Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

John Campbell

During a recent exchange of comments with Tam McLucas from he mentioned the brilliant John Campbell, I had loved his 1993 album (see below) and felt it was time for him to grace this blog so here is one of the great lost blues talents John Campbell in all his full but short glory.

John Campbell was born on the 20th January 1952 in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. He acquired his first guitar at the age of 8 and a mere five years later he had started to perform, however, it was only after he was seriously injured in a drag car accident that he used his period of recuperation to tranform into what at the time was considered the new Stevie Ray Vaughan during this time he developed his own style of slide heavy guitar playing.

The story somehow in part reflects one of his heroes Robert Johnson who also disappeared from public view only to return as a guitar and songwriter of great note this of coursing inspiring the folklore of dealing with the devil at the crossroads.

During his lengthy period of recuperation from cracked ribs, a punctured lung and the loss of his right eye, which was spent largely in solitude he became devoted to the work of the black bluesmen who had recorded for the local Jewel label in Shreveport – in particular, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin’ Hopkins, the latter of whom became his major influence

Amongst his early gigs was working as the opening act for Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Hubert Smith, however, by 1985 he had moved to New York where discovered playing in a club by Ronnie Earl who offered to produce an album for him.

The album “A Man and his Blues” was only released in Germany on the specialist Crosscut label.

The album didn’t have the impact expected and he began working with guitarist Alexander Kennedy he was finally noticed by Elektra Records A&R team and in 1991 they released the “One Believer” album on which Campbell played solely amplified acoustic guitar.

Campbell’s songwriting partnership with Walker and Kennedy produced several modern blues classics such as “Devil In My Closet”, “Tiny Coffin” and “Take Me Down’.

“Devil In My Closet” – John Campbell

In 1993 the follow up album “Howlin Mercy” consolidated Campbell’s standing as an important (although cult) figure in the new blues boom, but he died of heart failure in 1993 prior to undertaking a European tour.

Here from the album is a great cover of one of my favourite Tom Waits songs.

“Down In The Hole” – John Campbell

Like Robert Johnson before him and Jeff Buckley after him the recorded output of John Campbell only scratched the surface of his talent and it pains me to think of the quantity and quality of music in both the recorded and live form that we  have been deprived off given his untimely passing.

To buy the music of John Campbell click HERE

For more information visit the brilliant Devil In My Closet  and Bones and Blues Club websites


March 7, 2010 - Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Old Music |

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