Remembering 'Count C'
Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Pioneer sound system man Cyril Henry 'Count C' Braithwaite, died on January 26 at the Kingston Public Hospital from complications of pneumonia. He was 85 years old.
The thanksgiving service for his life took place on February 12 at the Regent Street Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Kingston. He was buried at the Dovecot cemetery.
"He was a strict father, he was very serious about his family and his music," said Ernest 'Romey' Braithwaite, the eldest of Count C's 17 children.
Born in Trench Town, Braithwaite operated the Count C 'soun' out of west Kingston for many years, playing at some of the most popular venues during the 1950s when the sound-system culture was taking off.
However, he was never a household name like his contemporaries who included Thomas 'The Great Sebastian' Wong, Arthur 'Duke' Reid, owner of the Trojan sound system, or Clement 'Coxson' Dodd, who operated the rival Downbeat.
Ernest Braithwaite said his father, like other early sound-system owners, bought many of his records from men who travelled to the United States on the farm-work programme. Most of those records were Rhythm and Blues songs which were usually regional hits in the United States.
Duke Reid and Dodd would use artistes like Alton Ellis and Delroy Wilson to cover many of these songs in ska and rock steady form with great success.
Joshua Chamberlain, an American writer who interviewed Count C for a feature story to be published in the Wax Poetic magazine, said because Count C did not venture into music production, he never attained the fame of Reid, Dodd, or Prince Buster.
"He never got into production like Duke Reid or Coxson," said Chamberlain in an interview with The Gleaner.
"He was a sound man, and that's how he contributed to the development of the music."
Chamberlain, who is pursuing a doctorate in cultural studies at the University of the West Indies' Mona campus, described Count C as one of the unsung heroes of early Jamaican popular music.
He said they first met in 2006 while Chamberlain was researching the history of sound systems. His story on Count C will be published in the July issue of Wax Poetic, a quarterly publication based in New York City.