Arthur "Duke" Reid
Pioneering Jamaican producer and founder of the 'Trojan' sound system and label Trojan (inspiring the creation of Trojan Records in the UK where Duke Records (2) and the Duke (2) label were initially created to release his output), Duke Reid successfully recorded above his liquor shop at Treasure Isle Recording Studio and established Jamaican independent labels Dutchess, Duke Reid's, Treasure Isle and later Duke Reid Greatest Hits,
Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid (b.1915, Jamaica) had spent ten years as a Kingston policeman when he and his wife Lucille decided to buy The Treasure Isle Liquor Store in Kingston, Jamaica, after winning a substantial Jamaican National lottery. Wanting music to attract customers, the Duke arranged through a sponsorship deal to host his own radio show ‘Treasure Isle Time’. The people would listen to the latest American R&B tunes on 78rpm, interspersed with liquor deals going down at his store. This in time would lead to the starting of his own Sound System, where he could take his liquor to the dances via his Trojan truck. He used a large van to transport this equipment around Jamaica to dance halls and open air events. Due to the nature of the van it became known as the Trojan. With shouts of ‘Here comes the Trojan’, Duke Reid’s now named Trojan Sound System was born. It proved such a success that he was crowned King of Sound and Blues three years in a row 1956, 1957 and 1958. 1958 also saw the store which was out growing itself, move to its legendary premises, 33 Bond Street, as Treasure Isle Recording Studio
Duke Reid was a formidable character in the music business. His guns from his policing days were ever present and always on show, striking a menacing cord. The former champion marksman was notorious for his permanent armament and his 'bad men' who not only attended on his dances but also sabotaged competing sounds. It was also not unheard of for a few rounds to be let off, if the need arose. But it was his extensive knowledge of the R&B tunes,and knowing what the people liked to here that was his real strength. Like Clement "Coxsone" Dodd at Studio One he would travel to America to acquire the latest cuts. But this was proving more difficult due to America’s tastes moving on to Rock & Roll, which was not so popular in Jamaica.
His record production career began in 1959 on the "Trojan " record label, these were on 78's, such as Duke's Cookies and Chuck and Dobby "Cool School". On the Duke Reid label due to demand he issued home made recordings of the USA R & B style music. He formed his own backing band the Duke Reid Group who backed young singers like Derrick Morgan and Jiving Juniors.
1962 - 1966 was a prolific time at Treasure Isle, the Ska hits kept coming. His resident engineer Byron Smith and later Sid Bucknor’s work with artists like Stranger Cole, Techniques, Justin Hinds & The Dominoes and the great Alton Ellis & The Flames, proved a winning formula. Such was the output that the releases were spread over three labels: Duke Reid's (later Duke Reid Greatest Hits), Dutchess (a name he often used to refer to his wife), and Treasure Isle. His work with Skatalites as a group came to an end after August/September 1965. Don Drummond was arrested on New Years Eve 1965, accused of murdering his girl friend Marguerita. He died in Bellevue, a mental institution in 1969. The Skatalites last gig was a Police Dance at the Runaway Bay Hotel.
1968-1969 saw the beat slowing down and reggae was evolving into Rocksteady and again Duke had his finger on the pulse. Working with guitarist Ernest Ranglin and the great sax player Tommy McCook & The Supersonics, the hits flowed from the studio. Paragons ‘Wear you to the Ball’, Alton Ellis’s ‘Rock Steady’, Melodians ‘Last train to Expo’ and The Techniques’s, The rendition of the Curtis Mayfield classic ‘Queen Majesty’ were all big hits of the day. Getting released on Reid’s own labels and in the U.K. Trojan Records (named after his Sound System) which he created with Chris Blackwell and Lee Gopthal from Island Records. He licenced his songs through Duke Reid and Treasure Isle (UK).
The musical style would change again around 1970, but the ever resourceful Reid would apply his tunes and start a new genre, the DJ Sound. By using his classic backing tracks and interspersing the dubbed vocal along side his Sound System DJ’s rants and raves, his tunes became hits once more. The irrepressible U-Roy cut ‘Wake this Town’ a version of Alton Ellis’s ‘Girl I’ve Got a Date’, ’Rule the Nation’, rode Techniques ‘You Don’t Care’ and ‘Wear you to the Ball’ The Paragons hit of the same name, became three hits in a row in the Jamaican charts...
Duke Reid became seriously ill in 1974 and sadly passed away in early 1975. He left behind a treasure chest full of his music, even today, gems are still to be found.