Owen Gray gets Order of Distinction (OD)
Gray, 87, is ecstatic about what he considers an overdue and deserved reward.
“I want to thank the Jamaican government and people for remembering who I am. All the people involved in this, I send my deepest regards,” he said from his home in London.
Since 1962, Gray has lived mainly in the United Kingdom where he achieved his greatest success. Early in his career, he recorded songs for producers Clement “Coxson” Dodd, Leslie Kong and Chris Blackwell.
Anthony “Chips” Richards, a Jamaican also based in the UK, first met Gray in 1969. He produced many of the singer’s songs and considers him “a brother from different parents.”
Richards, who produced Gray’s 1998 album ‘Hit After Hit After Hit’, is overjoyed that his longtime friend has finally got national recognition.
“He felt disenfranchised because being in England not many people in Jamaica knew of him. This award has come at the right time because Owen has not been in the best of health. It really has given him a lift,” said Richards.
Born in St. Mary, eastern Jamaica, Gray’s legacy has been acknowledged in Jamaica before. He is a recipient of the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which he received in 2021.
The affable Gray began singing professionally at age 15 in 1954. His first song was ‘Please Don’t Let Me Go’ for Dodd. He was among the first acts (the others being Wilfred “Jackie” Edwards and Laurel Aitken) to record for Island Records when it was started by Chris Blackwell in 1959.
His 1960 song, ‘Darling Patricia’, helped put Blackwell’s fledgling label on the map.
While at Dodd’s Studio One label, Gray also mentored artistes such as Millie Small, the teenage singer who had an international hit for Island in 1964 with ‘My Boy Lollipop’.
Gray is a survivor of the influx of Jamaican artistes who went to the UK in the 1960s when there was demand for their music. His catalogue covers ska, rock steady, reggae, Rhythm And Blues and gospel.
Ill health will prevent Owen Gray from traveling to Jamaica in October to collect his OD. It will be presented to him at the Jamaica High Commission in London.
(Photo courtesy of Owen Gray & Anthony “Chips” Richards)
Owen Gray – Darling Patricia