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Remembering John Campbell

Fan Appreciation

John Campbell Remembered for More than Just his Music

Pat Huddleston, Letter to the Editor, Shreveport Times, July 3, 1993

Shreveport has a history of producing exceptional musicians. From Leadbelly to Hank Williams and the spillover from the Louisiana Hayride to the Bossier City Strip, there have been some really talented people to cross these parts.

Some are still here, yet to be discovered. James Burton makes Shreveport his home, as well as claude King; both are luminaries in the industry.

John Campbell was in his early teens when I met him and had already expressed an interest in guitar. He liked an open-E tuning, just right for bottleneck guitar.

John and I played a number of gigs together in this area, and I was impressed not only by his ability and desire but also by his irrepressible spirit.

He had been in an auto accident that would have left most people devastated. He never complained or made excuses. He had a hard edge to his playing that could make you tingle.

The blues for John was classic. He could sing of outdated ways, backward thinking, ignorance and poverty. His bottom line message was love.

I was honored to be his side man and friend for a brief period in his life. (He died last month in his New York City home.)

I truly believe Johnny "Slim" is somewhere better sitting on his front porch, strumming his guitar in that low rolling E-chord. I'd sure like to visit him. - Pat Huddleston

John Campbell - Authentic Blues Man

He is "authentic whenever he wants to be so, but in other cases he easily goes beyond the bounds of what is already well known to him to create his own eclecticism." I found this quote in the article you sent to me. What struck me was, that this is the way I would explain Campbell's divergences from classic delta style blues.

..."He was authentic when he wanted to be"...and it was perfectly valid when he felt like being experimental, BECAUSE HE WAS AUTHENTIC. This is how I would answer his critics.

John was not trying to preserve the Blues by EMBALMING them, he was living them in 1993...and of course we wanted to reach a larger (rock, if you will) audience; Geez, Robert Johnson wanted to reach a larger audience, too.

Those critics of John's always seemed to feel that the Blues was some sort of strictly defined formulaic sound and if you diverged from that then you were selling out or something. I never understood that. What we were attempting to do was to NOT be a museum artifact. That was the challenge, not just faithfully recreating someone else's sound, but making it relevant to as many people as we could. The Kids in Europe got it. The Critics in America didn't; and for the bottomline, I'll take the Kids over the Critics every time.

Here is one of my favorite stories about John:

We were in Stockholm, Sweden in ' 92 I think. We played at the Jazz Festival there and we were introduced to a Ukranian guitarist named Enver Izmailov. This cat was incredible. He was staying at the same hotel we were and after the gig we all went back there and Enver proceeded to blow our minds, playing for us in the lobby for hours! He was truly one of the most amazing instrumentalists I'd ever heard....playing this mix of jazz and Balkan worldbeat music.

Well, Campbell finally went and grabbed his axe and the result was astounding! This East meets Blues summit at this funky little hotel in Sweden. Their styles were so different that it was difficult for them to find much common ground but it was still just amazing. (Anyhow it gets better)

We had just come from Paris and there was a guitar maker there named James Trussart who had presented John with a beautiful custom made axe. It was gorgeous, made out of polished aluminum with a graphite neck, styled after a telecaster. John was just blown away by it and the guy just gives it to him. John had been trying to incorporate it into our shows, with not much success. It was just too pristine sounding. Now, Enver was wandering around Europe just blowing people away playing on an old Japanese guitar and during their session at the hotel, Campbell had shown the Trussart guitar to him and his jaw just dropped. I mean I had played all over the States and Europe and I had never seen such a beautiful axe in my life, and I can imagine some cat from the Ukraine seeing this as something out of a fairytale.

Well, the next day we are at the Stockholm airport to go to our next stop on the tour and there is Enver in the departure lounge waiting to go back to Kiev or someplace. John walks over and bids him farewell and right at the last minute he grabs the Trussart Guitar off of the luggage cart and opens it up. Enver is looking at it lovingly and Campbell hands it to him. He takes it, plays a few licks and starts to give it back to John. John just holds up both hands and says "no, you keep it, you deserve it." Enver has this unbelieving look on his face. Campbell tells him again," I want you to have it". Enver starts to literally weep with joy. This axe would have fetched $5000 (at least) In New York. We never saw Enver or the guitar again, but I will never forget that little scene at the Stockholm Airport or Campbell's beautiful gesture to a guy he hardly knew.

Contributed by Jimmy Pettit - 1-27-03

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Jimmy Pettit

The Roots of John Campbell

In the summer of 1964, I met a smart-alec named John Campbell. John and I became very good friends. By the time we were 14 we were both riding motorcycles to school and playing guitars. John and I spent many many hours teaching ourselves to play. We mainly learned to play off records. Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Bob Dylan, Cream and of course the Beatles. We learned a lot of chords out of song books. John couldn't sing so I usually sang and played and he figured out stuff to play along. We played in little garage bands and played teen dances and later we played field parties. There were a couple of bands in our age group and we moved between them. I was a singer-guitar player, John was a guitar player, Scooter Swann was a singer and harp player. and there were a couple of drummers, other guitar players, bass players etc. John even had a bass for a while. We even had sound men and light show guys. It was a blast.

In the winter of 1969 John and I were headed to drag race Tommy's car out on Wallace Lake Road. Tommy had a fast 1964 Chevy Malibu With a Holly four-barrel on a high-rise manifold. This V8 had a Hurst close ratio shifter. The thing about this car was that it had a "high rear end." It was almost unbeatable on a "punch down" from 30 mi per hour. So we "punched down" drag a lot out there.

The bad thing is we didn't make it out to the drags. We stopped at Burger King. It was raining and cold. February in Louisiana can be miserable. Tommy pulled out from Burger King and out on the highway and punched. With that "high rear end" first gear would wind out to about 50 mph. I remember him speed shifting into second; the car fishtailed and slammed into a telephone pole. John was sitting shotgun and was launched through the windshield. Witnesses said that when the car hit the pole the rear end went about six feet in the air. The drive train and differential were shoved out the back of the car. When the car slammed back down John was pulled back inside the car.

The rest is history. John lost his right eye and his face was peeled off. Needless to say John was in the hospital a while. After I was released I used to go back and visit him there. By June of that year we were back in his mothers rec room playing guitars and playing pool.

John was a true friend and we would contact each other whenever the opportunity presented itself. I loved him like a brother. I was so happy to see him be successful. No one worked harder at music than John. He was truly dedicated to his craft. I loved him as a human being. He was unique and genuine.

I want to thank Tom Geiger for this effort to preserve John's memory.

Contributed by Jack Mayeaux - 3-15-03

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Jack Mayeaux

Memories of a Blues Master

I first met John Campbell in Corpus Christi, Texas in the early 1970's. My best friend Joe Sutton told me about this guy that was dating his sister and that he was an incredible guitarist, and that I should come to his sister's house to meet him. Joe had grown up in Center, Texas and had met John there years earlier. Joe and I went to Jeri Sue Suttton's cruddy little two room shanty on Dalraiada Street and it was there that I got my first taste of early John Campbell. After listening to an hour's worth of tunes I could see then that John was destined to become a star. I threw all of my support his way for a year, becoming his personal roadie and at one point, even lending his drummer my brand new set of Gretch drums to enhance the Band's look. John repaid me for that jesture with a special gift, an old beat up Moserite Guitar.

In those days we were all very poor, living on the edge and playing music wherever they would have us. John, Tim, and Satch formed the band JUNCTION and played in Corpus and South Texas, quite often for empty rooms. Some nights I was the only audience they had. What great shows I saw these guys perform! They would literally shake the walls with their intense covers and originals. Back then John played Electric Guitar, a 1968 Gibson Deluxe through a 1968 Fender Twin or Super Reverb, so he was VERY loud.

See great photos of John campbell in action with Junction!

Before the band was formed John would go out and play solo gigs at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station and other cruddy beer joints just to make a few bucks. On solo gigs John would play Acoustic guitar and sing and the stuff he played was phenomenal. He went in to the studio and recorded an 8 track tape of his songs which I still have to this day. The 8 track sold locally, very poorly. John was always disturbed by the fact that his music wasn't selling and me, I couldn't understand WHY it wasn't selling. He was awesome in his early twenties. Many times we would sit and talk about Life, Music, and The Blues and play guitar together for hours on end. He showed me the first Blues licks I'd ever played and I showed him some moves on slide guitar that I had learned from Duane Allman. I'm proud of that fact, that I was the first to show him those moves. I was also very honored to study guitar with him on such a personal level. For a young teen this was the dream of a lifetime come true to be in his dark but caring presence. He was a great influence on my playing.

The last time I saw John was October 12, 1992 at Antones in Austin. After all these years gone by I could see John was on his way to where he had always wanted to be and man was I proud to know him. Upon seeing him for the first time in 15 years I said, "See John I TOLD you. I always KNEW you would make it!" He just laughed and replied "I ain't there yet JB". After the show, which was played to a packed house, I was just stunned that he played with such perfection and intensity. He invited me to come in to the "Mafia Tour Bus" and we sat and remmbered the old days. I gave him two cassettes of my original material and he told me he would cover a few of them on his next release. I gave him a big hug and told him I'd see him in New York. It was the last time I would ever see him.

For a very short time John Campbell was my closest friend and mentor and I will always cherish those Dog Days of living the Blues with a true master and teacher. It was the thrill of a lifetime that I will never forget.

Contributed by Johnny Bartee - 4-10-03

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Johnny Bartee


Stories from Corpus Christi

I met John on a muggy Friday night in the Spring of '74. His band was shoved off in a poorly lit corner of the Raz Ma Tazz Club just south of Rockport, Texas on the business loop of highway 35. Mike Thompson, Carl Mayes, and I were listening to this hot three piece band playing rock covers and a bunch of Blues tunes. I think the three of us were in unspoken agreement that the guitar slinger was the best we had seen in any club scene. He had stage charisma, rare ability, and strained facial expressions with grunts and growls that helped coax the life out of those numbers played on that red Gibson hollow body.

The band took a break and the tall, lanky redhead sauntered over to our table. He said something like, " Hi, I'm John Campbell." "You guys must like the Blues." It was howdys all around and he said he noticed us paying much closer attention to his Blues tunes than the bar patrons. Said he had another gig here tomorrow night, hoped we would come around and bring some folks.

I don't remember how we became friends and I guess that's not important, we just did. Birds of a feather maybe, I was a whacked out Navy Special Ops Nam survivor and rookie shrimper while John was a whacked, out one eyed, car wreck survivor who had big plans for a musical career.

John and Jeri Sue had a second story apartment on Atlantic Street just a few blocks off Ocean Drive in Corpus Christi. Jeri Sue was a gorgeous petite brunette who had a real job to help support John's career ambitions. I'm told she was a legal assistant back then, but I don't remember that. I've been told that they were married, divorced, then reunited for a couple years. I don't remember that either. It's been nearly 30 years since and there are a lot of lost memories of those times in our early 20s. Many of those good times are still quite vivid.

One afternoon John needed some strings for that night's gig at the Ritz Theatre in Corpus. I drove him over to a music store just off the Cross Town Expressway. He spotted this Black Mosrite electric archtop hanging on the wall and wanted to try her out. He played it for a while and then said, "Man, this is a good one, the Ventures used Mosrite guitars." "You buy this and I'll teach you how to play, put you in my band, OK?" I think I paid a $199 bucks it and never did get good enough to play in his band. Still ain't.

That same day he wanted to try out the National Steel hanging just a few guitars down from the Mosrite. He fell in love with the thing and had a whole store full of people gathered around listening to him play the devil out of it. There was some discussion about a lack of cash, perhaps some credit ???, maybe a lay away plan ???, but finally the owner agreed to loan John the National for his gig if he gave the store a few plugs at the show.

Debbie, my girlfriend thought John should dress in all black attire and slap on an eye patch for effect for his gig at the Ritz. John already had the clothes and always wore a pair of black cowboy boots with red tooling up the sides. We scored an eye patch at a drug store and John opened the show under a single white spot while sitting on a chair in front of the red stage curtain and looking like the red headed pirate that he was. With the black eye patch, the chrome slide, the spot reflecting off the chrome of the National, and the music emanating, John had the Jolly Roger flying high. And there we were, our small group of friends with a front row seat coaxing the sold out crowd at the end of his performance with our hooting and whistling for an encore.

There was this evening that Debbie and I were going to a party in the Barrio. I was carrying a significant amount of cash and she thought it would be a wise idea to leave it with John for safe keeping. John gladly took the stuffed envelope, Jeri Sue looked worried, Debbie and I went partying. About 10:00 PM we show up at their apartment looking for my cash. Jeri Sue says quite disgustedly, he's downstairs shooting craps with the "Brothers". I nearly shit myself running down the stairs. That $300 was from the sale of two hard earned "snow cones" of 21 / 30s that I sold dockside off my boat to some Snowbird for twice what the Coop would have paid me.

There they were, the three of them, hands and knees on the kitchen floor throwing dice against the cabinet toe kick. "Hey pretty sister, you blow on my dice for luck?" Says one of the Brothers just before he rolled. Debbie blew, the Brother threw, and picked up the pile of 20s. The brother wanted more good luck but I intercepted his hand and blew on the pair of dice. He crapped out and gave me a hard glare not knowing whose cash he held.

John's turn, "Hey Debbie, help that sorry ass gambler win back MY cash!" I angrily demand. Debbie blew, John threw and luck prevailed. John broke even after several hours of shooting craps with that final throw of the dice. We went back upstairs, John wouldn't look me in the eye. Jeri Sue gave me the evil eye. I lucked out...lesson learned, never forgotten.

It was the Thursday night before my 24th birthday and everyone was hanging and jamming at John's apartment. It was a Rock and Blues, Black Beauty, Jack Daniels, Mary Jane, Lucky Strike, Long Neck all nighter. Jeri Sue, highly pissed about needing her sleep for work the next morning, locked herself in the bedroom. The original party plan was for the following evening at Debbie's house. By the time it rolled around John was his usual upbeat self entertaining the guests with his newly worked out Slap, Pop, and Slide routine while I was dead tired, darkly depressed, and locked away in the bedroom. What goes around, eh Jeri Sue?

Ah, the good times of our younger days, softshell chicken guacamole tacos at Josie's. Waxing philosophically, sometimes lyrically, sometimes not. And there were times when communication meant not saying anything at all. A simple nod, the raise of an eyebrow, a sideways glance. Simple yet highly effective and perfectly understood.

John and I went our separate ways a couple years later as life it's own self has a master plan and I lost track of him. Then a few weeks ago I was watching a TV show on Bravo and there was John doing his Slap, Pop, and Slide routine. I was hopping up and down in my chair, yelling at my wife, "It's John, it's John!" I checked the internet and found this web site. I went from elation to tears in a few short sentences.

I now have all his music available on CD and the Tyler Texas Sessions is the John Campbell I remember sitting in the kitchen so long ago with Jeri Sue attentively at his side, that black cowboy boot tapping out time on the linoleum floor, growling with some riff he was perfecting on his Gibson 355.

"Hey man, you like that lick"? He would ask.
"Yep John, I like all your licks, you're the best".

Rest in peace old friend.

Contributed by Darrell Sage - 6-8-03

A Lasting Effect on My Musical Soul

Tom...I would be delighted to share with you my experience as John's pupil and the lasting effect he had on my musical soul. I was a teenage guitarist who had come to develop a feel for the blues via british bands and artists as well as the music that surrounded us in Louisiana. John was an aquaintence of my older brother and one day while visiting our parents house he heard me practicing along with the first Boz Scaggs record which featured Duane Allman. He stuck his head in my bedroom and said "If you like that, you should hear it by the guy who wrote it" (Fenton Robinson... the song was 'Loan me a Dime'). This led to John loaning me stacks of records by artists Jimmy Reed, T Bone Walker, Son House and Charlie Patton....others would follow. He would always show me something every time he'd come over...a new tuning, bottleneck basics, minor chord blues (the scary shit), string bending techniques that sound like a human cry!, slow left hand vibrato, fast vibrato stings...

As I grew older and begin to travel around the country, I would always be surprised to see that upon return to shreveport that John would still be there. After all it was obvious to me that he was a world class talent...but like many artists, John was taken for granted in his home town except for fellow musicians who revered him. When he finally moved to new york and was 'discovered' I was overjoyed. Sadly I never got to see him after his success...though our paths came close a couple of times ( by this time I was steady touring) I always assumed there would be time to get together again.... Countless times over the years since his death I have been approached on the bandstand after or during a show by a fan (or in one case his longtime soundman) of john's who just had to tell me how much they felt the spirit of John in my playing...this considering that I hadn't had but maybe a dozen lessons from him in the early seventies, and had only seen him a few times over the years since! Frankly, I don't hear that strong a resembelence...but , I am not surprised (and I am more than flattered) that others do....after all he tought me all I needed to know to develop my own style... The man was a mentor in every sense of the word...he cared enough about the blues that when he heard a spark in me he kindled it...Mali

Contributed by Malcolm Wellborne aka "Papa Mali" - 6-23-03

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Papa Mali

Check out these websites for more information about Papa Mali:


Remembering "Johnny Slim"

In about 1975, we went to a club in Shreveport and saw John Campbell playing acoustic blues and looking like a blues musician, snake skin boots. He reminded me of John Hammond,Jr.

It was a cool scene, he also had an electric guitar there and I went and got my bass and jammed with him and some other guys. John was really into the blues. A few years later we played in a band together in Shreveport. He was calling himself "Johnny Slim" then and wearing a BIG cowboy hat. We still refer to him as Johnny Slim. We played at a club called the Lakecliff in Shrevpeort, which was an old honky tonk that performers at the Louisiana Hayride in the 1950s played. Elvis, Hank,Sr, Johnny Horton, many others played there, it had great "ghosts" in there and was perfect for jamming. We had some really good jams there. We also played "progressive" country backing up a guy named Michael Grady, kind of a Willie Nelson type who was popular locally. But John just wanted to play blues, so he didn't stick around.

I was really glad for him that he was able to make a name for himself, and when he came back to Shreveport he was still a nice guy. By then he had a totally different look, with the really long ponytail and "voodoo" imagery. He was a master of having a "look".

When our band the Bluebirds (www.thebluebirds.net) played in Athens, Greece, we did an interview on a radio station and when we walked in the studio they were playing one of John's records! They had no idea we knew him, it was just what was playing. John made a mark before he left us, and I'm very proud of him.

Contributed by Bruce Flett - 3-19-03

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Bruce Flett

The Day 'Johnny Slim' Died

I only met Johnny a handful of times and never did know him as well as I would have liked. I saw him perform with a few bands in Shreveport - A couple of times with a configuration called The Delta 88's. I loved that name. I recall one night at Humphrees, Johnny was in the middle of a lead - he had a long curly-q guitar cable - and a small motorcycle drove in through the front doors. With out missing a beat Johnny jumped on back and rode out as the lead continued. He eventually rode back in and I swear he never missed a lick. To this day I don't know if it was planned or just great spontaneity.

I mostly remember catching him at smaller clubs - just him and his guitar. I think that was the way I liked his music the best. I never was fortunate enough to perform with him, although he did allow me to record a set of him one night.

I had begun playing with Jesse Thomas around 1983 and in '93 we were scheduled opposite weekends from Johnny at the N.O. Jazz Fest. Around that time he performed in Shreveport at the Centenary Oyster House. I skipped it, thinking I'd catch him next time around. There was no next time. One night I went to the local blues jam at Shooters Lounge and as I walked in, there was a pale over the whole place. I saw Buddy Flett and asked him what was going on. He said 'Johnny Slim died in New York City last night.' That night I wrote a song for Johnny. To this day I can't explain the hole that opened up in me at that moment. It has never really been filled. It was like something magic and great was suddenly gone.

I never really liked the Electra recordings, but was happy that Johnny was making good. I secretly hoped he might make a return visit to that magic place I had witnessed in some of the smaller Shreveport clubs. Again, we only met a few times, but he profoundly affected me in ways I will never understand.

Contributed by Dan Garner

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Dan Garner

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Breakfast with John Campbell

The 7 steps from the long stretch limo across the sidewalk into Deacon Burton�s took us from one world to another, through the flapping screen-door into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant known for Atlanta�s Best Fried Chicken, where we were the only two white faces that morning.

And I knew that all the other patrons, enjoying their biscuits and gravy, were wondering who we were. Little did they know that one of our generation�s most phenomenal blues artists was among them.

It was about 10:30 AM on a weekday, after my radio show, and I dragged John with me to breakfast. As we exited the brick former school building that now housed WRFG, 89.3 FM, the community public radio station in Atlanta, there on Euclid Avenue sat the black limousine that his publicity folks had provided for him.

It was a short, regal, and air-conditioned drive over to Deacon Burton�s on Edgewood, and when we got there, John carefully and lovingly arranged his guitars in the passenger seats, left the driver with the car and air running in the Atlanta heat, and we went inside.

Buying breakfast for John Campbell after interviewing him on my radio show was a real treat, and I was literally walking on air. I considered myself extremely fortunate to have hosted him and his resonator-outfitted guitar in the studio. I think this was the second or third time John had come to Atlanta to play, at least for me seeing him play live, and when I got word that he agreed to an interview, I was thrilled! Good Morning Blues, the show I DJ�d, consistently got requests for One Believer, and since J ohn had a new CD coming out, anticipation was high for greater things to come for him.

I remember he talked a lot about how well received he�d been in Europe, and we chatted quite a bit about the sophistication and quick acceptance of European audiences� He had had some fabulous experiences, and was excited to be returning. He also had a fond feeling for Atlanta, and was happy to be back here, too.

I spoke with him about the chance I�d had to see Lightin� Hopkins play live, when I was 16 years old, living in Houston, TX, and we shared our stories and deep love of the blues.

He graced the radio studio with several acoustic songs, and stuck around for the breakfast invite.

It was such a shock to hear of his death. Of all the musicians I�d met and interviewed over the years, John had so much future promise, and so far to go. I�m just damn grateful I had a chance to meet him and witness him play live.

Contributed by Karla Linden - Hurricane Karla


Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Karla Linden

John Campbell - Quiet and Gentle Friend

John Campbell and Zonder Kennedy were both friends of mine in New York City. I heard John play many times, but mainly in private apartments and small clubs where his voice didn't boom.

John was a sweet, kind gentle man with a wry sense of humor - very quiet with a great low chuckle laugh. He was everywhere I went in NYC - a place called Monsoons later converted to the Crossroads; the place at the corner called Automatic Slims, and many private apartments. He was sweet and kept to himself, sitting quietly in the corner playing his guitar and singing - a part of my heart that will never die, a quiet voice that was with me for several years.

He died 10 days before he was supposed to perform at the Philadelphia Blues Festival.

Kathy in North Carolina

Used with Permission from a personal email

John Campbell and the Lone Star Cafe

I think that I was somewhat involved in John Campbell's success is a roundabout way.

I had gone to see Townes Van Zant at a small club in Houston called Anderson Fair. I arrived early and saw the last songs of the opening act, John Campbell.

I got to talking to John after the show and he told me that he was leaving for NYC the very next day. I gave him the name of a friend of mine who was manager/booker of The Lone Star Cafe, a pretty well known club in Manhattan.

It turned out that John called my friend as soon as he arrived at the airport. He told John to come on by that evening because there was no scheduled act and he could get some stage time.

So John played and met a piano player named Teo Leyasmeyer (who is now the house booker at the House of Blues in Cambridge, MA) and they hit it off right away. Teo was looking for a blues guitarist to join him at a gig that he had the next night.

So whenever I saw John over the next few years, he always laughed and said that he was the opposite of artists who move to New York City and starve looking for work. He never had an unemployed day there because he worked from the very day he arrived.

Contributed by Dick Waterman

Used with Permission. Copyright © Dick Waterman

View his blues T-shirts at: http://p-dub.com/Jinx/photo_t.htm

John Campbell's Early Days in Shreveport, LA

He was one of my first influences for playing guitar and Blues music/lifestyle. I met him around 1970-71 at the house of Scooter and Stevie Swann in Shreveport, Louisiana. They were also key influences for me, as they were a great blues duo. John lived at his mother's home in Center, Texas and came to Shreveoprt often to hang out and play gigs. We would hang out at the Swan's home jamming, listening to records by the seminal blues masters and spent hours figuring out guitar licks from Eric Clapton's LAYLA LP. John had a beautiful Les Paul gold archtop as well as an old acoustic hollow-body, the brand name and model of which I can't remember. He and the Swan brothers would play gigs at small joints and restaurants in the Shreveport area. It was these experiences as well as jamming at the shotgun house of an old black man named "Cotton", who was definitely "The Real Thing" that influenced me most and got me playing and loving the blues. A couple of years after I moved back to Dallas from Shreveport, John moved to New York and got his big record deal.

I didn't talk to him for a year or two. But I got a call one day from Scooter Swan that John was the producer of the first Benson & Hedges Blues Festival which toured the country with John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Albert Collins, and many other blues legends. I seem to remember Etta James, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Vaughan (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), and Buddy Guy. But I have seen, played at and have been backstage on so many shows and festivals since then, that these folks may have been on other shows. My memory is a bit fuzzy about this. Getting old...

Anyway, John invited us to the Dallas show and gave us Backstage Passes. So we got to meet all those Blues greats, which is one of my life's fondest memories and for which I am eternally grateful to John.

John played the opening set solo. John was also definitely "The Real Thing". He played positively KILLER blues acoustic/electric guitar. He was VERY particular about the precise tone he wanted from his rig. He sat and plucked strings and adjusted amp knobs for over 30 minutes. And I remember his knob adjustments were infinitesimal. I couldn't hear any difference between some of his fractional settings, but he sure could!

It was a sad day when I heard on the radio about John's death. He was way too young. I still think about him often. He was a major influence on my life's musical direction and I'll never forget him.

I have played guitar (and I only know how to play blues guitar) now for 33 years. Never had a lesson. I just watch, listen and steal licks wherever I can and these days play more than I ever have. Can't quit! We all became musicians to keep from growing up! Thank you John!

Contributed by Richard Chalk

Used with Permission. Copyright © 2003 Richard Chalk

Richard Chalk started and operates TopCat Records in Dallas, Texas.

Copyright � 2005, Thomas Geiger
Revised: April 4, 2005