Lady Ann was a trailblazing toaster, one of the first female DJs, along with Sister Nancy, to break through the sound systems' glass ceiling. Barbara Ann Smith, as she was born, was drawn to the Kingston dancehalls in her teens, inspired by the plethora of toasting talent that rose up in the mid-'70s. Taking the demure moniker Lady Ann, Smith was no wallflower; if she had been, she wouldn't have survived long in the sound systems. The toaster quickly caught producer Don Mais' ear, who paired her with Ranking Toyan for her 1978 debut, "Plan Your Family." "Shine Eye Gal," her first solo single, made a splash that same year. Few others producers were willing to record her, though, and releases were sparse before Ann returned to the studio in 1980 with producer Leon Synmoie. She then cut "Husband & Wife" for Blackbeard, but it was "Sattap" that gave the DJ her first big hit. That single kicked off her debut full-length album, Vanity, a set overseen by Joe Gibbs, which contained a further clutch of popular numbers including "Crazy Boy," "Chalice to Chalice," and "Tony Gone." In 1982, her "Informer" single talked its way to the top of the Jamaican chart, and snitched on for several months. Her sophomore set, titled after that smash, achieved the same feat, giving the toaster a two-fer: the first female DJ to top the singles chart and the albums chart.
More hits arrived the following year -- "Talk Talk Talk," "Heroes Connection," "Lady Ann You're Sweet," and "Take a Set" among them. A third full-length, the Eric "Bubbles" Howard-produced Connection, appeared as well. In 1984, Lady Ann scored again with the combo "Bossanova" with Peter Metro. The digital age saw Lady Ann's profile slip. However, she has continued recording sporadically, attempting to combine her career with her family. Over the years since, she has worked with a variety of producers, Bunny Lee, Jah Thomas, and Jah Life included. In 1991, Lady Ann's "Couldn't Dun" was featured on the Shocking Vibes Presents: Yush one-riddim set, and two years later she cut "Worries" for Sly & Robbie. Not much was heard from her in more recent years, though; thus fans were both surprised and delighted when her Bad Gyal Inna Dance album arrived in 2008. In the dancehalls, her name continues to be spoken with respect, with few female DJs not acknowledging the influence she has had on their own careers. ~ Jo-Ann Greene