The first commercial record produced and sold in Jamaica


DAN WILLIAMS AND HIS ORCHESTRA – VOCAL LORD FLY    MEDLEY OF JAMAICAN MENTO –  MRS    SSS.2033X / 01A

Much dispute arises from the question ‘who was the first producer of Jamaican music on the Island’ but it is now fairly certain that the first commercially available recording to be created by Jamaicans in Jamaica and then to be made available for purchase on the Island was DAN WILLIAMS AND HIS ORCHESTRA – VOCAL LORD FLY    MEDLEY OF JAMAICAN MENTO – FAN ME SOLJA MAN FAN ME, ONE SOLJA MAN, YUH NO YEARY    MRS    SSS.2033X / 01A, this disc was originally released in December of 1950, though discographies record a later date of 1952. (source – ‘Calling all Singers, Musicians and Speechmakers’ 2010 – copyright Daniel T Neely).

Stanley Motta the producer had recorded the songs and then had the records pressed in the UK, possibly by Decca or a Decca subsidiary, records of exactly who manufactured them are unfortunately not forthcoming. Lord Fly the vocalist was known as an upmarket band leader and the songs and the sophisticated arrangements are those favoured by tourists visiting the Island and staying at any one of many luxury hotels there. Motta’s productions are generally recognised as sounding more upmarket, sophisticated and aimed at the visiting tourist than the rougher edged Mento productions of Ivan Chin, or in some cases Kalypso’s Ken Khouri. Khouri, who may have been the first to record on the Island, but not the first to release a commercial recording later developed Federal Records which went on to become the ‘One Stop Shop’ for the Jamaican music industry, offering as it did both as Federal and Dynamic, mastering and pressing facilities as well as recording studios and it’s own productions.

Motta also holds the honour of being the first to licence a recording produced in Jamaica for release in the UK on a UK label, namely Melodisc’s release of The Ticklers ‘Glamour Gal’.

(Thanks to Dan Neely for his help getting the details right!)

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14 thoughts on “The first commercial record produced and sold in Jamaica”

  1. I think your wrong…. the first is apparently by the same artist on the same label, which is Lord Fly’s “Whai Ay” recorded at Stanley Motta’s in the 1940s not the 1950’s.
    I think this is confirmed by Chang and Chen in Reggae Routes.

  2. Hi Pete, ‘Whai Whai Whai’ is the B side of this record. Though I don’t mention that above.

    Dan Neely who was kind enough to help me with this article is probably the world’s foremost authority on Mento and it’s history and has extensively trawled archives in Jamaica, both library and newspaper and has a solid date for the record’s release as an advertisement in the Gleaner newspaper of December 1950.

    It’s quite possible that it was ‘recorded’ in the very late 40s if it was released in Dec of 1950, as of course the acetates would have had to go off to the UK before returning pressed up for sale in Dec of ’50. But it is very certain that it did not see release until the year 1950.

    My research is based in this is based on previously gleaned knowledge via word of mouth and the excellent article reffered to above – ‘Calling all Singers, Musicians and Speechmakers’ 2010 – copyright Daniel T Neely).

    Hope that helps.

  3. thanks for the reply, so it’s the same record then. My info came from a very interesting article i read today which apparently was taken from Caribbean Quarterly Vol. 53. No.4 December 2007, Pioneering Icons of Jamaican Popular Music, and i beleive the quote was from Reggae Routes.
    Check this article for a great read on the part jukeboxes played in the growth of the early JA music, u will also see where i got my info:
    http://dennishoward.blogspot.com/2009/10/punching-for-recognition-jukebox-as-key.html
    thnx for the reply…..

  4. Any idea who Dan Williams Orchestra was? sounds a little english to me! would be curious to know who Dan Williams was, like was he a foreign musician travelling through JA and got Lord Fly to be on his record, or was Dan Williams a Jamaican?
    So does this also mean that Stanley Motta was the first record distributor in JA? they do car rentals in Kingston now right.. guess it’s the same people.
    Any idea if Stanley Motta owned a record pressing plant then, the first JA pressing plant??
    Interesting stuff…
    I always get Lord Fly and Lord Flea mixed up, i know lord flea was making music in the 1930’s. Do you have any idea when the first Jamaican artists appeared on a record playing Jamaican music? I guess there must have been records pressed outside of JA before the stabley motta one, any idea??

    1. Hi Pete, Dan Williams was a more uptown band leader, Jamaican I think. Motta may not have been the first distributor, but he was the first to release a commercial record, though, NOT the first to record in Jamaica, supposeldly that honour goes to Khouri, later to be Kalypso, Federal and then Dynamic studios and records. Motta definately did not own a pressing plant or have access to one in Jamaica, he sent all his stuff to the UK for pressing. Khouri though was a different matter and his company became the one stop shop for recording, mastering, stamper creation and production of the finished article. I think Fly is the older and earlie artist of Fly and Flea. I’m not so sure Flae was recording in the 30s, he may have been around, but his earliest recordings I think are those he did for the Times Record Store label that was basically Khouri doing the honours (pre his own pressing plant). These are from the 50s and I have a few.

      There are rumours from Ernest Ranglin that the earliest Jamaican artistes were recorded in New York USA in the 20s-30s, and some think it likely that Cuba may have played host to early sessions, though nothing has been found to prove this. There is an artist who was resident in New York who recorded Jamaican songs very early on indeed, Sam Manning.

  5. Thnx 4 all the replies, your right about lord flea, sorry my mistake i was getting the dates of a film he was in mixed up with another film which made me think he was around in the 1930’s. I’m no expert when it comes to mento just very interested…

    There was an original copy of the first skatalites records(1952) on ebay the other day(stanley motta label i think), or maybe not them as a band but one of the band members, i forget the title of it now but it’s been much debated over the years and i was amazed to actually see a copy onsale, i got outbid at about £12!! i think it went for £15 i only wish i had bid more now…

    Great blog u got here…keep up the good worx

  6. I own a copy of this record as well as the subsequent MRS release, also by Dan Williams & Lord Fly.

    I find it interesting to note that the second release would appear to have been recorded first. The matrix numbers are as follows;
    MRS 01A = SSS.2033X
    MRS 01B = SSS.2034X
    MRS 02A = SSS.2031X
    MRS 02B = SSS.2032X

    I would think that they recorded and cut the acetates in the order of these matrix numbers, not the catalog numbers.They sure sound like they were all recorded in one session.

    Doesn’t change the fact that MRS 01 was the first commercially sold Jamaican recording. I just thought it was interesting. Personally, I think 02A is the better side and I could see Stanley deliberately doing this (wanted to come even better with the follow up release).

    Also of interest. I have multiple copies of these with different labels. The older looking labels do not have the “serial” (matrix) numbers printed on them vs. the newer looking labels (like the one shown in your picture above) and were definitely not pressed from the same plates. I’m sure that these newer looking ones were pressed by Melodisc or whoever does their pressings. I have several Melodisc 78s from the same timeframe and they have the identical (capitol) letter I (or sideways H) that can be seen raised under the labels. There’s absolutely no doubt these were made by the same plant or at least the same cutting engineer. I wonder if these were subsequent pressings (reorders)… “Kitch” which came out in 1952 is like this, as is “Tomato” by Marie Bryant on the Lyragon label which was made by the same plant/engineer in 1953. Maybe the original pressings (if that’s what they are) were made by Parlophone???

  7. Just in reply to what you said Mikey
    “There are rumours from Ernest Ranglin that the earliest Jamaican artistes were recorded in New York USA in the 20s-30s, ”
    There is a new film made recently called “Red, White+Blue”(i think) which covers the story of the early Jamaican “Jazzers” the director called them when i spoke to him, but he explained that the film covered the subject of the early Jamaican orchestra musicians of the 1920’s+30’s so this film may well have some interesting info…. will likely get released in 2012…..hope so anyway..

  8. My late husband Winston Grennan said that “Baba” Motta was the first studio. He had what WG thought was a little 2 track. Somewhere in the archive he even gives the address, as that was the first place he recorded, before Federal and Khouri.

    1. Ellie, how wonderful to have you on here,.. thank you. I have tunes with your late husband on, and frankly speaking readers Winston Grennan was one of the absolute key progenitors paticularly of the Rocksteady beat, developing the whole one drop sound along the way, truly one of THE foundation artistes of Jamaican music.
      As far as I can assertain though Ellie Baba Motta never had his own recording studio but DID record at Stanley Motta’s recording studio, MRS, where the first Jamaican produced and released record was recorded. This early studio would at it’s height have been two track, probably straight to mono acetate disc early on! I think it’s likely, though I can’t be certain that Winston was probably talking about this studio, Motta’s Recording Studio as it was known MRS.
      This would tie in because MRS, Motta’s studio is regarded as the first studio to release an all Jamaican recording, as opposed to Khouri’s where most believe him to be the first recording facility Island wide, that recorded o begin with self produced novelty recordings, generally by individuals, by themselves.
      Thanks so much for leaving your note, and all the best to you and yours..

      1. Thanks for the warm reply. Yes Winston’s musical legacy is truly amazing.
        Same for folks like Lynn Taitt, Jackie Jackson, so many bredren.. I will try and find the interview where he talks about Baba Motta. It may not have been a formal studio, I know he mentions the street/address in more than one interview.
        I actually assembled a proposal to make a documentary when I lived in Kingston for ten years after his passing, but could not secure the funding needed. Sadly now, many of the hundreds of people who offered interviews are now gone. There’s so much of this story yet to tell, and its not getting any easier with so much second and third hand info out there.

        One love my brother (and readers). I’ll touch back in when I find that info…

      2. there are a few amongst us out here in the wider electronic world who are very aware of Winston and his very large contribution, if not near invention of the Rocksteady beat!

      3. Funny, most people don;t know that about Rock Steady, though Winston’s dear friend Lynn Taitt does get credited oftent for actually notching down ska as he/they did. The two worked together at numerous studios. Most also do not know that WG played on some of the later Skatalites albums. A tuned ear can tell the very clear difference between Winston Grennan and Lloyd Knibbs. Lloyd had gone to work on a cruise ship toward the end of Skatalites time, and WG was called in… Thankfully more folks and the “history” are starting to reflect WG’s invention of the One Drop, the foundation for reggae. And little do most folks know that in the beginning, all but three producers resisted the further slowing of the beat from rocksteady to one drop. WG credits Bunny Lee, Lloyd Chalmers, and Winston Riley as the only three producers that gave rein to allow this new, slower beat. Of course once there were hits from it starting to chart on the island, everyone and their brother copied it. “Is just how it go” in Jamaica. One love~E

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