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Label Hall of Fame

SanticText by Harry Hawks

Innately modest, and remarkably talented, Leonard ‘Santic’ Chin was intimately involved in, and hugely influential on, two very different and extremely important movements in the history of reggae music…
Date Added: Aug 30, 2013 Copyright (C) 2018 Dub Store Sound Inc.
Place of Establishment
Jamaica
Kingston
Founder:
Leonard Chin
Producer(s):
Leonard Chin
Engineer(s):
Mike Stevenson
Eddie Williams
Lindell Lewis
Stuart Breed
Errol Thompson
Main Studio(s)
Easy Street Studio
Channel One
Randys
Related Artist(s)
Augustus Pablo
Horace Andy
Jean Adebambo
Donna Rhoden
Natalie Corbett
Freddie McKay
I Roy
Jah Woosh
Paul Whiteman
Bim Sherman
Gregory Isaacs
Roman Stewart
Related Label(s)
Pressure Sounds
"Santic you're a legend you know! Within that short space of time you were producing records in Jamaica you produced more hits than most of us! And you never had no big company like Dynamics behind you to help you either. One youth man... making hits after hits!" Bunny Striker Lee

Over the past six decades relatively few people have significantly influenced the sound and direction of Jamaican music. Even fewer have altered the course of reggae not just once, but twice and Leonard Chin was one of this very select band. The first defined an era in Kingston, Jamaica in the early seventies and the second repeated this success in London, England at the beginning of the next decade.

The second child, and first son, in his family of five sisters and three brothers Leonard grew up in the rough and tumble of urban Kingston and the rural tranquillity of Clarendon:

"I was born in Kingston Public Hospital, Kingston, Jamaica in 1953 and I grew up in Jones Town until my Father went to England and I moved to Clarendon where I lived with my Dad's family in the country but when I was fourteen I moved back to Kingston. I went to Infants and Primary School in Clarendon and Boys Town School and Vauxhall Secondary School in Kingston."
Leonard 'Santic' Chin

There were no direct musical antecedents in Leonard's family but the singers of choice in the Chin household were suave and sophisticated and included Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole and Brook Benton. As a young man his musical education came from an eclectic variety of sources and experiences.

"My father was a baker but my Mum sings well. She was always singing hymns like 'How Great Thou Art' around the house. When I was in the country before I was a teenager I was living in a district called Jericho near Kellitts and part of my influences there was a local sound system called Sir George. His Dad was the Mayor of Clarendon at one point. He would play in the town centre... this was the days of 'Oil In My Lamp' by Monty Morris(Eric Monty Morris) and 'Never You Change' by The Maytals... and the town was so close that when the wind take the sound you could hear it in Jericho. Then there was the radio with ska and rock steady and shows like 'Calypso Corner' where you'd hear calypso, bossa nova and merengue." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

From a very early age he knew that music would eventually be his occupation but, when Leonard first left school after originally considering a career as a car mechanic, he began an apprenticeship as a photographic technician.

"I always used to sing. I used to draw record labels a lot because, even at fourteen, that's what I really wanted. I always knew it was what I wanted to do. I left school in 1969 and started learning to be a darkroom technician as an apprentice at the University up at Mona through a friend of my Stepfather. I worked for The Gleaner for a year after that but I was sacked for standing up to the boss!" Leonard 'Santic' Chin

By this time Leonard had also started moving and playing with some local musicians and standing up tall in the music business. He never became involved in Kingston's sound system circuit and was determined to be actively involved in actually making music.

"I was always the quiet one... never really into the dance business. I was more interested in going to the studio and making music than following a sound. I was hanging about with a group named Charles Hanna & The Graduates and I would get the occasional stage lick. I just wanted to get in there." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Leonard's first recording was as a singer with a song called 'I Am Lonely' credited to Leonardo Chinour and his other early recordings in the vocalist's role were credited to both Leonardo Chinour and Anthony Goodwin as Leonard later explained:

"Anthony is my middle name and Goodwin is my Mother's maiden name. You can't have a singer called Leonard Chin!" Leonard 'Santic' Chin

At the same time Augustus Gussie Clarke was also starting in the business and the two became not only good friends but also musical associates.

"I met Gussie around town. He came out about the same time with U Roy and 'The Higher The Mountain' on Errol Dunkley's rhythm track. I started as a singer. It was in the darkroom where I designed the first Santic label (San from Leonard's girlfriend, Sandra, and tic from the legendary Atlantic label) and the Puppy label too and my very first record, 'I Am Lonely', came out on Puppy. It was my first time... my own production and composition. It was recorded at Randys and I liked it at the time! It was credited to Leonardo Chinour. That's the first song that came out on the Puppy label. Nothing never happened with it so I said: 'Gussie. You want that label there?' I gave the label to Gussie." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

But Leonard soon realised that his future lay not in singing but in production and arrangement and he decided to work with one of his musical heroes... the young Horace Swaby now known as Augustus Pablo. They got together early in 1973 and all that Leonard had been working towards finally started to become a reality:

"At the time I thought I was OK but working with people like Mojo and Pablo it was more about the writing, the arranging and the production and I realised this part was nice. You don't have to sing so I didn't pursue it...

I was into Pablo from 'Java' and I met him down at Randys and we start talking but my friend Carl Prehay was more of a talker than me! Carl was a good friend of mine. I knew Carl's Mum who was a very nice lady... We said we'd like you to do a tune but Pablo said he only did tunes for himself. I thought maybe one day... and eventually I was going upstairs in Randys intending to do another mix of the rhythm and Pablo was there so I asked him again. He said 'You'll have to ask my manager Paul' who said 'He seems alright' and so we went downstairs...drank some cold beer. I had a nice draw with me too! We took the next two hours in the studio and ran through 'Pablo In Dub' a couple of times. The next one was a take! After 'Pablo In Dub' got on the Top Five it went to Number One for a week and then dropped back to Number Two and I asked Horace Andy if he could sing a tune on it for me." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

'Pablo In Dub' was a huge hit and immediately established Leonard's Santic Records as a label to watch out for and a force to be reckoned with. Leonard approached Horace 'Sleepy' Andy to sing over his 'Pablo In Dub' and 'Lovers Mood' rhythms and Sleepy was so moved by the rhythms that he wrote and voiced 'Children Of Israel' and 'Problems' within two hours of first hearing them. 'Pablo In Dub' and 'Lover's Mood' were both included on the Clive Chin produced, and genre defining, 'This Is Augustus Pablo' album released on Randys' Kaya label. As a musician himself Leonard had already gained invaluable insights into assessing and mastering the intricacies of arranging and producing records and, from its initial inception, only name brand artists were to be found on the Santic label. Through 1973 and 1974 hit record followed hit record...

"At the time I was the youngest producer after Gussie Clarke... but I know I was definitely the youngest producer coming out of Jamaica at that time. 'Pablo In Dub', 'Children Of Israel', 'Lovers Mood', 'Problems' some of them were not top hits but they were still bombing up the place... 'Late Hour' with I Roy... 'I'm A Free Man' with Freddie McKay..." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Now one of the prime movers on Kingston's musical scene Leonard opened an office in 1974 at the corner of Beeston Street at 127 King Street above The Wailers record shop.

"At the time I had an office at Beeston Street. Keith Hudson had an office up there, Wailers had their Tuff Gong Record Shop and Bill Hutchinson had an office. On Wednesdays all of us would meet up after the movies... Gussie, Pablo, Jacob Miller... we'd go wherever the best movie was playing whether it was Regal or Carib Theatre. The Kung Fu movies were strong at the time...

One day this guy came up there and told me his name was Burning Spear and that he was interested in recording. I knew he had done some things for Studio One. I said that I would like to work with him but I'm going to England... and the next thing I knew was the 'Marcus Garvey' album was out... Everybody was coming to England." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Leonard first came to London in February 1974 when the rest of the world was starting to show an interest in the torrent of innovative music coming out of Kingston, Jamaica. International licensing deals that could present this music to a worldwide audience were the obvious way forward for Kingston's artists and record producers.

"It was a nice place to be apart from the cold. By then I'd started to realise that it was cold! And I thought to myself I would like to live somewhere like this..." Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Leonard signed a deal with Brent Clarke's London based Atra label and the long playing Atra release, 'Jah Guide', began to introduce the music of Santic to a wider audience. Leonard's album, 'A Darker Shade Of Black', released on his own London based Santic label, comprised a collection of many of the Santic label's seven inch Jamaican hits, and helped to broaden his existing UK cult audience.

However Leonard gradually realised that his roots based Jamaican 'rebel rock music' was not necessarily right for the wider English market and, towards the end of the decade, now based in London, he returned to the smoother sounds of his youth. His account of how he produced a selection of records that would become lover's rock classics demonstrates Santic's characteristic self-effacement.

"When I came over here first when I heard tunes like Louisa Marks' 'Caught You In A Lie' that did touch me. It was a reggae tune but it had something else about it... the moog that was playing. You know that touched me! And there was a Ginger Williams tune called 'Tenderness'. Yeah!

So while I was here I had a band just playing reggae... love songs but with a stepping rhythm to it... so we were kind of going that way. But at the time when I actually got involved in the lover's thing I was sometimes behind the counter in Bert's record shop (Ital Records) on Stoke Newington High Street and I used to play these tunes and the people used to come in and buy them and there was this Greensleeves tune called 'It's over... it's over. I can't take any more...' by Sister Love...

I had no intention... thinking one day I would be making tunes like that. But in the eighties now when I was in the shop and I started listening and Carroll Thompson came about singing tunes like 'I'm So Sorry'. Before I went to the studio I was listening to them intentionally to find out what was happening... to find out what was really making these tunes tick... I remember thinking 'Ah no nothing!' I can make these things here... I'll just make them a bit more stubborn. And that was 'I'm So Sorry'. It was as simple as that and then when I went in and recorded it... how these tunes click in... what was in it... I went and basically followed what was happening but with my own interpretation..."
Leonard 'Santic' Chin

And history repeated itself as Leonard's twelve inch releases on the Santic label, including Jean Adebambo's heart breaking 'Paradise', Donna Rhoden's 'It's True' & 'Be Kind To My Man' and Carroll Thompson's 'Simply In Love' & 'I'm So Sorry' all topped the UK charts. These records, and many other Leonard Chin productions from the era, have subsequently come to be regarded as essential examples of the lover's rock genre.

Leonard had always valued spontaneity and feeling and, despite subsequent advances in recording technology, continued to do so.

"If you're a singer and you sing a tune you're not supposed to sing that tune three, four or five times. I've seen tunes voiced in my time when a man's spent all sixty hours in and out of the studio!

It was just amazing and it made me think back and... even 'I'm So Sorry' there. I spent one and a half hours recording that. Voiced it and mixed it on eight track and played rhythm guitar on it as well... one and a half hours! And it's one of the biggest lover's rock hits ever! 'Simply In Love' and 'Paradise' took three to four hours maybe five or six. I spent three hours recording them one day and went back the following day and put the strings in... two or three hours because we weren't so over conscious.

When you hear sweet things and think it can be sweeter... but it's sweet enough! You become over technical and everybody wants to be greater than they really can be. It doesn't really happen like that! You can only be the best you can be... you can't be greater trying to be like somebody else.

Looking back now I'm thinking, in the eighties and nineties, people would spend these relentless hours voicing... dropping in... voicing... dropping in. And nobody's happy! Doing that you have no soul! You're just like a mechanical thing. You become over technical and everybody wants to be greater than they really can be. It doesn't really happen like that. You can only be the best you can be..."
Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Leonard never stopped make music and worked with a young London singer named Natalie Corbett in 2005. The resulting album, 'Santic In Session featuring Natalie Corbett' was another superb release in the Santic tradition.

"Nobody wants to put in. When I hear people talk it seems to be just the old stuff but I think the market is open for something fresh and new. People keep repeating the same thing over and over. Every other category of music is making and creating new things and I want to make an album that I would go in the shop and buy. I want to like every track... if you plan and do it right it can make a difference."
Leonard 'Santic' Chin

Never less than wholly inventive Leonard Chin's Santic label could always be relied upon for top quality music. Leonard was not only truly talented... a listen to any of his work will demonstrate that... but he was also one of nature's gentlemen and I feel privileged to have been able to work quite closely with him on a number of projects over the past ten years. When I last spoke to him he was looking forward to returning to Jamaica for further recording sessions but Leonard died on Thursday 8th August 2013 from cancer in Kings College Hospital, London. His music will live forever...

Our sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family and friends at this very sad time.

Sources:
Interview with Leonard 'Santic' Chin London UK 29th December 2004
Interview with Leonard 'Santic' Chin London UK 29th October 2009
Interview with Leonard 'Santic' Chin London UK 16th November 2009
Aug 30, 2013 Text by Harry Hawks
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Hit Titles
Various - Harder Shade Of Black
CD Various - Harder Shade Of Black Pressure Sounds UK
  
¥2180 ¥1680 (US$14.92)
BUY
Various - Santic Collection Volume 2
CD Various - Santic Collection Volume 2 Santic UK
  
¥1980 (US$17.58)
Add To Want List
Various - Santic Records Presents Simply The Best: Lovers Rock Selection
CD Various - Santic Records Presents Simply The Best: Lovers Rock Selection Santic UK
  
¥1980 (US$17.58)
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Various - Down Santic Way: Santic Jamaican Productions
CD Various - Down Santic Way: Santic Jamaican Productions Pressure Sounds UK
  
¥2080 (US$18.47)
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Various - Santic & Friends: An Even Harder Shade Of Black: Leonard Chin Productions
CD Various - Santic & Friends: An Even Harder Shade Of Black: Leonard Chin Productions Pressure Sounds UK
  
¥2080 (US$18.47)
Add To Want List
Various (Carroll Thopmson, Erica Gale, Various) - Santic Collection 1978-1987 (British Lovers Rock Prod. By Leonard Chin)
CD Various (Carroll Thopmson, Erica Gale, Various) - Santic Collection 1978-1987 (British Lovers Rock Prod. By Leonard Chin) Santic UK
  
¥1980 (US$17.58)
Add To Want List
Various - Harder Shade Of Black
LP Various - Harder Shade Of Black Pressure Sounds UK
  
¥2680 ¥2144 (US$19.04)
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Various - Santic & Friends: An Even Harder Shade Of Black: Leonard Chin Productions
LP Various - Santic & Friends: An Even Harder Shade Of Black: Leonard Chin Productions Pressure Sounds UK
  
¥2280 ¥1939 (US$17.22)
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Freddie McKay; Leonard Santic All Stars - I'm A Free Man; Santic Special; Version 2
10" Freddie McKay;Leonard Santic All Stars - I'm A Free Man; Santic Special; Version 2 / Augustus Pablo - Hap Ki Do; Hap Ki Do Version Pressure Sounds UK/Santic
  
¥1680 (US$14.92)
BUY
Augustus Pablo - Columbo
7" Augustus Pablo - Columbo / Leonard Santic All Stars - Special Branch Pressure Sounds/Santic UK
  
¥1580 (US$14.03)
BUY
Leonald Chin - I Don't Want To Lose You Dub Mix 1
7" Leonald Chin - I Don't Want To Lose You Dub Mix 1 Pressure Sounds/Santic UK
  
¥1380 ¥1100 (US$9.77)
Add To Want List
Paul Whiteman - I Don't Want To Lose You
7" Paul Whiteman - I Don't Want To Lose You / King Tubby, Santic All Stars - Santic Meet King Tubby Pressure Sounds UK/Santic
  
¥1120 (US$9.94)
Add To Want List
Horace Andy - Children Of Israel
7" Horace Andy - Children Of Israel / Augustus Pablo - Pablo In Dub Pressure Sounds/Santic UK
  
¥1580 (US$14.03)
BUY
Santic - Father Will Cut You Off
7" Santic - Father Will Cut You Off Mutual Life UK/Santic Records
  
¥1480 ¥1280 (US$11.36)
BUY
Horace Andy - Problems
7" Horace Andy - Problems / Augustus Pablo - Lovers Mood Pressure Sounds UK Problems
  
¥1280 (US$11.36)
Add To Want List
Horace Andy - Problems
7" Horace Andy - Problems / Augustus Pablo - Peace And Love Dub Pressure Sounds UK/Iron Fist
  
¥1280 (US$11.36)
Add To Want List
Donna Rhoden - It's True
7" Donna Rhoden - It's True / Santic Players - Para Dub Santic UK
  
¥980 (US$8.70)
Add To Want List
Jean Adebambo - Paradise
7" Jean Adebambo - Paradise / Santic Players - Rare Dub Santic UK
  
¥1580 (US$14.03)
Add To Want List
Santic, Natalie Corbett - Honey
7" Santic, Natalie Corbett - Honey / Santic Players - Honey Santic UK
  
¥900 (US$7.99)
Add To Want List
Trevor Walters - They'll Never Get Away
7" Trevor Walters - They'll Never Get Away / Santic All Stars - Diplomatical Dub Mutual Life UK/Santic Records
  
¥1280
¥1024 (US$9.09) Limited Time Offer
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