Alan John "Al" Atkins (born 11 October 1947, Stone Cross, West Bromwich, Birmingham, England) is an English heavy metal vocalist, perhaps best known for his association with Judas Priest.
Atkins began his musical career in 1964, singing in a succession of blues rock outfits before forming a band in September 1969, named Judas Priest (named after the Bob Dylan song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"). Featuring a musical direction unrelated to the future metal band, this band lasted until April 1970, developing a small following in Birmingham before splitting up over creative differences.
By this time, bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were emerging, and Atkins was interested in pursuing a similar direction. Fellow Black Country musicians K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and John Ellis, who were in a band called Freight (April-October 1970) had similar musical interests, and teamed up with Atkins to form a new band. Atkins did not like the name Freight, so he suggested they be called Judas Priest, as he had rights to the name. After gaining a following in Birmingham, the Atkins-led Priest recorded a demo in 1971, which attracted the attention of Tony Iommi's management but failed to endear them with any of London's major record labels.
With a wife and young daughter to support and no record deal in sight, Atkins was forced "to get a haircut and a 9-to-5 job" in May 1973. He was replaced by Rob Halford, who found himself singing many songs that were originally written by Atkins. Consequently, the album Rocka Rolla gives a portrait of Atkins' original vision for the band. Atkins eventually formed another band, 'Lion' and went solo after it dissolved.
As of 2012, Atkins fronts the band Atkins/May Project, which also features guitarist Paul May. A press release dated 21 May 2011 stated that Atkins would be contributing session vocals for the heavy metal opera project, Lyraka. In 2013, Atkins will be recording a solo album of his favorite songs written between his days in Judas Priest to the Holy Rage days. He also will be working with guitarist Stevie Young, nephew of Angus Young from AC/DC.
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