Retrospectively referred to as blue beat, “Jamaican rhythm and blues” (JA-R&B) was one of many R&B styles performed and consumed in the UK during the early 1960s. Despite the genre’s importance to African-Caribbean migrant communities, urban subcultures, and, eventually, mainstream British popular music, JA-R&B is often relegated to a side note in the histories of Jamaican ska/reggae and British blues. This essay recuperates the production, emulation, consumption and mediation of JA-R&B into a broader narrative of the British R&B boom, a phenomenon often understood as a precursor to the British Invasion and the (re)birth of rock music as a major force in Anglo-American popular culture. As this essay details, JA-R&B was the product of a complex web of cultural interaction animated by a confluence of black Americans, Jamaicans of various ethnicities (living at home and abroad), and white Britons. The routes by which JA-R&B moved from the relative shadows of the underground Jamaican-settler social scene into the clubs of Soho, to London’s recording studios, and eventually onto the pop charts through British-made recordings are traced here through analysis of contemporaneous discourse found in The West Indian Gazette, Disc, Melody Maker, New Record Mirror, and New Musical Express. I conclude that JA-R&B’s eventual “novelty” status, coupled with apparent anxieties about the growing West Indian immigrant population in Britain, elided the possibility that JA-R&B could be valued on the same terms and by the same standards as “authentic,” American-originated R&B.

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