Kenneth Khoury

Kenneth Khoury

For most reggae fans, it feels like the Jamaican-born genre has been around for centuries.  In real time, though, reggae is only about 45 years old.  Assuming it lasts forever (or at least the next century or so, realistically), then reggae is a fairly young musical genre.  This gives us hardcore reggae fans a chance to celebrate some of the genre’s “firsts”—just as a new parent celebrates her/his baby’s firsts.  With that said, we at Inity Weekly found some of reggae’s most notable “firsts.”  Enjoy!

First Reggae Record Label

In 1954, Kenneth Khouri started Federal Records in Jamaica.  At the time, it was Jamaica’s first domestic recording studio and where the pioneers of reggae, such as Sir Clement 'Coxsone' Dodd, Duke Reid and Prince Buster, recorded the earliest examples of popular Jamaican music.  Although Khouri and Federal Records are rarely mentioned in reggae conversations, the two greatly influenced reggae’s early producers.

First Reggae Grammy

Grammy Awards serve as music’s grand validator.  Receiving a Grammy usually adds much credibility to an artist’s career; so imagine the impact of getting a Grammy category dedicated solely to your genre. Well, that is what happened in 1985 when the Grammys added the award for Best Reggae Recording.  The first recipient of the award was Black Uhuru.

First Reggae Album to Hit the Billboard Country Music Charts

Weird, but true. VP Records produced compilation album, “Reggae’s Gone Country,” peaked at No. 65 on the Billboard Country Music chart, as well as No. 2 on the Billboard Reggae Albums chart.[i]  The album became the first reggae music album to ever make the Billboard Country Music charts.

First Major Reggae Song Covered

Local and international favorite, Bob Marley was responsible for scores of reggae anthems.  One such song was “Stir it Up.” “Stir it Up” was originally produced in 1967, but was not an international hit until Johnny Nash covered the song.  Johnny Nash’s version not only brought an even more diverse audience to the Marley original; but, in 1972, it also peaked at No. 15 on both British and American charts.[ii]  Nash’s “Stir it Up” cover essentially amounted to the first major cover of a reggae song.

First Living Reggae Artist Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Jimmy Cliff was reggae’s first international star and remains its greatest living ambassador, having taken the music of Jamaica to all corners of the world—strikingly similar to Bob Marley.  But when Bob Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, he had been deceased for thirteen years, making Jimmy Cliff the first living reggae artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.[iii]