Treasure Isle & Trojan

Treasure Isle

Treasure Isle & Trojan

The histories of the legendary Treasure Isle and Trojan record labels both start with Arthur “Duke” Reid. Duke Reid was born on July 21st, 1915 in Portland, Jamaica. After serving 10 years as a policeman, he and his wife Lucille “Duchess” Reid won a substantial amount of money in the Jamaican National Lottery. They decided to buy the “Treasure Isle Liquor Store” in Kingston.

Duke Reid started to play records outside of the store in the hope of attracting more customers. This evolved in 1953 into him hosting his own radio show, “Treasure Isle Time”, and starting a mobile sound system. To move all of his stereo equipment, records and liquor around from dancehall to dancehall, he used a British-made Trojan flatbed truck. If people saw his truck, they would say “Here comes the Trojan”. The name for his sound system, “Duke Reid’s the Trojan”, was born.

With a successful music career and the family store outgrowing itself, Duke Reid decided it was time for a bigger location. In 1959, the store moved from Pink Lane to Bond Street. Above the store, he built the “Treasure Isle Recording Studio”. He founded the Trojan label in 1959 and the Treasure Isle label in 1962. The UK based Trojan Records label, founded by Lee Gopthal in 1968, was inspired by the Trojan label. Trojan Records had a pivotal role in introducing reggae music to a global audience during the 1970s.

Treasure Isle played a very important part in the history of reggae, rocksteady and ska genres. It also launched the careers of a lot of artists and producers, most notably King Tubby, U Roy, Stranger Cole, Winston Riley, The Techniques, Justin Hinds & The Dominoes, Phyllis Dillon, The Paragons and The Supersonics.

Duke Reid was diagnosed with cancer and became seriously ill in 1974. He decided to sell Treasure Isle, including its studio and entire catalogue, to Sonia Pottinger. She already owned High Note, one of the largest record labels of Jamaica at the time.

Duke Reid passed away on January 1st, 1975, aged 59.

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