In 1977, a young technician called Michael Campbell took on a graveyard shift as a DJ at the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC). He adopted the radio name of "Mikey Dread", and the show soon earned him national and then international celebrity.
Dread's innovative DJ-ing had a wide influence, as did his style as a producer. Reggae's renaissance man also became a recording artist in his own right, founded his own record label Dread At The Controls - and later worked in television in both the UK where he narrated the highly praised Channel 4 documentary Deep Roots Music - series - 6 one hour shows. Later he worked in the United States. He gained a reputation as a shrewd businessman, almost unique among Jamaican artists in gaining control of his entire back catalogue. He was a hard-working and dapper performer; his fedora hat and jacket became a visual trademark.
From an early age, Campbell showed a voracious appetite for learning – a life-long attribute that would serve him well. Electronics fascinated him, and he taught himself the basics from books. His biographer Trevor Holland notes that he improvised with batteries and old bicycle lamps to supply lighting for his mother's house. At Titchfield High School in Port Antonio he began to make broadcasts after persuading the headmaster to get the school a licence.
Later, while studying electrical and mechanical engineering at the College of Art, Science and Technology in Kingston, he applied for a position as a technical operator at JBC in 1976. By 1977, this work had led to him being offered a shift DJ-ing six nights a week from midnight till 4.30am, but because of his professional status, he wasn't supposed to talk on the radio. Thus he began using jingles and sound effects between songs rather than spoken word intros – a style emulated ever since on reggae shows the world over.
Dread at the Controls focused on the rootsier side of local music at a time when most Jamaican radio favoured imported sounds, and it soon became the nation's most popular radio show. Tapes circulated among music industry figures, spreading his reputation to the UK. Mikey Dread's association with Jamaican musicians such as Lee Perry and King Tubby gave him exclusive early access to dub plates and artists they were producing.
He also got to use their studios, where he made the jump to recording artist in 1978 with "Love the Dread". "Dread at the Mantrols" was another early work featuring him toasting over Perry's classic "Dreadlocks in Moonlight", but the song that really propelled him into the limelight was "Barber Saloon", a number one hit in Jamaica.
In 1979, friction between JBC's conservative management and Dread led him to quit. He had already founded the 40 Legs record label with his JBC colleague Pam Hickling, and now had his own label, Dread at the Controls, which allowed him to produce influential cuts for the likes of Sugar Minott, Junior Murvin, Earl Sixteen, The Ovations and Edi Fitzroy. His first album was Dread at the Controls (1978) and the classic African Anthem (1979) would later prove a fertile source of samples for US rappers.
By the mid-1980s, he was beginning to work more in the US, thus precipitating a move to Florida. He eventually resumed ownership of the rights to his entire back catalogue, and was thus able to re-release it on his own label. The Dread did seem to be in control.
In 2004 Dread appeared at Glastonbury, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. He was back in the UK on a short tour in 2006, and continued to work until a brain tumour caused him to lose his voice last spring.
Jon Lusk - The Independent
Sincere condolences are sent to Mikey's family and friends from Small Axe
Michael George Campbell (Mikey Dread), DJ, broadcaster, producer and singer: born Port Antonio, Jamaica 4 June 1954; married (four sons, two daughters); died Stamford, Connecticut 15 March 2008.
Mikey Dread - Evolutionary Rockers - DATC
Mikey is another artist who once again is taking matters into his hands. Long ago, the DATC was a major reggae label with every release on 7" or 12" always looked forward too. In fact Mikey pioneered the value for money 12". Every release was in a proper DATC sleeve, and usually lasted 15 to 20 minutes! So this CD, which features a lot of the music released on 7" was going to be interesting to say the least. Its got everything and more from the late seventies - these tunes made the man and truly changed the way reggae was presented on the radio. His use of jingles and fx can still be heard today some 25 years after the event!!! And when Mikey gets around to releasing the 12" mixes on a CD a lot of people are going to be for a serious shock. They were incredible then, imagine what they sound like today on CD!