How Crucial is Crucial Riddim? Very!


In the 1970’s, two women were crucial to Reggae, particularly the visibility of the genre.  Those two women are Reba Davis and Susan Stockstill.  From photos to merchandise to donations to radio to archivists, these two powerhouses helped to expand the genre from Jamaica to the U.S.


VP: For our readers are you please introduce yourself and explain your role within the Reggae industry.

R&S:  In the late 70s Reba Davis and Susan Stockstill started a small company called Crucial Riddim We built a dark room to develop our photos, made many hand-screened Reggae T-shirts, a label for Ras Michael (hand screened) and we donated our time to making various bumper stickers, photo buttons and T-shirts for PBS radio stations that were willing to play Reggae. It was unusual to hear any Reggae on the radio then. These stickers and shirts were given to donors for stations like KCRW (Santa Monica) and KUSP (Santa Cruz) as well as KPFA in Berkeley, Ca. It was always fun to spot one of our bumper stickers on a car. We were busy with multiple projects going on – in one day we might do a beach session with our friends and be visited by Ras Michael and also Burning Spear along with Sky High (Hartnel Henry) requesting T-Shirt designs. Their presence made us want to understand more about the music and Jamaican culture. These were dignified ambassadors of Reggae and Rastafarian belief. One had very limited access to Reggae records and especially 45s on the West Coast in the late 70s some people were buying from the U.K. off mail-order lists. These lists were very exciting to the collectors. We saw an opportunity to start a list ourselves and did so as Crucial Riddim aka Record Like Dirt but we also saw a need to preserve the rare 45s being pressed in Jamaica. Little did we know that our lists would be much appreciated later in the UK, Brazil, Europe and Japan. So our role in Reggae evolved from photos to collectors to archivists and sellers of Reggae 45sVP: You’ve spent a lot of time record-shopping in Kingston, notably at Randy’s 17 North Parade, please tell us about your time spent at the store and your favourite memories.

R&S:  For us, the experience in Randy’s was the excitement of being transported into the depths of Reggae culture at the moment. Every day was work but mixed in were highlights of meeting people like Freddie Mckay, Lee Perry, Joe Hill, Wesley Tinglin (Viceroys) Keith Poppin, King Stitt, Junior Byles, Winston Jarrett and many others not as well-known as Gregory Isaacs – one day Jah Lloyd came and asked us to come quick as Gregory was being held in jail and being taken to trial … Charlie Ace came in and set up a Sunday that we met up and visited him at home.We spent a lot of time with Carl and Veronica aside from work. Sometimes even staying in Veronica’s home eventually she came out to our home in California and we enjoyed travelling through the Sierras together. We felt very close to all the workers at Randy’s including CB (Maurice Edwards), Norman Watson (Pearls), Miss P, Cookie and Amy. Their hospitality at the store and helpfulness made our day!VP: Reggae music has been very male-dominated since its inception, what difficulties have you faced as a woman in the industry and how have you overcome them?R&S:  When it comes to questions about the male domination of Reggae we looked at it from a different point of view because in Jamaica in many cases women run ting- if we were waiting for someone to show up at a shop anywhere on the Island – it was not a male we a wait for – it was always a woman with the keys! We knew quite a few women that ran record shops all over the Island and they were very helpful to us. Beverley at Tuff Gong Int was always in the picture. We also had Miss Pat as a good business model well known and respected across the world.One of our biggest finds was two huge garages full of records from the 60s and 70s – we had heard about this possible lock up for two years and kept following up leads and finally, a woman said yes I know and whisked us across Kingston to this incredible find. The males in the rest of the world buying records never thought we were women until recently – no one ever wrote a letter that did not start with Dear Sir or Hey Bro most of the time we did not bother to correct them unless they became long-term customers. In Jamaica, men treated us with warmness and respect they did not think it odd that we were interested in Reggae or records respecting our interests and point of view. Rastafarians in particular were very kind and generous we connected through our shared musical interest.It’s nice to see women collecting and DJing now in a genre that has been long dominated by men. In the last few years, we have seen the rise and been made aware of more and more women DJs Internationally and surprising us with Vinyl Clubs all over the world.

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All photos credit Crucial Riddim Archive.