Real Name: Cecil Bustamante Campbell
(aka Muhammed Yusef Ali)
Born: May 28th, 1938
Place of Birth: Kingston, Jamaica
Buster was named after Alexandra Bustamante, the leader of the Jamaican Labour Party, and began his career as a boxer, but soon found his pugilistic talents being put to use as a bouncer/strong-arm man and minder for Coxsone Dodd's Down Beat sound system. Competition was fierce in the early days, with fights frequently breaking out between the supporters of rival sounds, and with wires (and people) being cut regularly; Buster still carries the scars (literally). He claims, like so many others, personally to have invented the ska sound, and he was certainly involved from the very early stages - at first, with his work for Dodd, and after they had parted company, with his own Voice Of The People sound system, record label and shop. His very first recording session produced one of the all-time classics of Jamaican music, "Oh Carolina", with vocals by the Folkes Brothers and musical accompaniment from Count Ossie. Inventive and innovative at the time, the record still sounds every bit as exciting. Buster released countless records both by himself and other top acts on his Wild Bells, Voice Of The People and Buster's Record Shack labels, which were subsequently released in the UK on Blue Beat Records.
They proved as popular there as they had been in Jamaica, firstly with the Jamaican community and secondly with the mods, who took Buster to their hearts with songs such as "Al Capone" and "Madness". He toured the UK in the mid-60s to ecstatic crowds and appeared on the hugely popular Ready, Steady, Go! television show.
He recorded in many different styles but his talking records were the most popular, including the hilarious "Judge Dread", in which he admonishes rude boys, the wildly misogynistic "Ten Commandments", the evocative "Ghost Dance" - a look back at his early Kingston dancehall days, the confused and confusing "Johnny Cool", and the less well-known but equally wonderful "Shepherd Beng Beng". He also claims to have taught Georgie Fame to play ska and he influenced other white pop acts - Madness named themselves after his song (debuting with a tribute, "The Prince") - and he inspired doorman/bouncer Alex Hughes to adopt the name Judge Dread and have UK chart hits with variations on Prince Buster's lewd original, "Big Five". Towards the end of the 60s, Buster tended towards "slack" or rude records that were only mildly risqué compared with what was to follow; nevertheless, they caused a sensation at the time.
He wisely invested his money in record shops and juke-box operations throughout the Caribbean, and in the early 70s, he took to recording many top names, including Big Youth, Dennis Alcapone, John Holt, Dennis Brown and Alton Ellis, with varying degrees of success. He soon realized that his older recordings consistently outsold his newer efforts and he turned to re-pressing his extensive back catalogue on single and releasing his old albums both in Jamaica and the UK. He also put together some excellent compilations where the superb sleeve-notes, written by the Prince himself, attack in no uncertain terms the music of the day: "They have used guns to spoil the fun and force tasteless and meaningless music upon the land."
Throughout the rest of the 70s and on into the 80s he lived on his shops, his juke-boxes and his past glories, but he returned to live work in the latter half of the 80s. He has become a crowd-puller again, for, as he says: "The people know my songs and loved them." In 1992, he even started, for the first time in years, to record new music again. "Whine & Grine" was used as a soundtrack to a Levi's commercial, resulting in a return to the UK charts in April 1998.
Regardless of the quality of his more recent work, Prince Buster's music has already inspired generations of performers. He is respected abroad - probably more than in his native Jamaica - but he will always retain his place as one of the few Jamaican artists to reach directly to the international audience. Many more have played their part indirectly, but his name was known both through his own recordings ("Al Capone" reached the lower regions of the UK national charts) and his work with other people. It is unlikely that any other Jamaican artist (apart from Bob Marley) still has his records so regularly played in clubs and dances throughout the world. In 2000, Guinness used Prince Buster's "Burkes Law" in a television commercial.
Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989 - 2005
Source - BBC Music Profiles
See also - Fan webpage