This week was a special two hour retrospective of Derrick Harriott’s Crystal/Move and Groove Labels.
Born in Kingston in 1939, Derrick Harriott was the youngest of 5 children. At a very young age, he sang in church, and eventually, his singing and performing would accelerate when he went to school. Derrick Harriott began his music career with his friend Claude Sang Jr with the duo, Sang and Harriott. The two attended Excelsior High School together, and in school, they would practice together and perform, wooing their schoolmates with their music, and in turn, their schoolmates encouraged the duo to enter the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour talent show in 1955. The two did not make the final round this initial time, but they would win it in 1957 and at a minimum manage to be in the finals after their first win. Despite their popularity in the live performance circuit, Sang and Harriott broke up when Sang left Jamaica for schooling. In 1958, Harriot formed the Jiving Juniors with Eugene Dwyer (bass), Maurice Wynter (Tenor), Claude’s younger brother, Herman Sang on piano, and Harriott on lead tenor and falsetto. The Jiving Juniors gained quite a bit of fame with successful performances on the Vere Johns Opportunity Hour, so successful in fact that they earned a special spot on the show.
We started this two hour spotlight on The Crystal Label by playing four tracks from Derrick Harriott and the Jiving Juniors. The Crystal label, which was named supposedly because of “a fortune teller with a crystal ball… and crystal means very clear” Here, at the Crystal label, he would first release his own solo tracks, but he quickly began to record other artists. We also played one excellent solo track from Derrick, and then his early recordings for the Crystal label with other artists in ska such as Roy Panton and Don Levy.
Very early in the label’s career, Derrick had a great eye and ear for talent, being one of the first to record many singers. Keith and Tex started with him, and they also helped recruit some talent over to Derrick, including who you just heard from, Rudy Mills, who was Keith Rowe’s cousin’s husband, and Keith brought Rudy over to Crystal to first record.
Backing up the vocal artists and recording a many instrumentals of their own, were The Crystalites, Derrick’s house band, which had a rotating line up, but Derrick selected from an amazing pool of session musicians including: Barry Biggs, Bongo Herman, Gladstone Anderson, Jackie Jackson, Larry McDonald, Lynford Brown, Paul Douglas, Wallace Wilson, Winston Wright.
By 1970, Derrick had really built up a reputation as a strong producer, so much so that his output that year would gain him the title of the best producer of 1970 by Swing magazine. We then played The Ethiopians No Baptism next, which was a highlight from a great year of productions and a hit for the Crystal label. As mentioned before, Keith and Tex got their start with Derrick Harriott and gained quite a lot of fame with him, who in addition to singing their tracks for him, they also sang harmony for other Derrick Harriott productions. Stop That Train was an enormous hit for them, so much so that other DJs who came to the Crystal label would toast on them.
One story has Derrick who had heard people talking about Big Youth, going out and searching for him in order to record him. Big Youth would actually end up using his promotional picture on the Those Reggae Oldies album released on the Crystal label for the artwork on his own Negusa Nagast label
Another DJ that had success on Crystal was Scotty, born David Scott, originally started singing with Valman Smykle and Franklin Spence in the rocksteady group, The Federals, but he would come into his greatest prominence as a DJ/toaster for Derrick Harriott’s Crystal label. He would toast on versions of early hits from the Crystal label, like the version of Stop that Train heard in the first hour of the show. Now then played another version to version. We then heard Scotty toasts over his boss’s hit “The Loser.” Scotty was given the full LP treatment by Derrick on the Crytal label in 1971 with a collection of his best toasting on the album School Days.
In 1966, Derrick opened up Derrick’s One Stop record shop on 125 King Street, making him one of few singers who produced, ran his own label and his own record shop. The name One Stop was perfect because up and coming artists could go to the shop to pitch music to Derrick, and he could record them and sell the record in his own shop. In addition, visitors to the shop were attracted to the big hits on other labels in stock, but given that they stepped into Derrick’s shop, they could also gain more exposure to the Crystal label releases than they would in other record shops in Kingston. This record shop extension of Derrick Harriott’s work would help further Derrick’s success as more and more hits were released on the his labels.
You can here the entire program: HERE
The archive of this show will be available until 3/18/15