A legend from Moss Side’s reggae soundsystem scene, Count D is pictured here with his favourite record, Dennis Brown’s 1972 hit on Studio One Make it Easy on Yourself. Produced by Coxsone Dodd, it was a track he often played at the old Moss Side Youth Club in the 1970s.
As well as being a youth centre, dances and soundclashes were held in the main hall on weekends, playing the latest cuts from Jamaica through heavyweight speaker cabinets. Count D recalls that his Dennis Brown seven inch came direct from Randy’s Record Mart on North Parade in Kingston. ‘Oh yes, this was a pre-release, I’d get cartons of 45s sent across every month in the post, hot off the press.’
He lived in Hulme/Moss Side at the time, but also played across the Pennines in Chapeltown, ‘The shebeens were rammed over there. I played almost every week in Leeds at places like The Hayfield and Yankee Bill Blues, I could hardly get my records on the places were so packed out. People went wild at Junior Delgado’s Warrior – that was another big tune at the dances back then.’
Count D moved to Dudley from Jamaica as a youth and settled in Moss Side in the 1970s. He was obsessed with music, and even as a teenager he would sit outside the local shebeens in the back yard as the doormen wouldn’t let him in, he laughs, ‘I tried to sneak into Lord Kaz Blues, that was the sound I followed back then. I’d have to listen outside as they wouldn’t let us in, we were way too young.’
Often held in basements and people’s houses, shebeens were unlicensed parties held in predominately Afro Caribbean neighbourhoods.They were the best places to hear fresh sounds of Roots, Dub, Lover’s Rock and Dancehall, in fact any sounds coming out of Jamaica at that time. ‘It never really got going until 2am,’ he says. ‘We used to go to the Carib Club beforehand and sometimes Bobby’s in Longsight. That was the first time I saw Hot Chocolate, Errol’s voice was incredible.’
I’d finish DJing at 7am, go home, drink a cup of tea then go straight off to work. That’s how it was back then…
Moss Side Youth Club held regular dances, but there was also a youth sound that played with Count D. ‘Baron used to play there and at Hideaway and Burley High School. They were young but built their sound from scratch. They clashed with all of the top sounds including Saxon.’
Inbetween his day jobs, Count D would play records every other night, sometimes until 7am. ‘I’d finish DJing, go home, drink a cup of tea then go straight off to work. That’s how it was back then. Those days were nice, it wasn’t so expensive to live. A loaf of bread was 2p. And you could walk out of a job and straight into another…’
Playing records is in Count D’s blood. Even now he still has his collection of vinyl, though moving it around can be difficult. ‘Sometimes people still want me to play it, but it’s heavy work…’ He plays every week on Manchester’s Irie FM and at revival nights and dances in the north. Although known under his new name ‘Jah D’ he is still known as the Count in Moss Side. His records from Randy’s are still being played 40 years after they were pressed. ‘The quality of vinyl was so good back then,’ he holds the Dennis Brown record up to the light. ‘Look at it, it’s scuffed but it still plays like a dream.’
Count D plays on Irie FM 105.8 every Sunday from 12-2pm as Jah D or Equal International. Tune in via FM airwaves or online.