Leslie Kong

One of reggae's earliest and most successful producers, Leslie Kong was instrumental in bringing the music to an international audience. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1933, he later joined with his three brothers to own and operate Beverley's, a combination ice cream parlor and record store in the city's Orange Street district. In 1961, a customer by the name of Jimmy Cliff captured Kong's attention by singing the song "Dearest Beverley" outside of the shop; Kong agreed to record Cliff's performance and release the track as a single on the Beverley label, and a production career was born. In 1962, he helmed Bob Marley's first recordings, "Judge Not" and "One Cup of Coffee," and also produced hits including Cliff's "Miss Jamaica" and Derrick & Patsy's classic "Housewives' Choice." Soon entering into a British licensing agreement with Island's Chris Blackwell, Kong's subsequent output reads like a who's-who of mid-'60s reggae, with sides by the likes of John Holt, Derrick Morgan, Joe Higgs, and Stranger Cole. With Desmond Dekker's 1967 smash "007," Kong notched one of reggae's first global hits; Dekker's 1969 classic "Israelites" was an even bigger international smash, with the Melodians' "Sweet Sensation," the Maytals's "Monkey Man," and the Pioneers' "Long Shot Kick the Bucket" also finding great success on the U.K. charts. In 1969, he reunited with Marley (by then a member of the Wailers), concurrently helming a series of superb efforts for the Gaylads; sadly, however, these recordings were among Kong's last, and he suffered a fatal heart attack in August of 1971. ~ Jason Ankeny

    Kingston, Jamaica
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