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Original JUDAS PRIEST singer Al Atkins says that he gave the rest of the band his blessing to continue using the PRIEST name after he left the group.
Atkins formed JUDAS PRIEST in 1969 in Birmingham, England, naming it after the Bob Dylan tune “The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest”. In 1973, Atkins stepped out to land a “real job” to support his family and the band moved forward with Rob Halford.
Asked in a new interview with Crystal Logic how PRIEST ended up keeping the name after his exit from the group, Atkins said: “I left the band in May 1973. I was the only one married and now with a small child to feed, I decided to get a 9-to-5 job and support my family because we just couldn’t get that big record deal we so wanted to give us some financial backing, and although we were getting bigger, we had more overheads to go with it. Norman Hood at the agency helped me out sometimes with some cash but it wasn’t enough.
“A few months after leaving the band, K.K. [Downing, guitar] and Ian [Hill, bass] came knocking on my door and asked me if they could use the name JUDAS PRIEST and if they could have the songs too, and I said yes and best of luck… They said they had found a new vocalist to take my place, named Robert Halford, who I had never heard of, but his band HIROSHIMA had been on our agency books too. They hit the road pretty soon and toured the U.K. and Europe, and the following year, they added Birmingham guitarist Glenn Tipton from THE FLYING HAT BAND who were also in the same agency and we both played on the same bill together once at the Plaza Ballroom, B’ham. So now JUDAS PRIEST were a five-piece for the first time.”
Atkins also talked about how he felt watching Halford perform some of the material he helped write with PRIEST.
“It was strange seeing Rob singing my songs after I had left them, and I didn’t like his high-range vocal style at first, but he got older and his voice matured,” Atkins said. “He was incredible, especially during the eighties… really wicked.
“I last saw them a few years back at Wolverhampton Civic Hall and they played a great set but I missed K.K. on guitar, although Richie [Faulkner] is a good guitarist.
“I went to see K.K. [and other former PRIEST members] Tim Owens and Les Binks last year at [K.K.‘s] new venue The Steel Mill and the band was just amazing. It was great to meet them all backstage later.”
Atkins is the co-writer of several PRIEST songs which are included on the band’s first two albums, “Rocka Rolla” and “Sad Wings Of Destiny”, both of which eventually went gold. Atkins co-penned the heavy metal classic “Victim Of Changes”, which was a combination of Halford‘s song “Red Light Lady” and Atkins‘s own “Whiskey Woman”. He also co-wrote “Winter”, “Never Satisfied”, “Dreamer Deceiver” and “Caviar And Meths”.