National Library of Jamaica
I-Roy was born Roy Reid on June 28, 1949 in St. Thomas. After graduating from Dinthill Technical College, he embarked on a career in the civil service but soon found himself drawn to the vibrant music scene that blossomed during the 1960s. In 1968, he launched his own sound system Soul Bunny, setting it up on Wednesday afternoons by Victoria Pier where he attracted attention and was soon offered a spot at Son’s Juniors System located in Spanish Town. There he met producer Harry Mudie, who took him into the studio gave him the name I-Roy and recorded four songs. Two of the songs, The Drifter and Heart Don’t Leap paired him with Dennis Walks, the third, Let Me Tell You Boy with Ebony Sisters while the fourth, Musical Pleasure was his solo debut.
I-Roy’s popularity grew and by 1971, his partnership with Mudie had come to an end. This however did not put a damper on his career as he embarked on a prolific period, recording with virtually every major producer on the island: Hot Bomb for Lloyd; Mood for Love with Winston Blake; Problems of Life and Musical Drum Sound for Lloyd Daley. All these singles were major hits and as a result, I-Roy was offered a slot at King Tubby’s legendary Hi-Fi sound system. In 1973, I-Roy saw his career take off with such legends as Bunny Lee who produced Rose of Sharon, Make Love and Who Cares; Derrick Harriott who produced Melinda; Lee Perry with High Fashion and Space Flight and Byron Lee who oversaw a tribute to the popular sci-fi show Dr. Who. But his best work, done with Gussie Clarke included hits such as Magnificent Seven, High Jacking as well as his debut album Presenting. His second self-produced album, Hell and Sorrow proved to be a greater hit, attracting attention as far afield as the United Kingdom where I-Roy toured for eight months in promotion of his next album The Many Of.
When I-Roy returned home, he found himself battling a fading DJ scene. In 1975, he released the hits Black Bullet, I Man Time, Forward Yah, Roots Man and the classic Welding. He also engaged in a musical battle with rival DJ Prince Jazzbo that served to make him even more popular with the buying public. In 1975, I-Roy released his fourth album Truth and Rights. Between 1976 and 1979, he released nine albums with the Front Line label. This proved to be his peak as by the 1980s I-Roy star began to fade and his albums sold less.
Family tragedies and health issues took its toll and the DJ died in hospital on November 27, 1999.