OLYMPIC TRACKS: Melaine’s Maxfield Ave

BY SIMONE MORGAN Observer staff reporter

Friday, July 13, 2012    

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The Olympics start July 27 with Jamaica expected to feature prominently on the medal table. The Jamaica Observer presents the third in a series on the hometowns of some of our top athletes.

THE community of Maxfield Avenue is located in the heart of Kingston 13, one of the capital's toughest areas.

It is also the birthplace of Melaine Walker, the reigning Olympic 400-metre hurdles champion. She also holds the record of 52.6 seconds set at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Maxfield Avenue has produced a number of recording artistes such as Ryno, Twin of Twins, Singing Melody and Bunny Diamond of the Mighty Diamonds.

The area's greatest musical legacy is the Channel One studio which was owned by the Hoo Kim brothers: Joseph 'Joe Joe', Paul, Kenneth and Ernest.

Between 1973 and 1984, music from 29 Maxfield Avenue dominated reggae charts.

Delroy Wilson's It's a Shame was Channel One's first number one hit. Many others followed including the Mighty Diamonds' Right Time, Have Mercy, I Need A Roof and Africa; The Meditations' Woman Is Like a Shadow; Ballistic Affair by Leroy Smart and John Holt's Up Park.

The house band was The Revolutionaries whose line-up included drummer Sly Dunbar, bass players Ranchie McLean and Robbie Shakespeare, guitarist Winston 'Bo Pee' Bowen, saxophonist Tommy McCook and keyboardist Ossie Hibbert.

"Channel One studio was like a community centre to the residents of Maxfield Avenue and its surroundings," Franklyn 'Ben up' Irving told Splash. "The Hoo Kims would not turn away anyone."

Irving, who was born near Channel One, said the Hoo Kims adopted him at age 10 after his father abandoned his mother and his 10 siblings.

"When our father left Joe Joe took my five brothers shopping downtown and then I went to live with the family on Norbrook Drive," he said.

According to Irving, his was not the only family that benefited from the Hoo Kims benevolence.

"Engineer Peter Chemist's mother was a janitor at the studio, so he would often just come to chill inside the building. He was a good observer and fast learner, so in about two years he became an engineer," Irving stated.

Chemist stayed at Channel One for a few years before moving to singer Sugar Minott's studio.

Irving said Maxfield Avenue was almost entirely peaceful during the studio's reign.

In addition to the recording studio, the Hoo Kims owned several businesses in the area. These included an ice cream parlour, a sound system, a record pressing plant and a printery.

"Almost everyone in Maxfield and other surrounding areas could earn an income as these businesses provided numerous jobs. The community was almost violence-free as there was no room for idling," Irving recalled.

Ironically, the studio started losing its strength after Paul Hoo Kim was shot and killed in 1977 in nearby Greenwich Farm.

"His death was a great blow not only to his family and the musicians but to the entire community. The studio operations continued but it didn't possess the vibe that was once there," Irving said.

Channel One soldiered on in the late 1970s to the early 1980s through a street-smart producer named Henry 'Junjo' Lawes, whose Volcano label recorded numerous hits at the studio.



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