“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Words from the song “Trench Town Rock” by the late great Hon. Robert Nesta Marley, OM. Truer words were never spoken, or in this case, sung. I can recall many a night when I was out and about enjoying New York city nightlife, the music lifting me to another level, it provided me with a natural high, which was great for me, because I don’t drink or smoke. In those days, I listened to 105.9 FM WNWK, 98.7 KISS FM and 107.5 FM WBLS. The music on those stations was the source of quite a bit of special cassettes made for a few close female friends, but I digress. The radio DJs/Personalities I listened to back then included Gil Bailey, Kool DJ Red Alert, Mr. Magic, Frankie Crocker, Bobby Konders & Jabba and the Dubbmasters. Check out that last name again – Dubbmasters. As a Jamaican, that name just always resonated. The first time I heard them play live, I was out with some friends in the city and Dubbmaster Chris had the crowd moving. I never imagined our paths would cross shortly after or that we would be broadcasting from the same radio station as on-air personalities. Now, years later, I have the chance to learn more about Dubbmaster Chris, his early start in music and his tenure at Irie Jam Radio.
Born Christopher McDonald, Dubbmaster Chris has been ruling the airwaves for over 30 years. An accomplishment that cannot go unnoticed. Chris and I share a few things in common. Besides our first name, we both attended Kingston College and were broadcasters on 105.9 FM around the same timeframe. All those years of knowing Chris though and I still had so many questions, so I began with one I have been curious about for some time. Where did the name Dubbmaster come from? Chris had this to say “That was something that was pretty spontaneous. What actually happened right, back in the late eighties, I was in college and pretty much I was pretty fresh to New York City, just got in from Jamaica and I was feeling that musical bug and I happened to have made a link with a good friend of mine who turned out to be almost like a brother, his name was Leon and he became like my musical brother and we got together and we were just vibing and rocking the turntables. What basically happened was we had this little idea to call our set Dubbmasters, The Dubbmasters. However, we weren’t really taking it too seriously and we actually went to see Mr. Clinton Lindsay, who as you know, is a legendary radio broadcaster in New York City. So, we were actually in Clinton’s office, and we hadn’t really discussed it at length or really decided on a name for sure. Clinton Lindsay sat down with us and we were talking about some of the things we wanted to do and he was like ‘okay well I like the ideas, but, what’s the name of the sound system and what’s the focus?’ and I looked at Leon and Leon looked at me and that was what we were talking about for several weeks before and we were like – we are collectively together we are the Dubbmasters, and Clinton was like ‘yes, I like that’ and that’s where it started, right there spontaneously in Clinton Lindsay’s office in Manhattan.”
Chris shared that his love for music started at the age of 8 years old. He remembers watching his father carefully whenever he played his turntable, and though he was warned to never touch it, his fascination got the better of him and he played a few records while his father was at work. When his father found out, he allowed Chris to play to see if he knew what he was doing. Fortunately, Chris did well and that was the beginning of the journey to becoming Dubbmaster Chris.
While a student at Kingston College and through his friendship with the Thompson twins, sons of the legendary engineer Dennis Thompson, who engineered for Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and many more; Chris had the chance to experiment with two turntables with an actual DJ setup. The equipment belonged to the Thompson twins’ uncle, Mikey Thompson, a widely known FAME FM DJ. Again, like Chris, they were warned not to touch anything, but boys being boys and having a fascination for music, that warning fell on deaf ears and Chris along with the twins, began to hone their skills as DJs.
It’s been said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity, so Chris did his part to prepare, and the opportunities began to come quickly in his teenage years as he and his friends began booking paid DJ gigs and creating a name for themselves. They played under the name of KISS Disco, which is interesting, because years later, while playing on 105.9 FM, and with the encouragement of Clinton Lindsay, the Dubbmasters landed their first mainstream radio slot on 98.7 KISS FM playing for, then popular Caribbean radio host, Prince Kalunda.
Dubbmaster Chris can be heard every week from Monday to Saturday on Irie Jam Radio, 93.5 FM WVIP. Visit www.iriejamradio.com for more details and updates.