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In the first part of an extensive two-part interview, 70's reggae star Al Campbell speaks to Adam Coxon about his long career.
Al Campbell is an original roots reggae icon. Known in his formative years as the, ‘little man with the big voice’, Al has been taking the world by storm with his big voice ever since. His 1975 song, ‘Gee Baby’ was a huge hit in the UK and his 1980 recording of, ‘Late Night Blues’ became a tradition in being the last song of the night at blues parties all over the world. He went on to record the mighty and classic, ‘The Other side of Love’ for the legendary Greensleeves label in 1981.
Al Campbell is one of those rare artists that is so unique and innovative that you can’t pin him down to one particular style. He has constantly adapted his style and evolved as an artist throughout the decades. Roots reggae, dancehall, lovers rock, Al Campbell is the man that does it all.
Al features on the phenomenally good, ‘Divorce Court Riddim’ album which has recently been released. Don’t believe me, just buy it!
Pennyblackmusic went to meet Al at Friendly Fire Studios in Birmingham which is run by Robin Giorno. Robin is an excellent musician, DJ and producer in his own right. He’s also an all-round great guy. Friendly Fire is a record label, a recording studio and provides a dubplate service. Friendly fire is passionate about promoting uplifting reggae music with iconic heritage reggae artists and new artists alike.
PB: So, your father was a preacher in church? What kind of influence did that have on your singing when you were growing up?
Al Campbell: Well, my father was a preacher in the church, and I always love going to church. And the church would always keep these rallies to make money for the church as the church wasn't that posh as yet, trying to raise money to get chairs and things like that. So, the church kept a small concert, and we would go there and say, “$10 shillings put him up” (we would pay $10 shilling for a person to go on stage and perform/entertain the audience). And someone else would say, “$10 shilling take him down” (someone pays $10 shilling to get the person to stop performing and leave the stage). And so, the audience would bid for you to go back on stage to perform again if the audiences like your performance. And this is how the church would raise money.
I was a church goer, I would go to church every Sunday, I really loved church. But I also fought in the street, and one of the teachers in the church, Miss Dolly she's live next door me. And when she would peep through her window and see me fighting, she’d say, “Aw!! You fighting out there, you’re not going church Sunday!!” And I’d stop fighting and say, “No Ms Dolly, I’m not fighting” She’d say’ “Yes, I see you. You’re not going!” I’d say, “No Ms. Dolly, I’ll be a good boy.” And that would be ok with her.
PB: So, from singing in the churches as a little boy, how did you go from there to making your group, The Thrillers?
AC: Well, that's a good one. First, The Thrillers members were, Sweetiepea, Ozzy, Michael Black and myself. And somehow every time we were supposed to go a rehearsal Ozzy wouldn’t turn up. We used to sing over my school, Cockburn Pen School. We would sing in the evening times; they’d have evening classes. We’d sing and the girls would gather around us. One evening Ozzy wanted me to buy some cigarettes for him and I said, “No, I'm not buying any cigarettes.” Because I didn’t like people smoking cigarettes around me. So, I said, “No, I’m not going to” And then he said, “Don’t let me see you over by the school later.” And I said, “What do this fool.”
So, in the evening I went by the school and the girls on seeing me ask me to sing for them. After I started to sing, I say the crowd parted and I saw fist that knocked me out, it was Ozzy. We then started throwing stones at each other. By the next day we were good friends again.
So me, Sweetiepea and Michael Black met a man named, Buzzy. He said, “Al, we have this group already, both of you are leaders, so let him lead some songs and you lead some songs.” I said, “alright.” We went to Ken Lack to audition, however the date they went to record I don’t remember what happen that day but I wasn’t able to go to the audition, so the session was reschedule for another day. We then went and did the song, I’m Restless, [singing] “I'm restless, I'm helpless, I’m alone. Baby, tell me baby, come on home.” This song sold a few copies but not a lot to make it a star name.
PB: Just in Jamaica?
AC: Yes, Jamaica. And people use to export it to foreign. We didn’t go back to Ken Lack. That time at Ken Lack you had Max Romeo and The Emotions, they were the big group at Ken Lack at the time, I remember the days. That’s where I met Max Romeo.
PB: So, did you see all of the other artists on Chancery Lane as well?
AC: Yeah, we were the ones who form Chancery Lane. Chancery Lane is our corner. First, we’d sit on the park side and the store owner would call the police to run us away, so we went on the lane. Riley have a shop at the corner of Chancery Lane, Winston Riley from Techniques, him grow me from I was child. And then Gregory Isaac came and rent beside him. So, we own the lane now, we even run police from off the lane.
PB: And there were loads of record shops on Chancery Lane, right?
AC: No, just Gregory Isaac and Winston Riley.
PB: Not Randy’s?
AC: No, Randy's was on North Parade. North Parade, there was Randy's and Joe Gibbs was here. And then up Kings Street, you made a left and go up, Derek Harriot was there, and Ken Lack was way down on Duke Street. Person wouldn’t go to Ken Lack anymore, they just stay nearer the bus-stop at night they took the bus and go or who had car drove. Idlers Rest was just a modelling place when artist was coming out. Persons knowing that artist where there came to see the artist they could meet. We didn’t autograph at that time, but people just came to know, “oh it’s him named Freddie McKay?” And everyone, from all walks of life wanted to come to, Idlers Rest just to meet artist.
Anyway, back to me. We used to walk because we couldn’t take the bus because we had no money. So, we’d walk from the tailor shop on Spanish Town Road to Treasure Isle and also to JJ’s. My first experiencing an audition was with JJ’s Record. JJ’s Record had just recorded Johnny Osbourne. The first time Johnny Osbourne was doing a record I think he did it for JJ’s, named, The Power and the Glory. [Singing] “The power and the glory that reigned in men, peace on earth in the heart of everyone.” The Sensations backed him on that song.
After been there I auditioned and JJ came out to listen to me, he said, “Yes, I like you, I like how you sound.” He called me to the side and ask me, if I can’t sing by yourself. I said, “No.” He recognise that my group had older men in it so he couldn’t manipulate them, he didn’t realise I was the smarter one who instruct the group. I told him, “No J, I can’t do that, we have to have the sound, it’s the sound we want”. He then laughed and scratched his head. He said, “Alright. Come to Dynamic Sound on Wednesday, I’ll be having a session, I’ll see if I can squeeze you in.” He said he was recording a group, a group that was some country men that had gimmick song about, Fowl drinking soup. The beat was base off a calypso theme.
So, we prepared ourselves and went to, Dynamic Sound. And I was sorry that I didn’t record before the country group, they took a long time that all one song was recorded. JJ was anger, he said, if he had known he would have made me record first. I said, “That’s the same thing I ‘m thinking, Mr. G.” I ask him when he had another session. He said, he had to find enough money to rent the studio, as he didn’t own the place.
I decided I wasn’t going to wait on JJ, so I told my friends that I want to go to Treasure Isle to audition. They said, “Treasure? No, I’m not going there because Mr. Reid has a gun”, and they’re afraid of the gun. I said, “How do you mean? The man not going to shoot you He has the gun on his side. Look how many police you pass daily with gun?” Michael said, “No, I’m not going, I can’t bather with that.” Sweetiepea was a Christian, we took him out of the church. He said, he’s afraid of the gun, he’s not going. So I said, “Alright, I will go alone.” So, I went alone to Treasure Isle. When I got to Treasure Isle I saw a long line of men, and I heard groups of men singing some good songs, but because they sounded like other singing groups they weren’t selected. They sounded like, The Three Tops and The Heptones, and they needed singings with their own unique sound.
When it was my time I went in. I went it and I was a little boy, and I was small. I went in and Ranny said, “Why are you here?” I said, “I’ve come to audition.” He said, “You, audition? Mr Reid, look at this young boy saying he wants to audition.” Mr. Reid said, “Go ahead, let me hear you.” I said, [singing] ♫ “one broken lovers heart.” ♫
Gladys said, “Come over here,” he started playing the piano. I started to sing, on timing.
He said, “Who trained you?”
I said, “Nobody didn’t train me.”
He said, “No, you’re lying.” First he said, “Who write this song?”
I said, “Well I write the song.”
“You write these songs?” It’s like they under rated me.
I said, “Yeah, It’s I who write the song.”
He said, “Sing another song.”
I said, [singing] ♫ “Freedom, justice, equality, is what we need today for a better, better world, oh yeah. I want everyone to believe.” ♫
He stopped me and said, “Who write that song?”
I said, “Me.”
“You’re lying, tell me the truth.”
I said, “It’s I who wrote my song.” They marvelled over me.
Gladys said, “Leave the young man. Why are you asking him so many question? He came and sang his songs. It’s he who write his songs, leave him alone.”
It’s like he had a double standard, like he didn’t believe I could have written the songs.
Mr Reid said to me, “Wednesday come here at 10 o'clock and let’s record you.”
And I said, “Aren’t you going to give me a piece of paper to show you when I return?”
He said, “No. Just come, we know you already, the little man with the big song.”
I then left. When I went home and told my friends that I was going to record for Treasure Isle because I want to hear my song on Treasure Isle on Saturday mornings.
They said, “Move before I kick you down, about you’re going to record for Treasure Isle. Treasure Isle don’t want idiot like you. Go away.” They didn’t believe me and understated me. So I said, “Alright, I’m going to make all of them ashamed.” When I told Sweetiepea and the others, they said they should have come me. I said, “it’s too late now”.
On Wednesday I went there and record one song, Freedom, Justice and Equality. One of The Paragons’, Tyrone and one of The Techniques that are Junior was singing harmony with me. Two big top artists was sing with little me, first debut in the business. I never heard my self-singing before and when I heard myself I was intrigue by it. So I went to engineering over and over again and told him to repay the song so I could hear myself singing. He soon got tired of me asking him to replay the song and told me to pay him and he would cut it on a dub for me, I however didn’t have the money to do it. I think maybe he just wanted to get rid of me.
So Freddie McKay and I would link up. At times I sing like Freddie McKay, whenever you start spending a lot of time around someone it’s like they rub off on you. So me and Freddie McKay would go everywhere together. Freddie McKay live over South, I had to walk all the way to Bond Street and then walk go out South and sit and wait until Freddie showered and then go back to Idlers Rest, and then anywhere he was going he and I would walk for the day.
One day I went to school, it was a Friday. I said, “Freddie, I’m coming to look for you.”
And Freddie said, “No, don’t come look for me today, because I’m going to be busy”
So I said, “How do you mean you’re going to be busy?” So I said, “Alright, what time are you going to finish what you doing?”
He said, “I don’t know how much time it’s going to take.”
So I said, “Can I come look for you after?”
He said, “No.”
Having no one else to linkup with that day I decided to go to Treasure Isle. I went by Treasure Isle and when I did I saw Freddie McKay inside trying to sing my song. He had, Red Eye Girl, and they want another song for him, and so they gave him my song to sing. They stole my song and gave it to him to sing. When I saw that I said, “What kind of thing that? Do God, don’t let him sing it.” He couldn’t sing it because the keys was too high for him, I song a C at that. He wasn’t able to manage it, his voice was cracking up. God didn’t allow him to sing it, that’s how I know that God speak to me at time. I said, Do God don’t let him sing it, and he wasn’t able to sing it. Our friendship came to a halt for two weeks, the third week we made up.
He said, “Mr Reid told me to sing it.”
I said, “You and I are friends so you can’t do that to your friend.” We then had an understanding of each other and say he can’t do that. We got angry at Mr. Reid also. One day Junior send me to him for some money and he threw me up about ten stairs. It was the same time The Techniques left him also. When I told Junior.
Junior said, “What?” Junior told the men, “You know what, Winston, you’re on your own, I’m leaving”. Two weeks later Junior went to America and never came back. Because he said, “look at the amount of hit song he gave Duke Reid, and he sent asking for two beer----because he love me and Duke Reid throw me up the stairs. I never went back to his place, never”. I said, “No sir” I don’t like people like that, he was too aggressive. Because he was once a police maybe he thinks he can treat people bad.
I went to Coxsone, I went back for my group.
PB: You broke up from the group?
AC: Yes I had broken up from the group, because I’d went solo. So I went to Coxsone with my group. When I went to Coxsone, Leroy Sibbles was selecting. At that time Bibby was on their way out and Leroy took over because Leroy had all the hit tunes. Hit tunes after hit tunes, Heptones nice-up Jamaica and the world.
So I went there and I got a man named, Biggie to play the guitar for me.
I said, “Biggie I want you to play the guitar for me because I want it to sound official,” and Biggie work. But when Biggie saw Coxsone he got nervous.
And Leroy said, “Give me the guitar,” And took it away from him and started to play the keys. Because he wasn’t singing he’s just playing the guitar but when he saw Coxsone he got nervous. So when he said, “sing.” I sang, Heart for Sale and Don’t Run Away. [Singing] ♫ “Don’t run away, don’t run away, don’t run away from me baby.” ♫
And when he said, “Heart for sale, now”. And I say, “Who, aw.” And he heard my voice. He said, “Yes, that’s the voice he’s looking for. Leroy, seemed like we have a winner.” He gave me a piece of paper and said come back on Wednesday to record. On Wednesday I had to get up early in the morning and follow Sweetiepea to go feed is hogs and goats. After that we went to Blackers’ home and waited on him, he cleaned his shoes until you can see your reflection on it, shine. I asked him what’s the use of cleaning your shoes that way then walk in dirt in it? And you don’t have a car to drive?
I saw that Sweetiepea was getting nervous. I said, "Stop getting nervous. Why are you getting nervous? I'm the smaller one I'm should be the
one getting nervous”.
We went inside and I saw Jackie Mittoo and I said, "Yes!"
And Jackie said, "Sing the song let me hear you."
And I said, [singing] ♫"Don't run away, don’t run away, don't run away from me baby." I also don't the second virus, [singing] ♫ "I know it plain that one day you will try to----"
And then he said, "Yes, yes” and said C to the musicians.
We were doing everything at once, voicing the tune at the same time because we didn't have dub so everything was in on click. We had only two false start.
At one point I was singing off key I wasn't counting the keys, if you listen closely to the record, I was trying to get back money when Sweetiepea stick me in my side and I said, "whooo!!" They said they would work with the sound. They then asked if this was my first song and I replied, "No. I did a song at Treasure Isle.” They said I said I sound very professional.
The other song I did in one cut, 'Heart for Sale' I like this song more so I performed it better. They said, "Wow, you’re good”.
A few weeks later, I went there and he gave me 25 records to sell and I sold all 25 records and bought 25 more records. He was then said to me, "Come here, do you want to be a sales man for me?" He had realised that I was good at selling after I went to him and asked him to give me boxes of records with different songs and would sell them very quickly and pay him in full and also tipped him. He was very appreciative of me.
One I said that that a 10 pound pay wasn't enough for four grown men, so I made each member of my group sing a solo song and then I informed that I was going to be going solo to earned more income for myself.
Mr. Dodd gave me four songs to sing and after I sang them he gave me £40. I took the money home to my mother and she said, “Jesus Christ, where did you get this money from?" My father was working and was earned £2.50 for his pay and I was earning £40 that was a lot of money I had earned. My mother called my sister and told her to go to Mr. Dodd with and find out if I had earned the money honestly and that I wasn’t involved in anything illegal. If I was my mother would punish me.
When my sister went with me to Mr. Dodd he told that yes it was my pay. She then told my mother that I had worked and earned the money honestly and, my mother said, "Oh, thank God." She was relieved that I had earned the money honestly and not by illegal means. My mother was very happy and showed me more love by offering me more food at dinner time. I now became the main bread-winner for the home as I was taking home more money than everyone in the family. Another time I gave my mother £60, I was getting paid to sing harmony. I was paid 30 shillings a side to do harmonies, I did a lot of harmony. I had a little black book that I record my earning when I did a harmony in. And when Mr. Dodd asked how much he owed me I told him he owed me £60 and that he also had £30 back payment for me. He said, he wanted to pay me in full he would pay me the £30 in full payment and pay me the £60 in four installment of £15. I said, “Alright.” The next day at the studio I was asked to sing harmony again, so I did and recorded it in my book. I was earning money by singing harmony and also singing solo. I had a good life at Studio One.
Some persons started telling lies on Mr. Dodd and said he was dishonest. He was like a little, ‘Barry Gordon’ surround by large companies who was trying to put him out of business. They help exhale his life---that’s why I know that when God loves you no harm can come to you. When he would go to cut his Stamper, they would use a broken needle to cut his tunes, that’s the reason his tunes had like a frying sound in it. However, the frying sound made his tune had a unique sound. And when persons would come to the studio to purchase the record and didn’t hear the frying sound in it they’d request the one with the frying sound. He encountered a lot of fights but in the end he prevail as Studio One songs’ are now selling the most.
PB: So, did you go from Coxsone Dodd to Phil Pratt?
AC: There was a big strike at the studio with the musicians stating that they needed more pay. And Mr. Dodd told them, that he could only guarantee them each £5 per week.
PB: At Studio One?
AC: £5 would be the pay per week to play tunes, you may have two or three session for the week. If you did 50 tune, it’s the same £5. If you did ten tune, or one tune it would still be £5 for the weekly pay. The musicians started to do only one tune per week and Mr. Dodd would still pay them, but he realise they were talking advantage of the situation. Mr Dodd would leave them to do ten tune and they would only do three tune, Mr. Dodd told them that it wasn’t going to work out so that band got frustrated and left. Another band came from Spanish Town, ‘Soul Defender.’ And the other band were saying that they were stupid to be playing for such small pay. But everyone deserve a chance, it’s a living.
So Leroy and the other said, “We are going to strike.” This is how Bob Andy’s’, ‘Song Book’ came about. Bob Andy did, [singing] ♫ Ba boo ba boo ba baya ♫. And he also did [singing] ♫ I going home, ♫, just before the strike, Leroy song the harmony on this song. He was to do seven more tunes to voice for his album, and he didn’t want the new band as the album had only hard-core rhythm. So Mr. Dodd gave Bob Andy the other musicians’ rhythm and told him to write lyric to them. After Bob wrote the lyric to all the rhythm he make up a Bob Andy LP. Leroy and the other were upset at Bob Andy for breaking the strike to sing. After that happen the other musician decide to part ways with Mr. Dodd, and I being the smaller one had to comply as I was fearful of what the other musician would do to me. I regret this decision as I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to leave but I went with them.
I then went to Orange Street where I saw Phil Pratt. Henry from Treasure Isle, he was one of Duke Reid’s body guards. On seeing me he said, “What’s up?” And said to Mr. Pratt, “he’s a good singer.” Because Henry had seen me performed live in person. Errol Dunkley was supposed to do a big street dance at Three Mile and he was on tour at the time. During the show other singers were signing Errol Dunkley song, and someone took me to Byron Lee. I was given the mic and I performed very well. After signing I tried leaving the stage and they ask me to sing another song [singing] ♫ the whole town is talking about you and ----♫ the crowd love my performance. They comments that I sang the song better that Dunkley, and I said, “No, don’t say that let him hear because he’s my friend and I don’t want him to hear that I sang his song better than him.” They gave me high ratings after my performance. Mr. Pratt said he wanted to do two tunes for me but he wasn’t doing any session at the time, but he had a salesman work that he can offer me.
I said, “I don’t know how to do salesman work.”
He said, “You don’t know how to do salesman work? Alright I will teach you how it’s done.” He said, “You see this receipt book”, and he gave me the book. He said, “You write, Sunshot Records up here, you write the title of the song, how much you sold and the cost, each copy is for 7 shilling 6 pence”, because it was a pre-release so persons who bought it would re-sell it for 12 and 6.
I would be walking and selling these records. So, I sold him three songs I also walked to every record shop, and when persons saw that I was selling they bought the records from me and encouraged me. I said, that it was my first day doing the job and I wanted to make a good impression. I sold about 50 records for that day. Went I return to the studio, Mr. Pratt said, “You did better than Gungo and the others”, those were Bunny Lee’s salesmen. He said, “You did better than them, first day you went out and you sold fifty? That’s very good.” He said, “Whenever you go out to sell and you sell the first record, you don’t need to walk anymore take the bus and record how much you spent for your bus fare”. I then asked him, if it was going to come out of my pay. He said, “No that won’t come out if your pay”. He said he’d pay me 25 shilling per week. I was good with that.
So, I went and sold around town and even hitchhiking ride to Spanish Town, I knew a lot of people because I also worked at the theatre in the pass, so I was about to get a lot of free ride to and from Spanish Town. I up my profile when I decide that instead of selling the records directly to the record shops for, 7shillling and 6pence I would sell directly to the sound men for 12 and 6 and bring Mr. Pratt his share and keep the balance for myself, I told him eventually.
PB: Was, ‘Gee Baby’ your first big hit with Phil Pratt?
AC: Yes. The first tune I did was, ‘Rasta Time’ for Henry. Rasta Time isn’t Phil Pratt tune it’s Henry song, Duke Reid’s’ body guard. He said, “Al, Pratt gave me a cut of a rhythm, I want you to sing on it”. Because Henry used to take me to sing, he even took me once to challenge Dunkley and Dunkley wouldn’t sing, he didn’t want to challenge me. So I sang this song for him [singing] ♫ don’t give away your rights my friends, not even for a dime, if you do you’ll be cut off because now it’s Rasta time ♫ Henry loved and took it to the radio station but because Henry had no money they wouldn’t play it. So sound men where the one who made it big. Sound man started to hear it now, Ken Tones, and said, “Al, I have Archie Bella already on this rhythm, give me a cut of that one please.” I said, “I can sell you a dub off it.” I had now wise up to how things should work. He said, “How much will it cost me?” I said, “Normally Mr. Dodd would charge a certain amount, I won’t charge you such a high price, do you have a blank?”
He said, “Yes he had space on the tape.” So, I took the tape and went to Dynamics and ask the man in the master room to cut the dub on the tape and I took it back to him and he paid me ten shilling. After receiving the ten shilling I thought to myself that I was rich. Ken Tones started playing the song on a regular basis and everyone wanted a copy, so Pratt heard it and put it out. I did, ‘A Game Call Love’ for Pratt, I hadn’t did ‘Gee baby’ as yet [singing] ♫ walk through this world with me go where I go, share all my dreams with me I need you so♫ I did that tune first him first.
One day I was at home rehearsing, singing, ♫ Gee Baby I don’t want to cry over you anymore♫. I had my little guitar, and I was playing my guitar and singing. My brother and Sly Dunbar come to me, Sly wasn’t popular as yet unknown. My brother had song a tune for Bunny Lee, the tune that Bob Marley sing, ♫ mr chatterbox ♫ it’s my brothers’ song. My brother recorded for Bunny Lee but they gave it to Bob Marley to sing, my brother got frustrated and said he wasn’t going to sing anymore because some people took your song and give it to someone else to sing. My brother and Sly was on girl hunting, looking girls. My neighbour were pretty Indian girls, nice looking women. Ms. Dolly was the big sister, the one I went church with. Rosemarie, Ivorine and Daughta and the others, they were very pretty. I would say that when I grew up I would love to have one of them in my life.
So I was singing and then my brother said, “Give me the guitar and sing the tune.” Sly had two pieces of stick and a New Zealand cheese pan and he started drumming on it, and I sang. It like it’s a miracle when you have your life God set out your life for you but you take everything for granted. Well Phil Pratt had a big session and was recording Ken Boothe’s ♫who gets your love♫ and other songs, and he gave Ken Boothe $15000. Now we had sang for Phil Pratt and hadn’t receive any money, and my brother-in -law, Blackbeard, which is Tappa Zukie brother, told me, “Al, he gave Ken Boothe $15000.” And I said, “What?” at that time I called, Pat Kelly and said, “Pat Kelly, did you hear that Pratt gave Ken Boothe $15000?” And Pat Kelly said, “And he has never given me that sum of money before? No way.” At that time Pat Kelly had given him, ‘Talk About Love,’ Pat had sang the song about three times, all three times it was a hit. Pat Kelly said, “No we’re not going to sing for him again”.
So, he had the session and Keith Poppin, Jimmy London, no one except me went. When he saw me he said, “What’s up?”
I said,” Nothing”
He said “I booked the session and no one has come. Do you have any song you’d like to sing?”
I said, “No, not really, I didn’t come for your session.”
Sly said, “Al, what about the song you were sing at the house?”
I said, “Alright, I will sing it.” I started singing ♫ Gee Baby I don’t want to---♫
Pratt then said, “What kind of stupid tune that your sing? Don’t worry with that song, that song isn’t no good.”
I said, “Alright, the truth and the facts is that I didn’t come here to sing for you, so go and find your artist.” And then I went outside. When he realise that he would lose the studio time money and everything he came and plead with me to come back inside and sing, he said I could sing the song. I went in and sang the song. It’s the biggest hit song I have. In 72 the song was number one on the chart for thirteen week. In the 80s it was in the top ten, in the 90s it was also in the top ten. They just took the stamper and dust it off and re-press and it sold. He put it on a disco mix, it went on the album and the album sold a lot. Pratt came to Jamaica and build up hopes telling me that all the royalties are in England, and when you go to England I’ll take you to the man and he’ll pay you the royalties, but it was a lie has he had gotten the money and spend it on himself and family.
When I got to England, finally. I went to Magnet and saw him in a big junk yard. It had a lot of old cars, old fridge, old TV etc. What he did was he got old stuff refurbish them and sold them. When I got there I said, good day, and shook his hand and said, “I’m Al Campbell and I’ve come to collect my royalties today”
He said, “Royalties? Pratt did you not pay him?” Pratt was speechless he would say anything. I said, “Pratt, someone is going to die today.” But I wasn’t familiar with England. And after thinking and calming down and I know I wouldn’t commit murder. He then said, “Pratt, I thought you’d paid all the money you got from me to him?” Pratt didn’t respond. He then said, “Al, I have faith in you, I have this rhythm If you sing on this rhythm it will be a hit”.
I said, “How must you have faith in me and I don’t have any faith in you?” Because the tune sold a lot, he told me, ‘Gee Baby’ sold $75000, those were his words. Right On Magazine came to Jamaica and interviewed me, not even Bob Marley got a centre spread in Right On Magazine and I got a centre spread in it. Only Michael Jackson, The Temptations and some other were featured in that magazine. They interviewed me and told me that my song was selling a lot in England at the moment. And I said, “I didn’t know that.” he said, “Yes, you’re a big super-star in England”. I said, “Is it?” And I remain humble.
He was now telling me to sing on a rhythm and he would give me an old TV and an old fridge. And I felt like I would punch him in the face but I was walked away leaving there. Artist have always have a hard time. Bunny took my album and put it with another album name, Al Campbell Face to Face to Earl Zero. I and Earl Zero have never sang on an album. Why didn’t Bunny Lee take his album and put it with, ‘Johnny Clark and Earl Zero Face to Face. Because he took Earl Zero tune and gave it to Johnny Clark to sing. I’m a bigger star in the business than Johnny Clark he came into business after me. They do interviewer and speak lies, but I’m going to tell you only the truth as the truth shall set you free. Bunny Lee as always had a pick for me for a long time. We did a lot of work at Tubby’s, from Channel One to Harry Jay and making soft lee lovers rock, me and Pat Kelly. He wasn’t in the studio at any time to see this, when he came to the studio he saw that things were running alright. He went to England saying he was going to raise money, when he return he said he hadn’t raise any money, but he came with more work for us to do. And we were doing the work and Pat Kelly said to, “Al, we are doing all this work and we aren’t getting any money, you what we should do? Let’s do an album together for our self”. So I said, “Alright, Pat, I’ll do it.” And that how that, ‘Ain’t That Loving You’ album came about.
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