Prince Buster (real name Cecil Bustamente Campbell) was drawn into the Jamaican music business as a teenager in the 1950s, when he intervened in a fight between Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd (a Kingston sound-system supremo and owner of the legendary Studio One label) and employees of his rival, Duke Reid.
A locally successful boxer, Buster saw off Dodd’s attackers and was taken on as his minder.
From there he used his innate understanding of music and crowd-pleasing to branch out on his own and record some of Jamaican music’s best songs, including Al Capone, Madness, Ghost Dance and Orange Street, inventing Ska in the process.
During the run-up to Jamaican independence in 1962, Buster wanted records for his sound-system that were more intrinsically Jamaican than the popular American-style R&B.
He set up a recording session that combined his regular musicians with the Rastafarian Count Ossie and his master drummers, borrowed the 4/4 time of army marching bands and grafted it on to an R&B framework to create Oh Carolina, widely acknowledged as the first Ska record.
An astute businessman, Buster wasn’t slow to recognise Ska’s international possibilities. He frequently toured in Britain where he became something of a mod hero and was often escorted on tour by a phalanx of scooters.
As a result, his Blue Beat releases and effervescent stage shows came to define Ska in the UK, influencing artists from Georgie Fame to the Ska Revival 2 Tone acts over a decade later (Madness took their name from his song title, and their first single – The Prince – was a tribute to him).
Prince Buster has remained active into the 21st Century, touring Europe, the US and the Far East, and recording in the studio in the grounds of his Miami (Florida) home.