Frederick Owen Campbell, professionally known as Freddie Campbell, is an established musician who is versed in several genres, but currently concentrating on Ska, Reggae and Mento.
Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Freddie’s parents got divorced when he was 3 years old so he was raised by his Grandmother and Aunts. His Grandmother was a teacher, as a result he was home-schooled until he was approximately 7 years old. His first public school was St. Francis Elementary (better known as Knun’s Pen Elementary), he then went on to St. Elizabeth Prep, which was a private school. In 1955 he was awarded a scholarship to St. George’s College, one of the island’s premier high school. Incidentally, all the aforementioned academic institutions are all Catholic schools.
While at St. George’s Freddie got involved in sports. He represented them in track and field at the 1956 “Champs” at Sabina Park, and captained the Colt’s soccer team that same year. He also played on the Manning Cup team which won the Cup in 1959 and shared the Oliver Shield with Cornwall College in the same year.
Freddie Campbell actually considered a career as a sportsman on several occasions. While he was at St. Francis, his classmate who was a famous jockey, tried to get him to ride but when that friend fell and died, Freddie decided to stay away from that sport all together. He then thought about being a professional soccer player, but felt that there was not enough money in it. He was also sought after to become a pro golfer, because he was that good. This was in the 70’s and back then pro golfers were not making as much money as professional musicians so he opted to stay with music. And finally, in the early years as a musician, while he was in the Bahamas, he was again given the opportunity to be a jockey, but again he turned it down.
Freddie was introduced to music by Noel Seal, Jamaica’s best congo player at the time. He would walk by his home on his way from school – this was when Freddie was about 10 or 11 years old. One evening, Noel invited him in and began teaching him how to play the drums. Later on at age 17, while Freddie was still in school, Noel Seal got sick and asked Freddie to fill in for him on his regular gig. He did for two weeks and was compensated for doing so. His first actual job as a regular drummer was with Kes Chin and the Souvenirs. He was only 19. He had a day job as an accountant, but two nights with the band earned him more than a week’s salary so he left his day job and began focusing all his attention on music. After two years he was introduced to Carlos Malcolm and the Afro Jamaican Rhythms. It was around this time that he recorded with artists like Derrick Harriott, Owen Grey and Derrick Morgan, and producers such as Mr. Pottinger and Vere John.
Freddie was inspired by many different musicians, some for their dedication to music (they would wake up and practice first before anything else); some because of their knowledge of music (they taught him the theory of music); and some for the way they handled the money they earned from music (they owned homes and made money from the rent and even had businesses).
One of Freddie’s most decisive music memories dates back to when he was 20 years old; he was told by his Aunt: “If you are not going to college, then you have to move out.” He moved out! His Aunt was a foundation member of the NDTC and had her own dance school, Jay-Teens. Exactly 10 years after leaving home, Freddie wrote some music for her dance school.
Some highlights from his career worth mentioning are performing for Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Martha and the Vandellas and a long list of American artists, as well as Bob Marley and most if not all of the local artists of the time. This all occurred between 1960 and 1975.
From 1978 through 1989 Freddie Campbell invested in and ran a couple of private businesses not music related. In 1989 however, he became the CEO for Cosmic Force Records, the label that helped to break Shabba Ranks and other acts. He worked with the label until 1991 when a hurricane caused the breakup of the company.
Currently, in addition to hosting a radio show titled Ska Now & Then on both CRS and Blog Talk Radio, Freddie Campbell also manages his band, SkaJamz and is working hard to get the brand established.