One afternoon in late 2002 (November?), while I was living in Jamaica doing fieldwork on mento for my dissertation, I bumped into Colby Graham at the National Library’s circulation desk. I don’t exactly remember why we started talking – maybe someone suggested we compare notes? – but I’m sure glad we did. Colby was there that day doing some research for his magazine Vintage Boss. I’d not seen Vintage Boss before (it first appeared in May 2002 and the earliest issues were snatched up quickly by the Kingston cognoscenti), but I was struck by the work Colby was doing. Not only was he searching down and writing about some of the most talked about and often least acknowledged people in Jamaican music history (particularly from the ska, rocksteady and reggae eras), but he seemed to be constanly scouring newspapers and photo archives in search of images that could help him chronicle and reclaim facets of Jamaica’s music history from obscurity.
Much of what he’s found (and continues to uncover) is astonishing, and some of it is now up on the Vintage Boss blog. For those that grew up in Jamaica, Colby’s work helps enliven the musical past. For fans of Jamaican music around the world, his work helps contextualize – indeed, helps put faces to – the seemingly innumerable and often anonymous vintage records widely available from stores in the US, stores in Japan, and from vendors on the internet and on eBay. I understand that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 issues (many on their way) and a dozen interview DVDs. These should all be more widely available in the coming months – if memory serves, I think he got a distribution deal – but if you just can’t wait, back issues are sometimes available through Ernie B’s.
Point is, I haven’t come across many talking about Vintage Boss and this is a shame, so I want to get the word out. In my opinion, it provides some of the finest coverage of early Jamaican music and should be required reading by anyone interested in its history.