Michael Campbell, a.k.a. Mikey Dread was one of the most influential performers and innovators in reggae music. His abilities, technical expertise, and unique vocal delivery combined to create a unique sound that told the listener emphatically that it was the “Dread at the Controls.”
Mikey Dread’s avid interest in reggae music led him to acquire an immense collection of crucial vinyl which he used to gain notoriety as a young DJ and audio engineer with the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) where he began his broadcasting career in 1976. There he developed his own unique broadcasting style, which has been adopted by virtually every reggae radio show in Jamaica and the world today. His radio show, which became known as “Dread at the Controls,” was firmly established as the ‘Number One Radio Show’ in Jamaica. Mikey Dread was awarded “Top Radio Personality of the Year in 1977-1978.”
In 1979, after many altercations with management and then program director about him playing too much reggae on the radio Mikey Dread resigned from JBC.
Mikey Dread recorded his first single “Barber Saloon.” “Barber Saloon” charted at #1 on the local Jamaican Radio Charts. He recorded several Top 10-reggae singles in 1978 and produced his first albums “Dread at the Controls” (Trojan Records-London) and “African Anthem” (A Special Edition from Jamaica’s radio program for Cruise Records-UK).
In 1979 Mikey Dread performed live at Reggae Sunsplash in Jamaica along with other featured artists including Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Inner Circle, and Third World.
He also worked at Treasure Isle Recording Studio-Jamaica as Audio Engineer.
Mikey Dread decided to expand his career by getting more involved in the actual production of not only his own music, but also the work of others such as Sugar Minott, Junior Murvin, Earl Sixteen, Wally Bucker, The Ovationz, Sunshine, Jah Grundy and Rod Taylor. It was then that his activities attracted the attention of The Clash, who asked him to work with them. While working with The Clash he released his third album called “World War III” (1980). “World War III” became instant success and held the number one position on the British Reggae Charts. To this day “Word War III” has been considered one of the top Reggae albums of all time. The “Breakdown the Walls” single from this album was used in the soundtrack for the movie “Walcott,” a British Television Movie Series aired on Central TV, London, ITV Network.
Perhaps Mikey Dread’s work with The Clash has garnered him with the most recognition, but his credentials and resume started long before his eye-opening production on several releases with the renowned punk stars from London. His work and interaction with The Clash was a significant event in the integration of reggae into popular music throughout the world. The album “Black Market Clash” is a brilliant fusion of late 1970’s punk rock and a heavy reggae as seen in the track –“Bank Robber.” The reggae aspect of The Clash’s album distinguished their sound from the other punks that emerged in the 1970’s. Soon thereafter, it was a must for just about every punk band to have a reggae cover song on their album.
Mikey Dread produced “Bank Robber” and with that first song put The Clash in the British charts in the 1980’s. Mikey also did a version to “Bank Robber” alone titled “Rockers Galore…UK Tour” which has been released and re-released on numerous Clash compilations.
Mikey Dread has produced and collaborated with the Clash on their most famous album “Sandinista” on songs like “One More Time,” “One More Dub,” “If Music Could Talk,” Living in Fame” and “Shepherd’s Delight.”
In 1982, following the success with The Clash, UB40 invited Mikey Dread to tour with them. He made several live appearances and performancesin the UK on BBC and Sky TV Music Box. He also performed with UB40, Bob Dylan, and Carlos Santana at Rock Music Festival at Wembley Stadium in London and Slane Castle in Dublin, Ireland.
Mikey Dread set up the mix for the song “Red Red Wine” and mixed the B-side for the “Red Red Wine” single and the B-side for “Cherry Oh Baby.” Both singles “Red Red Wine” and “Cherry Oh Baby” became number one on the British Charts. Furthermore “Red Red Wine” became a hit in other countries around the world. Alltogether Mikey Dread produced 10 dub tracks for UB 40.
UB 40 signed Mikey Dread to their label “DEP International” and released his “Pave the Way” (1983) album.
In 1983 Mikey Dread was invited to Japan to produce a Japanese Rock band called “Anarchy.” He also performed in Japan with the rock band “The Mods.”
While living in London, Mikey studied at the National Broadcasting School London, where he perfected his media production/radio broadcasting skills, graduating with special commendations.
Mikey Dread has used his great and refined broadcast and audio engineering talents to further reggae music in the United Kingdom and the world. He believes in a multimedia approach to publicizing reggae. Some of his works in the United Kingdom include narrating reggae documentaries, and hosting series such as “Rockers Roadshow” for Channel 4 TV London and the ever popular six-part Channel 4 TV reggae documentary series “Deep Roots Music.” Mikey Dread created and produced the soundtrack “Jungle Signal” which became the signature tune for “Deep Roots Music.”
Later in 1983-1984 Mikey Dread was employed at VPRO Radio in the Netherlands as a host and producer of a very successful weekly reggae program called “Rockers in the Morning.”He also presented a reggae show for Radio West in Bristol and produced reggae special reports for BBC Radio 1 for a national broadcast across the UK.
In 1984 Mikey Dread hosted live events including “Miss Black UK pageant” in Birmingham.
Mikey Dread’s album “Pave the Way” did what the title suggest for Dread’s career by appealing to a broad audience with catchy numbers like the track’s “Reggae Hit Shot,” “Roots and Culture,” “Oneness,” and several others with top reggae musicians like Jackie Mittoo on keyboards, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace on drums, Larry “Professor” on bass, Noel “Sowell” Bailey on guitars, also Barry Valentine on guitar plus Rico Rodriguez on trombone and “Eddie “Tan Tan” Thornton on trumpet. Live appearances on BBC-2 television show Ebony. Performed “Pave the Way” “Reggae Hit Shot “(Reggae, Reggae Christmas) and “Sunday School”
In 1985 Mikey Dread produced and presented a Reggae Radio special for Australian Broadcasting Corporation 105.7 FM JJJ Radio Sydney, Australia.
In 1989 Mikey Dread relocated from the UK to the US.
The album “Happy Family”(1989) is another step in the evolution of Mikey Dread’s upbeat sound. He later recorded “The Source (Of Your Divorce)” for Warner Brothers Records USA, which obtained regularly rotated video airplay on BET as well as on MTV’s Hip-Hop/ Rap program “Yo MTV Raps.” MTV’s Sunsplash Special, which was shot in his native Jamaica, featured Mikey Dread’s video in 1990.
The video was filmed at Gene Kelly’s house in Hollywood.
Mikey Dread was invited to a live appearances on CBS-TV News at 10-Channel 13 TV-Tucson, Arizona.
In the early 1990’s Mikey Dread released “Best Sellers” (Rykodisc, 1991), a stunning compilation of some of Mikey Dread’s best known songs including “Barber Saloon” (#1 on Jamaican and British Reggae charts in 1979) and the classic “Roots and Culture.” Mikey Dread then went on to record “Profile” and “African Anthem Revisited” (RAS Records, 1991).
He toured in Europe and the USA with Freddie McGregor, Lloyd Parks and the ‘We The People Band’ and later with the Roots Radics Band in the early 1990’s across the USA, with a special appearance at the Hopi Cultural, Center in Hopiland, Arizona and in Canada.
In 1992 he collaborated with former Guns n’ Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin on a duet entitled “Can’t Hear ‘Em.”
Other projects during this period include producing the Ju Ju Hounds on “Can’t Hear ‘Em” and “Pressure Drop.” One of Mikey Dread’s tracks “Breakdown the Walls” from the album “World War III” was featured in the UK movie “The Rift.”
With an effort to help raise awareness for the youths he headlined a charity concert for “Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves,” Cambridge, Massachusetts to raise money for ‘The Duboise Academy’ and youths of the community. He received a Merit award for this.
Also in 1992 he was nominated for a NAIRD award, an award from The National Association of Independent Record Distributors, for his work on the “Best Sellers” album. He also appeared as a guest host for a Worldbeat USA TV show “Tropical Beat,” filmed live in New York.
In 1993, Mikey Dread was involved in several projects, including his tour supporting the album “Obsession” with the Roots Radics band and working in television with the ‘Caribbean Satellite Network’ (CSN) in Miami, Florida where he was Program Director and ‘On Air Personality’ as well as Producer for various TV shows. These shows included “Artists Profile,” “New Video Showcase,” “Video Dub Plate,” “Christmas around the Caribbean,” “Christmas with the Children,” “Celebrity Guest DJ,” a mini documentary on the music of Trinidad and Tobago, and “The Bob Marley Hall of Fame Induction.” Mikey Dread furthered his knowledge of TV/Video Production at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where he graduated in 1996 with Honors and at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Communications, with ‘Magna Cum Laude’ honors.
He was awarded the 1999 ‘Communicator Award for Video Editing’ for 60-seconds TV spot for “Boca Raton News.”
Other activities done by “The Innovator” include working for the Video Jukebox Network, Miami as voice-over talent in several reggae TV-Commercials. The Culture Award of Honor from the ‘Martin’s International Reggae Music Awards’ in Chicago was presented to him in 1994. He also participated in the ‘Caribbean Music Festival’ as an entertainment consultant in Nassau, Bahamas throughout the 1990’s.
In 1995, he worked as a Radio DJ for WAVS 1170 AM and WAXY-AM 790 in Miami, Florida. In 1996 he participated in the ‘Essential Music Festival’ as a performer in Brighton, U.K. He worked as a ‘News Photographer’ for Metro Video shooting daily TV news stories for NBC-6 News station in Miami, Florida and in the summer of 1998 he performed at several European Festivals in Germany, Belgium and Austria.
In February 1999 Mikey performed with the ‘School Band’ at the 18th Annual Bob Marley Day show in San Diego and at the Long Beach Arena in California.
One of the better character traits of Mikey Dread is that he has refused to over saturate the reggae market by simply not appearing on every reggae event. This has helped him to maintain his credibility and mystique.
Mikey Dread is a man of world diversity and immense resourcefulness. His rhythms have defined reggae and have helped with its global development. From “Barber Saloon” to “Break down the Walls,” there is a unique blend of rhythms only found in the man that everyone seems to see as ‘Dread at the Controls.’ Mikey Dread’s origination of reggae broadcast programming has given the world a formula for reggae broadcasting that has been adopted by DJ’s and broadcast networks worldwide.
After long legal fights with independent record labels Mikey Dread gained the rights back for his entire catalog. Encouraged by his wife Monika, Mikey Dread returned to the music business and to his own label “Dread at the Controls.” Mikey Dread began releasing new music like his limited edition CD “World Tour” (2000), his CD “Rasta in Control” (2002), his latest album “Life is a Stage” (2007) and continued re-releasing his back catalog.
Currently most of his albums can be found for digital download from various companies worldwide including itunes, and his music and merchandise is always available to the public at www.mikeydread.com
Throughout the years 1998-2001 Mikey has been making impressive and captivating live concert performances with the Fully Fullwood Band across the USA including the Hawaiian Islands.
From 2002 on Mikey Dread has been touring with his own seven-piece band the “Dread at the Controls Band,” including a full horn section, nationally across the USA and internationally around Canada, Europe and South America playing significant festivals like the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, the Mexican Cultural Fest in Mexico and Oye Festival in Argentina.
Mikey Dread was featured with his band on BBC TV as Highlights of “The Best Of Glastonbury 2004.”
In 2002 Mikey Dread was featured on the BBC / Bravo TV Documentary “History of Reggae Music.”
In 2003 Mikey Dread recorded a track called “We are Family” for Red Bull/Italy and played an event in Milan, Italy which was sponsored by Red Bull Home Groove.
In 2004, Mikey Dread appeared as featured artist with Seal on the Sony Movie soundtrack “50 First Dates” with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. The track, a reggae cover of Echo and the Bunnymen’s hit song “Lips Like Sugar” is also featured on Seal’s Warner Brothers “The Best of Seal” album.
Having completed a European Tour in 2006 which took him to the UK and Poland, Mikey Dread has been busy playing spot dates and festivals in Argentina, Mexico, Canada and the USA.
With his latest CD – “Life is a Stage” (2007) Mikey Dread has begun a new dimension in his musical career, maintaining the original Jamaican sound in his music with reggae played from a native point of view – strictly roots and culture all the way, no hype no sell out.
With “Life is a Stage,” Mikey has come full circle, assembling the original “founding fathers of reggae” once again to provide us with another, authentic reggae gem.
On February 21st, 2007 Mikey Dread has been invited to perform and to give an interview at the “Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame,” in Cleveland, Ohio.
On March 15, 2008 MIKEY DREAD lost a battle to a brain tumor. Despite his death his legacy will continue.