Chris Blackwell, Blackwell Fine Jamaican Rum, talks to RollingStone.com:
What’s the connection between rum and music in Jamaica?
In the late 1950s, the liquor store owners also owned the sound systems. When dance halls were booked out, they would take the bar and the person that booked them took the gate. They’d also get a fee. They played kind mostly American music, what they called at the time “race” music – a lot of jazz and groove kind of music like Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry.” They also played a lot of records from New Orleans, particularly Fats Domino, who was incredibly popular in Jamaica. If you listen to his records, they have a lot of that shuffle rhythm. It’s that shuffle rhythm that Jamaicans initially tried to emulate. That was the sort of ska sound. It started there.
It’s come full circle now that you have your own brand of rum, hasn’t it?
That’s funny. I haven’t thought of that. Yes. Well, a friend of mine suggested the idea make rum. He said dark rum was the next big thing. I doubted it at the time because it was lighter rum that sold. Anyway, he thought I should put out a rum in my name. My grandfather owned a rum company in Jamaica. So it was a curious chain of events. It’s going slowly, but it’s doing well. I wanted it to go slow. I wanted to see if people genuinely like it. It’s exciting. It’s like a hit record. It’s feeling like a hit record. I’m enjoying it.