I Roy

I Roy

Roy Samuel Reid, better known as I Roy, was a Jamaican deejay who had a very prolific career during the 1970s. He started his musical career via his Soul Bunny sound system in 1968 and then went on to work on the Spanish Town-based Son’s Junior sound system, where he was spotted by producer Harry Mudie. In 1976, he was signed by Virgin Records, who went on to release eight albums via various subsidiary labels. The 1980s saw I Roy’s popularity decline, which later led to financial problems and periods of homelessness. On 27 November 1999 I Roy died from heart failure.

I Roy

I Roy

Roy Samuel Reid, better known as I Roy, was a Jamaican deejay who had a very prolific career during the 1970s. He started his musical career via his Soul Bunny sound system in 1968 and then went on to work on the Spanish Town-based Son’s Junior sound system, where he was spotted by producer Harry Mudie. In 1976, he was signed by Virgin Records, who went on to release eight albums via various subsidiary labels. The 1980s saw I Roy’s popularity decline, which later led to financial problems and periods of homelessness. On 27 November 1999 I Roy died from heart failure.

Beth Lesser

During the 1980s, my husband and I traveled frequently to Kingston, Jamaica and Brooklyn, NY from our home in Toronto, Canada to follow the changing reggae scene. In that period reggae was changing fast, moving from the heavy roots sound of suffering and redemption to the lighter, faster, digitized sound of modern dancehall.

My husband and I saw it happen. We saw Junjo’s Volcano empire rise meteorically and them crash as his young artists emigrated or met untimely deaths. We witnessed Jah Love’s Brigadier Jerry take over the dancehall scene without ever having recorded a 45 – powered by the new popularity of dance hall cassettes.

We were in Waterhouse when King Jammy unleashed his Sleng Teng rhythm to an analog world and, one by one, producers dropped their previously recorded rhythms and started building again from scratch using programmable keyboards and drum machines. We were in Jammy’s yard while he cut the dubplates for the Clash of the Century, the event that brought dancehall culture to the larger Jamaican audience.

Over those years, I collected an archive of material that I would like to make available to the public – to present and future reggae scholars and fans.

All images © 1982-1988 Beth Lesser

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