Joseph Hookim

Half Pint
February 1, 2017
Chris Blackwell
February 1, 2017

Joseph Hookim

Shortly after the Jamaican government banned gaming machines in the early 1970s, Jo Jo Hookim and his brother Ernest, abandoned their jobs as machine operators, and jumped into the music business. By 1973, the Hookims had opened their own studio, Channel One, with Jo Jo as its hands-on producer. Working alongside the Hookims was I-Roy. The collaboration of drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare at its studio, from 1974 to 1976 was a foundation to a new reggae sound. Having played at many of the same sessions or clubs, Dunbar and Shakespeare knew one another. Dunbar and guitarist Ranchie McLean, were members of a live band “Skin, Flesh and Bones” (SFB). SFB performed at the popular Kingston’s Tit for Tat Club, playing not only “well-behaved reggae”, as opposed to the lyrical themes of roots reggae, but plenty of US soul and disco. Robbie, on the other hand, was with Bunny Lee‘s The Aggrovators as their number one choice bass player. After successfully uniting Sly and Robbie; Hookim made SFB be the studio backing group that would become the Revolutionaries. Just as with any other episode in the history of Jamaican music, the number of players involved, significantly small by comparison, never diminished the musical output. Sly liked experimenting with the beat and at Channel One Joe Joe allowed him the freedom to do so. Sly wanted more than to simply play catchup to Bunny Lee’s flying cymbal. So leaving his partner McLean behind, Sly began incorporating the studio’s sound by initiating a clapping snare drum beat under certain bass notes, then moving flying cymbals on by doubling rim shots. It was obvious the music resembled US disco, which Sly would have been entirely familiar with from his nightclub cover days, but balanced with the bass and keyboards it was without a doubt Jamaican roots sound. And the bass player that helped make it happen, was Robbie Shakespeare. Ironically, too, the music that for so long took a backseat to the singers, now took the lead. Channel One’s brief tenure as the top Kingston roots setup, was the only unparalleled standard set by the opposition in the second half of the decade that led to the Hookim brothers getting bummed…an unassuming re-emerging producer by the name of Lee “Scratch” Perry, quieting working away at his own studio.

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