On the time Anthony Richards arrived in the UK, 60 years ago, what became generally known as the Swinging Sixties was simmering. Groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were on the verge of exploding.
Music from the West Indies also made its way into British clubs or on sound systems operated by Jamaicans Duke Vin and Count Suckle. Ska and rock regular music became a part of the UK’s melting pot, due to the big flow of immigrants from Jamaica who settled there within the Fifties.
The large breakthrough for West Indian music got here in 1964 with My Boy Lollipop, by Millie Small, which was a worldwide hit. That ska song was distributed by Island Records which was co-founded by Chris Blackwell in Jamaica five years earlier.
My Boy Lollipop set the pace for hits by other Jamaicans, including Desmond Dekker and The Aces (Israelites and 007 Shanty Town), Dandy Livingstone (A Message to Rudie), Tony Tribe (Red Red Wine), Dave Barker and Ansel Collins (Double Barrell) and Every thing I Own by Ken Boothe.
The affable Richards helped shop Every thing I Own for Trojan Records in 1974. It topped the British national chart and gave that company, operated by fellow Jamaican Lee Gopthal, its biggest business success.
In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer, Richards paid homage to the Jamaican grass roots artistes, record shop owners, and sound system operators sometimes neglected by the mainstream. They include Livingstone, Owen Gray, Lascelles Perkins, Jimmy James, The Cimarons, Sonny Roberts, Carlisle Pama, Count Suckle, Duke Vin, Count Shelly, and Lloydie Coxson.
“They’re those who went around and did the footwork. Their contributions can’t be neglected,” he said.
There have been also artistes from the Eastern Caribbean who made a big mark including calypsonian Lord Kitchener from Trinidad and Tobago, who had arrived within the UK on the Empire Windrush in June 1948, as a part of the primary wave of Caribbean immigrants to the UK.
Also, Eddy Grant from Guyana, a soul singer with The Equals.
By the mid-Seventies, first-generation West Indian Britons were holding their very own musically with a sound inspired by Rastafari and racial/social unrest throughout the UK. The very best known of those militant acts were Aswad, Steel Pulse, and Misty In Roots.
They were followed within the Eighties and Nineties by more laid-back acts like Maxi Priest, Janet Kay and Musical Youth.
On the October 2018 Q Awards in London, Trojan Records was honoured with the Inspiration Award for helping to introduce the music of West Indians to major markets within the UK.
That event was attended by plenty of reggae stalwarts including Richards, who was honoured with the Order of Distinction, on the rank of Officer, by the Jamaican Government in 2022 for his contribution to the event of Jamaican music.