An Orange Street Remembrance

Clement Dodd’s Muzik City shop on Orange Street at corner with Charles Street.

Whether getting an ice cream at Beverley’s, recording at Leggo’s, visiting Muzik City or Rockers International, shooting some pool or buying records from Prince Buster, singers, musicians and music lovers have long gravitated to Orange Street in Kingston.  The “music street” moniker was earned in the early 1960s when record shops and clubs proliferated.  A listing of businesses that operated on Orange Street gives a sense of why it was known as “music street,” and what prompted Roy Shirley and a host of others to sing about it.

One of the first record retailers in Jamaica was Savoy Record Shop at 118 Orange Street.  During the 1950s they advertised “Radio Repairs and Replacements.”  I think the latter portion may be referring to the boxes rented by Jamaica Rediffusion for receiving ZQI, first station on the air in Jamaica.  In 1958, Savoy either began sharing the premises or moved the business.  As Watson G. Lyn, “sole agent for Luxor Radio,” took out a Notice in the Daily Gleaner on Wednesday, October 1, 1958 to inform his customers that, “I have removed from 111 Princess St. to 118 Orange Street.”  Lyn’s Radio Engineering sold records in addition to servicing, repairing and retailing radios.  Here are some other musical enterprises encountered on a figurative walk down Orange Street in Kingston.

A next early record retailer on Orange Street was Jack Taylor’s Hardware store.  A couple Lee Perry productions list Disco Pressers as at #23 Orange Street.  Not sure if that was correct as Mr. L. O. Pottinger’s Tip Top Record Centre and later Disc Presser’s Ltd. were at #37.  They were later Sonia Pottinger’s.

Photos of Prince Buster in his Kingston Record Shack were taken in December 1995. Copyright B. Keyo.

Olive Shaw’s Capricorn International label was at #40-42, and Seaga’s Travel Service, run by Edward’s father, was at #43. Allied Motors Ltd. sold “the best gasolene, Oils, Accessories and Tires” from #45 from the 1920s through at least the 1930s. Lyn’s Radio sold records and more from #118 before moving to #100 Orange Street, “3 doors above Parade” as they advertised, by April, 1961. In 1974, they moved to #89 Orange.  #100 was also used by Roy Shirley as well as for distribution of Leggo’s Records and the Blue Ribbon label of producer Frederick Bell. Magnet distributed records from #91.  Bunny Lee had his Agro Sounds shop, short for his band, the Aggrovators, at #101 in the mid 1970s.

Mr. Pottinger’s Tip Top Record Centre started at #103 before it moved to #37. Record Distributors Ltd. operated from #103 during the mid-1970’s. Caribbean Record Distributing and Robbie Robinson’s E & R Records both operated out of #107.   Later, Phil Pratt’s Sunshot was at #109.  After that it was the Jazz Hut retail shop during the early 1980s.  Jazz Hut later occupied #126.  Esther or Eric and Dorothy Barnett’s Deltone was at #111.  Theo Beckford later took over the Barnett’s location at #111 and renamed it Sundown Record Shop. Next was the Burke Record Centre, which was at #117.

What may have been the first music distributing company on Orange Street, Dada Tewari’s Caribbean Distributing Corporation, was at 118 Orange Street. But were they the next after Savoy? CDC Records utilized 118 Orange in the early 1960s.  Later that decade Pama Records Ltd. was hand stamped on blanks using  “118 Orange St.”  Such as on Derrick Morgan’s “Return Of Jack Slade.” But by the 1970s, George Boswell AKA Winston Holness AKA Niney the Observer operated out of #118.  Morais’ Studio of Photography occupied #121 Orange during the 1950s.  Prince Buster’s Record Shack opened at #121 after he moved around the corner from Charles Street.  He later moved down to #127 after purchasing the two story building.

Clancy Eccles shop, Clancy’s, was at #122 Orange. His father operated a tailoring shop nearby.  Trevor Douglas has owned Cash & Carry Records and Leggo Studio at #125, only the latter continues to operate.

Dudley “Manzie” Swaby’s House of Music was at #129.  That address was also home to “Roots & Boots Shoe House,” which distributed Doc Alimantado and Dennis Ferron’s “Tribute To The Duke.”  Sir JJ’s Record Shop was at #133 and “Beverley Ice Cream Parlour,” and later record shop, controlled #135A, “(Cor. North & Orange Sts.)”

In between Beverley’s and the Swaby family’s operations, #135 was the location of Inter-Continental Music, purveyors of Lloyd Campbell’s The Thing and Sounds Unlimited labels.  Lee Perry also reportedly had counter space at #135 during the 1970s.

Horace “Augustus Pablo” Swaby took over the location previously occupied by the Beverley’s ice cream parlour and record shop in the late 1970s.  Initially it was Pablo Record Ltd.  At some point during the 1980s, Pablo’s brother Garth began to run the shop and the name changed to Rockers International at #135.  The same address was also apparently the birthplace of singer Dennis Brown, in 1957.

Resuming our promenade, Coxson Dodd’s Muzik City was at #136d, phone number 23873, at Charles Street corner.  Rupie Edwards Success Record Shop later operated out of #136 1/2.  Rupie Edwards reported that the building was owned by champion cyclist Roy Edwards.

The Orange Bowl Club, which the Skatalites and other top bands played, was located at #176C.

Another entity, whose address on Orange street is difficult to ascertain, is Unity Records, a second floor location.

Lee Perry’s Upsetter Shop was on the corner of Orange and Charles Streets.  A location celebrated in song by the Leo Graham led Bleechers with their “Check Him Out.”

Songs which celebrate the musical Street;

• Earthquake – Prince Buster

• Beat Street – Lloyd Clarke [In his Vintage Boss DVD, Parapinto BoogieThe Lloyd ‘Paro’ Clarke Story, the artist explains that it was written about the first Beat Street, Maxfield Avenue. So called because of the sound system activity on that thoroughfare prior to the 1959 advent of 7″ 45 records.]

• Three Against One – Prince Buster

• Musical Fight (Trojan vs. The Prince) – Sir Lord Comic

• Return Fight [Prince vs. The Duke] – Prince Buster

• Beat Street Jump – Prince Buster All Stars

• 127 Orange Street – Prince Buster All Stars featuring Lynn Taitt

• The Big Fight – Clancy Eccles

• Taking Over Orange Street – Glen Adams

• Shaking Up Orange Street – Prince Buster

• Musical War – Roy Shirley

• The Revenge – Clancy Eccles

• Orange Street – Tommy McCook & The Supersonics

• Check Him Out – The Bleechers

• Great Musical Battle – Derrick Morgan

PLEASE FORWARD ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, CORRECTIONS, CRITICISM AND PRAISE TO bkeyo@tallawah.com

Thanks to Roberto Moore of Kingston for confirming the address of Savoy Records.  

Respect to Sandra Lyn, daughter of the founders of Lyn’s Radio Engineering, Watson G. and Joyce Lyn, for writing with additional information and five sources.  Thanks and praise!