Prince Buster (born Cecil Bustamente Campbell OD 24 May 1938, Kingston, Jamaica), is a Jamaican singer-songwriter and producer. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.
Cecil Bustamente Campbell was born on 28 May 1938 in Kingston Jamaica. His father worked on the railroads and had named him after a statesman he had admired , a Jamaican Labour Party Leader called Alexandra Bustamente. As a youth he soon became interested in boxing and spent many hours sparring in local gyms. He had much promise as a boxer and won a good number of his fights. He also became interested in music which lead to him playing in a band. He worked as an apprentice moulder 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 the open-air concerts. The “Trojan" Duke Reid and Sir Coxsone were battling it out in the 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', to which few would dispute.
By 1962 after recording himself on the Starlite label, Prince Buster released a production of the Folkes Brothers "Oh Carolina" which was backed by Count Ossie's drummers. 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 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. His early material was distinct from other music of that period, having an up tempo style with highly charged horny ska riffs dominated by cymbals. The Mods in Britain became very much interested in Buster's tracks and as they were on general release on the Blue Beat label, 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 wound up the organization.
Prince Buster toured Europe & Britain regularly between 1962 and 1967 and appeared on the popular TV show Ready Steady Go in 1964, having just broken all records with a sell-out concert at Brixton Town Hall. He also toured the USA in 1967 with great success.
In the early seventies he played a cameo role in Perry Henzell's definitive account of the Jamaican music industry "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, USA, concentrating on his extensive business interests. (Info mainly edited from Ska2Soul)