"True Ska is music with a soul"
Prince Buster was born Cecil Bustamente Campbell in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1938. His father gave cecil his middle name after a statesman he admired , a Jamaican Labour Party Leader called Alexandra Bustamente. As a young man in Kingston, Cecil was interested in boxing, at which he was actually quite good. He spent much of his free time sparring in local gyms and actually won a fair number of his fights. He worked as an apprentice molder in Kingston by day.
In 1961 he became a security man for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd who owned the Downbeat sound system, working with him on open-air concerts. "The Trojan" Duke Reid and Coxsone were opponents in sound system competitions. Buster did some DJ work with Coxone and took part in many fights that competition between sound systems and their devoted fans "rude boys" would bring. This fighting on numerous occasions earned him the title 'Prince'.
By 1962 after recording himself on the Starlite label, Prince Buster produced the Folkes Brothers' "Oh Carolina". (in 1994 Buster contested the rights to Oh Carolina after Shaggy had taken his re-mix to the number one spot but was unable to prove he owned the rights - although it was recorded by the Folkes Brothers it was a Buster production and he claimed it was his clapping on the original.) Shortly followed a hit by Eric Morris with "Humpty Dumpty". These records were released on Emil Shalit's Melodisc record company which he formed in the 1940's. Due to the growth of Jamaican music and the new R & B sound, Shalit saw the need for a new label to concentrate on the new sound, the Blue Beat record label was born in 1960. For the first few years it enjoyed a monopoly in the U.K until the launch of Island records in 1962. The new sound that developed into Ska was sometimes referred to as Blue Beat because it mostly appeared on that label. Prince Buster either produced or recorded hundreds of records over the coming years.
Buster was an instant success and his records sold well, he eventually even had his own record shop on the corner of Charles Street and Luke Lane which he would call Buster's Record Shack. (His family still runs the shop today). His house band took the name of Buster's All Stars and was undoubtedly the same session musicians that were used by the other producers at that time. Musicians included: Val Bennett - tenor sax, Raymond Harper, Baba Brooks - trumpets, Junior Nelson, Rico Rodriguez - trombone, Earnest Ranglin , Jah Jerry Haynes - guitar, Gladstone Anderson - Piano, and Arkland Parks - drums. His early material was distinct from other music of that period, having an up tempo style with highly charged ska riffs dominated by cymbals. The Mods in Britain became very much interested in Buster's music, songs such as One Step Beyond, Madness, and Al Capone became big hits. Al Capone was the first Jamaican recorded song to enter the U.K top 20.
To change with the times Blue Beat was phased out and the more modern sounding FAB & Rainbow/Dice labels came out. Around 1970 the Prince Buster label was formed to try to revive the Melodisc group. Unfortunately, Prince Buster began to ease off with his recordings to concentrate on his juke-box business, and in 1977 Shalit closed the doors for good.
Prince Buster toured Europe regularly between 1962 and 1967 and appeared on the popular TV show Ready Steady Go in 1964. He also toured The United States in 1967 with great success. Prince Buster was amongst the representatives of Jamaican music at the 1964 New York World Fair along with Jimmy Cliff.
In the early seventies he played a cameo role in Perry Henzell's "The Harder They Come". In the late seventies and early eighties he became an inspiration to the Two Tone bands.
Prince Buster is today living in Miami, Florida, concentrating on his extensive business interests.
Unfortunately a great deal of Buster's music has not been re-released on CD