Hooked on Bluegrass

Duane Campbell

Growing up in a small town just south of Wheeling, West Virginia, I had no idea that the music I was being exposed to in those hills and hollers was the music that is so deeply embedded in my DNA.

Raised Methodist, singing in the Children's, Youth and Chancel Choirs and playing in the H.S. Marching Band didn't seem to have any effect on me at the time. In fact, I've reflected back several times to discover that, I really didn't seem to have much interest in music other than listening to what was popular with my peer groups during any given era.

I remember watching Hee Haw, The Glen Campbell Hour, Beverley Hillbilly's, and Andy Griffith, as a youth and thinking that it was kind of corny and was, what my parents liked, but I did watched it. During High School, Deep Purple, Chicago and Doobie Brothers were the groups I remember. I also remember going to a Heart concert, and watching Ann and Nancy Wilson playing twin acoustic guitars in wonderment of how they got that much sound out those things, but I chocked it up to the electrification of all the sound I was listening to at that time.

Toward the end of my college career, I resigned myself to being a Rock 'n Roller, and playing a mean “air-guitar”. I also started to listen to some Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis tracing Rock 'n Roll back to its roots. This steered me towards that so called southern rock, or southern fried rock, of Alabama, Leonard Skinner, Marshall Tucker and the Eagles. Some of my friends called it “Country Rock”. I wasn't buying into the Country part, that was my parents music, my dad's radio station WWVA transmitted from the Capital Music Hall, in Wheeling, West Virginia, that was way too country and I knew I didn't like the stereo-typical, aqua-blue sequin suited, white cowboy hatted, country-western Nashville music stars.

The summer after I graduated from college, the Capital Music Hall, WWVA sponsored an outdoor concert named “Jamboree in the Hills” a three day event, starting Friday afternoon, ending Sunday evening. Wow, a Woodstock style event right in my backyard, a chance to drink beer and look for girls. That weekend, I fell in love with Crystal Gale, Linda Rondstat, and Emmie Lou Harris. They reminded me a lot of the Wilson sisters. I also learn that fiddle music stirred something down deep inside me but I could not put my finger on why.

Three years later, I relocated to California, (1982) and went back to what is now classified “Classic Rock”. I still listened to my Country Rock tapes and started listening to a lot of Jimmy Buffett although I avoided being labeled a “Parrott Head”. I pretty much forgot about that fiddle sound that stirred me up sooo, until one day, a little over three years ago, my son had a schoolmate and his dad over to the house. I had known John Cooper ever since his son Allen, and my son Dalton was in kindergarten, (about 6 years). John picked up an old guitar we had laying around and started to play. Two hours later I say, “Wow John, I didn't know you played the guitar”, he said, “I don't, I play the fiddle”.

The next time John came over he brought his fiddle, he played one song and stuck that thing under my chin and said you play. I took one bow stroke and I was hooked. Now the funny thing is, it seems being hooked is a relative term, in that, I can tell you I've experienced at least three levels so far. After that first bow stroke, I've not been this passionate about anything I've ever done. But, after a week in Grass Valley for my first Music Camp and Father's Day Festival, the hook got set further and further. Watching the KOB at Plymouth and Grass Valley and having a little kid come up to me at GOFF and asks me to play Cripple Creek with them, the hook got set further and further. And the support from the bluegrass community is so welcoming and so heart warming, that I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude, and the hook got set further and further.

When I told my Dad that I was taking up the fiddle, he said to me, “Hey, did you know that your Grand-Pap played fiddle, and I always wanted to.” I had no idea, and that the music I was exposed to was the music that is so deeply embedded in my DNA.

(posted 9/9/2006)

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