Sonia Pottinger O.D.

Born Sonia Eloise Durrant in Leith Hall, St Thomas on 21st June 1931, Sonia Pottinger O.D. grew up in Kingston where she attended St George’s Girls’ School, Denham Town High prior to enrolling in an accounting and secretarial course in a local educational college.

After completing her education, Sonia worked as an accountant before getting married at the age of 21 to Lindon Pottinger, an entrepreneur with whom she helped establish a number of businesses, including Gaydisc Records, launched at the start of the 1960s.

Within a few years, Lindon had enjoyed a number of significant Jamaican hits on his Gaydisc, Golden Arrow and SEP labels, but by 1965, he and Sonia had separated, a development that ultimately led to his complete withdrawal from the recording industry. Sonia, however, now possessed both the funds and expertise to move full-time into music production and around this time opened the Tip Top record shop at 37 Orange Street in Kingston.

Soon after, she launched the Gay Feet label, immediately topping the local charts with her production of the ballad, ‘Every Night’ by duo Joe White & Chuck Josephs.

Further major hits swiftly ensued with her stable of regular artists including such luminaries as Ken Boothe, the Melodians, the Ethiopians and the Gaylads, with leading instrumental group, Lyn Taitt & the Jets ensuring her releases were on a par with anything that major rivals such as Duke Reid, Clement ‘Coxson’ Dodd and Leslie Kong could offer.

In addition, Sonia ventured into recording gospel music, an area in which she soon became unchallenged in terms of both its quality and quantity, with the popularity of her Glory Records releases rivalled only by those on Coxson Dodd‘s Tabernacle imprint.

The secular hits also continued unabated as rock steady gave way to reggae, with Delroy Wilson, the Hippy Boys, Patsy Todd, Judy Mowatt and Brent Dowe among those to enjoy notable success on the High Note label that she had introduced in mid-1968.

The passing of her good friend and former rival, Arthur ‘Duke’ Reid resulted in Sonia acquiring the famed Treasure Isle Records catalogue and recording studio in Kingston’s Bond Street and over the years that immediately followed, she further enhanced her considerable reputation with superior recordings from an array of artists that ranged from such established acts as Justin Hinds & the Dominoes, Bob Andy, Jackie Edwards and Marcia Griffiths to relative newcomers, whose number included Earth & Stone, Sonya Spence, Culture, Beres Hammond and Jah Thomas, with top session band, the Revolutionaries, featuring the talents of Sly & Robbie, providing musical accompaniment

By the onset of the digital era in the mid-eighties, she had retired from the music industry, and increasingly found pleasure in sewing and ceramics. In October 2004, she was awarded the prestigious Order Of Distinction by the Jamaican government, while a few years later was honoured at the Excellence In Music & Entertainment Awards. Soon after, she also finally won a long legal battle for recognition of her ownership of the Treasure Isle catalogue, but unhappily, by this time her health had began to falter and late in October 2010, it deteriorated significantly. Sadly, on 3rd November she passed away at the age of 79.

During her lifetime, Sonia Pottinger O.D. had been instrumental in transforming the Jamaican music industry, successfully overcoming all obstacles to rival all her male counterparts in one of the most competitive businesses in the world. By doing so, she proved beyond any doubt that she deserves to be regarded as one the greatest Jamaican record producers of all time.

At the time of her passing, Sonia was survived by her three children, Sharon, Ronette and David along with eleven grandchildren.

LAURENCE CANE-HONEYSETT