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TopFeature ArchivesLabel Hall of FameChannel One
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Channel OneText by Harry Hawks
Well charged, disco mixed and hit bound... "no other Jamaican studio was to have quite the same impact in 1975 to 1976 or exert as much influence on the direction of the music." Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton
Channel One
Founded 1972
Place of Establishment Maxfield Avenue Kingston Jamaica
Main Studio(s)
Channel One
Joseph Hookim
Ernest Hookim
Kenneth Hookim
Paulie Hookim
Sid Backnor
Ernest Hookim
Related Artist(s)
Related Label(s)
The four Chinese Jamaican Hookim brothers were all born in St. Andrew, Kingston: Joseph, known as Jo Jo, was the eldest, Paulie who repaired bicycles, Ernest who was a technician and Kenneth who was the youngest. Jo Jo and Ernest were both life long music lovers, fascinated with the way music was made and recorded, and Paulie ran his own sound system called 'Well Charge'. The brothers originally entered the entertainment business in the sixties controlling juke boxes and one armed bandits but the Jamaican government outlawed gaming machines in 1970. Although the Hookim's juke box operation was lucrative there was insufficient income just from juke boxes and they used the contacts they had made to branch out into the recording business. The Hookims opened their Channel One Recording Studio at 29 Maxfield Avenue deep in the Kingston 13 ghetto in 1972 and Jo Jo recalled that their first release on the Channel One label, 'Don't Give Up The Fight' by Stranger Cole and Gladstone 'Gladdy' Anderson(Gladstone Anderson), sold a respectable two thousand copies... it was easy to dispose of because of their juke box connections. The brothers had originally intended not to rent out their studio to other producers but the ubiquitous Bunny Striker Lee was actually the first to utilise their new facilities.

"The first tune recorded at Channel One was Delroy Wilson with 'Can I Change My Mind'... same day we did 'Cassius Clay' with Dennis Alcapone. Dennis will tell you that. The two of them were voiced on the same day. The rhythms were done at Harry J but they were voiced at Channel One..." Bunny Striker Lee

The quality of sound was of vital importance to the Hookim brothers and only the best equipment was used in their studio and the experienced veteran, Sid Bucknor, was the first engineer to be employed at Channel One. But Ernest soon took over at the mixing desk and picked up the required skills as he went along using the manual supplied by the makers of the board to carry out repairs. The Hookims began to develop their own sound built around their house band who, for reasons that would later become obvious, was named The Revolutionaries. Driven by the 'militant' drums of Lowell 'Sly' Dunbar and with Bertram 'Ranchie' McLean on bass the sound of The Revolutionaries at Channel One would become one of the most influential and imitated Jamaican musical styles ever. Ernest would often spend an entire day working with Sly on the drum sound learning how to perfect the art of recording drums.

"Ernest Hookim has never got the recognition. When he took over at Channel One he revolutionised the whole reggae sound and moved it twenty years forward! Ernest was a perfectionist and Jo Jo always made it his business to drive round and know what was going on." Roy Cousins

All their hard work finally paid off in 1975 with the release of 'Right Time' by The Mighty Diamonds, a vocal trio who had previously enjoyed moderate hits for the Hookims with the soul influenced 'Hey Girl' and 'Country Living' The prophetic 'Right Time', released on Well Charge, created the 'rockers' era; somehow simultaneously relaxed and urgent the record provided a template that the reggae business would imitate for the remainder of the decade.

Sly played in Skin Flesh & Bones and, while the band were working at the Tit For Tat Club, bassist Robbie Shakespeare was often to be found playing in the Evil People Club across the street with The Hippy Boys. During their breaks each would go to listen to the other and in 1974 they found themselves playing together for the first time on a session for Striker (that man again!) at Channel One. The pair began to play regularly at the Maxfield Avenue studio for the Hookims and the partnership between Sly & Robbie and the Hookims would establish the "Drumbar & Basspeare's" reputation as the world's foremost rhythm section and help to foster the long overdue rise of Jamaican musicians as stars in their own right.

Sly's 'militant' double drum sound influenced the entire Jamaican recording scene and every producer stepped forward with their own variation including 'Coxsone' Dodd(CS Dodd) whose studio name, Studio One, and many rhythms the Hookims had adopted and adapted, began overdubbing and re-releasing records from his extensive back catalogue with the Channel One double drum sound. The all important sound of Channel One struck a chord with Kingston's musical fraternity and it soon became apparent that a trip down to Maxfield Avenue was necessary for any producer looking for a hit.

"If you're in the music business you have to check how things are down by Channel." Dave Hendley

The studio was now constantly fully booked with outside sessions from Monday through to Saturday but Sunday was always reserved for the Hookim's own productions. The Mighty Diamonds' debut album 'Right Time'/'I Need A Roof' was signed by Virgin Records in London and deejays Dillinger, Trinity and Ranking Trevor became huge local stars through their releases on the Well Charge and Disco Mix labels. In a typically self deprecating aside Jo Jo recalled his embarrassment on seeing nine out of the top ten records on the JBC charts on the Well Charge label.

"I would prefer to have a Top Ten hit rather than a Number One." Jo Jo Hookim

Foundation deejay Roy 'I Roy' Reid not only provided hit recordings for the brothers but also arranged their sessions and keyboard player and producer Ossie Hibbert also played an important role in arranging and engineering Channel One sessions during this period.

"Officially me and Sly used to make the tunes but Jo Jo was always named as the producer... After a while Ernest said to me 'I need help... I'll show you the board'. And Ernest taught me the board... done showed me everything!" Ossie Hibbert

First in numerous categories the Hookims were the first to release a twelve inch 45 rpm record in Jamaica with 'Truly', a Jayes updating of Marcia Griffiths' Studio One classic. This new format, playing a 45rpm single over the length of a 33rpm album gave added length, clarity and depth of sound and, as the vocal ended, the deejay part from Ranking Trevor came straight in without a break. The brothers tried to reproduce a similar effect on a series of seven inch singles that played at 33rpm but their 'Channel One Economic Package' records were discontinued after two releases due to problems with the sound quality.

Following Paulie's death in 1977 Jo Jo relocated to New York but still returned to Kingston once a month to supervise the Channel One recording sessions. Two years later the studio was upgraded to sixteen track facilities and the new Hit Bound label was introduced. Winston 'Niney The Observer' Holness(Winston ‘Niney’ Holness) was associated with the Hookims during this period and worked on their hugely successful early Yellowman recordings. The musical attack of The Roots Radics replaced The Revolutionaries and the sparse mixing techniques of Scientist, who had graduated from King Tubby's studio, came to the fore in 1982. Along with engineering maestros Barnabas and Soldgie these personnel fashioned a brand new music by returning to its roots in Kingston's dance halls and the dance hall style exploded.

But as the eighties drew to a close the Hookims gradually withdrew from making music but continued to press albums from their extensive back catalogue through the Hit Bound Manufacturing Inc. in New York and the Maxfield Avenue premises were shut down. The revolutionary sound of Channel One was an integral part in the crossover success of reggae music in the late seventies... and Jo Jo Hookim is hoping to emulate its success with his brand new state of the art Channel One Recording Studio situated uptown on West Kings House Road. But that's another story...

Noel Hawks: Interviews with Roy Cousins London/Liverpool UK 6th & 13th July 2004
Noel Hawks: Interview with Sly Dunbar London UK 12th March 2004
Noel Hawks: Interview with Jo Jo Hookim London UK /New York USA 31st August 1998
Noel Hawks: Interview with Bunny 'Striker' Lee London UK 23rd October 2007

Steve Barrow & Peter Dalton: Reggae The Rough Guide Rough Guides Ltd. 1997
Date Added: Sep 24, 2014 / Date Updated: Sep 25, 2014
Copyright (C) 2024 Dub Store Sound Inc.
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