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Observer senior writer


IN 2004, British singer Bitty McLean released an album titled On Bond Street KGN JA. It was a tribute to the location of Treasure Isle Records, owned by Arthur “Duke” Reid.

McLean had two massive hit songs in Jamaica from that album: Walk Away From Love and Gonna Make it With You, which were done to classic Treasure Isle beats.

Duke Reid sound system

Duke Reid sound system

Like his arch-rival from the rocksteady era, Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid made an impact on the music business that transcended production. As the 1972 movie The Harder They Come revealed, how successful you were in Jamaican music in the 1960s largely depended on your status in society. Or one’s color.

Born in Portland, Reid was a former policeman who came into the music business through his Trojan sound system. With the advent of ska in the early 1960s, he was a successful producer and owner of a thriving liquor store on Bond Street.

His ska hits included Eastern Standard Time by The Skatalites and Carry Go Bring Come by Justin Hinds and The Dominoes. When the sound changed mid-decade to rocksteady, Treasure Isle went toe to toe with Dodd’s Studio One.

According to Jackie Jackson, bass player in Reid’s house band The Supersonics, the studios were “involved in a Cold War”.

In terms of rocksteady, Treasure Isle was just that. The flood of hits included On The Beach and Wear You To The Ball By The Paragons; Travelling Man and I Wish It Would Rain, (The Techniques); Little Nut Tree and Come On Little Girl (The Melodians); Girl I’ve Got A Date and Get Ready (Alton Ellis); and Perfidia and One Life To Live by Phyllis Dillon.

Reid’s output slowed considerably as reggae dominated in the 1970s. But some of his rhythms got new life through hit covers by the hot Channel One studio.

He died from cancer at age 59 in January 1975.

A new generation of fans discovered Reid and Treasure Isle during the 1990s, thanks to a bold reissue series by American independent company Heartbeat Records. A rocksteady revival that decade also brought renewed interest.

For his contribution to the development of Jamaican music, Arthur “Duke” Reid was awarded the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government in 200



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