This advertisement from the Star Newspaper in July, 1959, features a photo of the great Duke Reid being crowned “King” by Mrs. Iris King, the mayor of Kingston. Mrs. King was the first female mayor of Kingston and she served from 1958 to 1959. The ad reads, “Duke Reid the Trojan, proprietor of Reid’s Sound System & Liquor Store at 33 Bond Street, was crowned King of Sound and Progressive Jazz for the 6th consecutive time at a Dance held in Honour of Her Worship The Mayor, Mrs. Iris King at Shepherd’s Hall, 68 Hanover Street on Saturday night July 18. Mrs. King expressed her appreciation and admiration of Duke Reid whom she said she had known a very long time as a hardworking . . . conscientious and honest businessman, and deserved the success he has achieved.”
This version of Reid is a very different one than the version painted by David Katz in his book, People Funny Boy which is on the life and career of Lee Scratch Perry and is a fantastic piece of work. Katz’s version, which is undoubtedly more accurate, states, “The Duke, born Arthur Reid, was a flamboyant and intimidating figure who bludgeoned his way to the top of Kingston’s popular music scene. His ten years in the police force had left him with a fondness for firearms, a close association with the Jamaican criminal underclass, and strong links with certain factions of American organised crime.” Katz goes on to talk of Reid’s association with the Whoppi King, who was “Public Enemy Number One.,”
So here we have two versions of Reid, in a country defined by versions, of history and of music. From being crowned King by the mayor, to being associated with the notorious don Whoppi King, Duke Reid is a crucial element of Jamaican music history, for his bravado, his ingenuity and inventive tenacity, and for his ear for classic music that has stood the test of time.