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Cleveland Writer Unearths Story Of Reggae Great ‘The Matador’

 Producer/engineer Lloyd "The Matador" Daley in his workshop [Rich Lowe]
photo of producer/engineer Lloyd "The Matador" Daley in his workshop [Rich Lowe]

In 1982, Rich Lowe was a student at John Carroll University hosting a reggae program on the campus station, when a recording he had purchased at a record convention caught his eye.

“I was playing some of these Jamaican seven-inch singles. One of them had a hand stamp that said, ‘Daley’s Television and Radio Repair Service.’  It was just very, very intriguing to see a hand stamp on a record. I didn't understand what that was until years later,” Lowe said.

Lowe, who spent nearly four decades as the host of the weekly reggae program, “Night of the Living Dread,” on Case Western Reserve University station WRUW, began looking into the story behind the name stamped on the recording. Lowe discovered that “Lloyd,” was Lloyd Daley, an important sound system operator, producer and electronics engineer, who, beginning in late 1950s, was one of the first to document Jamaican music during what was known as the “shuffle period.” Lloyd continued to produce recordings into the 1980s and worked with many important performers including Dennis Brown, Count Ossie and Alton Ellis.

However,  Lowe found that almost no interviews existed with Lloyd himself.  Lowe learned why, as he began the research that led to his new book about Lloyd, " The Matador" ( Jamaica Way Publishing).

[Rich Lowe]

Lowe described Daley as a "middle-class, clean cut well-dressed guy who produced deep Rastafarian music,"  who became disillusioned with the music business. Daley said others had pirated his work, as well as that he feeling that he didn't receive the credit he deserved as an important figure in Jamaican music.  There were also numerous run-ins with powerful figures who tried to eliminate Daley from the scene, including destroying his equipment, according to Lowe.

Lloyd "The Matador" Daley [Rich Lowe]

Daley’s strong personality often led him to butt heads with others, which earned him his nickname.

“He was feisty. He was the type of person who had great willpower, so that's where he got the name, ‘The Matador,’ because he was this young guy taking on these other powerful people, like a bullfighter would take on a bull,” Lowe said.

Despite numerous requests from major music publications, Daley retreated from public view, refusing to do interviews.

Though he knew Daley wasn’t amenable to interviews, in 2014, Lowe sent a letter to Daley’s home in Kingston asking for the opportunity to speak to him in the hopes of writing a book about him. To Lowe’s surprise, he received a reply a week later.

Advertisement for Lloyd Daley's record shop and nightclub [Rich Lowe]

“I don't know why he opened up to me. In some sense, I think he was waiting for the right person to come along with what he called ‘the vibes.’ He said ‘it was the vibes that caused me to open up to you more.’ We talked for four years almost on a daily basis. He told me just about everything,” Lowe said.

During their frequent phone conversations and email correspondence, Lowe witnessed firsthand why Daley was known as “The Matador.”

“He was always feisty. If I asked a question the wrong way, he might get really mad at me. That's who he was, and that's why he didn't open up to others. He would flatly refuse to communicate with other people,” Lowe said.

Lowe came to understand quickly the best way to speak to Daley.

“I was polite. I was honorable. I never did anything to offend his position in music. I was very delicate in how I dealt with things, but also, conversely, very honest and open and blunt sometimes. I would ask him the direct questions, Lowe said.

In addition to his extensive conversations with Daley, Lowe interviewed numerous musicians as well as Daley family and friends for his book. Time after time in those interviews, Lowe’s subjects told him they couldn’t believe that Daley was willing to speak with him, given his reluctance to share details of his life.

Although Daley died prior to the completion of “The Matador” in 2018, Lowe feels the reggae great appreciated the opportunity to share his story.

He was pleased with the progress of this book. I think he got a chance to share his history. I think he was very happy about it. I know that this is part of his legacy,” Lowe said.

Author Rich Lowe (left) with ideastream's Dan Polletta [Dave DeOreo/ideastream]