Before Rob Halford became Judas Priest's frontman, Al Atkins held the position in the band's prefame years. And even though Atkins didn't sing a note on Priest's first two albums, 1974's 'Rocka Rolla' and 1976's 'Sad Wings of Destiny,' he made his presence felt as a co-writer of 'Victim of Changes,' among other songs.

Had Atkins remained a member of Priest, surely the course of the band's history — and heavy metal in general — would have been altered. The same can probably be said of the Priest sound, he tells The Examiner.

"If I would have stayed with them," Atkins says, "we may have taken a different road — maybe more like AC/DC, but that's not a bad thing, is it?"

Atkins gives credit where credit is due in terms of how Priest did turn out. In a recent interview, Atkins tips his hat to Halford for taking Priest "to another level with his style of high-range vocals," and he also gave Glenn Tipton props for his harmony guitar work with K.K. Downing.

So why did Atkins leave Priest before the band had a chance to taste fame and fortune? Pressing financial concerns — that's why. Despite help from Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi "getting us some higher-profile gigs" circa 1973, says Atkins, the fact remained he was a married father, "and without a record deal and the backing we needed, I just couldn't survive anymore, so I decided to get a haircut and a 9-to-5 job."

Looking back, Atkins regrets that move, "but [I] was happy for them to eventually get that deal and climb the ladder to succeed, and they much deserved it."

These days, Atkins fronts the hard-hitting Atkins/May Project, which also features guitarist Paul May.

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