The Music Diaries | 'Sir Coxson' did it all
Last Thursday, January 26, legendary Jamaican record producer Clement 'Sir Coxson' Dodd would have been 85 years old. Although Dodd's fame owes a lot to people like Jackie Mittoo, Delroy Wilson, and engineer Syd Bucknor, there is no denying that without his organisational skill and influence, his Studio One would never have achieved the heights it attained.
The songwriting genius Bob Andy, who recorded and also did auditioning work for Dodd, was quick to admit in a 2005 interview with me that "Coxson was a genius in himself. There are some non-progressive things I could say about him, but inspirationally and influentially, he knew how to get something out of an artiste. He had a wink that was very reassuring and comforting, but when the other side of him did not match up, it became very disappointing." Ken Boothe saw Coxson as "one who had good ears. He knows which song to bring for each person, and it was like the Motown thing, where artistes wrote for each other".
Although arrogant at times, Dodd, who was born in Kingston, possessed the tactical wit and personality that attracted and inspired many, resulting in an unending procession of vocal artistes and musicians in and out of the gates of 13 Brentford Road (now Studio One Boulevard), the home of Studio One.
Without Dodd's contribution, reggae would never have sounded the way it does. Included among the rhythms copied or modified from Dodd's creations, which have rocked Jamaican dancehalls and dominated local and overseas charts are Full Up, Real Rock, Rockfort Rock and several cuts for the very popular Heptones On Top album by The Heptones.
Born Clement Seymour Dodd of full African parentage on January 26, 1932, the late Studio One boss owed his earliest musical inspiration to his mother, Doris Darlington, who owned a cold-supper shop in downtown Kingston, where she entertained her customers with a basic sound system. Dodd followed the trend in later years when he opened his own liquor and record shop at the Love Lane and Beeston Street intersection in downtown Kingston, from where he sold both commodities while entertaining his customers with a basic sound system.
Dodd developed a following, and soon, requests for engagements came pouring in, forcing him to upgrade his music equipment and make several trips abroad to acquire rhythm and blues (R & B) 45 rpm records to satisfy the growing demand of his fans. By the mid-1950s, Dodd had fully developed his Sir Coxson Downbeat sound system and was soon to become, at one time, the top sound system in the land.
But perhaps Dodd's biggest move was building a recording studio, pressing plant and printery to go along with the production of raw talent. He was on a mission to create his own music to play on his sound system at a time when the American R & B recordings were drying up. One of his dreams became reality when he bought The End nightclub at 13 Brentford Road, Kingston 5, from the famous Jamaican footballer Noel Toppin, specifically to house his recording studio. It wasn't long after that a basement-type section was converted into a studio.
Dodd was lucky to acquire the services of his father a builder by profession to supervise the construction. According to Dudley Sibley, one of the earliest artistes to record for the entity and one of the workmen who assisted with the building, "the renovation, construction and reconstruction of The End nightclub into a recording studio and record pressing factory took place in phases, beginning about 1962 63, and I was involved in every phase."
Coxson went on to record and produce some of the biggest names in Jamaican popular music history. The list runs like an unending roll call that includes Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Toots and The Maytals, John Holt, Alton Ellis, Delroy Wilson, Slim Smith, Bob Andy, Jackie Mittoo, The Skatalites Band, Marcia Griffiths, Dennis Brown, Brent Dowe, Joe Higgs, Ken Boothe, and Larry Marshall.
One of Dodd's features was his willingness to indiscriminately record as many aspiring artistes as possible, knowing he had the firing power of the Skatalites Band to offset any deficiencies in vocalising.
Delroy Wilson may easily have been the main cornerstone in establishing Dodd's career, at a time when Prince Buster was threatening to dominate the music scene. Buster had issued a series of scathing musical verbal attacks on Dodd, to which Wilson responded with Joe Liges, I Shall Not Remove, Lion Of Judah and Prince Pharaoh, the first of at least four recordings in which Dodd's voice is heard. Dodd literally transformed himself into a rapper as he interchanged with Wilson.
Likening Buster to the Pharaohs of Egypt, Dodd rapped:
"When I say get down,
I mean get down
I have no use for you,
Your father was King Pharaoh
And you are Prince Pharaoh
You must go down as your
father did go down
Go down and drop your
Dodd introduces Rocking Time by Burning Spear with:
"Moses struck the rock and
brought forth water
I man open my mouth and
bring to you another scorcher"
Dodd went further when he sang in duet with Jackie Mittoo the immortal Get Ready To Do Rocksteady, a recording that was personally handed to me by the maestro before he passed on May 4, 2004, at the Medical Associates Hospital, Half-Way Tree Road, St Andrew.