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Prince Buster

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 2 months ago


1938 - 1961; Shuffle up and deal

Prince Buster (b. Cecil Bustamente Campbell) was born the 28th May, 1938 in Kingston, Jamaica. His father worked at the railway and his mother, Sally, at the match factory. They lived at Orange Street in West Kingston where Prince Buster also was raised with strict Christian values. By the end of the 40's Cecil was hanging around the Luke Lane in central Kingston where one of the first sound systems had its stronghold, Tom the Great Sebastian. Cecil started also boxing at a young age, as a youth he was a talented amateur boxer.


From being a talented boxer he got the name Prince - and adding Buster (from Bustamente) to this he was to be known as Prince Buster. In the late 1957 he had played dice with some dangerous med (two of them being Noel Jorse Jaw and Mean Stick) upon winning an argument started and Mean Stick drew a knife taking all of Busters money. When Prince Buster heard he was nearby a week later he took his knife and demanded back his money. The soon to be pioneering deejay Count Machuki and Coxsone were walking down the street when they saw Buster hunting Mean Stick. Coxsone who was impressed that a 19 year old would stand up and hunt a badman such as mean stick contacted Cecil in order to ask him if he would start working for Coxsone instead of hanging around Tom the Great Sebastian. Buster decided to join Coxsone. He became a bodyguard for Coxsone with three different responsibilies; collecting money from the people coming to the dance, visiting other sound systems dances (such as Duke Reid) spying on what selections they had and finally working as a sound defender. Since Buster was a boxer he was very talented in dealing with dance crasher that visited the Coxsone sessions.


Prince Buster with Cassius Clay


In 1959 he left the sound trying to focus on his own career and starting a sound of his own. He was to leave to America the same year but unfortunately wasn't allowed to join the trip.


Soon after leaving Coxsone Buster produced his first song »Little Honey« featuring Rico Rodriguez, Jah Jerry, and Arkland Drumbago Parks. It was recorded in the JBC Studio. He also opened up a store, Record Shack, by this time - at 47 Charles Street. It was just around the corner of his rivals, Duke Reid, record store. Buster shared the premises with a hairstylist and seamstress by the name of Claudette. He soon moved the store to 36 Charles Street (formerly a bakery). It was at this premise he had the headquarters for his newly started sound system Voice Of The People. Also the labels Olive Blossom, Wild Bells, Wild Flowers, Buster's Record Shack, Islam, Voice Of The People and Soulsville were run from there.


Rasta Pon The Hill

Buster was first in recording Nyabinghi drums when he recorded Count Ossie & The Warrickas (also known as African Drums or Afro-Combo) with the song »Oh Carolina«. Owen Gray played piano at the session that was recorded at the JBC Studio. The song was a hit and Prince Buster was starting to get acknowledged as a producer of quality. Count Machuki even left Coxsones sound to order for Voice of the People. Coxsone was then deejaying himself until he found a replacement in Winston Sparks, more known as King Stitt.


Due to the difficulties and cost of finding obscure American R'n'B-records in the late '60s Prince Buster decided to focus more on his own productions. He has met up with a youth from Orange Lane that was named Derrick Morgan. He had previously released a few songs for Duke Reid. Derrick also recommended a singer by the name Eric »Monty« Morris to Buster and the three soon started working together. In the recordingsession that followed thirteen songs were done, the most known probably being Eric Morris' »Humpty Dumpty«. The song proving such a hit that Buster could sell dubplates of the track for £50 a piece! One of its strongest treats was the emphasis on the backbeat. By this time Buster was the one who carried the swing on the island, especially with his biggest rival, Coxsone, in the US.


London Calling


In England the new Jamaican music had also become a hit. Prince Buster had struck a deal with Count Suckle from London, who paid £5 for every special he got exclusively from Buster. One day an aggravated Suckle contacted Prince Buster telling him that his specials were available from a label known as Blue Beat. Someone had apparently gone to them with Busters music and sold it to them. Upon hearing this Prince Buster contacted Emile Shallit of Melodic (and the sublabel Blue Beat) and worked out a deal that Blue Beat had the exclusive rights to release his material. This lead to Blue Beat (and its affiliated label Dice) released approximately 600 Buster-produced titles until 1967. From there Busters music went to the new Melodisc label known as FAB and his own label Prince Buster in England.


1962 - 1970: Independence time is here!


In 1962 Jamaica gained it's independence and it was also the year of one of the very first reggae feuds; Buster vs. Derrick Morgan. Buster had by the end of 1961 seen the rise of a new rival, Leslie Kong. Leslie had artists such as Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert and Bobby Martell (more known as Bob Marley) with him and soon also Derrick Morgan. When Derrick left for Kong the former mentor felt betrayed - especially as he felt that many of the songs Derrick record for Kong was composed and evolved by him, Morgan and Eric Morris at the backyard of his Record Shack. This resulted in the track »Black Head Chinaman« where Buster accused Dennis of stealing his possessions and giving them to a chinese man. Derrick responded with »Blazing Fire« and the musical war had begun. Buster and Morgan were still friends though with the feud being a smart set-up to attract attention to the artists and boost sales.


By the time Jamaica celebrated their independence day the 6th of August in 1962 Buster had converted to Islam. Buster who was now singing more and more on his productions released »Independence Song« on his Voice Of The People label and also Blue Beat in England.


Prince Buster and friends outside 'Prince Buster's Record Shack', No. 127 Orange Street


Coxsone, who had by now started working together with Lee Perry, started producing song straight at Busters head. With the juvenile star Delroy Wilson, a mere 14 years at the time, they recorded songs like »Prince Pharaoh« where they compared Prince Buster to the Egyptian oppressor. Buster started to lose ground to Coxsone in 1963 as the latter started his own studio. Buster had to depend on others studios in the island as he never started his own.


In 1964 Buster was one of many artists who went to the Worlds Fair in New York in order to show the wonderful music of Jamaica and hopefully bring tourists to the Island. Oddly enough Byron Lee & The Dragonaires were chosen as the backing band for the musicians (Buster, Jimmy Cliff, Millie Small, Blues Busters, Eric Morris) instead for The Skatalites.


Steady as a rock

In 1965 Ska transformed to rocksteady. The new music that had more emphasis on the drums and the bass appealed to the rudeboys and they were often the topic of the songs. Either praised or criticized and shunned. Prince Buster himself was one of those who took perhaps the hardest stance against them when he record the song »Judge Dread« (in 1967) were he styles himself an Ethiopian judge who sentences the rudeboys to hundreds and hundreds of years in prison. It came to be the most known anti-rudeboy songs. The song would be followed by »The Barrister« and »Judge Dread Dance The Pardon« - all on the same rhythm.


In 1967 Prince Buster along with Lynn Taitt toured England for four months. Surprisingly enough the song Al Capone reached the top 20 at the British Pop Chart in 1967 - surprising since the song was recorded in 1965 during the ska era.


Since Ska was also known as Blue Beat in England the label didn't have the appropriate name to launch the new rocksteady style. Instead Emile Shallit launched FAB. Buster released approximately 50 songs for the label and also a record was released collecting some of his better known songs released on FAB.


Make it reggay!

When rocksteady became reggae Prince Buster was even less prolific than before. Perhaps it due to the strong advert of rasta lyrics in reggae and Buster being a muslim he never really caught on releasing reggae records. Prince Buster instead changed focus slightly and recorded several slackness songs. With songs such as »Wreck A Pum Pum« Buster was banned from Radio. The song got a response by the Rude Girls with »Wreck A Buddy«.


The Message Dubwise

During 1970-1971 Buster only recorded 30-35 songs a year (the number being 150 in '64!). Yet again Buster had a slightly different focus on his music by chosing to record deejays such as Jah Fender, Dennis Alcapone and Big Youth. The album Chi Chi Run with Big Youth being the greatest success.


In 1972 Emile Shallit in England has had Busters own label (named Prince Buster) running for a couple of years and released a couple of singles. But now the label really started releasing music in a high tempo, reissuing much of Busters music (with the catalog-numbers following no logic).


The same year Buster met up with Carlton Lee at the Dynamic Studio to record on of the very first Dub albums (if not the first!). With almost no information on the sleeve »The Message - Dubwise« was released in in '72 in Jamaica (and it seems '74 in England). Dub was previously only to be found as b sides to singles. By the end of the same year Buster seemingly stopped producing music.


Al Capone's gun's don't argue

In 1979 the group The Specials released the song »Gangster« on the label 2 Tone Records. The song being a reworking of Busters song »Al Capone« from 1965 sparked the 2-tone era and Prince Busters influence was highly noticeable. The Specials ended all of their shows with a cover of Busters hit »Enjoy Yourself« they also did a tribute with the song »The Prince«.


In 1981 Buster released the single »Finger« on Arista Records. The release of solely this song and it being a regular reggae track (with dub) was somewhat unexpected. Gaz Mayall (son of blues artist John Mayall) managed to get Prince Buster playing live gigs again during the 80's and during '90 they toured Great Britain and Japan. They also recorded a new version of the slack classic »Wine and Grine« (released in '98) that was featured in a Levis commercial. In '94 Shaggy had a major international hit with a cover of his and Count Ossies old hit »Oh Carolina«. Buster took it to court for the rights of the song but didn't get them.


Sources and links

Bradley, Lloyd. 2000. Bass Culture – When Reggae Was King. Penguin. ISBN: 0-140-23763-1

Katz, David. 2003. Sold Foundation – An Oral History Of Reggae. Bloomsbury. ISBN: 0-7475-6847-2

Chen, Wayne & O’Brien Chang, Kevin. 1998. Reggae Routes – The Story Of Jamaica Music. Temple University Press. ISBN: 1-56639-629-8

Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter. 2001. The Rough Guide To Reggae (second edition). Rough Guides. ISBN: 1-85828-558-5

Katz, David. 2000. People Funny Bow – The Genius Of Lee Scratch Perry. Payback Press. ISBN: 0-86241-854-2

De Koningh, Michael & Griffiths, Mars. 2003. Tighten up! – The History Of Reggae In The UK. Sanctuary. ISBN: 1-86074-559-8

De Koningh, Michael &Cane-Honeysett Laurence. 2003. Young Gifted And Black – The Story Of Trojan Records. Sanctuary. ISBN: 1-8074-464-8

Veal, Michael E. 2007. Dub – Soundscapes & Shattered Songs In Jamaican Reggae. Wesleyan University Press. ISBN: 0-8195-6572-5

Potash, Chris. 1997. Reggae, Rasta, Revolution – Jamaican Music From Ska To Dub. Schirmer Books. ISBN: 1-901526-09-7

Walker, Klive.2005. Dubwise – Reasoning From The Reggae Underground. Insomniac Press. ISBN: 1-894663-96-9

Marshall, George. 1997. The Two Tone Story. S.T. Publishing. ISBN: 0-9518497-3-5








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