December 9, 2009
Arthur “Duke” Reid was a former policeman who left the force, after winning the lottery, to run a liquor store with his wife Lucille. He was also the soundman behind Duke Reid’s Sound System which was the #1 soundsystem in Jamaica in the later half of the ’50s. Mighty enough to top his rival, and long-time soundsystem leader, Sir Coxsone Downbeat, in the Kingston scene. As a result of using his massive trucks to haul around his soundsystem and liquor, Duke Reid was given the moniker “The Trojan” by his fans throughout the city.
Once the advent of ska hit the island in the early ’60s, he joined the industry and started Treasure Isle Studios at 33 Bond Street above his liquor store. In the early part of the decade, he scored hit after hit, but it was in 1966 that his studio developed the sound that I’ve cherished since the day it first hit my ears. It was then that Tommy McCook joined The Trojan, after The Skatalites had disbanded, and formed the Supersonics. The studio would reign supreme in the Rocksteady era, become the first to showcase versions on the flipside of 45s from the likes of U-Roy, and their shift to the slower-pace and accessible-arrangement of Rocksteady would provide the birth of Reggae which would go on to dominate the ’70s onward.
Collected here are some of the best hits to come out of Treasure Isle. By no means comprehensive, but loaded with gems from start to finish. An excellent introduction to Duke Reid’s sound for the uninitiated and a stellar collection for those who have these tunes scattered elsewhere. Enjoy the vibes that, for me at least, will be in constant rotation on the hi-fi until the day I’m gone. Simply timeless.
“All other soundsystems haffi pack up an’ go home, for The Duke is on now!”