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John Campbell's Band


Zonder Kennedy - Guitar

Zonder Kennedy

Davis McLarty - Drums

Davis McLarty

Jimmy Pettit - Bass

Jimmy Pettit

Images taken from John Campbell's performance on a German Television show, Ohne Filter Extra in 1992

For much of John Campbell's musical career he was a solo performer and preferred it that way. But, he was no stranger to playing in bands. Early on in Shreveport, John played in any number of junior high and high school bands. Later, he often played in a trio with Scooter (harp) and Steve Swann (guitar). In Corpus Christi, Texas, John played electric guitar in ZZ-Top like blues-rock band named Junction. Junction consisted of Tim Delaney on bass, John on guitar, and John "Satch" Haupt on drums. Read Tim Delaneys story on Junction.

After Junction, John pretty much billed himself as John Campbell or the John Campbell band. Many times, his brother, Bill would join John playing a guitar.

When he traveled to different blues venues, he would play with the house band, local friends or by himself. In New York, John was playing with a three piece band that consisted of Gordon Wands on bass and Dave Hansen on drums when he was discovered by Elektra. At the time, John was also playing acoustic guitar with Zonder Kennedy. Kennedy had met John in New York City and the two became fast friends. Kennedy also played with John on occasion at the Lone Star Cafe and other blues venues and helped to write some of the songs on One Believer and Howlin' Mercy. Check Out Don O's pictures of John and Zonder at the 1991 Dallas Blues Festival.

With the release of One Believer in 1991, John started touring with muscians who had been recruited by Dennis Walker to record with him on the album. Jimmy Pettit and Davis McLarty had been playing in Joe Ely's band but signed on to record and tour with Campbell. Jimmy and Davis played with John whenever John's touring schedule did not conflict with Joe Ely's. Richard Cousins and Robert Medici often sat in during these times.

After Holwin Mercy John formally formed his own band, Jimmy Pettit quit the Joe Ely Band to join John and Zonder full time. Robert Medici took over the drums. This unit played together on John's last European tour and the blues festivals in 1993 right before his death. Jimmy Pettit has contributed a great story about John: John Campbell - Authentic Bluesman.

When Campbell was asked about touring with a band instead of going solo, he remembered the advice he received from Gatemouth Brown, “I was opening up solo for Gatemouth Brown again after many years,” he explained, “and he said to me, “Son, I see you’re still playing by yourself. Don’t you know that music is supposed to be a sharing experience?” For John, One Beliver was the culmination of 25 years of playing roadhouses, street corners, and small restaurants. The band's performances recorded in Europe in 1992 demonstrate that they had developed a tight sound with very little slop. Robert Medici and Jimmy Pettit layed down the smooth groove texture against which Campbell worked his hoodoo swamp boogie. And Kennedy's fills and modern electric guitar solos, while abit more understated than Campbell's delta force slide nicely augmented Campbell's chops and fingerpicking. At the time of John Campbell's death, the group was poised to produce the album that would have firmly entrenched John Campbell's legacy and put him on equal footing with blues rock legends like Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Jimmy Pettit, Robert Medici and Zonder Kennedy performed together on August 6, 1993 under the name Cruel 13 at a benefit concert for Paris Campbell, John's 6-month old daughter. The band's name is a direct reference to the date of John's death. John died on June 13, 1993. A very cruel day, indeed. Held at the Lone Star, the benefit also featured Dr. John, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, John Popper of Blues Traveler, Chris Whitley, and Voodoo Children, featuring members of Metallica.

Today Davis McLarty is an agent in Austin, Texas. Robert Medici is music producer and still writes music. Listen to a few of Robert's songs. Jimmy Pettit lives in Austin and still plays the blues. He is working on new material. Click here to listen to two of his new songs. Zonder Kennedy lives in New York and plays with Loup Garou.


Copyright © 2004, Thomas Geiger
Revised: February 11, 2004
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