Archive for April 10th, 2011

One of my favorite performances of live music came about 20 years ago in October of 1991.  It was at The Haunt in Ithaca.  There is a newer, larger Haunt in Ithaca now but the old one was tiny, tucked well off the street in an alley of sorts.  It held maybe a hundred or so people.  I went with a friend to see the legendary Buddy Guy and some opening act we’d never heard of before. John Campbell.  As we stood just off the edge of the very compact stage waiting this tall character with long hair appeared. He was very gaunt with a strange glow about him and and you couldn’t help but look at him as he passed.  He seemed very inward and serious.  A little scary, actually. 

We thought he was just  somebody heading backstage then he stepped up on the small stage with the three fellows following him and picked up a well worn Gibson acoustic guitar as the other three took up their instruments.  He started fingering a few notes, blues progressions then broke into a full fledged guitar attack with the rest of quartet.  The rest of that night was blues guitar nirvana in this little crowded club.  Buddy Guy, appearing afterward,  was, well, Buddy Guy, which is to say great.  A memorable performance  but Campbell was spectacular, belting out all sorts of blues including extraordinary slide moves on his National resonator guitar.  Having expected nothing it was like finding something new and wondeful, something you couldn’t believe had existed without your prior knowledge.

John Campbell died less than two years later at the age of 41.  He never achieved  huge fame although he was well known in the blues community.  But I will always remember being in that tiny club  that night, discovering a hidden treasure, which is what he remains.  Here’s a song he played that night:

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