Clement “Coxsone” Dodd was Studio One’s Visionary
Clement “Coxsone” Dodd was known for releasing some of the seminal recordings in Jamaican music history at the recording studio he founded, called Studio One. Early on he grew up paying Motown hits in his mother’s grocery store. While he was from Jamaica he and many of his friends spent time in Florida picking crops. Where they learned of the American Jukeboxes and American radio Disc Jockeys. They would bring home the latest Motown hits and popular music of the time on records.
He eventually assembled a large collection and would play his collection and began to play local parties. Over time musical tastes in Jamaica evolved and transitioned from Rhythm and Blues, slow ballads mixed with Calypso and Mento, Ska, emerged as the Jamaican version of R&B.
The Downbeat Soundsystem Innovated With The Toast
Coxsone began traveling to the US where he was introduced to modern American DJ parties and this set up the basis for Coxsone, and his answer to this for Jamaican audiences was the Downbeat Soundsystem.
The original dancehall was the Downbeat Soundsystem and it simply consisted of a DJ playing the records, a turntable, and large amplified speakers. Coxsone would use the records that he brought home with him from the United States, eventually was able to have Rhythm and Blues records imported from Miami and New Orleans the United States. Coxsone’s Downbeat Soundsystem grew popular and defined the Jamaican tradition of DJ’s “playing the records and toasting in-between the discs.” As the Kingston dancehall scene grew it quickly elevated Downbeat Soundsystem and Coxsone’s status as a musical tastemaker. Coxsone’s two biggest DJ’s were Count Machuki and King Stitt, who became well known throughout Jamaica through this scene.
“So then I decided to make some local recordings of my own for the sound system. When I started, I didn’t realize it could be a commercial business to the extent I’d sell my own records. So after the first three or four sessions, the feedback was really good because the people started dancing. That was the Ska era; we did a lot of instrumentals like “Shuffling Jug” and “Easy Snapping” said Chris Wilson
Early on he began releasing records on many different labels, all of which he owned himself (i.e., Coxsone, Port O Jam, and Rolando and Powie). The one thing that Coxsone was missing at this time was his own studio where he could record the artists and then release the early ska songs himself. In 1962, Jamaica received its independence from Great Britain and everything changed for the better.
While Clement “Coxsone” Dodd launched Studio One in 1954, on Brentford Road (Renamed to Studio One Blvd) in Kingston it became one of the most important studios where his records were cut in the 60’s. It’s earliest records were songs like “Easy Snappin” by Theophilus Beckford, backed by Clue J & His Blues Blasters, and “This Man is Back” by trombonist Don Drummond. Dodd in the end recorded a long discography of music on a group of other labels, including World Disc, and had run Sir Coxsone the Downbeat, one of the largest and most reputable sound systems in the ghettos of Kingston.
When people think of some of the biggest names in the history of Reggae music, each one has one thing in common: they all got their start at the legendary Studio One Record label. Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailer (The Wailers), The Skatalites, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Toots and the Maytals, Burning Spear, The Heptones, and many, many more all started their long careers at Studio One, under Sir Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the owner and the man who started it all. Some would argue “on a wider scale, it is also the story of Reggae itself, as Studio One was the pioneer of many developments of Reggae music, from Ska to Roots, from Dub to DJ.” (Studio One Story: Booklet -Jamaica: Soul Jazz Records, 2003)
Studio One was at the forefront of every aspect in the history of Jamaican music which we now call Reggae. With every transformation of music in Jamaica, from the early Ska days to the more recent dancehall and DJ days of the present, Studio One was the leading innovator in each new style of Reggae music. There was no way around Coxsone Dodd, as he was always on top of the music industry in Jamaica.
Studio One is referred to being the “Motown of Reggae,” and just like the Detroit Motown, the Jamaican Studio One had the same impact on music in Jamaica as Motown did in the United States. “As Studio One started to produce major international artists on a regular basis it was not long before it was referred to as the University of Reggae and, indeed, the foundation label of all Reggae Music.”
Studio One was one of the most influential record labels to have been created in Jamaica since it was innovating and representing artists in most aspects of Reggae music history in Jamaica. It was there from the beginning in the late 1950s, and it is still in business today. Reggae music today would not be the same if it wasn’t for Studio One and Coxsone Dodd. This music culture permeated every aspect of Jamaican music culture spawning recording studios and artists for years to come.
“Apart from having the highest number of music recording studios per capita in the world, Kingston offers a unique sound system culture and…live music events.” citiesofmusic.net
Graham Reid, “JAMAICA’S STUDIO ONE AND CLEMENT DODD: The focal point of reggae,” Elsewhere 22 July 2009, 18 Nov. 2009