Louise Frazer-Bennett: Remembering a dancehall titan
This is the final in an eight-part feature on the impact of women on reggae as artistes, administrators and managers. Today, we feature artiste manager, booking agent, and sound system association founding member Louise Frazer-Bennett.
WITH her raspy voice and no-nonsense attitude, Louise Frazer-Bennett etched her name as one of dancehall's foremost artiste managers, booking agent and mentor for more than two decades.
She had a hand in the careers of Wayne 'Sleng Teng' Smith, Tenor Saw, Captain Barkey and Wickerman, Ghost and Culture, Charlie Chaplain, Junior Reid, as well as Ninja Man and Bounty Killer.
Frazer-Bennett died on October 12, 2003, four days after being admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies after complaining about severe headaches. She was 50 years old.
Howard McGowan, former entertainment editor at The Gleaner and close friend of Frazer-Bennett, remembers her as a shrewd businesswoman in a male-dominated industry.
"Louise would go the extra mile for her artistes and would haggle with producers and promoters to get the best deal for them," said McGowan, who covered the entertainment scene from 1979 to 1997.
"She commanded attention, not because of the unfortunate incident which scarred her face and hands but her business acumen," he continued.
Frazer-Bennett's in-your-face personality, gold jewellery, and outlandish fashions, added to her appeal.
"She was a colourful character but well respected in the industry," McGowan said.
One of six children born in the battle-hardened community in Jones Town in St Andrew, she was no stranger to social struggles. And, like her younger brother, former Jamaica and West Indies cricketer, Richard Austin, she was seldom out of the spotlight.
Producer and sound system owner Hugh 'Redman' James, like Frazer-Bennett, was a founding member the Sound System Association of Jamaica. Started in the early the 1990s, the union sought to bring 'soundmen' under one umbrella.
"Louise brought a lot to the table. She was head cook and bottlewasher once you say music, whether you be an artiste or sound system operator. You could call her anytime of the night. She was never too tired to listen," James told the Jamaica Observer.
James — who started the sound system Redman International in 1983 and five years later changed it to Jamrock — produced Tippa Lee & Rappa Robert's 1998 hit album Nuh Trouble We. He also had moderate success with singer Carl Meeks, all on his Redman International label.
He said Frazer-Bennett bargained with royalty collection organisation American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) to get the best deal for sound system operators.
"We even had Lord Anthony Gifford as lawyer for the Association," he said, adding that Frazer-Bennett would urge members to play Festival songs at their gigs.
"She distributed the songs herself," James continued.
"She fought for all concerned with the business and didn't get her due because she went too soon," he said.