The history of Trojan Records began on July 28th 1967. British-based Jamaican music company, Island Records, launched a label to highlight the production of one of the leading producers in the ska and rock steady era – Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid.
The project was called ‘Trojan’ – a title owned by Reid from his early years in the music business. Unfortunately, the project did not last long, in fact only a few months. History could have played out very differently if there was not a need for another Jamaican music company. Thus, Trojan Records was born in the summer of 1968.
Probably the first hit for Trojan, was a song called ‘Red Red Wine’ by British-based singer Tony Tribe. Others quickly followed the success of this single, such as the Upsetters, the Pioneers, Jimmy Cliff, Harry J’s All Stars, Desmond Dekker, the Maytals and Bob & Marcia all flying high on British people Pop charts.
Let us also not forget the likes of Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs and a Kingston-based vocal trio known as Robert Nesta Marley & the Wailers and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry; we could add John Holt, Ken Boothe, Susan Cadogan, and Dawn Penn.
Due to monetary difficulties, the company would change hands several times over the decades; however, the history of Trojan Records, what it stood for and achieved will always remain.
It is against this backdrop that Trojan are celebrating being in music for 50 years. I eagerly arrived at the British Library on 2nd August 2018, to hear Don Lett’s conversation with Laurence Cane-Honeysett.
Donovan “Don” Letts is a British film director, DJ and musician. Letts first came to prominence as the videographer for The Clash, directing several of their music videos. In 1984, Letts co-founded the band Big Audio Dynamite with Clash guitarist Mick Jones, acting as the group’s sampler and videographer before departing the band in 1990.
Laurence Cane-Honeysett is a British musician, producer and music journalist specialising in Jamaican music. In 1990, he started working for Trojan Records and soon after joined the company on a full-time basis as its Jamaican music specialist, overseeing the label’s releases and all other aspects of its general running, a position he continues to hold.
The conversation was informative and interesting, rather than try to do a summary, I advise everyone to purchase the book, which is now on sale. You will be in possession of a piece of history.
A bonus was The Cimarons, Dave Barker of Dave and Ansell Collins, Winston Groovy (“Please don’t make me cry”) Carlton Clair from the Aces and A. J. Franklin from the Chosen Few, being invited on to the stage, to give their recollection of their involvement with Trojan Records. Special years indeed! Following the conversations, networking and taking pictures then ensued. Met some interesting people too: Anthony “Chips” Richards a man highly revered as a pioneer and promoter of all Trojan products. He was highly entertaining in our one on one conversation and I intend to talk to him again. The event was, as it should be: regardless of race or creed, all gathered to celebrate with Trojan – music crosses all barriers.
This of course is the first leg of the celebrations, there are more events planned for the rest of this year. I will keep you posted.