in the entire world.
Vincent was born in Kingston, the son of a carpenter who left mainland China in the 1920s and settled in Jamaica after a brief stay in Cuba. As a teenager in the early 1950s, Vincent oversaw the stocking and maintenance of jukeboxes in the island’s bars for Isaac Issa, a prominent Syrian-Jamaican businessman.
Vincent was then living with his own growing family in the east Kingston district of Vineyard Town. With the discarded stock of American rhythm and blues 45s cleared from the jukeboxes, he opened Randy’s Records in 1958 on the corner of East and Tower streets in downtown Kingston. The name was inspired by a Nashville, Tennessee record store that sponsored a late night R&B radio show that made it over the airwaves to Kingston.
By the end of the decade, Vincent began recording and issuing local variants of R&B with artists like Bunny and Skitter, Alton Ellis and Eddie Perkins, and Basil Gabbidon. Songs had been recorded in Jamaica at least since 1954, but most had been mento and calypso aimed at tourists and the overseas novelty market, Vincent was pioneering local taste and talent.
His greatest early success came with ska sides cut with calypso singer Lord Creator. The first single issued on Chris Blackwell’s Island label was Creator’s Independent Jamaica (1962), produced by Vincent. Other strong work was cut in the early 1960s with Toots and the Maytals and the Skatalites, the premier exponents of the ska form.
In 1962, Chin moved to 17 North Parade, a former ice cream parlour facing Victoria Park in the heart of the city. There Chin and his wife Patricia constructed a four-track studio above their larger records shop. A magnate for reggae, it was fully functional from late 1968, by which time the Chin family had moved to the relative tranquillity of Jack’s Hill on Kingston’s northern outskirts.
In the early 1970s, as the new reggae style solidified, Randy’s studio emerged as the facility of choice for Jamaica’s producers. Lee Perry cut dozens of tracks with Bob Marley and the Wailers at Randy’s in 1970-71, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown were regular visitors. After the studio was upgraded to 16 tracks, Augustus Pablo was brought there by Vincent’s eldest son Clive to record his acclaimed This Is Augustus Pablo debut album (1973). Randy’s marked the beginning of Augustus’ unmistakable sound. The Chin family was also responsible for the dissemination of reggae in New York from 1969 through branches of Randy’s established in conjunction with Vincent’s brothers Victor and Keith.
As the 1970s progressed, the Chin family developed pressing facilities and expanded into distribution, and Randy’s thus remained one of the most important centres of record production. In 1979 Vincent and Patricia moved to New York to open the VP records shop in the borough of Queens. Randy’s studio has not been operational since then, but their record shop at 17 North Parade remained open and under their control to the end of the 1990s. With their children Chris, Randy Junior and Angela, Vincent and Patricia Chin developed VP into the US’s biggest reggae label and was officially launched in 1993 and now controls over 15,000 titles.