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Houston Chronicle Excerpt by Marty Racine

Houston Chronicle, January 9, 1992
By Marty Racine

Excerpt from: Guns N' Dozes/Warning: Expect to say up late with Axl and hisspoiled night owls

Yes, there are rock's spoiled children, and then there are the real men of blues.

The blues will teach you humility. Although he's got a suspicious streak about him -- who wouldn't after years in this biz -- Buddy Guy is one fine gentleman.

For our purposes, he is simply the best damn blues guitarist on the planet. Ask Eric Clapton. He's on record. Look at where Jimi Hendrix learned some of his licks.

Guy, who long ago migrated to Chicago and made hay in a partnership with harmonicat Junior Wells, makes a rare, precious appearance Saturday at the Bon Ton Room. With two shows, he'll have to rein in some of his act, but any peek at his archives is worth it.

Opening will be John Campbell, a Shreveport native who lives in New York City and is out with a debut album, "One Believer." He'll be backed by New York guitarist Zonder Kennedy and Austin rock-blues stalwarts Davis McClarty on drums and Jimmy Pettit on bass.

Is there something of the devil in Campbell? Aw heck, that skull on the neck of his guitar "was just a spontaneous thing," he said from NYC. "Guitars are very human-shaped in a way. It's like a self-portrait kind of thing, if you remove me from the picture."

Yes indeed, look at his face, a skull wrapped in skin. It'll give you the heebie-jeebies. Campbell was 13 when he got that face.

"I was in an automobile accident and I went through the windshield," he said. "I was cut up real bad."

But fate works in mysterious ways. "It was a tough time, but it was a time I really connected with music.

"When I was recuperating at home I spent a lot of time alone. I had been playing guitar before then (he learned some Hawaiian guitar at age 4), but it was at this time that I started listening a lot to Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters and trying to learn those things on guitar.

"Something happened. The guitar and those songs connected with me. I got in touch with my feelings. I realized at that point that (the blues) was going to be what I do. The blues reaffirmed life, got me to living again."

After that, Campbell said, "I never really adjusted to school. I dropped out and went my own way."

He shuttled along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Houston. He did some dates at Anderson Fair with Townes Van Zandt.

"In the beginning I'd drive or take buses to a town, play little clubs. I'd just walk in a place, right off the street. Used to walk in all kinds of places -- bars, gas stations, pool halls."

Campbell was just happy to play. "I felt that I was somewhere," he said. "I was proud to play those places. I didn't even think about the music business."

He lived in Center, Texas, for a while, then went to New York. "I didn't like it at first, it was such a change. But it just sort of took, and I stayed."

The blues scene, especially in New York City's Village, was influential, he said. While living in Brooklyn, Campbell turned to electric guitar. His is a succinct story of how rural blues evolves into urban blues:

"The city was so big, so fast and so loud, that's when I started using an amp," he said. "I lived in Brooklyn, and there was a train that would go by the window, and it was at the same level as the apartment we were in.

"Every time that train passed, you couldn't hear the guitar. So I started playing through a little amp on a more regular basis."

Copyright 1992 Houston Chronicle


Copyright � 2003, Thomas Geiger
Revised: May 10, 2003