Chris Blackwell, the son of a wealthy plantation owner and of the Crosse and Blackwell food family, founded this label in Jamaica in 1961. Its early, low-key singles were imported into Britain where several were subsequently issued by Starlite. Blackwell opened a UK office the following year, instigating the famed ‘WI’ (West Indian) prefix with Lord Creator's "Independent Jamaica." Island's ensuing releases included material by the Maytals, Jackie Edwards and the Skatalites and over the next four years they encompassed the shift in styles from jump R&B, through ska, to rock steady. In 1963 Island secured the UK rights to the New York-based Sue label and although the deal was later rescinded, the appellation was kept as an outlet for material licensed from a variety of sources, including VeeJay, Ace and Kent. Although most of its recordings were distributed independently, Island enjoyed a marketing deal with Fontana. Thus their first chart success — Millie's "My Boy Lollipop" (1964) — bore the latter's imprint, a feature also prevalent on the label's first pop signing, the Spencer Davis Group. Such diversification was later shown by releases on Island by Wynder K. Frog, the V.I.P.s (later Spooky Tooth) and Kim Fowley, but the company did not undertake a fully-fledged switch to rock until 1967 and the formation of Traffic, which Blackwell also managed. The group scored three UK Top 10 hits but, more importantly, also established Island as a force within the nascent album market. Having assigned its West Indian catalogue to Trojan, the label now welcomed many of the era's best-loved 'underground' acts, including Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention and Free, and by 1970 was firmly established as one of Britain's leading labels. Judicious production deals with companies, including Chrysalis, Bronze and EG, brought further success with, among others, Roxy Music, King Crimson and Uriah Heep, but Island's eminent position was undermined later in the decade when several such enterprises themselves opted for independence. Blackwell developed a reputation for nurturing talent and persevering with his artists. John Martyn and Robert Palmer were with Island for many years, although major success eluded them. Cat Stevens by contrast became one of the most successful singer/songwriters of the '70s. By this point the company had exhumed its interest in Jamaican music with the Wailers' CATCH A FIRE. Island's relationship with group leader Bob Marley, which was maintained until his premature death, was largely responsible for introducing reggae into the rock mainstream. By the late '70s the company's diverse catalogue included the Chieftains, Inner Circle and Eddie And The Hot Rods, but a flirtation with punk act the Slits incurred the wrath of Blackwell, who returned from a recently-founded US office to take charge of UK operations. U2 became the label's most impressive signing of this period, but long-time artists Robert Palmer and Steve Winwood also enjoyed considerable success, while Island was also responsible for transforming Grace Jones from cult act to international star. The departure of all three individuals was another major blow, but Island nonetheless boasted a roster including Tom Waits, the Christians, Julian Cope and Anthrax at the time of its 25th Anniversary celebrations in 1987. However, two years later, Blackwell sold his company to A&M, ending Island's tenure as an independent outlet.