Duke Reid was born in Jamaica as Arthur Reid around 1915. As a young man he served in the Police Force for about ten years. He had a love of American R & B music and owned a Liquor Store on Bond Street, with his wife, the Duchess. The shop was called Treasure Isle. He had a record program on Jamaica radio called "Treasure Isle Time" playing R & B 78's. Leading USA Jazz artist like Lester Young, Colman Hawkins, Tab Smith and Illinois Jaquet could be heard. By the mid fifties Duke Reid had his own sound system. This comprised of large speakers and a record playing deck together with a powerful amplifier. He used a large van to transport this equipment around Jamaica to dance halls and open air events. Due to the nature of the van it became known as the Trojan. Clemont Seymore Dodd also had a sound system called Sir Coxone Downbeat after the Yorkshire cricketer Coxone. They had many a " Battle of the sound Systems" and towards the end of the fifties Duke Reid the Trojan was crowned king. His record production career began in 1959 on the "Trojan " record label, these were on 78's, such as Duke's Cookies and Chuck and Dobby "Cool School".
On the Duke Reid label due to demand he issued home made recordings of the USA R & B style music. He formed his own backing band the Duke Reid Group who backed young singers like Derrick Morgan and the Jiving Juniors. Around this time the Jamaican R & B gave way to Ska, the guitar and piano played on every beat whilst the drummer reversed the offbeat, the bass played a powerful 'walking' rhythm. Duke Reid built his own recording studio, of wood, above the 'Treasure Isle Liquor Store'. Now he could with his engineer, Bryon Smith, achieve a high quality production and experiment with new sounds and rhythms. Duke Reid flyer from 1966
His work with the Skatalites as a group came to an end after August/September 1965. Don Drummond was arrested on New Years Eve 1965, accused of murdering his girl friend Marguerita. He died in Bellevue, a mental institution in 1969. The Skatalites last gig was a Police Dance at the Runaway Bay Hotel. Roland Alphonso went on to form the Soul Brothers then later the Soul Vendors. Tommy McCook and the Supersonics became Duke Reids session band at Treasure Isle recording studio.
Out of the split of the Skatalites two new groups emerged and a new sound was borne 'Rock Steady'. As with most session bands the line up of the Supersonics changed, Tommy McCook sax and flute, Herman Marquis alto sax, Lennox Brown sax, Vin Gordon trombone, Baba Brooks trumpet, Jackie Jackson bass, Ernest Ranglin and Lyn Taitt on guitar, Winston Wright organ, Gladstone "Gladdy" Anderson piano, Lloyd Knibb or Hugh Malcolm on drums. Rock Steady was issued on his Treasure Isle label made at his studio at 33 Bond Street.
They were mainly instrumentals, including the brilliant "Soul For Sale" by Tommy McCook and many others, had now been replaced by new vocal groups like the Melodians, Jamaicans, Techniques, Paragons and Ethiopians. Singers such as Alton Ellis and Justine Hinds and the Dominoes all gained vast popularity. Duke Reid became seriously ill in 1974 and sadly passed away in early 1975. He left behind a treasure chest full of his music, even today, gems are still to be found.