Island records was founded in Jamaica in 1959 by Chris Blackwell, the son of a white plantation owner. The label took its name from the Alec Waugh novel 'Island In The Sun'. The early releases on the label were by West Indians and in the music styles that were later to be known as Ska, Bluebeat and Rock Steady. It looked a very good investment when one of Blackwell's first productions, "Boogie In My Bones" by the Cuban-born singer Laurel Aitken, stayed at number one on the Jamaican radio chart for eleven weeks. Blackwell opened an office at South Odeon Parade in central Kingston, Jamaica, where he expanded his artistes with recordings by Wilfred 'Jackie' Edwards and Owen Gray. Both singers were already stars on the talent show circuit; so popular that eager youths fought among themselves for the honor of carrying Jackie Edwards' sharp stage-clothes to the dressing room.
By 1962 Chris Blackwell was operating from premises in Notting Hill Gate, London. He catered for the large West Indian community in London by releasing records from Jamaica on his Island label. Blackwell also reckoned that, by switching to London, he could not only continue his own productions but also provide an international platform for Island's Jamaican rivals.
The company could, therefore, potentially have the pick of Jamaica's hottest records, and hopefully becoming Britain's leading Ska label. In 1963 before even he could of known what was to lay ahead he issued two singles by Bob Marley. "Judge Not" and "One Cup Of Coffee", both now extremely rare around two hundred pounds per disk! He was also to issue in the early seventies the Island LP "Catch A Fire", which was to influence reggae music to come and Bob Marley's musical career.
No other label fitted so well into the British club culture in the mid-Sixties. Clubs like the Flamingo and Whiskey A Go Go on Wardour Street and the Roaring Twenties in Carnaby Street, The Scene in Windmill St, catered to a mixed clientele. Jamaicans rubbed shoulders with sharply-dressed suburban kids, (Mods) all intent on dancing away the weekends. This more cosmopolitan club audience developed alongside the more traditional dancehall crowd, serviced by house parties ('blues') and big dances held in public buildings hired especially for the occasion. Island was the primary platform for the transition of Jamaican music, from ska into rock-steady.
At the same time the company through it's new label Sue Records was popular on the dance floors with one of the most discerning catalogues of American soul and rhythm & blues. After a number of years of exclusively issuing records of West Indian origin all of whom were deeply rooted in what was rapidly becoming a distinct Island identity, Chris Blackwell signed up his first British groups. In February 1963 Chris Blackwell was on a UK tour with Jamaican singer Millie Small, who was then on the brink of worldwide success with "My Boy Lollipop".
When he found and signed up what was the Spencer Davis Group, the records were leased to the Fontana label. A number of hits followed featuring Stevie Winwood he was only 15 years old but could sing what was to be called Soul Music. Around the end of 1967 the "progressive music" had begun to take over in Britain and before long Chris Blackwell had signed many of the new up and coming groups. Free, Traffic, Jethro Tull were amongst the many who took the label into the seventies. As this is a 60's page we shall leave the story at this point. Island records issued some of the most sort after albums of the sixties, the first being issued in 1963.
Check out the Island LP Cover's from 1967/8