Sir Coxsone Dodd

Coxsone Dodd

Sir Coxsone Dodd

Clement Seymour “Sir Coxsone” Dodd was born on January 26th, 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica. He was an influential record producer who launched the careers of numerous renowned reggae artists and played a pivotal role in the development of reggae and ska music.

When working as a sugar cane cutter in Florida, he was exposed to rhythm and blues music and the concept of outdoor dance parties. These experiences made him consider an entry into the music business, which he did upon arriving back in Jamaica. He became one of the originators of the Jamaican sound systems; portable sets of generators, amplifiers, turntables and huge speakers, used to create street parties. He started his first sound system in 1954, calling it “Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat”. It became such a sensation that he started four more soon after, each of them playing every night. To make this possible, he enlisted the help of people such as Count Machuki, Lee “Scratch” Perry, U Roy and Prince Buster.

In 1959, Coxsone Dodd started his own record company called “World Disc” and later in that same year he opened a record shop called “Coxsone’s Music City”. In 1963 he opened his legendary music studio “Studio One”, the first black-owned studio in Jamaica. Its resident house band would become the newly formed ska band The Skatalites. Coxsone Dodd met the would-be founding members of The Skatalites, Rolando Alphonso and Don Drummond, one year prior while producing the 1962 jazz album “I Cover The Water Front” by the Cecil Lloyd Group. For that album, Rolando Alphonso played the tenor saxophone and Don Drummond played the trombone. Together, Coxsone Dodd and The Skatalites practically defined the ska genre.

Coxsone Dodd held regular Sunday evening auditions at Studio One in search of new talent. One Sunday evening in 1963 a group of young artists calling themselves “The Juveniles” turned up. Among them were an 18-year-old Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Coxsone Dodd was impressed and offered the group a five-year contract. Their name was changed to “Bob Marley and The Wailers” and their first recording session, with The Skatalites providing the backing, took place only a few days later. The hits “I’m Still Waiting” and “It Hurts to Be Alone” were the result. Coxsone Dodd became a father figure to Bob Marley, even letting him live in a back room at Studio One when he found out the singer had no place to stay.

Besides Bob Marley, Coxsone Dodd has launched the careers of dozens of other reggae stars, including Horace Andy, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Burning Spear, Marcia Griffiths, Sugar Minott, Dennis Brown and Freddie McGregor. In 1991, Coxsone Dodd was awarded the Jamaican Order of Distinction for his contribution to the island’s musical heritage.

Coxsone Dodd died of a heart attack on May 5th, 2004, aged 72, while working at Studio One.

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