Annotation for Treasure Isle Ska Rarities, a 2017 release by Trojan Records.

The 7” Vinyl Box Set – TJBOX003

10 – 7” 45’s – Released October 27, 2017

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Single 1: Practice What You Preach – Owen & Leon Silvera & The Skatalites/I’m All Alone [AKA No Family] – Frank Cosmo & The Baba Brooks Band – Treasure Isle 7” (Yellow label, black print.)
Single 2: Love Me Or Leave Me – Owen & Leon Silvera & The Baba Brooks Band/Sing Ting Bury Yuh – Duke Reid & The Baba Brooks Band – Dutchess 7” (Blue label, silver print.)
Single 3: Thinking Of The Future – Stranger Cole & The Baba Brooks Band/Use Your Head – Duke Reid & The Baba Brooks Band – Treasure Isle 7” (Red label, silver print.)
Single 4: What A Bailing – Unknown Artist & The Baba Brooks Band/You Wish Me Bad – The Spanishtonians & The Baba Brooks Band – Dutchess 7” (Orange label, black print.)
Single 5: Always Remember Me – Stranger Cole & The Baba Brooks Band/Want Me Cock – Owen & Leon Silvera – Treasure Isle 7” (White label, black print.)
Single 6: Oh Misery – Unknown Artist & The Baba Brooks Band/Fooling Around – Unknown Artist & The Baba Brooks Band – Dutchess 7” (Black label, silver print.)
Single 7: Smokey Ska – The Baba Brooks Band/Renegade – The Zodiacs – Treasure Isle 7” (Yellow label, black print.)
Single 8: ’Til My Dying Day – Winston Riley & Slim Smith & The Baba Brooks Band/Road To Nowhere AKA Western Flyer – The Baba Brooks Band featuring Ernest Ranglin – Dutchess 7” (Yellow label, black print.)
Single 9: True Confession – The Silvertones & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics/(How) Know Your Friend – Derrick Morgan & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics – Treasure Isle 7” (Red label, silver print.)
Single 10: The Army Is Searching – Basil Caral & Group & Tommy McCook & The Supersonics/Storm Warning – Lynn Taitt & The Boys – Treasure Isle 7” (White label, black print.)

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On this sumptuous box set, comprising 20 Ska tracks from the golden age of the genre, you will hear a variety of recordings from some of Jamaica’s leading acts. Some of the material may be familiar to slightly different versions, but many of these pieces will be unfamiliar to even the most diehard of collectors. 

Arthur Stanley ‘Duke Reid’ was born to Catherine Pearce on May 14, 1923 in Fair Prospect, situated in the Parish of Portland. Following a 10 year stint in the police force, he worked with his wife, Lucille, who was the proprietor of Pink’s Grocery, located at 81 Beeston Street, on the corner with Pink Lane. That’s where Reid began to play music to attract customers, a ploy that proved so popular that by the late 1940s he had launched his own sound system, performing at parties and social functions in the area.

According to his widow Lucille, “other sets that got their start around the same time and became Duke’s first competition were Count Nick The Champ, Lord Koos The Universe, Tom The Great Sebastian and V Rocket. Later on it was Count Bells The President and Coxson’s Down Beat.” [1]

Reid’s Sound System was crowned “King of Sounds and Blues” by popular acclaim in Kingston at the Success Club in 1956, at Forresters Hall in 1957 and again at the Success Club in 1958. On that occasion, the press recorded how the Duke and his Dutchess, Lucille, were feted as musical royalty. Photos from those occasions adorn the back of the Greatest Jamaican Beat LP, released on the Treasure Isle label in 1967.

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After establishing his Reid’s Sound System as the ruler in Kingston, he and his wife purchased a property on Bond Street at which they established the Treasure Isle Liquor Store. Their new enterprise went hand-in-hand with the sound system business. As a champion soundman, Reid frequently advertised in the programmes of 1950s concerts, such as the 1957 Big Band All Stars show at the Carib Theatre, in which his ad stated:

“For the Best in Sound and Liquors see-REID’S SOUND SYSTEM and liquor store. For Clubs, bars, parties and home. phone 5629, 33 Bond Street, A. S. Reid prop.”

In 1961, the Mayor of Kingston put a crown on Reid’s head for what was described as his sixth crowning. The photo caption declared;

“‘Duke the Trojan’ Proprietor of REID’S SOUND SYSTEM & LIQUOR STORE of 33 Bond Street, was crowned King of SOUND and PROGRESSIVE JAZZ for the 6th consecutive time at a Dance held in Honour of Her Worship The Mayor, Mrs. Iris King, at Shepherd’s Hall, 68 Hanover Street on Saturday night, July 18.

Mrs. King expressed her appreciation and admiration of Duke Reid whom she said she had known a very long time as a hardworking, conscientious and honest businessman, and deserved the success he has achieved.” [2]

His run of success throughout this period was largely due to Reid’s position as a store owner, which allowed him the opportunity to travel abroad at will to pick up new, and often exclusive, material, while also financing good equipment and technicians to work on his set.

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There was also a large, and sometimes rough-edged crowd who were dedicated followers of The Trojan. People like “Cuttins,” Reid’s right-hand man and elder brother to singer Wilburn “Stranger” Cole. When Reid stopped working as a selector for his #1 set, “Cuttins” was designated to take over and manage it. At its peak, Reid’s Sound System boasted six sets according to widow Lucille:

“Four played in town and two in the country. Three sets were named Duke Reid’s, while the other three were named Trojan, Treasure Isle and House Of Joy. The other operators were Shorty, Buru and Sonny.” [3]

From 1959 through 1961, Reid began to change his focus from the sound system business to the production of records. Drummer Aston “Wackie” Henry recalled the early Duke Reid sessions at Federal Records Studio:

“When records did first start make in Jamaica, Duke had his first sessions and our pay as musicians was 5 shillings a side. It wasn’t Ska then, was R & B, Jamaican R & B. Myself and Drumbago were Duke and Coxson’s first drummers. Duke was mainly running the liquor store still at that time, this early, early. I never played with Lyn Taitt. I leave the scene just as he came on.

By 1962, ’round them time, I started playing at the Runaway Bay Hotel. I played with Cecil Lloyd’s band there and that took me off the recording scene.” [4]

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It was at this time that for some reason Reid was declared bankrupt, as confirmed by his widow, Lucille, some years later:

“It was in the early sixties, about ’62 that Duke went into bankruptcy and I did back him up. From then, it was all in my name.” [5]

Her remarks prompted drummer Lloyd Knibb to exclaim:

“I remember when Duke did go bankrupt. He come amongst the musicians and singers and ask if we can help him out with a free session. He get Brevett and I for that session and that’s when Stranger Cole cut ‘Rough and Tough.’ That session have a couple hits that help put Duke right back in business.”

It should be noted that Reid’s bankruptcy may well have been caused in part by a great deal of material that he produced early in 1962 not seeing issue at the time, due to tapes he shipped to England being misplaced. Some of the material from these masters was finally released by Trojan on the 2003 CD, Nuclear Weapon.

Reid’s bankruptcy reportedly occurred during the last quarter of 1962, although there are a few threads that point to 1963. Most notably comments by the producers’s biggest rival, Clement Dodd.

“Anyway, I did sessions for other producers as well. After Duke went bankrupt I did about four session for him. I don’t know, maybe he got shy and didn’t want the Khouri’s to see him. I did ‘When I Call Your Name,’ ‘Rough and Tough,’ quite a few others. I even bought some boxes from his sound.” [6]

As Dodd’s comments indicate, and confirmed by other accounts, the bankruptcy was the end of Reid’s Sound Systems, or most of them. Sessions that Dodd did for Reid at Studio 1 would’ve been from the fall of 1963, when the studio opened.

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Another thread pointing toward 1963 is the presence of guitarist Lynn Taitt.
Bandleader and Duke Reid’s paymaster Baba Brooks organized the “free session,” and saw to it that Lloyd Knibb carried the guitar player that just cut “Shenk I Sheck” for George “King” Edwards with him. Or at least that’s how Knibb recalled it.

Guitarist extraordinaire Nearlin “Lynn” Taitt was a Trinidadian who arrived in Jamaica in August, 1963 as part of the touring Cyril Diaz Orchestra. Taitt hit the Jamaican recording scene like a bomb, swiftly becoming a red hot commodity to producers. Taitt started in the Shieks band, which included Jackie Mittoo and Lloyd Knibb and he stayed on when the band metamorphosized into the Cavaliers Orchestra in November, 1963. After their breakup, Taitt formed The Comets in 1965.

The Comets started as a successful live act, and following in the footsteps of the Skatalites, often recorded as a unit. In 1965, The Comets headlined the State Theatre Christmas show, but despite such billings, demand for Taitt in the studio meant that the band suffered and was wound up in 1966.

Taitt enjoyed his status as a session savant and appreciated being the go-to guitarist, as he later recalled:

“Duke Reid treated me very well I think, he used to send a guy on a bicycle to tell me about sessions. The first ones for Duke were always with Baba Brooks. He’d usually have his sessions at Federal on Sundays, from about 1 until about 7 or 8:00 p. m. in the evening, sometimes later. The sessions would usually be 5 or 6 or so tunes and no rehearsals, we never rehearse, we’d just run it down once and then red light!” [laughing]

Taitt continued, “whoever would have a tune would get the credit and more money. Usually Baba Brooks led the session, so a tune would be by his group unless if it was my tune, like ‘Magnificent’. If its Drumbago’s All Stars, that means it was Drumbago’s tune and so forth. So yes, ‘Magnificent Ska’ is my tune done with Baba Brooks, Drumbago, Lloyd Spence, Sammy Ismay and Gladdy. I would say that ‘Storm Warning’ should be by Lyn Taitt and The Comets. That’s Ron Wilson on trombone, and there’s no sax.

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Like I said, Duke always treat me well and he used myself and most of the Skatalites, but not Mittoo. Duke used Gladdy all the time, and Baba Brooks. He also used Lloyd Spence, who lives near Ottawa, Canada now. Lloyd Spence was the first Jamaican bassist to have an electric bass after Byron Lee. Spence played on a lot of Ska. When I played for Dodd he also always used Spence or Brevett. Treasure Isle was a nice studio with a great sound. Everyone thought it was from the wood. Duke’s liquor store was on the first floor, and I remember when they finished building the studio on top of the liquor store.” [7]

The first session that Taitt played for Reid, “the free session,” yielded hits such as “When You Call My Name” by Stranger Cole and Patsy Todd and “Rough & Tough” by Cole. They both reached #1 on the Jamaican charts, vaulting Reid back to the top.

All the great Ska musicians are on these 20 recordings. From my best man, drummer Lloyd Knibb, who kicks off “Practice What You Teach” by Owen & Leon Silvera, at a torrid pace, through the brass section inclusive of Baba Brooks, Tommy McCook, Lester Sterling and Don Drummond, to the top guitarists, Ernest Ranglin and Lynn Taitt. Among favorite solos is Lester Sterling’s first on “Practice,” where he seemingly plays a scale during his alto sax expose. I had the pleasure of playing it for him. He was intrigued by the trombone solo but wouldn’t go on record that it was Don Drummond without additional listens for which time did not allow.

The selections include alternate takes of a few hits, like “Renegade” by The Zodiacs, “My True Confession” by The Silvertones and “Smokey Ska” by The Baba Brooks Band, which was released as “Smoking Ska,” although the former title was written in the Federal Log Book when it was mastered on July 20, 1965.
Also included is quite a passel of previously unissued material, such as “What A Bailing” (AKA “Ninety One”), “The Army Is Searching,” and producer’s own, “Use Your Head.”

What makes this set special is that despite these recordings being amid the hurricane of Jamaican Ska music cut and issued between 1964 and 1966, the quality of the music is of the highest standard, as one would expect from Duke Reid, the King of Sounds and Blues!

Brian Keyo, Worcester Massachusetts, June 11, 2017

References;

1 – Lucille Reid interviewed by the author, November 14, 1998.
2 – Caption of photo of Kingston Mayor Iris King affixing crown to head of Reid at July   18, 1961 concert. Vintage Boss, page 24, November 2002 issue.
3 – Lucille Reid interviewed by the author, November 14, 1998.
4 – Aston Henry interviewed by the author, September 26, 1998.
5 – Lucille Reid interviewed by the author, November 14, 1998.
6 – Page 3, annotation to The Maytals CD, Never Grow Old, Heartbeat 143, 1997.
7 – Lynn Taitt interviewed by the author, August 1997.

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