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Jamaican club legend Count Suckle died from 'heart attack'

REMEMBERED: Wilbert ‘Count Suckle’ Campbell

JAMAICAN-BORN sound system operator and night club legend, Wilbert ‘Count Suckle’ Campbell passed away from a suspected heart attack at his west London home last week (May 19), it has been revealed.

Count Suckle, as he was popularly known through the UK’s night club entertainment scene from the mid-1950s until the 1970s, was found slumped in his apartment in Edgware Road.

Campbell was born in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Britain when he stowed away on a banana boat in 1954. By the late-fifties he was running sound systems in Ladbroke Grove, west London which was a popular hang out for the growing West Indian community.

He built up a large following by playing at private parties before becoming resident DJ at the Roaring Twenties club in the trendy Carnaby Street which was the centre of the mod scene in London which drew a mainstream British audience.

In the 1960s Suckle began managing his own club, The Cue, which was later changed to ‘Q Club’ in Paddington and it was to become one of the most popular black clubs for American soul, blues and later ska and reggae music. All the leading black music entertainers made it the ‘must visit’ entertainment nightspot in London.

Speaking on the success of his club back then, Count Suckle was quoted saying: "We lead the field because we have always moved with the times at the Q club. When we opened, ska music was the in-thing, Prince Buster, Don Drummond, Rico Rodriques, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, Baba Brooks, they all played here when they toured London.

“We played all the latest songs and the new dances caught on quick. The Q club is international so we have to mix the records. When soul was the thing we played that too, you just got to stay with the times. If patrons wanted hear reggae or rock and roll we played it."

On hearing news of his passing, Suckle’s close friend and entertainment partner Count Prince Miller said: “I was proud to have been associated him, all he had achieved was through honesty and love. People should see him as a role model because of the success of his business which he grew from nothing. He enjoyed himself to the best of how he could from his business. He was a good man.”

Soul and blues vocalist Jimmy James added: “I knew Suckle from the Rowing Twenties and the Q Club and he set a benchmark for club owners to follow, that’s where all the stars went when they were in town. He knew how to entertain and people had fun back then. He was a great human being as well.”

Popular reggae and soul singer Winston Francis recalled "20 years of great times" with the much-loved sound man.

“Count Suckle was one of the people to bring Jamaican music to the West End of London and because of him we as music lovers enjoyed at least 20 years of great times in the West End. He was a true leader and reportedly he was the first black man to drive a Rolls Royce in London, which he bought with cash as we didn’t have credit cards back then. I’m very sad to hear of his passing,” Francis said.

Wilbert ‘Count Suckle’ Campbell who was born in August 1931, leaves behind two children, son Everald Campbell and daughter Calita Campbell-Jawando. A celebration of his life will be held on Thursday, May 29 at The Heritage Bar and Restaurant, Cricklewood, London NW2. Funeral arrangements are planned for Monday, June 2 at the All Saints Church, Powis Square, Notting Hill, London W11 at 11.30am.

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