Norman 'Syd' Bucknor: an ear for hit songs

Norman 'Syd' Bucknor: an ear for hit songs


By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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With February acknowledged as Reggae Month, the Jamaica Observer salutes some of the music's unsung heroes in this daily column.

OF the audio engineers who worked in Jamaican studios during the 1960s and 1970s, Norman “Syd” Bucknor was the most outstanding. Bucknor was also a producer who helped guide some of the biggest artistes including Alton Ellis, The Wailers, Delroy Wilson and Ken Boothe.

When he died in May 2010 in London, the tributes came aplenty.

Cecil Smith, a guitarist who knew Bucknor for several years, hailed his former mentor as “a giant in the music business. He was instrumental in the development of the Jamaican music sound, ska, rocksteady and reggae. He was a great studio engineer, producer and songwriter. He helped to shape the sound of the music alongside the musicians of the time and pioneered new ways and techniques of capturing the feel and spirit of the music. His contributions to Jamaican music cannot be overlooked”, Smith wrote.

Bucknor lived and worked in the United Kingdom for more than 30 years, mainly with veteran artistes like The Cimarons as well as home-grown acts. His best work as an engineer was done in Jamaica at producer Clement Dodd's Studio One during the rocksteady era of the mid-1960s, and at Dynamic Sounds in the early 1970s.

Bucknor was at the control for songs like Alton Ellis' Let Him Try, I'm Just A Guy and Get Ready Rocksteady; Lorna Bennett's Breakfast In Bed; Better Must Come by Delroy Wilson; Let The Power Fall by Max Romeo; Ken Boothe's Everything I Own and Dennis Brown's Some Like It Hot.

His crowning moment, however, was Natty Dread by The Wailers. The 1974 album, distributed by Island Records, proved Jamaican engineers were on par with the best engineers in the world.

Bucknor was the first engineer at Channel One when that studio opened at Maxfield Avenue in 1972. He worked on Wilson's It's A Shame, the first hit song for the fledgling company, before leaving after one year to work at Dynamic Sounds. There, he made his mark on songs like Breakfast In Bed and Everything I Own, both of which made the British national chart.

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