Had you gone looking for the blues at the 1986 Mississippi Delta Blues Festival, you might have been surprised to find that one of the most popular performers was a rather unknown guitar player from Texas, John Campbell.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, some 36 years ago, he started fooling around with his grandmother's steel guitar. And still being a young kid, he heard recordings of Lightnin' Hopkins and other blues greats at his uncle's house. When he was eight or nine years old, he got his own guitar. Over the next few years he listened to and studied every blues record he could find, hunted down guitar players, and picked up whatever he could.
Still in his teens, John Campbell moved to Texas. Shortly afterwards he started playing in nightclubs, opening shows for and often sitting in with Gathemouth Brown, Son Seals, and Albert Collins. Due to severe health problems he felt a need to step back from performing. He moved outside a small town in Texas, concentrating on his guitar work, and refocusing himself and his music.
Performing rarely for many years, he felt it was time to play his music in the big city. A few years ago John Campbell moved to New York City, doing opening shows for Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy Rogers, and others. One night he was working with John Littlejohn, when Ronnie Earl came in. They had met before down in Louisiana. The two of them ended up on the back steps of the club playing acoustic guitar all night long, passing the guitar back and forth, talking about Lightnin' Hopkins, and playing their favorite things for each other. That particular night Ronnie decided to produce an album on John, a project that took shape in a Brighton, Mass. recording studio in April that year. Ronnie invited Muddy's long-time harmonica player Jerry Portnoy, drummer Per Hanson, and singer Darrel Nulisch to support John on a few tracks. The results speak for themselves.
John Campbell always loved the acoustic guitar. He realized you had to hear it, so he put a pickup on it. That's the way he's perfomming on stage, and that's what he plays on this album: a 1952 Gibson SJ with a Dearmond pickup, through a tweed Fender Princeton amp. Finest acoustic Texas singer style guitar, that's John's trademark. The blues from where he grew up, the blues from the south, flavored with a hot shot of hard driving beat and urban feel, that's John Campbell, in other words: A Man And His Blues.
Recorded April 18/19, 1988 at
Splice of Life Studios, Brighton, Massachusetts
Engineered by Brian Ales
Mastered by Joerg Siemer.
Photos of Mr. Campbell, Mr. Earl by Joseph A. Rosen �The Genius.�
Cover design by Reinhard Burbas
Produced by Ronnie Earl.