One Step Beyond: The Music of Prince Buster
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One Step Beyond: The Music of Prince Buster

The legendary Jamaican musician Prince Buster is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska music. Prince Buster released many classic ska tracks on JamaicaÂ’s Blue Beat label, and these have inspired ska and reggae artists ever since.

The legendary Jamaican musician Prince Buster is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska music. Prince Buster released many classic ska tracks on Jamaica’s Blue Beat label, and these have inspired ska and reggae artists ever since.

Prince Buster was born Cecil Bustamente Campbell on 28 May 1938 in Kingston, Jamaica. He began his singing career in 1956, performing under his own name in nightclubs across Kingston. Eventually, Campbell came into contact with Clement Dodd, who operated one of Kingston's most popular sound systems. Across Jamaica, music promoters drove vans filled with stereo equipment to stage mobile parties. Campbell was hired not as a musician but as security, since he had been an amateur boxer as a teenager. Rivalries between fans meant that parties could become rough, and security was vital. In this line of work, Campbell earned the nickname ‘The Prince’. This was joined with his boyhood moniker ‘Buster’ (derived from his middle name Bustamente) to form ‘Prince Buster’ - the name under which he became famous.

In 1960, Buster produced a record for the Folkes Brothers. It was an instant hit in Jamaica and Buster was soon recording his own compositions, which were crucial in developing the ska sound. Buster's early records were released in Britain by Blue Beat Records, and for this reason ska is often known as ‘Blue Beat’ in the UK.

Buster toured Britain extensively during this period. He appeared on the TV show Ready, Steady, Go! in 1964. While in England, Buster met Muhammad Ali, the World Heavyweight Champion boxer. After this meeting, Buster joined the Nation of Islam. He also name-checked Ali in hissong ‘Earthquake on Orange Street.’ Today, Buster is also known by his Muslim name Muhammed Yusef Ali.

In 1965, Buster released ‘The Ten Commandments (From Man To Woman)’, a track which is a highly-sought-after by collectors of ska and reggae, despite being incredibly misogynistic.

Prince Buster had a hit single in Britian with ‘Al Capone’, which reached #18 in 1967.

Buster was also interested in the music business and started a record shop in Kingston in the early 1960s which is still owned and operated by his family today. He also founded the Prince Buster Records label, which continues to reissue his music.

By the late 60s, the ska sound was changing. Musicians slowed down the beat that some audiences found too frantic and therefore made the music easier to dance too. This new music was eventually called rocksteady. In the late 70s, however, ska experienced a revival in Britain. In 1979, Madness named themselves after one of Prince Buster's greatest tracks and released a tribute to Buster called ‘The Prince’. The lyrics urge ska fans to remember ‘the man who set the beat’. Their second single was a cover of Buster's ‘One Step Beyond’.

The greatest ska revival group was, of course, The Specials. On their first album, The Specials covered ‘Too Hot’ and drew from ‘Judge Dread’. Their song ‘Gangsters’ was based on Buster’s ‘Al Capone. The Specials also covered Buster's ska version of ‘Enjoy Yourself’ on their second album.

Prince Buster now lives in Miami, Florida. He has performed at a few shows over the past several years, including the 2002 Legends Of Ska festival in Toronto, in the 2006 Boss Sounds Reggae Festival in Newcastle upon Tyne.

discography

• I Feel The Spirit (1963)

• Fly Flying Ska (1964)

• It's Burke's Law (1965)

• Pain In My Belly (1965)

• Ska-Lip-Soul (1965)

• What A Hard Man Fe Dead (1967)

• Prince Buster On Tour (1967)

• Judge Dread Rock Steady (1967)

• Ten Commandments - RCA (1967)

• Wreck A Pum Pum (1968)

• Tutti Frutti - Melodisc (1968)

• FABulous Greatest Hits - FAB (1968)

• The Outlaw - Blue Beat (1969)

• 15 Oldies but Goodies - FAB

• Big Five - Melodisc (1972)

• The Message-Dub Wise - FAB/Melodisc (1972)

• Dance Cleopatra Dance - Blue Elephant (1972)

• Chi Chi Run - FAB (1973)

• She Was A Rough Rider (1978)

• Sister Big Stuff - Melodisc (1976)

• Jamaica's Greatest - Melodisc

• Subliminal Reaction - Subliminal Reacton

• FABulous Greatest Hits - 1963-1981 - Sequel (1993)

• The Original Golden Oldies Volume 1 (1998)

• The Original Golden Oldies Volume 2 (1999)

• The King of Ska (2002)

• Prince of Peace: Prince Buster with Determinations Live in Japan (2003)

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Comments (9)
Ranked #18 in Media

Thanks for sharing

Very nice presentation! Interesting guy.

An interesting genre of music. Well done, Michael.

Ranked #8 in Media

very interesting, I never heard of this artist

Very interesting, you have added great classic information on music Michael, thanks.

Ranked #4 in Media

Thanks for your comments,everyone.

Ranked #3 in Media

A Jamaican artist with a hit song in Great Britain singing about the American gangster Al Capone. My ethnomusicology professor would have a field day with that one. Good stuff as always.

Ranked #4 in Media

Thanks, Richard.

Dominic Yarns

I produced a respected version of Al Capone in 1978. Released in France via CBS in 79. Hear it on my DJ Uforia remix Homepage link.

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