great letters about john campbell

john campbell
Mon, 31 May 1999 10:26:11 -0500
Pat Kenyon

paul, you surely nailed the truth on john campbell! i appreciate that
you have commemorated him for the blues world. some years back, at a
club in fort worth. texas, i went to see chris whitley, who was opening
for this guy i'd never heard of. i figured, he must be good if caravan
of dreams has whitley opening for him! i had seen whitley previously and
knew what a show-stopper he was. so chris opens with a big set, and the
crowd is waiting, drinking, wife says "oh my god, look
at this guy!", and we all look, and i get this feeling, eerie, like this
man could kill with a look. he straps on that big hollow-body, plugs in,
and totally possesses the crowd, everybody rapt, no chit-chat or
laughter, just total focus on this gravelly voice calling up spooky
earthy images of a world most of us only read about. at one point the
partner of my friend, who is really freaked out by the sounds and lyrics
john is putting down, nearly runs out of the club-"he's looking right at
ME, make him stop, oh my god"....we calm her down, no way i'm leaving
the club to chase some fraidy-cat and ease her fears, i've got my own to
deal with! in short it was in the top 5 shows i've ever seen anywhere
anytime, and i've seen carlos santana, buddy guy, johnny winter, the
list goes on. i had never heard anybody play so boldly, so on-the-edge,
yet be in complete control of his axe and his voice. his backup band was
top-notch also, which maybe needed not be mentioned. part of the mark of
a performer, to me, is how he interacts with his backup, and campbell
was flawless. i heard not one note or word out of place that night! we
surely lost a big chunk of that louisiana-delta-urban blues culture with
his passing.
there is a void where he was for his time in the light. life does go on
but i feel fortunate to be one person who saw him live once, and to have
his 2 cd's in my pile of treasure! thanks again for remembering john
campbell, a name many will miss without even knowing it- jawbone kenyon

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