Brentford Road renamed for number 13
Automotives continues its series on the persons for whom some of Jamaica's many roads are named. So far, there have been the achievements of runners Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley, whose names are on roads close to the National Stadium. Today, it is music's turn with Studio One Boulevard, formerly Brentford Road, near Cross Roads.
In As It Is, the opening song on his 2000 Grammy-winning album Calling Rastafari, Burning Spear sings about his journey from St Ann to Jamaica's capital to record at the renowned recording facility. He sings, "I was travelling from St Ann to Kingston 13 Brentford Road".
While that is the address he went to in the 1960s during the earliest part of his long recording career, if that song had been recorded a few years later Burning Spear would have had the option of calling the name of the place he went to in identifying the street. For in 2004, Brentford Road was renamed Studio One Boulevard in honour of the outstanding recording facility.
Studio One was owned by the late Clement 'Sir Coxson' Dodd, who died shortly after Brentford Road was renamed in honour of his studio. He earned several other honours, including the Order of Distinction (OD) and a Gold Musgrave Medal, awarded by the Institute of Jamaica.
While Studio One was not the first music recording facility established in Jamaica, Dodd established a peerless pedigree in the early days of musical output which carried the Jamaican sound worldwide. The list of those who recorded at 13 Brentford Road is extensive, including The Skatalites and The Wailers, Burning Spear (then a trio), Ken Boothe, Bob Andy, Marcia Griffiths, and John Holt, among the others, who were also group members who went the solo route.
Many of the names are recorded on a Wall of Honour in the Studio One courtyard, which was officially unveiled in 2007.
Studio One is an integral part of how Jamaican popular music evolved from its sound system roots, playing largely American music (heavily influenced by rhythm and blues) to records made specifically for individual sound systems and then pressed for mass distribution as the songs got popular in the dancehalls and personal copies were demanded.
So he played music on his Downbeat sound system from the mid-1950s, sourcing US records from New Orleans and Miami in the USA (including going there personally to seek exclusive tracks). Although he recorded songs before opening Studio One in 1963, it was at 13 Brentford Road that Dodd carved out a musical empire, holding structured auditions and recording sessions.
Studio One was away from the famed Orange Street (also known as Beat Street) hotbed of Jamaican popular music of the time although, ironically, it is closer to the a current creative centre of Jamaican music, off Eastwood Park Road near
With its stellar catalogue, the studio which gave a road its name continues to be active, although Dodd's wife, Norma, died in 2010.