When we first discussed the idea of our cover stories, I remember thinking to myself, for all the years I have known DJ Roy; there is still so much I don’t know about him. I knew he was a DJ with Road International, one of the most established Jamaican sound systems in New York City. I also knew about his background in nightlife, having seen him run one of New York’s most prominent nightclubs, the Q Club, in Queens. Then I got to know Roy as an on-air personality, and he stood out on the airwaves as the host with a smooth blend of a Jamaican and British accent. Even back then I thought he was a man of many talents, but I never really knew just how many and how diverse his background was until now.
Born Roy Walters, at Dulwich Hospital in London, Roy spent a lot of his early childhood years in Brixton, which is the equivalent of Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, a vibrant Caribbean community. He developed his skills as a soccer player at a young age and had the opportunity to play for his school; play for South London, then had the opportunity to play for Crystal Palace under 11 team. During that time, Roy’s parents were making plans to move to America, but with all the racial tensions brewing there, they opted for a move to Kingston, Jamaica, where they were building a house in Ziadie Gardens. Unfortunately, the house wasn’t finished, so the family relocated to Clarendon where Roy attended Frankfield Comprehensive, now known as Edwin Allen High School.
Roy and I spoke on camera about some of his childhood experiences living with his family in Clarendon, including his memories of listening to Dulcimina, a widely popular radio show in Jamaica that aired from 1967 to 1980. As Roy said, “we had no TV, no TV in his rural district, so radio was it, and my great grandmother’s favorite show on radio was Dulcimina, who I met today for the first time, and I was just telling her how much it’s an honor to meet her.” Roy continued to share his experiences growing up in rural Jamaica, and how much he loved it there, so much so that when he returned to Kingston with his parents, he still made the time to visit Clarendon on the weekends.
After relocating to Kingston and attending Calabar High School, Roy recalls a trip to New York that changed his life. He had been visiting with his father every summer, until one year, he was told to bring all his clothes. When he arrived, his father told him that he would be staying in New York. Fast forward and Roy was now a New Yorker, living in Brooklyn, still getting into some trouble in school, but later discovering other ways to challenge him. After deciding he had no interest in a formal education, Roy took an automotive and body work repair course at Apex. Though short lived, he learned to make a living in that industry, until a better opportunity presented itself through his longtime friend Chef Garfield. Not knowing the first thing about the food and beverage industry, Roy followed the advice of his friend and landed a job in food and beverage at the United Nations Plaza Hotel. In the midst of all these life changes, Roy was developing himself as a DJ and had already started playing with Road International.
The life of a DJ may seem glamorous, but it’s not easy. If you don’t get booked, you don’t get paid. Even when you get booked, sometimes you run the risk of not getting paid or not being paid what you were promised. Fortunately, Roy’s experience through his mentors in the Road family led to profitable nights and eventually, some years later, a leadership opportunity at the world-famous Q-Club. Roy’s time there further cemented his foundation as a DJ, event promoter, entrepreneur, restaurant owner and now radio host.
When asked about his radio journey, Roy shared how he started out with Caribbean Blend and had the opportunity to work with radio icon Francine Chin, and later hosted a show for the late Gil Bailey, the godfather of Caribbean radio in New York. As he put it, “Gil Bailey asked me to sit in for him. Miss Pat called and said I need you to sit in for Gil Bailey. I’m like what? ‘Yeah, Mr. Bailey need a break, he is going to be away for like 3 months’ and as much as I thought people knew me, when I did the Gil Bailey Show it kind of took my name, the DJ Roy name to another level.”
Before you knew it, Roy caught the attention of David “Squeeze” Annakie of Link-Up Radio and Bobby Clarke from Irie Jam Radio. Roy said “I tell people all the while, people come into your life and people are part of your journey for a reason. Link-Up came and they were hot, you know, you can call a spade a spade and Bobby kept asking me to join Irie Jam and I’m like no Bobby, you got Chris, you got Shelly Thunder, you got Shinehead, you got Andrew D. And he would come every week to the station in Manhattan. He brought Louie, he brought Ouida and one day I just couldn’t take it anymore. I says alright, I’ll do it Bobby. 2 weeks after I agreed, I was supposed to start a month later, and 2 weeks after I agreed, Squeeze came to me and asked me to join Link-Up and I will be honest with you, because I was honest with Bobby too, cause I didn’t tell Bobby that Squeeze came and I didn’t tell Squeeze that I was going to Irie Jam. Because Squeeze was developing and Irie Jam had so many heavy hitters, if Squeeze had come to me before Irie Jam, I might have said yes. But the Lord works in mysterious ways because that would have probably been the biggest mistake of my life.”
DJ Roy’s road to success was long and took a great deal of work, sacrifices, ventures tried and failed, but he never gave up. He stayed focused, driven and passionate.
DJ Roy can be heard on Irie Jam Radio, 93.5 FM, every week from Monday through Saturday. Check out DJ Roy’s radio schedule by visiting www.iriejamradio.com where you can listen live and learn more about the Irie Jam family.