For those who know me, this Crucial Selection will come as no surprise. ‘Housewife’s Choice’ by Derrick Morgan and Patsy ‘Millicent’ Todd, a tune I have played countless times over the span of my DJ career and one that never leaves my record box. Housewife’s Choice is my sound’s name and we have adopted the song as our theme tune.

In the 4-year lead up to this tune being released, Derrick Morgan’s career had just taken off after he won a talent contest at the Palace Theatre in Kingston, Jamaica. He was picked up by Duke Reid ‘The Trojan’ to record for Treasure Isle. By 1960 he had recorded many hit songs for a variety of producers such as Prince Buster, Coxsone Dodd and Duke Reid and was so popular that he became the only artist to ever occupy all top 7 spots on the Jamaican Pop Charts.

He recorded the duet ‘You Don’t Know How Much I Love You’ with Patsy Todd in 1961 for the producer Leslie Kong, who distributed it as a pre-release to local sound systems and radio. The song was remarkably well received on the radio and was requested so much, notably by women tuning in at home, that Jamaican Broadcasting Corporation DJ Marie Garth renamed it ‘Housewife’s Choice’. This led to the song being re-recorded under its new name for general release to the public, and is the cut we know and love today.

‘Housewife’s Choice’is said to have marked the beginning of the infamous musical war between Derrick Morgan and Prince Buster (along with Morgan’s tune ‘Forward March’). Buster accused Morgan of plagiarism and selling out the black race by recording for Leslie Kong, a Chinese-Jamaican producer, with his tune ‘Blackhead Chinaman’. Morgan retaliated with ‘Blazing Fire’to which Buster fired back with ‘Praise without Raise’. The feud continued until the government stepped in, as it is said that fighting between followers of the two artists had become frequent. A photo shoot was staged depicting the two rival musicians as friends.

The particular 7” copy I have is a rare original Jamaican pressing (along with the modern repress) of ‘You Don’t Know How Much I Love You’on Beverley’s label, with the re-recorded and more well-known version renamed ‘Housewife’s Choice’ on the flip. This record was gifted to me by my partner on my birthday after a trip he took to the UK.

The story goes, during his record hunting my partner stopped in to Dub Vendor and spent a good 6 hours in the store, going through every record they had. Towards the end the storekeeper pulled out two boxes from behind the counter, one for big money tunes and the other a collection that had just come in but hadn’t been priced up yet. After flicking through mostly blanks my partner spotted ‘Housewife’s Choice’and asked how much it was. He was told it wasn’t for sale as it was for a personal collection. To which my partner replied ‘I have to get that tune because my girlfriend’s sound is called Housewife’s Choice’, and in order to prove it he dug up one of our dub plates on YouTube. The storekeeper said, ‘It was obviously meant to be’ and handed the record over for free. And that is how I got this record.

Collecting and playing music is an intrinsic part of who I am, without having a real need to explain where the desire comes from or justify an end goal of what I am trying to achieve. Instead, the best way I can describe it is it’s been a big part of my life journey from when I was growing up in New Zealand. There was always someone strumming a guitar and it was guaranteed at family get togethers a waiata or two would be sung.

As I became a teenager and inherited some of my brother’s records and record player, my love for music turned obsessive and I became involved in running a radio show in my local hometown with two girlfriends, while still at high school. We took over from a guy called Gavin and decided to keep the name of his show which was Housewives Choice. I believe he may have named it after a German techno label.

I moved to Melbourne permanently in 2001 and by 2004 I had teamed up with selector Bellyas and revived the name as Housewife’s Choice Sound. We have been running dances and playing gigs both independently and together ever since.

Personally I love the reaction I get when people hear my sound’s name for the first time. In Soom T’s words ‘that’s brilliant, I’m pretty sure it’s made my day’. I met Rodigan at one of his book launches in Liverpool and asked if he could sign my copy of his book. He had a good chuckle when he asked who he should address it to, and with an intrigued look on his face asked me if I was a fan of the tune. When I was in Dougie Conscious’ studio in Hackney it came up in conversation. His reaction was ‘that’s a bit un-PC isn’t it?’ Maybe implying the term was old fashioned. I’m not sure if he was just pulling my leg but it did make me wonder for the first time, how some people might perceive it when they hear the name used.

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a domestic goddess (ha ha!), which is another reason the name sits well with me. Often Bellyas and I laugh at how domesticated we are, but we are ever passionate about music and push ourselves tirelessly in our professional and DJ careers simultaneously. By no means are we like the stereotypical oppressed housewife of olden days. With a respectful nod to generations before us, we love to carry forward traditions of bringing people of all ages and cultures together with music, dancing and good vibes.

For me, this tune is a salute to an era of Jamaican music that I love so dearly, and a reminder that although I play many styles of music old and new, reggae is at the heart of it all.

Music with a message!

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Photo by Ali MC @alimcphotos