Interview: Leslie Lucky-Samaroo

In the following interview speaks to Leslie Lucky-Samaroo about his role in the music recording industry of Trinidad and Tobago, Feb. 21, 2011.

Leslie ”Lucky” Samaroo is a Trinidadian entrepreneur who turned his passion for music into a business. He started up his own pressing plant, International Recording Co. Ltd, which was key to creating an independent record industry in Trinidad. His other ventures included a record label called Tropico and later an airline called Carribean United Airlines.  In the mid-70’s he was forced to leave the music business when climbing oil prices threatened to ground his entire airline business.

How did you get into the record business?

In 1957 I applied and obtained a licensee agreement from RCA (Records) which was the key in establishing a pressing plant in Trinidad. I spent many weeks with RCA at their recording studios in NY, observing and learning sound recording techniques. I can still remember my first recording in Trinidad, sitting in a goat pen on the hills of Levantille with my Ampex 601 Recorder, RCA four channel mixer and four RCA 77DX Microphones and recording Ebonites Steel Band playing ” Oh My Beloved Father”, and releasing my first 45 on the Trinidad / Tobago market. It was an instant hit and best seller.

Were there any other pressing plants before you decided to open

Emory Cook (of Cook Records) was the first to set up a pressing plant in Trinidad Tobago. The pressing process was his downfall, but his recording was and still is the best sound quality of a Steel Orchestra ever produced. Before my Company ” International Recording Co. Ltd.” came on the scene I was told that SaGomes was probably the first person to produce a local recording, I have no idea who recorded or pressed the 78 records.

What else can you tell me about International Recording Co. Ltd?

My plant was the traditional type using vinyl materials in hydraulic pressing moulds. IRCL produced (and pressed) over 4000 local recordings including, Sparrow, Melody, (Lord) Kitchener, Duke, La Petite Musical, Joey Lewis and Orch., Ron Berrage and Orch., Pete De Vlugt and Orch., Cyril Diaz and Orch., Panam North Stars Steel Orch., Silver Stars Steel Orch., Gay Desperados Steel Orch., Cavaliers Steel Orch., and many others too numerous to mention. I did two special recordings for RCA,…Ivory & Steel, with Winifred Atwell and the Panam North Stars Steel Orch., and Miles Davis with the Panam Steel Orch. One of my best sellers was a 45 called ”Portrait of Trinidad” by Mighty Sniper from 1965.

You sold your company in the mid 1970’s. What happened?

In 1966 when my small plant burnt down at Dundonald Street in Port of Spain (POS), I built the largest and most modern plant facilities in the Caribbean at Sea Lots in POS. This plant had automated pressing capability, record mastering and plating, printery, and the largest recording studio in the country. However, in 1969 I started a new Company, Arawak Airlines, but changed the name shortly afterwards to Caribbean United Airlines. I was encouraged to go into the Airline business when the National carrier BWIA could not carry on with the Domestic service to Tobago, because of financial constraints. In 1973/74 I was forced to put the airline in receivership, when the Government refused to grant me a fare increase of TT $6.00 due to the fuel crisis at the time. Although the Government promised to refund me all moneys invested, I never received any refund. I had to sell the recording Company to repay my debts.

Since that time I lost track of the local recording Industry.

For the original report: Interview: Leslie Lucky-Samaroo.