RIP Count Suckle

Regrettable to be reporting on the recent passing of Count Suckle, an originator of UK sound system culture, credited with introducing ska to Britain, and perhaps even more importantly was a foundation for creating social sound in the UK.

It was 1954 when he stowed away on a boat from Jamaica, accompanied with the late-great Duke Vin aka The Tickler, who we paid tribute to following his departure in 2012. Settling in Notting Hill upon arrival the two soundmen built their respective systems and started competing for the West London crowd on a regular basis, mostly composed of Afro-Carribbean immigrants who’d settled en masse in the area. The Count Suckle Sound System was one of the first of the time which provided them with nights reminiscent of the outdoor parties they’d left back home, but now introducing a more upbeat sped-up version of the jazz and r&b styles, coming to be known as ‘ska’.

The competitions for crowd loyalty during this time are affectionately known as the ‘Battle For Ladbroke Grove‘, with both sides gaining dedicated followings from around the area, Suckle showcasing the dubplates that Prince Buster would send him from Jamaica among others.

In the ’60s he moved to a permanent residency at Roaring Twenties in Carnaby Street, and later managed his own club, allowing him to start putting on live artists and evolving with his crowd of followers in to new sounds.

It was a credit to Count Suckle that not only did he make Roaring Twenties an often cited part of London’s history in the sixties, but he then used Q Club to host international acts and play records outside the reggae spectrum, keeping the focus firmly on what the crowd wanted to hear, and never compromising his soul as a sound system operator. The club shut down in ’86, causing the retirement of the great soundman from the scene.

Count Suckle (born Wilbert Augustus Campbell) passed away last month age 82. We’re appreciating a part of his legacy every time we step in to a dance outside of Jamaica, rest in peace.

Producer Gus Berger set up his own production company Gusto Films back in 2003. A few years ago there first documentary titled Duke Vin and The Birth Of Ska started doing the festival rounds to masterful acclaim. More info and a full run down up here soon, but in the meantime you can check the trailer below.

Duke Vin and the Birth of Ska- Trailer from gusto films on Vimeo