Featuring Mitchie Williams of Rockers Intl Record Store.
In a recent visit to Jamaica, we took a drive through Kingston to visit Orange Street, home of musical legends and specifically, Rockers International Record Store. We sat down with Mitchie Williams in the blazing Kingston heat to talk about the future of Rockers, and how this record store delivers quality vinyl to their customers for almost forty years.
HOM: As the curator of Rockers Intl, what does this mean to you?
ROCKERS: It means a lot to be the curator of such a historical organization, the job allows you to mingle with a universal audience, it helps to widen your scope musically and it puts you in the spotlight too.
HOM: How long has the shop been around, can you remind us?
ROCKERS: Rockers Int’l has been around since 1976-77.
HOM: As a native to Jamaica, can you give us some background on Orange Street, where Rockers Intl still stands today?
ROCKERS: Orange Street (Beat Street) is Jamaica’s Hollywood Boulevard, it’s so significant from a historical standpoint, it’s the mecca for Jamaican music. Studios and almost all the record shops that were in Downtown Kingston were located on Orange Street. All of the great Jamaican musicians walked , hung out, or lived on Orange Street; Dennis Brown was born there, Prince Buster, Beverly’s, Rupie Edwards, JJ’s, Leggo Beast – they all had musical businesses on this great street.
HOM: So this mural across the street becomes more clear now.
ROCKERS: Yeah, the murals were started years ago by Trevor Tatics Smith (now deceased) a close friend of Dennis Brown, he did it as a tribute to Brown. As time went by Rockers did the Pablo mural. Later the Gregory Isaacs foundation did one for Gregory. All of the artists on the wall have passed away, it is a fitting tribute to these artists who were either born on Orange St, had business or hung out here.
HOM: Many record stores have come and gone across Orange St. Did you personally experience this?
ROCKERS: Orange Street was the hub of Jamaican music, crazy record shops. I personally experienced a few before they were closed, as a youngster I worked at Techniques records on Chancery lane with Winston Riley, then left and did a couple years at Randy’s (downstairs and upstairs) before I came to Rockers. During those times I travelled to basically all the record stores that were on Orange street or in the same vicinity, as time went by many were closed because of various reasons: competition from other shops, financial reasons, slow record sales..the last of these shops closed in the mid 2000s as record sales slumped.
HOM: Would you say you are looking to make Rockers into more of a museum of sorts or keep it as is?
ROCKERS: We are planning on expanding what Rockers has to offer to the general public and make it more of an international company – a museum, a strong tourist destination, while still retaining our foundation that it was started on.
HOM: Nice. It’s clear your in the midst of a huge remodel right now. The changes on Orange Street, does this have anything to do with the remodeling you are doing for the new store?
ROCKERS: The changes on Orange Street have nothing to do with the remodeling we’re doing at Rockers but the remodeling came about because the old structure was starting to fall apart. It wouldn’t have been safe for anyone to occupy the building ..the building will be designed to look as closely as possible to the original building.
HOM: When can visitors expect renovations to be done?
ROCKERS: We hope to be finished by late September.
HOM: I read that when people come in, they might ask you to find very specific vinyl’s, maybe even get them signed. Do you still fulfill these type of personal requests?
ROCKERS: Yes, we still fulfill these request. Sometimes they ask for specific vinyls and we try to locate them – if not, we recommend something similar from that era, if the original artist is nearby we try to get it signed.
HOM: I’ve also heard that you can ship records all over the world for your customers! That’s a real experience you don’t get anymore.
ROCKERS: We ship all over the world, it’s easier for one who cannot get the chance to come to the store, to be able to still get their supply.
HOM: Out of all your requests for material – types of vinyl, anything – which come in the most?
ROCKERS: Most requested materials are vinyl, especially older stuff from the 60’s ,70’s,and 80’s.
HOM: With the ever changing world of music, what are some of your long term goals for Rockers Intl?
ROCKERS: Our long term goals at Rockers – we want to make Rockers and Orange street a major tourist attraction. We are basically the last active record shop in Kingston that still specialize in vinyl, we have a great history – we are located in a historical neighborhood, it’s a must stop for any visitor.
Big thanks to Mitchie for coming through and opening up the store just for us.
Stay tuned for more House of Marley blog posts in celebration of the Stir It Up Turntable.