Cecil Bustamante Campbell, aka Prince Buster was born in to one of Kingston?s toughest neighbourhoods in 1938. At a young age he developed a passion for music and was also a keen amateur boxer. By his teens he was singing in Kingston clubs and had formed a succession of bands but none of these were particularly successful.
Things began to take off after he was employed, like so many others, by Studio One owner Coxsone Dodd although not as a musician but as security ? competition between rival sound systems and their supporters was fierce and trouble often flared so the ex-boxer was a handy person to have around
In 1960 he left Studio One to set up his own ?Voice Of The People? record label, sound system and shop and his very first recording session produced one of the all time classics of Jamaican music, ?Oh Carolina? by the Folkes Brothers. He became one of the leading exponents of the new Ska music that was sweeping the nation, recording many great records such as ?Al Capone?, ?Madness?, ?7 Wonders of The World? and ?Wash Wash? (which was recorded in the UK with Georgie Fame !) Most of these records were wisely released in the UK on the fledgling Blue Beat label, a move which would see him become a star outside of Jamaica for many years to come. He became a hero to the Mods in the UK and toured to a rapturous respnse wherever he went. He performed on the popular ?Ready, Steady, Go? British TV show, introducing Ska to a whole new legion of fans. Several of Buster's singles charted in the UK; ?Al Capone? being the first Jamaican record to break into the UK top 20. He also toured many other European countries and although none of his singles charted as highly in the US he successfully toured there too
Back in Jamaica, Buster and fellow Ska pioneer Leslie Kong, a successful producer of Chinese / Jamaican descent were engaged in an intense musical rivalry ? former Buster protegé Derrick Morgan had fallen out with Buster and was now having hits with Kong. On records like ?Blazing Fire? and ?Blackhead Chinaman? the two hitmakers traded insults back and forth, the first of many famous rivalries on record that would become so prevalent within Dancehall and, later, Hip Hop
Between 1962 and 1967 the Blue Beat label released over 600 records, many of them written, sung and produced by Buster. As the Ska sound changed and Rocksteady took over Buster continued to have hits, often where he would intone about humorous, serious or slack topics. Records like ?Judge Dread?, ?Ghost Dance?, ?Whine and Grine? and ?Ten Commandments Of Man? were hits both in and outside of Jamaica
Besides being a pioneering musician he was also interested in the business side of things, very much a one man record company. He started his Kingston record store in the early 1960s which is still owned and operated by his family today. He also founded a very successful jukebox company
In the 1970s he was a less visible presence but still maintained his business empire and recorded many top Jamaican artists such as Big Youth, John Holt, Alton Ellis and Dennis Brown. He also starred in the most popular Jamaican film of all time, ?The Harder They Come?.
In the late 70s and early 80s the 2 Tone era saw his popularity rise again with a whole new generation of young people appreciating his music via groups like The Specials, who sampled ?Al Capone? and Madness, who named themselves after one of Buster?s classic Ska tracks. They also recorded ?The Prince?, a tribute to the great man. With his popularity outside of Jamaica taking off for the second time he began to tour again, his popularity now greater than ever
Today he lives in Miami but he?s still on the scene, regularly reissuing his extensive back catalogue and occasionally performing. He will always be remembered for making some of the most enduring and popular music ever to come out of Jamaica