A while back, we posted this photo of Charlie Ace’s Swing A Ling Mobile Record Shack in Kingston, Jamaica, on our Facebook page. A lot of people responded to photo, the coolness seemed to ooze out of every pore of the man’s body. But when I looked at the artist page for Charlie Ace, it only showed: ‘Gunned down in Kingston in the early 1980’s’. I felt sorry about that as he surely deserved more credit than that, so I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the history of Charlie, the Swing A Ling Mobile Record Shack and what they meant for music in Jamaica. It is however very hard to find information on the man. And the more I dig, the more questions are raised. So I could really use your help filling in the blanks!
Charlie’s real name was Valden, or Valdene, or Vernel Dixon (Those are the variations I found, but I haven’t been able to find a definite answer, or a place/date of birth). He was a Jamaican DJ who started recording in the late 60’s, and who worked with Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Joe Gibbs, Stranger Cole, The Inswings, Dave Barker and many other artists. He has created some releases under his real name (these do not seem to be listed in the Discogs database yet), but most were released (and more successful) under the name Charlie Ace. Together with Fay Bennett he formed duo Charlie & Fay, and he is known for his vocals on Cowthief Skank with The Upsetters, which topped the reggae charts. He produced records himself, and also cut records for Studio One Sonia Pottinger, Clive Chin and others. It makes me wonder if there is a connection with labels like Valdene productions, Valdene Records and Valdene Music.
Although U-Roy, Big Youth and Dennis Alcapone became much more famous, Charlie was also one of the DJ originals.
Following his career as a DJ, in the early 70’s he drove around the backstreets of Kingston in his Swing A Ling Mobile Record Shack, a converted Morris Van. From this mobile shop, he would sell the latest releases, many of them pressed on his own label Swing-A-Ling.
Here is a video of what that looked like:
Unfortunately, that is about all the information I could find on Charlie from different sources, amongst which the Rough Guide To Reggae. If you know a bit more about Mr. Dixon, the Swing-A-Ling Record Shack, or his releases that aren’t in the Discogs Database yet and want to help complete Charlie’s artist page, please drop me a line!