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Alpha's Mutt & Jeff Sound System: Then + Now

The weekly Mutt & Jeff Sound System radio show, heard every Sunday on Alpha Boys School Radio, is part of a long history, and bright future, of sound system performance at Alpha.

February is Reggae Month in Jamaica and the Alpha School of Music is celebrating sound system culture all month! Sound system culture was still a brand new business and entertainment phenomenon in downtown Kingston in the 1950s when the Alpha Boys School found itself at the centre of the new movement. Thanks to the quick thinking of a past student working on campus and the support of the legendary Sister Ignatius, Alpha became part of sound system lore. Little did they know, their work then would have such a profound effect on the students and the music at large, even up until today.

Named after a comic strip published in the local entertainment weekly, The Jamaica Star, Mutt & Jeff Sound System was founded by Alpha past boy Kenneth 'Mutt' Davy in the late 1950s. Davy was working in the school printery full time and also regularly called upon by Sister Ignatius to emcee Alpha events. Seeing an opportunity to earn, Mr Davy secured Sister Ignatius' permission to have the Alpha woodshop build speaker boxes while his friend, an electrician Leighton Geoff, aka 'Jeff', wired the system. Mutt & Jeff was born! From the late 50s into the mid 60s, Mr Davy was hired to set up Mutt & Jeff at local parties, holiday events and community functions.

Mr Davy pictured at Alpha with Mutt & Jeff Sound System.

However, Mutt & Jeff had its most impact on Jamaican culture when Mr Davy decided to put down the mic in 1964 and sold the equipment and vinyl records to Sister Ignatius. Ignatius set up Mutt & Jeff on weekends and she would play her growing record collection so that the boys on campus could hear 'good music'. Students had a chance to also perform and operate the sound system. Grammy nominee Winston 'Yellowman' Foster says he first used a microphone on “Sister’s sound”. And Alpha past student and drummer, Ilawi Malawi, a veteran selector for Brigadier Jerry’s Jah Love Sound System, credits Sister Ignatius with teaching him how to play on a sound system.

Mutt & Jeff lived on in memory until 2017 when Jamaica Nice, a local clothing brand, sponsored the construction of a new, vintage looking sound system and named it Mutt & Jeff Disco (a "disco" in sound system culture plays a wide range of music while a traditional "sound system" would play strictly Jamaican music). Painted by the Negril-sign painter, Nurse, Mutt & Jeff Disco is now the basis of the world's first Introduction To Sound System Performance course at the Alpha School of Music and a platform for the next generation's creative vision.

While the Mutt & Jeff Sound System equipment is long gone, it's spirit lives on, preserved by Alpha Boys School Radio in the form of a radio show featuring music from the collection of Sister Ignatius. Join us this and every Sunday at 12am and 12 pm Jamaica Time for Sister's selections on Alpha Boys School Radio as we explore the record collection of the late Sister Mary Ignatius Davies, RSM. A Sister Of Mercy for 64 years, Iggy’s ministry included legendary listening sessions for Alpha students using the Mutt and Jeff Sound System. Alpha Boys School Radio is honoured to be able to share some of her collection with you this sunday at 12 am an 12 pm Jamaica time.

ABOUT ALPHA INSTITUTE/Alpha School of music

Alpha's 130-year tradition of music education has produced jazz innovators, ska pioneers and reggae icons. We are excited to offer a meaningful and innovative music training curriculum to youth today. We need your help to make it possible. Thank you!


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