Prince Buster a musical gladiator
ONE OF the most exciting episodes in the life of the late Prince Buster was his musical confrontations, or ‘musical wars’, with others in the music business.
Perhaps the one that most people are familiar with is the one with Derrick Morgan, who he accused of stealing his
belongings and giving them a Chinaman. But before that, Buster had some stinging musical exchanges with Clement Dodd also known as Coxson, the owner of the Studio 1 record label. Dodd had just returned from one of his musical sojourns abroad to find the music scene being taken over by his former employee and fledgling sound system archrival Prince Buster. Buster had just recently launched his Voice Of The People sound system and was on the verge of becoming a successful record producer with Eric Monty Morris’ Humpty Dumpty, Derrick Morgan’s Shake a Leg and his own They Got To Go. Dodd apparently felt betrayed because Buster was his ‘right hand man’, who helped to establish him as one of the top sound system giants at the time. According to Buster, in an interview I had with him, “I ease the pressure offa him, and I suffer inna the rush, too, but we made him into a sound system man and mek him can keep him dance in peace”.
In the meantime, Dodd, in one of his rare appearances as a performer, likened Buster to the offspring of the nefarious King Pharaoh of biblical times, as he raps in prelude to Delroy Wilson’s singing on the 1962 recording, Prince Pharaoh (go down). Among others, Buster had replies with One Hand Wash The Other and They Got To Come, in which he sings:
“Don’t believe them people, I have done no wrong so will you kindly help me, help me to sing my song.These bad-minded people would like to see me down. But when the game is over and over, I can’t go wrong. They got to come, they got to come, they got to come my way”.
Buster further announced his displeasure with: “This story has just begun So please tell me if I’m wrong
It takes one hand to wash the other.
And every bad move they try
I pass them by and by I leave them to cry They might even die”, all this in the recording One Hand Wash The Other. The three sound system giants of the day – Coxson Down Beat, Duke Reid The Trojan, and King Edward The Giant, from whom Buster faced much resistance, were summarily mocked in the recording The Duke, The King and The Sir: “I told you, I told you I would make them talk the Duke, the King and the Sir. Well the Duke went to the sir, said I got troubles on my mind Then they both went to the King who didn’t have no throne And if there be a King everyone will know Cause only a rightful King can sit upon my father’s throne”. Three Against One told a similar story: “Three against one, three against one Man it’s great to understand ’Cause the hotter the battle the sweeter the victory It was round three and they all were on bended knees”.
The story of the musical war, or the verbal clashes, between Buster and Derrick Morgan unfolded around 1962 when Buster requested Morgan’s help (Morgan being a more seasoned campaigner in the music business) in the setting up of a music business. That business included a record store and the production of recordings for himself and other artistes. Morgan obliged, and in addition did two recordings (Shake a Leg and Come On Over) to help bolster the business. Morgan, however, didn’t spend much time with Buster, and instead moved on to the Chinese-Jamaican Leslie Kong and his Beverley’s label set-up a few yards north along Orange Street. Kong was paying twice as much. The move somewhat infuriated Buster and led to the beginning of an acrimonious affair between both men. The situation was exacerbated when Morgan recorded for Kong a song titled Forward March. In the recording, Headley Bennett included a saxophone solo, which Buster claimed he created. These were the belongings Buster claimed were stolen from him and given to the Chinaman. It sparked a series of exchanges, with Buster being the first to put his cards on the table with: “You stole my belongings and give to your Chinaman
God in heaven knows that you are wrong
Are you a Chineyman or are you a Black Man?
It don’t need no eyeglass to see that your skin is black
Do you prefer Clement ‘Sir Coxon’ Dodd Derrick Morgan
your Chineyman to your fellow Blackman
Speak up friend, it’s plain to understand
It won’t be very long, they’ll have a change of plan to use you and then refuse you”, in the recording Blackhead Chineyman.
Morgan was quick to answer with:
“You said it, I am a blackhead Chiney
but when I was with you, I was like a bull in a pen.
Live and let others live and you days will be much longer”, in the recording Blazing Fire.
Buster then continued the exchanges with one titled Praise Without Raise, in which he stressed: “All you’re getting is praise, but the Chineyman banking the raise.
Watch out blackhead you’re getting praise without raise”.
Morgan hit back with No Raise No Praise as he sang:
“You also said I’m getting praise and no raise. Don’t conceal it friend to tell the public I was singing for you and I neither get praise much less raise”.
There were a few more exchanges before things came to a head with Buster’s threat to release Chinese Jacket, which referred to Morgan’s Don’t Call Me Daddy. Morgan was somewhat peeved by the threat, because it was the first time that his name was being called – “Derrick go mind yu baby”.
In response Morgan warned Buster that, should be proceed, he would release one with the lyrics: “Buster while you were at sea I was along with B (Blossom his wife)
and all your children have the mark of this blackhead Chinaman”.
Buster relented, an agreement was reached and the musical war ended.