“I’ve always got a vinyl system at home. Two thousand watts.”

 

Shepherds Bush remains one of London’s great markets – the stalls shoved close together, regular repartee between the stallholders, multicoloured fabrics, multicoloured food, multicoloured cheap plastic toys. The market has changed, along with London, but in the far corner of the covered section, one vital part of the atmosphere remains unchanged: Webster’s Record Shack. Now run by Lloydie King, it’s a motherlode of reggae – pick an artist like, say, keyboard whizz Jackie Mittoo, who most of us know via a single Soul Jazz compilation, and Lloydie can talk you through all of his early studio albums, each of which he has as a Jamaican import. He recommended Jackie in London. Lloydie, like the album, shows why London is reggae’s second home.

How did you came to run the stall?
I started as a Saturday boy when I was 16. In 1969. I just advanced from there, ’cause  I knew the music so much – so they thought, give him a shop, so then I was the manager. And they opened another shop in Brixton, and I used to stock the shops, I knew what was selling, and what could be sold.

And now you own this stall, Websters Record Shack, when did you take over?
Just last year.

You started young, went right through ska, rocksteady and then reggae… so what was the first record you remember buying?
Dancing Mood by Delroy Wilson. I play a bit of that still, all the different versions.

You’ve had a lot of the greats visit here – but one of the people you mentioned was Bob Marley, and how you saw his legendary show at the Rainbow. Tell me about that.
It was one of the mystical nights, you don’t forget it. It’s just printed in your mind -  one of the great moments. It was at the Rainbow. really hot and sweaty. I can remember drinking Cherry Bs and what not. I’ve seen other Marley concerts but that was just… he come in.. and gave his best. An absolutely mystical night.

For someone from Kingston, Bob was a part of London’s history, too, wasn’t he?
More or less, ’cause he was here most of the time, between here and Camden. He didn’t come into the stall but we met socialising. Which is amazing, what can you say about that? I’ve been lucky to meet these people…

When Bob passed away, how did that affect you?
Sadness. Right through the family. My kids.. they knew me and Bob was.. you know. They just felt it for me. Even now I have pictures of him all around my house. We have Marley sheets, curtains, bedspreads, all over the place.

You’ve still got a lot of old school reggae, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, lots of Coxsone Dodd… what age are your customers, are they getting on a bit?
No, not really, they’re all generations. ‘Cause even the new generation, they’re buying like old stuff ’cause they want to know more. Folks like us are still buying but there’s new kids as well.

Is Bob Marley still popular with the younger kids?
They’re more into Steve Marley, Damian Marley, which is more or less that same sort of stuff.

And you do gospel as well, is that because you like it, or for your customers?
No [not for me], certain customers come for gospel and nothing else so I try to have as much as possible. Some of it’s modern, some of it is old stuff – American, Caribbean, Jamaican. All of them, even English gospel as well. The Jamaican gospel is pretty similar to American… but it’s more heart-ical. You feel it more.

Tell me about the pictures I can see up on the ceiling – ladies wearing bikinis. And the ladies are all facing you, the counter, not the customers?
No, no, they’re facing me. So I can see them. I deal with them.

So when it’s a quiet day…
I gaze at them.

You are a really important part of this market – we can hear your music all round this corner, it gives the place its vibe.
Well… all West London, more or less. We get customers from all over the world that come here.

What are your hot sellers at the moment?
I sell vinyl as well, but it’s mostly CDs. DJs and specialists buy a lot of vinyl. But what’s really selling now are the Strictly [The Best] compilations, they’re up to 45 now, various artists, they’re more like the Tighten Up! Trojan releases from the 60s, people tend to buy them more  ’cause they have different artists on them.

Are reggae CDs selling as much as they used to?
No. ‘Cause people download them for nothing. They should stop that. The artist doesn’t get paid, the producer doesn’t get paid, it messes up the business. But what can we do about it?

What about at home, do you have a vinyl system at home?
Oh yeah. I’ve always got a vinyl system at home. Two thousand Watts.

Really? What do the neighbours think of it?
Yes… the neighbours? They enjoy it!

Websters is at Stall 61, Shepherds Bush Market, Monday-Saturday.

 

Comments

One Response to “Lloydie King, Reggae Royalty”

  1. Art on April 10th, 2012 3:14 pm

    Reggae is all about the vinyl – the more scratched and crackly, the better! Err kind of, don’t think I’ve any that aren’t anyway. Good on Lloydie and his stall, beats a souless internet purchase and day of the week. Fantastic site btw, how about a piece on Roman Rd?