A Conversation Between Rusty & Bob Bell: Mr. Goody

A Conversation between Rusty Zinn and Bob Bell:

 

Graeme Goodall

 

Bob Bell:

 

I guess it is inevitable that more than fifty after the first ska recordings were made we should find ourselves lamenting the passing of yet another iconic figure of the Jamaican music industry, but the inevitability doesn’t soften the blow. Graeme Goodall died in his Atlanta, GA home on December 4th, 2014, of natural causes.

 

Rusty:

 

2014 was a big year for numerous loss of JA music legends and losing Goody was no exception. I wished I could’ve had the opportunity to have met him or to at least talk to him on the phone. His contribution to the music is immeasurable.

 

Bob:

 

 

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1932, Graeme worked for several radio stations as an audio engineer before arriving the UK in the mid 50’s where he trained at the International Broadcasting Company, which was the UK’s biggest indie recording studio.

He was shortly offered a three year contract to join the design and installation team that led to the building of Jamaica’s first commercial FM station, Radio Jamaica Rediffusion. And that job led, in very short order, to his helping to build the first recording studion on the island, in the rear of a store owned by Ken Khouri. it was there, with Graeme engineering, that the first recordings were made in Jamaica.

 

Rusty:

 

A true pioneer he was. He was there even before the creation of Ska. What an exciting time that must’ve been for him.

 

Bob:

 

Hear! Hear! Graeme went on to engineer sessions for Chris Blackwell, (Laurel Aitken’s ‘Boogie In My Bones’) and then with Leslie Kong, became Blackwell’s partner in the fledgling Island Records.

 

Rusty:

 

Goody was involved in recording many crucial classics. By the way, “Boogie In My Bones” featured some of Goody’s Australian mates with Dennis Sindrey, etc…. it’s funny to know that some white boys from Australia were a crucial part of the development of Jamaican music.

 

Bob:

 

That’s so interesting, isn’t it? It’s a kind of a forerunner to what happened at Stax a few years later, when those pioneering soul records by Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding had a bunch of white boys in the band that defined the idiom. I met Graeme when I joined Island records in 1965, working at the company’s Kilburn office in Cambridge Road in London. Graeme was a very cheerful guy, full of energy and good humor, and we became quite friendly. I remember I had a big blue parka, with wolf fur around the hood. It was a government surplus coat, and Graeme was quite covetous of it. Indeed, when he and his wife Fay took a skiing trip to Switzerland that winter, he borrowed it. It was early in the next year that he left Island and started Doctor Bird Records, which Island distributed. His first release was ‘Every Night’ by Joe White (DB 1001) and the record became a very big hit in the West Indian market. The label had a very striking design and was the first that I can remember that used yellow and green – those distinctive Jamaican colors. Apart from the colors, the design itself was striking – tasteful and very eye catching.

 

Rusty:

 

Doctor Bird sure released some wicked material during it’s heyday and “Every Night” is an all time classic. It features some gorgeous guitar by the great guitarist/arranger Lyn Taitt from Trinidad who should definitely be paid tribute to in one of our future blogs.

 

Bob:

 

On his frequent visits to Cambridge Road, Graeme would often regale us with tales of his engineering sessions in JA, of how he kept a long iron pipe under the mixing console with which he could ‘keep order’ if necessity demanded. He’d tell of the massive amounts of ganja that would be consumed at those sessions – that was the first time I had heard pot so described. Tales of Prince Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Laurel Aitken – he engineered all of those pioneers at differing times during their formative years.

 

Rusty:

 

Yeah, he spoke about that in the excellent interview that Reggae Vibes Productions NL conducted with him. It seemed like the producers didn’t really stand for ganja smoking inside the studio at that time. I seem to recall Goody saying for the most part they had to smoke out in the yard. It wasn’t long after that though that the “studio kinda cloudy” syndrome became acceptable in JA studios. Ha! Ha!

 

Bob:

 

That’s right – things did indeed change. But you are right about his rule of no smoking in the studio. After he started Dr Bird, he soon started the Pyramid label, which released Leslie Kong’s product, and he bought out Rio Records from Don Rickard. When I went back to Island in 1968, his operation was in top gear, and very soon he was topping the UK pop charts with Desmond Dekker’s ‘Israelites’. And of course we mustn’t forget that he also made the pop charts in the UK with Desmond’s ‘007 (Shanty Town)’ in 1967. So not only did Graeme pioneer early ska through his engineering talents and his association with Chris Blackwell at Island, he went on to really popularize Jamaican music by hitting the UK Pop Charts with Rock Steady ‘007’ (number 14, 1967), and then Reggae with ‘Israelites’  (number 1, 1968), ‘It Mek’ (number 7, 1969). So he really did a huge amount for Jamaican culture.

 

I really enjoyed seeing him in the “Legends of Ska’ movie. Of course, that footage was probably shot some time ago, but he looked great and was as always, both informative and entertaining. After the screening when we were talking with Brad Klein, the movies producer, I asked him to remember me to Graeme the next time he talked to him, as I hadn’t had any communication with him since a brief email correspondence about six or seven years ago. Brad emailed me in mid November that Goody said ‘Hi’. Two weeks later he died.

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