It is with an extremely heavy heart that we can report that Jack Price – musician, song-writer, producer, promoter and record company owner - sadly passed away on the evening of Saturday 17thSeptember.
During his long and distinguished career in music, he had worked in virtually every capacity, from salesman to record company owner, with the Sioux Records label he managed with Graeme Goodall in the early seventies of particular interest to vintage reggae enthusiasts.
Jack was born and grew up in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey and after leaving school, joined his father’s motorcycle business. A two-year spell with the Royal Air Force in Fighter Command followed, after which he left for New Zealand, where he spent the next decade.
Soon after moving to the country, he formed a harmonica trio called the Rhythmonics, which consisted of himself, fellow harmonica enthusiast Peter Nation and, a little later, Barry Sait, who in turn was replaced by Bill Hearn.
The group promptly established a reputation, regularly performing on the cabaret and concert circuit and at ANZAC concerts, while also appearing as guests on a number of radio shows. Jack’s virtuosity on the instrument resulted in him winning the prestigious Larry Adler cup for chromatic harmonica on several occasions and even impressed the master himself with his renditions of ‘Smoke Gets in Your Eyes’ and ‘The Genevieve Waltz’, in 1958 and ’59, respectively.
Around 1960, Jack and his fellow Rhythmonics were signed by Viking Records for whom they subsequently recorded ‘The Harmony Cats’ album, which was regularly played on New Zealand radio stations.
Soon after, Jack found success as a solo performer, but in 1963 moved back to England with his family. His musical talents promptly led to a contract with Dick James Music and, determined to succeed in the business, he then set about building a recording studio in South London, to produce demos. His resolve soon paid dividends when popular British singer Dickie Valentine recorded one of his songs
A contract with Edward Kassner Music ensued, with Jack penning several songs later recorded by such established acts as Ken Jones and Ruby Murray, while not long after Tom Jones cut his ‘Kiss Kiss’.
The arrangement with the Kassner company continued for year or so, after which he became the chief recording engineer for Moreno Sound Studios, where such acts as the Alan Price Set, Cream and Duffy Powers came to record new material.
Around 1967, Jack, along with guitarist called Terry Dwyer signed as a writer with Dick James Music Ltd. once more and for the next six years enjoyed success with a number of songs that were recorded by the likes of the Troggs, the Lovin and the Loot, whose version of his ‘Baby Come Closer’ made the UK Top 30.
It was about this time that along with Jean Domminney, he formed Dominant Music and Crystal Records Ltd., while around the beginning of 1968, he replaced Siggy Jackson as the label manager and P.A. for Emile Shalit, the Managing Director of Melodisc Records.
With Melodisc, Jack undertaking a wide variety of jobs, from driver to label manager, with his numerous other roles including sales rep, plugger and production manager.
By this time, Jack’s finger was firmly on the pulse of the exciting Jamaican music scene and having witnessed the growing interest in the exciting new sounds among young British music fans, decided to branch out as a freelance producer.
After meeting with most of the UK’s major companies, he finally received backing from Paddy Fleming of Mercury Records, then part of the giant Philips Record Company. Soon after, Jack delivered to the company ‘Rock Steady Hits Of 1969’, a long player that saw issue on the company’s Fontana label, which swiftly entered the Top Ten of the mid-price range album.
Up until this time, Jamaican sounds had only been available from specialist shops, but the success of the LP led to almost 20 albums and a number of singles for such companies as Fontana, Mercury, Philips, Pye, Decca, President, Redifusion and Saga, all of which were made available nationwide.
Jack also signed publishing deals with Sparta-Florida Publishing for several songs, including ‘Swan Lake’ by the Cats, which became a national hit early in 1969.
The following year, he formed the Landester Music Publishing Company and signed a sub-publishing agreement with Intersong, which later formed the basis of Warner Chappell, while in 1971, Jack launched his Crystal Publishing Co. that became part of the Dick James Music Group.
While with D.J.M., the company published Don Drummond’s ‘Confucius’, a version of which featured on the flip side of UK Top 10 hits, ‘Jig A Jig’ by East Of Eden.
In addition, Jack worked as label manager for Art & Sound Limited, a Saga Records label, although it was his as a recording artist that he was to enjoy his first connection with Trojan Records.
Along with long-term collaborator, Terry Dwyer, he had written ‘Pharaoh’s Walk’, an eastern sounding instrumental that the pair subsequently recorded, along with West Indian flute player, Colin Dowl, with all instruments overdubbed by the trio at Jack’s mother’s house.
The recording was subsequently licensed to Trojan, which early in 1971 issued it along with another track by the trio, ‘Little Ceaser’, on its Duke subsidiary, crediting the artist as Exodus. The unusual, haunting feel of ‘Pharaoh’s Walk’ provided Jack and Terry with a minor hit, with its wide-ranging appeal reflected in the record being used as the theme to Emperor Rosko's popular ‘Radio One Club’ show.
By this time Jack had become friends with Graeme Goodall, the pair having worked together on sessions at the Fulham Road recording studio owned by the former Doctor Bird Records boss.
Goodall possessed an impressive track-record in successfully promoting West Indian music in the UK, with his company releasing an array of classic Jamaican sounds, including Desmond Dekker & the Aces' ground-breaking hits ’007’ and ‘Israelites’, but after the collapse of his record company, had been concentrating on session work.
In Jack, he found an able, willing and experienced partner and later in 1971, the two men travelled together to America and then on to Jamaica, where they met many of the island’s leading artists and producers, such as Byron Lee and Harry Johnson.
During their stay in Kingston, Jack even participated at a session at Dynamics studio, playing harmonica on Barry Biggs’ version of the Chi-Lites’ ‘Have You Seen Her’.
Upon their return to London, Jack and Graeme formed Sioux Records, the striking label design of which was created by his young daughter, Rachel, now a professional artist, with the first single being a reissue of ‘Pharaoh’s Walk’, issued in January 1972.
Over the ensuing months, Sioux released 25 singles and four LPs, mixing Jamaican and UK productions, with a number of the records actually featuring Jack’s talents as a performer, with the record boss assuming a number of pseudonyms, including Jackie Rowland, Jumbo Sterling, Montego Melon, King Reggie and of course, Exodus. But perhaps his best-known musical contribution from this period is a memorable harmonica part on Phyllis Dillon’s ‘In the Ghetto’ (aka ‘Woman Of The Ghetto’).
Unfortunately, Jack and Graeme lacked the finances to sustain Sioux’s output, while established Jamaican music companies in the UK began challenging rights, leading to the eventual break up of the company. The disappointment led to Goodall returning to Jamaica before settling in the USA, while Jack, after briefly being employed as a consultant for Philips Records, decided to take a break from the music business to concentrate on his other concerns.
Over the years that followed, he continued to write new songs and created a library of music for use in film and TV, with a number of his compositions used for programmes in Britain and abroad.
As the 20th Century drew to a close, license deals with President and later Esoldun resulted in a number of compilations comprising Sioux repertoire, while Jack also became heavily involved in the recording of ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’, performed by Mark Knofler and the Dunblane Choir to raise money for the Dunblane tragedy. Working without financial reward, Jack's tireless efforts ensured widespread radio play which led to the record becoming a number 1 hit over Christmas 1997. It was an achievement of which he was almost most proud, and deservedly so.
Thereafter, Jack continued to record and write music, but more recently his activities were increasingly stifled by ill health. Despite this, he never lost his appetite or interest in music, contuinually making new friends and planning new ventures.
One of the great characters of the British music industry, Jack was immensely likable, generous and talented man, who remained ever modest of his achievements, which included a not inconsequential role in popularising Jamaican music in the UK and beyond. He will be hugely missed, not only by his family, but also all those fortunate enough to have every enjoyed the immense pleasure of his company.