The Catalysts Of Change...

By the time World War II ended, there were countless bands in Jamaica playing the dances. Such groups as Eric Deans Orchestra with Don Drummond playing trombone, along with master guitarist Ernest Ranglin, drew from the influence of American artists, among whom were Count Basie, Duke Elington, Glen Miller, and Woody Herman. In the 1950's, the big bands in America were being superseded by smaller groups with more of a merged bop/r&b sound. Jamaicans who traveled to The States were quick to pick up on this style. The sound systems of Count Smith the Blues Blaster, Sir Nick the Champ, and Tom the Great Sebastian began playing this new style.

In 1954, the first big Jazz concert was staged at Ward Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica. Traditional bands playing mento-folk-calypso were very active, and played frequently in clubs and hotels up and down the island.

By the end of the 1950's, jazz, r&b, and mento influences had merged into a new style called 'Shuffle'. The shuffle gained popularity through the works and efforts of such greats as Neville Esson, Owen Grey, the Overtakers, and The Matador Allstars.

In America at the same time, the advent of another new sound, specifically Rock n Roll, took the nation, and indeed the world, by storm. It became so popular that it was soon overwhelming the older sounds of r&b and jazz, both in radio play and in record sales...

To the American music industry this was acceptable because a new sound meant new dollars. To the Jamaican, however, the change was looked on with more than a little confusion. The new sound of Rock n Roll identified most closely with white American youth, and was not at all easy to dance to. More importantly to Jamaican music enthusiast and dancehall operator alike, the older sounds were becoming more and more difficult to find. Record stores were filled with a new flavor, and the dancehalls were finding it increasingly more difficult to acquire the music they played.

Recording studios and companies began appearing in large numbers to seek out new talent. The Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation provided much inspiration for up-and-coming young musicians through regular radio shows on which those musicians could gain exposure. At this time, two men played a critical role in the growth of the sound system in the 1950's. Their names were Duke Reid and Clement Seymore Dodd.