Everyone in the world of Reggae, Dancehall or Dub knows the name ‘Jet Star’, a company synonymous with the very best of Reggae music for the last forty years.
Since their humble beginnings as Pama Records back in the 1960s, Jet Star has made the sounds, stories and sensations of Jamaica increasingly accessible to a worldwide audience. Bringing together the rhymes and riddims of Reggae through various outlets (a nightclub, a record shop, a distribution company and the label), Jet Star undeniably helped establish the foundations of Reggae on this side of the Atlantic.
Born in Clarendon, Jamaica, the ball started rolling for the Palmer brothers when Harry Palmer bought his first north London record shop in 1962 named ‘Happy Sounds’. This gave the Palmer brothers their first taste of the music industry before going on to become joint partners in forming their own label ‘Pama’.
After having recorded and distributed their first production, Joyce Bond’s ‘Do The Teasy’, via Island Records in 1967, it seemed as if the brothers were heading in the right direction. This was until little interest was shown towards Harry’s licencing of the Clancy Eccles track, ‘What Will Your Mamma Say’, and the dream hit a halt. But the brothers weren’t going to let this defeat them and took the decision to distribute the single independently. Running operations from the back room of their Harrow real estate office, the track became the brother’s first official release and Pama Records was born.
Every front runner is bound to face competition over time and the appearance of Island’s offshoot label, ‘Trojan’, could have potentially shaken Pama. But with the label’s ability to distribute music from a variety of labels focusing on specific genres within reggae combined with their astounding repertoire of tracks kept them ahead of the pack.
Formation of Jet Star
Despite Pama’s unrivalled success, Harry stepped down from the label in 1974 to pursue a life of religion and agriculture whilst leaving his two brothers Carl and Jeff to continue the legacy. After the dissolution of Pama, Harry came back to the UK returning to his musical roots by forming Jet Star Phonographics. With just £800 and some worthy connections, Jet Star then went on to become one of the largest distributors of Reggae worldwide.
Jet Star’s Productions
In 1984, Jet Star launched their popular ‘Reggae Hits’ series. The first edition soared up the national album charts where it remained for several weeks. Today, the compilations continue to represent the very best in Reggae music, just as their predecessors did back in the days of Blue Beat and Rocksteady. The arrival of each new collection was an event of considerable importance to fans and industry members alike. With their flagship title well established, Jet Star responded swiftly to changes happening within music itself by launching several other highly successful compilation series’ in 1992 such as the specialist ‘Just Ragga’ and ‘Pure Lovers’ titles alongside the ground-breaking ‘Jungle Hits’ series. This saw Jet Star showcasing exciting underground styles to a mainstream public for the very first time. The ‘Reggae Gold’ series, launched with collections featuring Chaka Demus & Pliers, Beenie Man, Capleton and the late Garnett Silk, who was another important addition to the roster. This has since been replaced by the even more acclaimed (and irresistibly mid-priced) ‘Reggae Max’ series, each title of which shines the spotlight on a featured artist from either Jamaica or England. Jet Star subsequently added two further titles to their roster of compilations as the new millennium dawned – ‘Big People Music’ and ‘Pop Hits Inna Reggae’ - both of which regularly had their fair share of hit singles, in addition to attracting considerable mainstream attention. The sum total of such endeavours is the most comprehensive catalogue of Reggae music ever assembled. One that incorporates every possible style and sub-genre of the music's fifty-year history, and showcases the work of thousands of different singers, deejays and producers from across the globe.
In 2008, after many years of Carl Palmer successfully running Jet Star Phonographics, the company sadly, and surprisingly, folded. Had it not been for Phoenix Music International Ltd, this could have been the end for Jet Star. Today, Phoenix respectfully continues the legacy of Jet Star and its forefathers. The company have injected vibrancy along with a team of relevant experience in key areas of a digital music industry who all share the view of taking the company and its catalogue forward into a new era.
Much has changed since the first days of Jet Star in 1978. Whether these are changes in music trends or the development of new distribution and listening formats, Jet Star has consistently maintained a significant presence in an ever-competitive market. Having proven itself to stand the test of time, there’s no doubt Jet Star will continue to release great Reggae music over the years to come.
Jet Star - the Home of Reggae.