Original JUDAS PRIEST Singer: I Thought The Band Would Never Make The Big Time

Dark Starr from Wormwood Chronicles webzine recently conducted an interview with original JUDAS PRIEST singer Al Atkins. An excerpt follows:

Wormwood Chronicles: Many people may not know that you were the founding member and original lead singer for JUDAS PRIEST. Can you catch the readers up a bit on that history?

Al Atkins: JUDAS PRIEST was actually formed in 1969 and K.K. Downing came to the auditions for the guitarist's job but didn't get it. The guy who got it was name Ernie Chataway, and the full lineup was Ernie (guitar), Bruno Stapenhill (bass), John Partridge (drums), and myself (vocals). We signed a four-year record deal with Immediate Records, which was owned by Andrew Loog Oldham, the guy who discovered THE ROLLING STONES but not long after we signed with them they went bust and towards the end of 1970 we split up. I decided to carry on regardless and formed JUDAS PRIEST again, this time with K.K. Downing (guitar), Ian Hill (bass) and John Ellis (drums). Apart from a few drummer changes, this lineup lasted until May 1973. We were a great opening band and played alongside GARY MOORE, SUPERTRAMP, MAGNUM, STATUS QUO, SLADE, BUDGIE, FAMILY, SPIRIT and THIN LIZZY, to name a few, but a record deal never came our way and we made very little money. I was the only one married with a child and thinking the band would never make the big time I decided to leave them because I needed a regular income so I left to get a 9-to-5 job. Some time later, K.K. and Ian knocked on my door asking if they could use the JUDAS PRIEST name and also use the songs that I wrote because they had found another vocalist to take my place, and I said "Yes, of course." The name of the vocalist was Rob Halford. This lineup carried on touring for another year before independent label Gull Records gave them a four-year deal but only if they added another guitarist to give them a bigger sound... they did and his name was Glenn Tipton.

Wormwood Chronicles: What have you done since those early days of PRIEST?

Al Atkins: From about 1974 to 1978 I sang with another four-piece band from the U.K called LION which featured the original PRIEST bass player Bruno and drummer Pete Boot from BUDGIE and we had a massive following but when the punk explosion came along we just didn't fit in with this music. We played alongside THE SEX PISTOLS and other punk bands and I hated this sort of racket that used shock tactics like spitting and swearing and I decided to throw the towel in again. I sometimes wished we had carried on because after the punk era died the NWOBHM scene came along with bands like SAXON, VENOM, and DIAMOND HEAD kicked off and LION would have fitted in with them just perfectly. During the '80s I concentrated more on my writing skills and just jamming now and then but 1989 I recorded my first solo album "Judgement Day" for a German independent label. 1991 saw me record my second one titled "Dreams of Avalon", 1996 PRIEST's old label Gull asked me to record a CD for them so I put together "Heavy Thoughts". I recorded my fourth solo offering, titled "Victim of Changes", with Dave Holland on drums.I later started to concentrate on playing to live audiences which I had started to enjoy again after all these years and even teamed up with guitarist Dennis Stratton (ex-IRON MAIDEN, PRAYING MANTIS) for a while and toured the East Coast of America. 2006 I put together my fifth CD titled "Demon Deceiver" with a lot of help from various musicians who I had met over the years and it has now just been released.

Wormwood Chronicles: Do you still stay in touch with PRIEST?

Al Atkins: Not as much as I used to but speak with Ian [Hill] now and then and I met up with them backstage at The NEC Birmingham when they played last year.

Wormwood Chronicles: What do you think of their music after you left the band?

Al Atkins: The first albums they recorded the music was not much different from when I was in the band and they even used some of my songs e.g. "Never Satisfied", "Winter", "Caviar and Meths", "Dreamer Deceiver" and "Victim of Changes", but Glenn's contribution was paying off because not only was he a great guitarist but a very good songwriter too and this was already showing with songs like "The Ripper". I think over the years their music has got louder and heavier and their twin guitar sounds are awesome. My favorite song has to be "Painkiller".

Read the entire interview at www.wormwoodchronicles.com.

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