BLIND JAMES CAMPBELL
James Campbell was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 17, 1906. He later became known as Blind James Campbell after an accident at a fertilizer plant left him permanently blinded. In 1936 he formed a band and began playing folk, country, pop, jazz and blues music at parties, dances and for other local events. The Nashville Street Band consisted of fiddler Beauford Clay (born 1900) who was a great influence on Campbell's playing, second guitarist Bell Ray (born 1909), bass horn player Ralph Robinson (born 1885), and trumpeter George Bell.
Campbell and his band appeared to be quite content with the steady work they were receiving, and did not seem to have any desire to pursue a career in recording. However, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records became interested in the band after hearing a field recording of them made by a fellow blues fan, Donald Hill. Hill had recorded Campbell in the spring of 1959 and again in April 1961. Hill's recordings include Campbell singing country songs as well as blues. He also recorded Campbell and his string band on a street corner in downtown Nashville and recorded him with Beauford Clay. Both the original tapes and digital copies of Hill's recordings have been deposited at Library of Congress as a part of the Hill/Mangurian collection of field recordings made between 1958 and 1961.
After listening to Hill's tapes, Strachwitz set off to Nashville to find and record Campbell and his band. After two recording sessions with Campbell and his band in 1962 and 1963, the Arhoolie LP Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band (Arhoolie 1015) was released in 1963.
While these recordings never propelled Campbell into prominence, and the history of James Campbell and his band since the 1963 recordings is hazy, Strachwitz revisited these recordings and released them on CD in 1995, along with additional tracks from both recording sessions. Certainly, these recordings show evidence of a street band of considerable skill and quality, who were able to play American music from a variety of genres.
James Campbell died in Nashville, Tennessee, on January 22, 1981.
James Campbell was born September 17, 1906 in Nashville, Tennessee. Losing eyesight after accident at fertilizer plant, where he worked, he received the name Blind James Campbell. Campbell created The Nashville Street Band (a.k.a. The Friendly Five) who were performing on the streets of Nashville long after the street-troubadour tradition had been outlawed in most of the South.
Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie records, discovered him and recorded in 1962 with a single microphone hung from the ceiling of Mr. Campbell's home but dissatisfied with quality returned back and recorded again in 1963. The selection is what is called Blind James Campbell And His Nashville Street Band released in 1963
Sounds like Sleepy John Estes jamming with a Dixieland band masquerading as a Jug Band. Not sure of the exact recording dates on this tune. It's off Vol. 7 of the excellent Shake em on Down series, which chronicles R&B, jump blues and other R&R roots music. I pulled the picture from the album released by Arhoolie of recordings they did in 1963, so I assume these guys were first "discovered" during the folk revival of the late 50s and early 60s. You can see by the picture, though, that they were definitely off enough to have played in a jug band back in the late 20s/early 30s heyday.