The renowned historian and musicologist Garth White recently brought to my attention the contributions of Hedley H.G. Jones to the world of Jamaican music. So today Foundation Ska honors this great inventor and musician who was born on November 12, 1917 and is still alive and well in Montego Bay at 97 years young! Hedley changed music forever in Jamaica and throughout the world with his invention in 1940 of an electric guitar with amplifier. Although Rickenbacker and Gibson had been making electric guitars in the 1930s for use in the big bands and orchestras (so they could be heard over the large number of horns), these were not commercially available and certainly not in Jamaica, and Hedley’s was the first with a solid wood body. A photo of Hedley Jones in the Daily Gleaner on September 2, 1940 (seen below) features the caption, “AUTOMATIC GUITAR AND ITS MAKER Mr, H. G. Jones of Kingston who has, after a lot of experimenting, produced the Electric Spanish Guitar he is seen holding in the Picture. The principal feature of the guitar is its electro-magnet pick-up which has been made up from a pair of horse-shoe magnets and a number of stove bolts. The sound reproduction of the instrument is very good, as compared with the commercial types of electric Hawaiian guitars, a few of which are in the island. So far, Mr. Jones’ guitar is the first of its kind here, and should prove a success as the maker promises to go further into that branch of electricity. Says Mr. Jones: ‘It’s a pity that a few of our talented young men have not the ‘push’ to make ourselves of some benefit to this our island, but I hope to pursue the line I have started to a real success, provided I get the necessary encouragement to do so—-that’s in the line of L.S.D as these instruments are very costly ones’ to build.’”
Hedley trained as an electronics technician during WWII and he went on to open his own electronics shop which also housed a record store called “Bop City” that sold records largely imported from England. He sold amplifiers, repaired equipment, and built sound systems. Then, in 1947 he built the first sound system, his own, which he used to amplify the sounds of the records he sold at his shop and demonstrate his skills as an electrician. After attracting a crowd, his first customer for one of these new sound systems was Tom “the Great Sebastian” Wong who went on to launch the era of sound systems that continues even today, all over the world.
Hedley was also president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians in the 1980s and 1990s. He spoke out against the use of technology in music which he felt replaced musicians with computers and eroded the art. He was outspoken on issues such as copyright infringement and he felt that the Jamaican music industry was rife with violations and any laws or contracts that protected the musician were frequently relegated to the trash can. He battled the hotels to use the musicians of the JFM rather than shirking their fees to obtain musicians who didn’t abide by professional standards. His son, Ron Jones, was also an electronics technician and musician and was blind. Ron died on March 20, 2000 at the age of 45 and his father Hedley performed in a jazz band at a celebration of his son’s life.
You can hear Hedley Jones himself talk about his guitar here in an interview conducted by the esteemed historian Daniel Neely. The Caribbean Quarterly, December 2010, included a brilliant article entitled “The Jones High Fidelity Audio Power Amplifier of 1947,” written by Hedley Jones himself on how he invented the sound system. Here, the pioneer speaks:
IN THE YEAR 1940, I designed and built a solid Jamaican mahogany-body electric guitar, which required a special type of audio amplifier design that would properly respond to particular guitar sound frequencies generated from a magnetic transducer. The amplifier should be portable, responsive, self-contained with its own speaker and cabinet, and be able to accommodate at least two instruments. It should be equipped with individual volume and tone compensating controls; not the high cut-off tone control commonly used in radio circuits of those days, which served to subdue static noises, but specially designed electronic tone compensating circuits. This type of amplifier required knowledge of sound engineering. There were no amplifiers commercially available at that time for the required purpose. Most superheterodyne radio receivers were equipped with two stages of audio amplification and were totally inadequate and unsuitable for the reproduction of an electric guitar. Although there were some high-quality radio receivers around, owned by people with ample means (the famous Scott thirteen-tube superhet receiver sold by Frank E. Lyons and Company of Lyons’ Wharf in Kingston, for instance, used an output section of six valves in push-pull parallel circuitry, driving a thirty-inch electro-dynamic speaker weighing over eighty pounds, housed in a silverplated steel enclosure set on casters), such luxuries were not available to me for the simple reason that I could not afford them. I probed around for electronic literature, and discovered some audio circuit designs in electronic magazines, such as the British Wireless World, and the USA publications Radio Electronics and Electronics World. Using the information thus derived, I designed and, with some experimentation to avoid electronic feedback howls, produced a reasonable guitar amplifier of good response and fidelity.
I produced an electric guitar and amplifier for Fitz Collash, guitarist and music arranger for the Milton McPherson ten-piece orchestra. I supplied the band of the USA Military Expeditionary Force stationed at Vernamfìeld, Sandy Gully, Clarendon, with a guitar constructed from Jamaican mahoe and satin woods, along with a compensated amplifier using power pentode output tubes. The same was done for Don Hitchman of the Red Gal Ring Sugar Hill Club in St Andrew with the exception of the guitar, which was an American Gibson hollow-body concert model that I converted to electric. As was done for Hitchman, the same was done for Victor Brown, guitarist with the Redver Cooke Red Devils dance band; guitarist Gladstone Taylor of the Roy White dance orchestra; Jellicoe Barker, who led his quartet doing hotel duty on Jamaica’s north coast; and my own guitar-led sextet doing duty at the Silver Lining Club in downtown Kingston. My electric guitar served to bring me a sort of connoisseur status among musicians of the era.
Later, when I volunteered for war service and joined the British Royal Air Force in 1943, my commanding officer would give me the privilege of constructing and using an electric guitar during my war service. On my return from the war in 1946, I did electronic guitar conversions complete with amplifiers for Keith Stoddart of the Sonny Bradshaw Seven, and Ernest Ranglin of the Val Bennett Band. Bennett was a comical tenor-saxophone-playing bandleader – in the tradition of the colourful American Cab Calloway, who visited Jamaica with his band and was featured at the popular Carib Theatre in Cross Roads, Kingston, in or around 1950. Bennett wore colourful five-shilling Jamaica Government Savings Bank notes as lapel bouquets. Ernest Ranglin’s guitar-playing was a feature of the Bennett band as well as of the Colony Club band of 1951 led by Eric Deans (whose real name was Dudley McMillan). The devastating hurricane in August of that year put paid to one of my converted model guitars on loan to Ranglin.
I must note here that there were public address systems commercially available in at least one electronics store in downtown Kingston. These were RCA public address systems suitable for voice only, making use of piezo-electric microphones (crystal types). These systems were unsuitable for amplification of the electric guitar. Designing electronic guitar amplifiers made me acquire sound amplifier techniques, knowledge and experience not then known, nor available in Jamaica, and not practised elsewhere except by specialist electronic sound engineers. I had to design and wind my own power output transformers. This activity was always a very long and tedious process, done entirely by hand. The magnetic pick-ups used in my guitars were also hand-wound; and thanks to my very first apprentice – Duke Lawrence1 – who learnt very quickly to use my coil winding jig, made from a Meccano set and hand drill purchased from Hole In the Wall (a small variety hardware store in downtown Kingston, which also supplied me with appropriate gauges of magnet wire), I was always able to do a fairly good job.
But one day in 1941, something quite inadvertent took place. I received for repair a Marconi six-tube radio, which used an audio coupling transformer as a transducer in its output stage. I discovered the fault as a defective transformer, which I replaced with a new unit before delivering the finished job to its proud owner. The audio quality of the radio was so remarkable that I immediately, out of sheer curiosity, dismantled the discarded unit. The coils of the transformer were wound in four sections on two collapsible forms, the smaller inserted within the larger. I found that each section of the secondary winding had the electrical characteristics and physical proportions necessary to fit into the design of my guitar units. I had quite unexpectedly and ironically made a discovery that solved my guitar unit coil winding problems and freed Duke to concentrate on my guitar amplifier transformer designs. Duke’s obvious relief was my gain in achieving audio output transformer and guitar magnetic pick-up design unit perfection.
I continued to study the subject of sound engineering, eventually becoming quite adept in sound amplifier engineering designs. At this time I was also an electronics practitioner quite adept at radio repairs. The types of radios I was required to repair were: Zenith, Philco, Westinghouse, Marconi, Tesla, General Electric, RCA, His Masters Voice, Philips, Telefunken, Kolster Brandes, Sears, Pilot, Farnsworth, GEC of London, Hallicrafters, Scott, and a host of other makes, all available through Jamaican manufacturer’s representatives, who made a fetish of tying up any importation of foreign electrical home appliances on which they could lay their hands, making it well nigh impossible for anyone with entrepreneurial ability to import name-brand electronic parts or accessories, particularly at that time with a war on. This was an opportunity for introspection and innovation.
By 1943, with World War II having been in progress for over three years, I had made considerable innovative inroads, and my skills at radio repairs, manufacturing electric guitars and electric guitar amplifiers, as well as playing the guitar, had improved tremendously. On 8 May that year I made a decision to volunteer for war service in the British Royal Air Force (RAF). My aim, if I survived the war, was to become an electronic sound engineer of some reckoning; so I applied for the radar engineering category as an optional trade in that organisation, and was promptly told by the recruiting officer that my Third Year Pupil Teachers’ Examination Certificate obtained from the Jamaican school system – although it allowed me access to college training – did not qualify me for that category of electronic engineering. I should have been a matriculant. I was told I did not qualify for radio wireless engineering either, but the categories of wireless operator and electrician were available, either of which I could choose. I chose to be an electrician, and was subsequently called up, given a few weeks of military training at the Palisadoes Military Training Camp situated in Port Royal, and transferred to the Up Park Camp in Kingston for military fieldwork.
One year later, on Sunday 8 May 1944, I, along with two thousand other airmen and two thousand Jamaican farm workers destined for the USA, was put aboard an awful ship in Kingston Harbour – the SS Cuba – awful because it was dirty and unkempt. The ship set sail from the Kingston Harbour for Newport News, Virginia, USA. The ship docked at Newport News the following Thursday morning, 12 May. After undergoing a process called delousing, which entailed being sprayed with an unfamiliar chemical, we were made to pass through an automatic hot and cold shower – like a Jamaican cattle-dip process. The RAF group was subsequently carted off to Camp Patrick David.
After a further two weeks’ sojourn there, we were taken by rail to the city of New York, where we boarded a vessel that was included in a trans-Atlantic convoy. This was D-day six. Approximately nine days out of New York harbour, the convoy was put on U-boat alert. Depth charges were deployed and the convoy, which was scheduled to dock at Southampton, England, was diverted via the Irish Sea, to dock at Liverpool on 18 June. We RAF personnel were taken to Camp Filey in East Yorkshire for further training and orientation under wartime conditions. In August (by then I had gained a point in rank – from A2 to Ai – for aircraft recognition) we were called up for muster (orientation), and I again chose the radar engineering category. Little had I realised that the Jamaican recruiting officer (Mr Ernest Rae, Sr.) had recorded that I had considerable experience in electronic circuitry. The English RAF interviewing officer presented to me the schematic circuit diagram of a complicated superheterodyne radio receiver, then asked me five questions regarding the circuitry. I promptly answered three questions correctly, and another partially, while the answer to the fifth eluded me. The officer commended me with the following remark: “023 Jones, you are the type of man we want.” My RAF service number was 714023 – and he recommended me for training as a radar engineer.
Off to the Royal Technical College of Glasgow, a company of twenty- two, including me, was sent. From September 1944 to January 1945 we were given intense training in electrical theory, radio reception and transmission theory and practice, six days per week, ten hours per day. In February 1945, eighteen of the twenty-two, including myself, graduated from the college with diplomas in radio engineering. After a brief one-day holiday, off to the number 12 radio school in Swindon, Wales, we went for training in basic radar theory and practice. Another six weeks of intensive equipment-training ensued. Then we moved again. After further intensive training and successfully sitting the various written and oral examinations, we graduated from the number 3 radio school in Cosford, Midlands, in June as radar engineers. Fifteen of the original eighteen trainees graduated.
On 8 May 1945, victory in Europe was declared. I would spend another year in Europe doing various technical radar duties and services all over the British war-torn country, the nearby French coastline and Ireland.
On 8 May 1946, two thousand West Indian RAF personnel sailed out of the Scottish harbour of Glasgow City on the Norwegian vessel SS Bergensfjord,2 destined for our separate countries of abode and disbandment. On Sunday 19 May the ship set anchor in Port of Spain, Trinidad. On Monday we set sail for Jamaica; and after what so far had been an uneventful journey, an element of the Jamaican psyche for resisting insulting behaviour took hold when some Norwegian security police pointed a gun and used insulting remarks to a group of Jamaican airmen. The vehement protestations resulted in the military’s declaration of a mutiny at sea, the arrest of a few, and a diversion of the intended dispersion site from Palisadoes to the Mona prisonof-war camp (at the present site of the University of the West Indies). Here we went through the process of disbandment on 24 May.
As an aid to rehabilitation, we were given a choice between obtaining a two-acre plot of land in the parish of Trelawny or a repayable loan of fifty pounds. I selected the latter option, and in collaboration with a close RAF buddy, Altamont Edwards, opened an electronic service facility called “Premier Radio Service” at the odd address of 136 7A King Street in Kingston. The partnership lasted only a short while before Alty decided to do electrical installation and moved on to Montego Bay to ply his trade in the fast-expanding tourist industry. We decided on his keeping the name “Premier” and I moved on with the name “Hedley Jones’ Radio Service”. In December 1946 I took the decision to add a record sales department. It had transpired that as the war progressed, most of the big bands mentioned earlier had disintegrated, some of their personnel going into war service as I had done, while others went into formation of smaller groups serving the musical needs of the then rapidly growing tourist industry on Jamaica’s north coast.
The paucity of live music to which the urban population of Kingston had been accustomed resulted in a turn towards recorded music, which had begun to be supplied by three innovators: Count Goody and Count Nicholas out of western Kingston (Pound Road, now Maxfield Avenue), and Tom Wong, a small hardware store owner operating out of his business place in upper Luke Lane, Kingston. These perspicacious gentlemen had bought into the idea of supplying recorded music for house parties, and used some of the popular dance halls in the heart of downtown Kingston, such as Forrester’s Hall on North Street, Jubilee Tile Gardens on upper King Street, Success Club on Wildman Street, the People’s Onward Relief Association (PORA) on Laws Street and Central Branch School Hall on Church Street, to their advantage.
These popular dance halls that had in the pre-war and early war years accommodated the big bands providing live dance music for common folk, now featured what were commonly called “sound systems”3 – a Tom Wong designation. The sound system operators mentioned above used RCA PA systems with very limited audio range, as they were made for voice reproduction and their output mostly was with steel re-entrant horns as speakers. Where there existed a cone speaker, it was a small unit in a no-vent wooden enclosure hung from any convenient structure. The operators mentioned above depended on me to service their equipment. I made improvements where possible, but was limited by the original purpose of the equipment plus the speaker limitation. Except to point out these drawbacks, I made no attempt to sell to them ideas that perhaps they could ill afford.
I made a decision to sell recorded music, and immediately ran into a brick wall. The recordings used by the existing systems were mostly commercial 78-rpm discs of big band recordings of popular tunes from movie shows available from the four record sales departments downtown, or R&B discs brought back by returning war and farm workers or obtained by other means, fair or foul.
I discovered that it was impossible to import the most popular labels. The brands RCA, His Master’s Voice, Decca, Brunswick, Parlophone, Columbia and Capitol were all tied up by commission agents – mostly lawyers with offices along Kingston’s Tower and Duke Streets; and whatever was available had to be acquired via these commercial agents. Fortunately for me, during my sojourn in England, I had become acquainted with some export sources, which I immediately contacted. I was informed that they could comply with the supply of any label I desired. Thus began my foray into the sale of commercial recordings, which served to break the cartels. My English suppliers added the Savoy label, which covered recordings of all the American and European jazz greats of the era: the MGM label featuring the George Shearing Quartet and the voice of Billy Eckstine, as well as the Mellodisc label which featured the West Indian calypsonian great, Lord Kitchener. These labels with their offerings made a direct and astonishing impact on the record-buying public, as the sales were nothing short of phenomenal. I remember dispensing of a shipment of three hundred Mellodisc recordings of Lord Kitchener’s “Kitch Come Go to Bed” in only two days. The manufacturer’s representatives of the establishment, taken by surprise, did not take this interference very lightly, and I was later to suffer somewhat for my feistiness and effrontery.
For this my record-selling venture, I needed top-class reproduction, so I immediately imported two eighteen-inch English Celestian bass woofers (speakers) and half a dozen of the twelve-inch, heavy-duty variety. These arrived in February 1947. I mounted the woofers in bass reflex cabinets that I had constructed for them and turned to my trusted power amplifier designs to set them alive.
The amplifier I had prepared was of split spectrum design, powered by two RCA 807 power pentodes (designed for the modulation stages of highfrequency radio transmitters) in a 120-watt class ABi push-pull output configuration. The pre-amplifier section was built around active filters designed to split the audio frequency spectrum into three overlapping frequency components, fed into parallel-connected double triode cathode followers, each with their individual volume controls. This approach eliminated the need for the proverbial tone control, and the raucous surface noises that emanated from the old PA systems with their high audio hum, used to play gramophone recordings, were on their way out. The modern split-spectrum active-filter equaliser – although I did not recognise it then – had arrived.4
I had also designed and constructed a pre-amplifier with switch-selectable equalisation compensation for all the record manufacturing companies who provided non-active filter circuitry for their high-fidelity (hi-fi) micro-groove recordings just being put on the open market. The various compensations included Columbia, RCA, Decca, Philips, RIAA, and Orthroscopic circuit legends with claims of electronic compensation for the Fletcher-Munsen effect of the human ear.
My record sales department was given the name “Bop City” with a flashing electric sign espousing my radar technology; and although I sold a variety of recording labels with popular and R&B titles on 78-rpm discs, my accent was on the jazz development taking place and the new technology of hi-fi in stereo. I still have in my possession two such demonstration recordings of the era.
With my record sales department in place, I designed and built a highfidelity audio amplifier using my newly acquired electronic technology. Equipped with what I presumed to the best recorded sound reproducer anywhere, I set out on a Saturday night in mid-1947 to demonstrate my thunder. I started to play some Perez Prado recordings. A crowd gathered, and from the crowd emerged two streetside dancers. They called themselves “Pam-Pam” and “Chicken”. Little did I realise that Tom Wong’s sound was contracted to perform at the Jubilee Tile Gardens, almost opposite my business place. Tom’s puny sound with his re-entrant steel horns was no competition for my bass reflex baffles, mid-range speakers and high-range tweeters. His dance, in Jamaican parlance, flopped.
The following Monday morning, I was in for a surprise, as Tom paid me a visit, complete with cash down for one of my amplifiers. Within two weeks his system was transformed with a Jones amplifier and two bass reflex speaker baffles loaded with twelve-inch heavy-duty Celestian speakers. The true Jamaican sound system was born, and scratchy recorded noises receded into oblivion forever.
I deem it appropriate to end this essay with a few plaudits for some of the individuals who helped me along the way. My sincere thanks to Tom Wong, the first owner of one of my systems; Roy Johnston, salesman of Desnoes and Geddes Red Stripe Beer, and the very first user of my speaker horn-type baffle boxes, which were nicknamed the “House of Joy”; Duke Reid for giving me the opportunity to build his first two systems; Yellow Canary from Seaforth, St Thomas; Clement Dodd (“Coxon” the original until polluted to “Coxsone” by persons unknown); and many others from all over Jamaica, who lent their support. I also thank Mr Bridge of Times Store’s radio department, who recognised my potential for electronics and gave me discarded battery radios that I experimented with, and managed to convert to electric mains operation. Finally, I am grateful to Mr Galbraith, chief engineer of the firm of Wonard’s Radio Engineering in downtown Kingston, and an RAF buddy with like training, for recommending me to the Kingston Technical High School Board as the only one he thought capable of setting up their day-release classes to instruct students in radio technology. This I did for five years, from 1959 to 1964, thereafter pulling up roots and exiting Kingston for the friendly city of Montego Bay.
We thank Hedley Jones for graciously giving us permission to include this essay, an adaptation of a chapter of his forthcoming autobiography, in this publication.
1. I originally trained six apprentices. First was Duke Lawrence, who subsequently became chief engineer for the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), London. Second was Arthur Hassan, subsequently employed to the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) studios, Kingston, as operator. Third was Fred Stanford, Duke Reid’s sound engineer for a decade. He migrated with his family to the USA in 1962, taking the Jamaican sound system expertise to the New York Borough of Brooklyn, from where he launched the Jamaican contribution to the world of electronic sound reproduction. Fred was a witty fellow. He found sobriquets for both sound operators Tom Wong and Duke Reid, naming Tom “The Great Sebastian” and Reid “The Trojan”. He also named Roy Johnston’s huge sound baffles “The House of Joy”. Fourth was Jackie Eastwood, who served as the sound engineer of Sir Coxsone Downbeat (Clement Dodd, chief executive officer of Studio One) from 1956 onwards, still operating from his electronic repair establishment in Kingston. Fifth was Neville Cha Fung. He migrated to the USA during the early fifties; there he pursued studies in electronics at the college level, emerging with a degree, before joining the family electronics sales business (KG’s) of Kingston. Sixth was Ucal Gillespie. He joined Fred Stanford in Brooklyn, New York, USA, during the late 1960s.
There were also others who emerged from my electronics classes at the Kingston Technical High School, which (as noted in my acknowledgements) I taught from 1959 to 1964. For example, there was Richards, whose first name eludes me at this juncture; this student migrated to the USA and pursued further studies in electronics, joining the NASA work force, where he was elevated to an electronic design engineer. Last but by no means least is Oval Lue, who emerged from my Kingston Technical High School classes to eventually become the chief engineer of JBC TV studios in Kingston.
2. Two years later, in the late summer of 1948, the British ship SS Windrush docked at the Victoria Pier in Kingston Harbour, discharging its human cargo of the last remnants of RAF service personnel wishing to be back home in Jamaica. The goodly ship then sailed out with the first wave of the mass emigration of Jamaicans to Great Britain that was to follow in subsequent years – and accompanying that emigration would be the initial entry of the Jamaican sound system that was to make a profound change to the music accepted as normal by the British people.
3. The sound system style of recorded music reproduction is a Jamaican phenomenon, of Jamaican originality, conceived on the science of electronic sound reproduction, firstly around my electric guitar amplifier designs of the early World War II years. This original initiative was considerably advanced by the training I received in the Royal Air Force (RAF) of Great Britain as a colonial war service volunteer airman (RAF radar engineer). There have been several claims and counter-claims as to origin, but the foregoing and what follows are the plain unadulterated facts, which may not be successfully refuted anywhere in the world. The identification by sundry writers of the 1960s to 1970s as the beginning of the sound system/dancehall era, is woefully off-base. Those days saw the growth and enhancement of the phenomenon as a result of the proliferation of recorded music and local recording studios, and the rapid expansion of radio and television broadcasting as well as the rise of road bands. Until the publication of Norman Stolzoffs Wake the Town and Tell the People (Durham, NC: Duke, 2000), there had been no proper investigation of the subject. And even Stolzoff was misled in certain aspects, perhaps inadvertently by individuals who were too young to know. I must also emphasise that considerable research was done on early designs of audio power amplifiers; and those who benefited most did not have a clue regarding the design origins.
Persons who wish to call themselves musicologists ought to avail themselves of any opportunity to make a scientific study of the art of music. One typical example of the use of natural resonance can be found in the design of the brass instruments of an orchestra. The instruments are designed using the natural harmonics of any given note or sound so that only three valves are found necessary to produce myriad octaves of musical tones by the application of human choice and ingenuity. This simply means that music is of cosmic origin and retains both beneficial and destructive powers, depending on its use. This comment is not intended as a barb. I do hope my readers consider this sound advice.
4. Two gentlemen – Mr Baldwin Lennon, musicologist, a government civil servant who subsequently became chief accountant for the commercial firm of H. D. Hopwood and Company Ltd., and Mr Oscar Durant, violinist and musicologist, at the time senior shorthand writer of the Supreme Court of Jamaica – bought into my invention. In 1950 I designed and built a three-channel stereo audio amplifier. Each channel – bass, mids and highs – was fed via an active filter into triode cathode followers (in order to minimise audio hum) with individual volume control and a complete amplifier power output stage, each into its own separate speaker system. This surely was a very complex arrangement at that time. These gentlemen each purchased a system complete with a pre-amplifier with equalised compensation (Fletcher-Munsen equalisation) for any recording from any recording company they chose. The reader will recognise, and please pardon, the foregoing as technical jargon. This could hardly have been avoided, considering what is being described.
My own prototype, a bit cumbersome, disintegrated when I moved from the capital city to Montego Bay in 1965, but I produced another three-channel stereo system for Mr Peter Honiball, owner and operator of the famous Club 35 of Montego Bay, in 1966. Most of what I retained, including my very first design of a twin bass guitar (1961), suffered from irretrievable damage in a very devastating flood that damaged my business place in Montego Bay on the night of 12 June 1979. I am still in possession of an amplifier for electronic instruments which I designed and built in 1956, as well as my present 70-watter built in 1986 and still in use. All my amplifiers have been tube (USA)/valve (UK) types.
HEDLEY JONES is an historical figure in the development of modern Jamaican music. He is the author of Jamaica electronic sound technology, an important agency in the articulation of the modern global soundscape.
Here is an article that appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner on August 24, 1987 written by Carmen Patterson with the title, “Hedley Jones, inventor, creating the unusual.”
AS AN inventor, St Catherine-born Hedley Jones, has had no fame, nor has he made a fortune He gets satisfaction from doing and creating things that are different from the usual A radar electronics engineer trained by the RAF in World War II Hedley read of the development of the electric guitar m the United States in 193O s and took nine months of continuous work to create the first solid-body electric guitar in 194O His was an advancement on American guitarist Charlie Christian s electrified standard model, made by Gibson Guitar Company, USA Twenty years later, Hedley built the twin-neck electric five-string bass and guitar, the only one of its kind Over the years he has built several amplifiers, one of which, although 32 years old, is still in use today. As a young musician, who was taught vocals by his parents, Hedley resolved never to play a manufactured instrument and set about building his own Ukelele, tenor banjo and a cello and bow, all of which he played well as a child JFM’s President Hedley Jones is widely known as the decisive president of the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, who some members consider harsh. His aim is to instil discipline among performers, by dealing with the problems of drug abuse and indecency on stage. To this end, the JFM, through its president, recently suspended Gregory Isaacs from the Federation due to a number of court appearances on charges of cocaine involvement and at the recent Festival Song Finals Lovindeer’s performance, carried live on national television, was chicled by the JFM because of his choice of songs and props. Medley is also concerned about the quality of lyrics that is being unleashed on the public and cites the urgent need for our musicians to be formally trained so that the local product can progress professionally and commercially. He has been involved in the transition of Jamaican music before he built Studio One on Brentford Road, Kingston and worked as recording engineer in the -Coxon Studio for Bob Marley’s classic ‘It hurts to be atone’. As designer he created the early sound systems used by Tom ‘The Great Sebastian’, Coxon, Duke Reid, Mellow Canary and others. He’s also known as guitar teacher and stage performer at such old Kingston favourites as Glass Bucket Club and Carib Theatre with the 20-piece Carlysle Henriques Orchestra of the early 40s featuring Mapletoft Poulle, Joe Harriot and Wilton Gaynier. He’s known at the Cellar Club, Club 35, Breezy Point and Tryall Club in western Jamaica. Astronomy fascinates him But only very close associates know of Hedlev’s fascination for astronomy and his obsession with research in history — whether Black, Indian, Chinese or Mexican — and the scriptures. He has reams of notes from his research that just this month he organised to have typed, for posterity. His love for the outer worlds spurred him to build a telescope 16 years ago, which he used to re-discover Halley’s Comet on the night of November 2, 1985. And every night otter a day’s work as an electronics engineer In Montego Bay, Hedley makes preparation to gaze at the stars from 1O p.m. to 3 a.m. It was in April 1956 while watching the planets Jupiter and Venus in close western coni unction with the new moon, that the inspiration came for the first and only poem he has written. It says in part: I LOOKED: A western planetary conjunction; a wonderous sight; As if to outshine the crescent moon, did Venus and Jupiter shed their light. AND LO! The tri-starred orion with Sirius, Green Dog Star gay, imbued with perspective; exquisite nebulae! An act of nature’s interplay. Amid transcendent, immaculate and resplendent beauty. The cosmic scene stood vigil, sentinel of life’s eternal duty. I WONDERED! How prone was man to spurn his maker. This was the perfect picture God the master painter. “A look into the outer world makes me humble. Sometimes seeing certain aspects of the Heavens for the first strikes a feeling of unbelief for a time, but never to the point where I feel I shouldn’t look. I always want to take a second and third look to make sure that what I saw is really there. But seeing it again and again, does not dispel my awe”, he beamed. Studying the effects of astral travel Hedtev’s Insatiable appetite for knowledge, especial ly of the spiritual world, also led him to study the effects of astral travel. He said those who possess the gift should not be frightened of it, but use It to develop greater knowledge at the time of travel. He disclosed that one night, during man’s first landing on the moon, lust as he was about to fall asleep he found himself looking down at his body lying in the bed. He recalled learning that during such ‘spirit travel’ the traveller could learn any subject he wished. So, because he always wanted to know more about the moon, he said aloud, ‘Moon’. In a flash he found himself landed on the moon. But he didn’t stay long, because shortly after he landed, he woke up. Hedley’s life-long ambition has been to establish a planetarium In Montego Bay and he completed a feasibility study on the project in 1978. However, because of red tape it fell through. But being the patient and determined person he is, Hedley has not given up the Idea and intends to revitalise the project. For him the planetarium would mean ‘that every child in Jamaica would have a chance to look above him, into the vault of the sky — and that’s striving for the highest goal. Isn’t It?”
1 thought on “Pioneer Hedley Jones”
Great stuff.As a long time guitarist and being familiar with tube (valve) amplifiers I enjoyed the more technical parts as well.
I wonder if he taught others, such as Lloyd Daley & Tubby, how to build amps.