Guitarist, singer and songwriter John Campbell had the potential of turning a
whole new generation of people onto the blues in the 1990s, much the same way
Stevie Ray Vaughan did in the 1980s. His vocals were so powerful and his guitar
playing so fiery, you couldn't help but stop what you were doing and pay attention
to what you were hearing. But unfortunately, because of frail health and a rough
European tour, he suffered a heart attack while sleeping on June 13, 1993, at the
age of 41. Campbell was born in Shreveport, LA, on January 20, 1952, and
grew up in Center, TX. Although he got his own guitar at age eight and began
playing professionally when he was 13, he didn't get serious about playing blues
for a living until he was involved in a near - fatal drag racing accident that broke
several ribs, collapsed a lung and took his right eye. In his teens, Campbell
opened for people like Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Albert Collins and Son
Seals, but he later got sidetracked by drag racing, and it was while he was
recuperating from his near - death drag racing accident that he re - learned guitar,
developing his own distinctive, rhythm and slide - heavy style, based in some
measure on the music of Lightnin' Hopkins. In 1985, after playing a variety of
clubs between east Texas and New Orleans, Campbell moved to New York.
One night in New York, guitarist Ronnie Earl happened upon Campbell in a club,
playing with Johnny Littlejohn. Earl was so impressed that he offered to produce
an album by Campbell, and the result was A Man and His Blues (Crosscut
1019), a Germany - only release that has since been made available in the U.S.
That album earned Campbell a W.C. Handy Award nomination in 1989, and not
long after that, the rock & roll world started to take notice of him. Although he
never sent a tape to a record company in his life, after drawing ever - growing
crowds to the downtown New York clubs where he played, executives at Elektra
Records took notice of him and signed him to a contract. Both of his albums for
Elektra, One Believer (1991) and Howlin' Mercy (1993) are brilliant, well -
produced recordings, yet they only hint at Campbell's potential for greatness, had
he lived longer.

- - Richard Skelly