Judge Dread

Reggae and ska musician Judge Dread produced a string of hits in the 1970s, such as Big Six and several others that were banned by the BBC for their sexual innuendo.


Judge Dread, also known as Alexander Minto Hughes, was born in Kent, England in 1945. Known for his girth (he weighed more than 250 pounds), the hefty Dread once worked as a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones. His recording career was launched in 1972, with the release of the single "Big Six." Packed with sexual innuendo, the song, like later follow-ups, was banned from the United Kingdom's airwaves. Dread sold millions of records during his long career, and his 1970s album sales were second only to Bob Marley.

Early Career

Credited as being the first white reggae artist to have hit song in Jamaica, Judge Dread was born as Alexander Minto Hughes on May 2, 1945 in the English country of Kent. Known for his size (he weighed in at 250 pounds), Judge Dread made an early name for himself as a wrestler, working under the pseudonym "the Masked Executioner." In the 1960s, Judge Dread's girth earned him a job as a bodyguard for the Rolling Stones.

Judge Dread's fascination with reggae music was sparked while living with a West Indian family in London as a teenager. Later, he started working at clubs, first as a bouncer and eventually as a deejay, playing reggae and ska music. By the early 1970s, Judge Dread was working as a debt collector for Trojan records, a label that specialized in reggae and ska, and soon began working on his own music.

In 1972, Judge Dread spent 8 pounds to record "Big Six," a sex-fused single that climbed to No. 11 on the U.K. music charts, even though it had been banned from the airwaves. In all, the single sold more than 300,000 copies and remained on the charts for an astounding 27 weeks.

Commercial Success

Judge Dread's next singles, "Big Seven" and "Big Eight," were worthy follow ups, with the former climbing to No. 10 on the U.K. charts. In 1978, Judge Dread offered up a successful remake of the 1969 hit "Je T'aime (Moi Non Plus)."

Over the next few years, Judge Dread recorded several other covers, including a rendition of Chuck Berry's banned song, "My Ding-a-Ling." Original hits were also produced, some with lewd names that only further put him out of favor with radio stations.

Overall, Judge Dread sold several million records, and his 1970s album sales ranked second only to Bob Marley.

Later Years

As his popularity began to cool in the late 1970s, partly due to the rise of punk music, Judge Dread allegedly went into semi-retirement. However, he continued to keep a careful eye on the music scene.

Judge Dread was still touring and recording when he died of a heart attack on March 13, 1998, in Canterbury, England. He had collapsed on stage at the Penny Theatre, where he'd just wrapped up a performance. He was 52 years old at the time.

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