Bruce White, British Reggae-Industry Trailblazer, Dead at 68
Bruce White, British Reggae-Industry Trailblazer, Dead at 68

Bruce White - a trailblazing manager, producer, record label founder, and overall pivotal figure in popularizing Jamaican music throughout the UK -- succumbed to the lung cancer he had battled for the past 15 months on November 10.

Born in London on November 24, 1942, White's participation in the British music industry began as the lead singer with a pop-harmony group called the Next Move, (generally like the Four Seasons) who toured Europe and the US in the early '60s.

In 1964 White formed the artist management company and booking agency Commercial Entertainments with his partner Tony Cousins. Based in central London, Commercial Entertainments booked pop acts such as Status Quo and Average White Band as well as the era's most popular Jamaican artists including the Maytals, Millie Small, Delroy Williams, the Melodians, Bob (Andy) and Marcia (Griffiths) and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. Commercial Entertainments also organized the initial UK shows for several Jamaican acts including the Upsetters, producer Lee "Scratch" Perry's house band who later backed the Wailers. The Upsetters' rollicking instrumental "Return of Django" reached no. 5 on the UK national chart in October 1969.

In March of that same year, another Commercial Entertainments act, Desmond Dekker and the Aces, topped the UK chart with "Israelites." One of reggae's earliest crossover successes, "Israelites" reached the pinnacle position on numerous charts throughout Europe and peaked at no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. In an interview included in Michael de Koningh and Marc Griffiths' "Tighten Up: The Story of British Reggae" White cited "Israelites" as "the record that acquainted the ordinary British record buyer with the reggae sound."

Following the commercial breakthrough of "Israelites," White and Cousins began producing Jamaican music on their own Creole Records label, often licensing their work to Trojan Records using the pseudonymous production name Bruce Anthony. They also created several Creole Records subsidiaries including Cactus, Revue, Glitter and Winner. With a steady release of best-selling singles that included "Irie Feelings" by Rupie Edwards, Desmond Dekker's "Sing A Little Song" and numerous bawdy tracks from Judge Dread (real name: Alex Hughes), the first white reggae artist to have a hit in Jamaica, Creole Records became the U.K.'s most profitable Jamaican music venture by the mid '70s. The label also triumphed with soul and mainstream acts including Ruby Winters, the Chequers and Boney M.

White and Cousins struck an agreement with Jamaican bandleader Byron Lee's Kingston based label Dynamic Sounds in the late '70s, which yielded several reggae hits for Creole Records throughout Europe including Jamaican balladeer Barry Biggs' "Wide Awake In A Dream," Sophia George's dancehall smash "Girlie Girlie" and the label's first U.K. no.1, Boris Gardiner's romantic "I Want To Wake Up With You."

Creole Records continued to sign and release new recordings through the end of the 1990s, at which time White decided to focus on the label's extensive back catalogue. However, the death of business partner Tony Cousins, along with changes in prevailing styles, dampened White's interest in the music business.

In 2003 White sold Creole Records to the Sanctuary Records Group. Universal Music bought Sanctuary in 2007 and acquired ownership of the Creole Records catalogue.

White continued to run Creole Publishing, which he and Cousins established shortly after founding their label. White's son Julian, who worked with his father for 20 years and now operates his own artist management company, Urban Influence UK Limited, says the family has not yet decided the fate of Creole Publishing, which he estimates has tens of thousands of song titles.

In addition to his son Julian, Bruce White leaves behind his wife Sue White and his daughter Natalie White. Funeral services will be held in London on Monday.