Joseph "Jo Jo" Hoo Kim

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Joseph "Jo Jo" Hoo Kim was one of the most important Jamaican record producers of the '70s, developing a tough, militant roots reggae style known as the "rockers" sound. As the head of the Channel…
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Joseph "Jo Jo" Hoo Kim was one of the most important Jamaican record producers of the '70s, developing a tough, militant roots reggae style known as the "rockers" sound. As the head of the Channel One studio and label family, Hoo Kim and his three brothers worked with many of the top reggae artists of the '70s, especially dominating the Jamaican charts in the latter half of the decade. Their house band, the Revolutionaries, spun off the legendary rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and their productions set new standards for high-tech sound quality in Jamaica.

Joseph Hoo Kim was born to Chinese and Chinese-Jewish parents and grew up in the rough Maxfield Park area of Kingston. His family owned a bar and an ice cream parlor in the area, and he and his three brothers -- Ernest, Paul, and Kenneth -- initially went into business for themselves in the gambling industry, as slot machine operators. But when the Jamaican government outlawed gambling, JoJo turned to his new love, reggae music. He bought a top-quality four-track recording console and opened the Channel One studio in 1972, with Bunny Lee and Syd Bucknor serving as its first producer/engineer combination. Eventually those slots would be filled by JoJo and his brother Ernest, respectively, as well as a series of other talented up-and-comers. The studio's first year was a rocky one, as Hoo Kim struggled to perfect the technical aspects of the recording process, but soon the backing band -- dubbed the Revolutionaries -- started to fall into place with the arrival of drummer Sly Dunbar in early 1973. (Other personnel would include bassist Robbie Shakespeare, keyboardist Ansel Collins, and veteran saxophonist Tommy McCook, among many others.)

Over the next few years, Channel One built a name for itself as one of Jamaica's best studios, thanks to its state-of-the-art equipment and top-notch house band. Its early records were often by veteran artists like Delroy Wilson, Leroy Smart, Junior Byles, and Horace Andy. However, Hoo Kim gradually built a stable of fresh talent that culminated in the 1976 release of the Mighty Diamonds' smash "Right Time," which gave Channel One the commercial breakthrough it had been seeking. Channel One productions dominated the Jamaican charts for the next several years, with major hits by the likes of Dr. Alimantado, Black Uhuru, the Meditations, and the Wailing Souls, and DJs like Dillinger, I-Roy, Trinity, and Ranking Trevor. Many of Hoo Kim's productions borrowed established instrumental rhythms from Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's Studio One catalog, an approach that laid the groundwork for much of the early dancehall sound. Hoo Kim also pioneered the 12" single format in Jamaica, offering vocal, DJ, and dub versions of the same song on a record that offered better sound quality.

In 1977, Hoo Kim's brother Paul was shot to death in a robbery, leaving JoJo badly shaken. Although the studio continued to run smoothly, he left Jamaica and its increasing violence and went to New York to gather himself. He wound up more or less settling there, but returned to Channel One on a monthly basis to oversee its operations. By this time, Sly & Robbie had split from the Revolutionaries to form their own label and production partnership, and continued to book time at the studio. During the early '80s, Channel One positioned itself at the forefront of the dancehall explosion, as hot new producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes and his new house band, the Roots Radics, came to the studio and built on its previous Coxsone Dodd worship. Artists like Barrington Levy, Frankie Paul, and Sugar Minott all found breakout success through Lawes and Channel One.

Hoo Kim, meanwhile, gradually began to move his family's other music-related ventures to New York; he opened a division of Channel One there, and relocated the record pressing plant operation to Brooklyn. He came up with the idea for the so-called "clash" album, mimicking live DJ competitions by devoting separate sides of an LP to separate artists; the concept became hugely popular in Jamaica during the early '80s. Even so, Hoo Kim was gradually losing interest in the reggae business. When dancehall mutated into the all-digital ragga style in the mid-'80s, he and his brothers largely gave up Channel One, and the studio and their labels were shut down by the end of the decade. Hoo Kim stayed in New York and retained control of the record pressing plant.