• Alex Messer

[Music/Culture] Duke Reid - Rocksteady Originator (1915-1975)

The Story of Treasure Isle; liquor store and recording studio lead by reggae producer pioneer, Duke Reid, who completely reshaped the sonics and styles of reggae music for years to come with his iconic "Trojan Sound".



Arthur "Duke" Reid, was an ex-police marksman of 10 years who left his job in the force to help his wife run their liquor shop, Treasure Isle. Which in the years to come would become known as one of the most prominent recording studios in Jamaica. Releasing hits with the likes of Alton Ellis, John Holt, Tommy McCook and The Ethiopians - just to name a few. Reid ran one of the biggest sound system of the 1950's called "Duke Reid's The Trojan" and his records would go on to become a staple in the dance halls in Kingston in the 60s & early 70s and his sound went on to be known as the "Trojan Sound".


Duke Reid, 1966

Duke Reid was known all over Jamaica for his 'tough guy' exterior from his time working in the police force. People said that Reid was never been without his revolver or his shotgun and an ammunition belt - the sign of a good audition in his studio would be the sound of gun shots being fired joyfully into the air. However he clearly had an ear for beauty, his background as a DJ in the 50s consisted of playing mostly Jazz and Blues records, and he was also known for spending time with the likes of Fats Domino who greatly appreciated his work. His love of well arranged music with interesting harmonies would influence his own production of Ska and Rocksteady tunes.



Reid's more traditional approach to music meant that records coming out of his labels had a more soulful and slowed down style compared to other ska records coming out in Jamaica throughout the 60s. This is thought to be the conception of "Rocksteady" or as it was called at the time "Trojan Sound". For decades, Ska music was a clear favourite throughout Jamaica, but for a brief period from 1966, Rocksteady became the only thing to listen to, believed to be caused by an especially hot summer and a desire from the people for something different. Rocksteady's rise was thanks to Reid's commitment and passion for music, initiated by the opening of his recording studio, Treasure Isle, which put out a loads of new records from new artists under labels such as; Treasure Isle, Duke, Trojan, Dutchess and more.



By the end of the 60s Reid had firmly established himself as one of the most prolific men in the Jamaican music industry. His radio show "Treasure Isle Time" amongst others were some of the most popular shows in the country, and his sound system was undoubtably one of the most popular sound system in the country at the time. He would use these shows to showcase all of the finely produced records coming out of his recording studios.



Through the 70s Duke Reid became dissatisfied with the music industry and his speciality of sweet soul flavoured records was becoming less popular. The emergence of Roots and Dub saw a new turn in direction for Jamaican music as well as Rasta / Dread culture becoming a more widespread ideology. Reid was of a different generation to those pioneering Rasta music, and there was a resistance from him to start promoting this culture just because it was becoming popular. It was his passion for jazz & blues that allowed Rocksteady to be born, and for him to be so successful. Towards the mid 70s, his health had declined due to old age and he soon found out he had cancer. This saw a rapid decrease in the records coming from Treasure Isle. Despite his mighty strength he eventually passed away on the 1st January 1975.



However his legacy will never be forgotten. A true pioneer and his influence with forever be felt. In 2007 he was posthumously awarded Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music and culture. Watch this interview with Duke Reid's wife, discussing her husband's musical legacy.



~ Check out a collection of classic Treasure Isle Classics below ~




~ PSYCHIC GARDEN

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