The Count of Carnaby Street

In any written, or for that matter spoken history on London’s Carnaby Street and its place in this countries popular culture, the name of Count Suckle should always get a mention.

He was the first DJ of choice (and part time bouncer when required) at the ‘Roaring Twenties’ a nightclub situated at number 50 on that later to become world famous street, when it opened in the July of 1962.

The massive part on the overall influence that the music of the Caribbean would later have on the youth of the UK cannot be questioned.

He was born Wilbert Augustus Campbell in Kingston Jamaica in 1931. Being one of 13 kids, his early life was one of poverty. Music was always an escape from that and he was soon involved in supplying American records, obtained from sailors on shore leave, to the Sound Systems of the late 40s/ early 50s.

In 1952, he stowed away with his great friend ‘Duke Vin’ Forbes on a boat bound for London and once reaching dry land, began living in the area of Ladbroke Grove.

Before too long he was running his own ‘Sound’ under the name of the Count Suckle Sound System. Ironically enough he was often in competition with his friend and one time crew member Duke Vin and  ‘sound clashes’ between the two were soon a regular event.

All was not calm on the streets, however, and in 1958, a house in which he was performing was firebombed, amid the heightened racial tensions of that year.

Suckle would often also DJ at the Flamingo Club in Soho’s Wardour Street and through that become friendly with many of the well-known white musicians of the day.

As mentioned earlier, he was also resident at the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and there he gained a fervent following among the mod fraternity, plus ‘faces’ of the time such as the like of The Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger would often borrow records from Suckle) and Georgie Fame.

There, Suckle played vinyl 45’s sent over from Jamaica, often by his friend Prince Buster and this was very much the beginning of that influence mentioned earlier, one that can be still felt today.

Sadly, with drug dealing rampant on the premises, the ‘Twenties’ suffered regular police raids and Suckle tired of the grief, moved on to manage the ‘Cue’ club in Praed Street, Paddington.

This one time snooker hall, later known simply as ‘Q’ saw Suckle DJ black music from across the genres, as well as featuring live performances from leading talent from America and elsewhere overseas.

‘When we opened, Ska music was the thing, Prince Buster, Don Drummond, Rico, Tommy McCook, and Roland Alphonso, Baba Brooks y’know.

They all played here when they toured London’, he recalled a few years later.

Following a shift of policy to emphasise soul music, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Tina Tuner were later all known to put in a shift at the club.

The Count also ran ‘Q Records’ though an association with Trojan Records. His long running and popular club, complete with its own Caribbean inspired restaurant, continued to operate up until 1986 until Suckle retired.

He died of a heart attack in May 2014 at his home on the Edgware Road aged 82.

The Mumper of SE5