FOR OVER 50 YEARS, Austin, Texas native Ray Campi has persisted in performing and recording his Texas roots music and is respected world-wide where many know of him as the King of Rockabilly although his repertoire includes swing, hillbilly, rock 'n' roll, and classic ballads of theater and film.
PERENNIALLY rejected by the major record conglomerates and their executives who continue to this day to glorify and promote the 1960's drug culture, anti-social misfits and sexual explorers of variety, Ray Campi's recorded music appears on over 50 recordings in Europe and Japan. This feat was accomplished with almost no financing or promotion but with lots of faith and help from Ronny Weiser whose home studio and Rollin' Rock record label brought Ray's music back to the public in the 1970's.
RAY HAS BECOME a role model for youth who admire him for his playing, song writing, revival of great obscure songs, and for helping keep honest forms of music alive through his record reproducing. He is very sincere in his efforts.
TO HIS CREDIT, Ray has devoted only part of his life to music, for he has been a full-time junior high school teacher with the Los Angeles school systems. For over 25 years Ray has taught a variety of subjects including English, drama, physical education, media techniques, U.S. and world history and has been a positive influence on his students.
SINCE RAY'S RECORDINGS are rarely released in America you are fortunate if you have one. Ray was kind enough to donate 7 CDs to the Rockabilly HOF library. They are pictured on this page.
24 Song Rockabilly Video with The Leroi Brothers, Ronnie Mack and Don Leady. Available from: Cinetex, Inc., P.O. Box 549, Austin, TX 78767 USA.
LIVE! IN TEXAS - RAY CAMPI
"The Best Of Ray Campi: Rockabilly Rebellion"The following is a listing of the masters mixed down on DAT for RAY CAMPI & HIS ROCKABILLY REBELS' CD titled: "The Best Of Ray Campi: Rockabilly Rebellion" on Rollin' Rock/HM 6603 scheduled for release on September 9, 1997: (only one mix of each track will be used):
1) Rockabilly Rebel / new mi (dedicated to rockabilly list cats)
2) Rockabilly Music / new mi (dedicated to Las Vegas cats)
3) Eager Boy / original 45 dub (dedicated to Rollin' Rock HC)
4) Tore Up / new mix
5) Boo hoo / new mix
6) No Way Out / new mix
7) I Need Love / original 45 dub (savage!)
8) Love Me / original 45 dub
9) Sweet Woman Blues / original 45 dub
10) Pretty Mama / new mix
11) Pinball Millionaire / new mix
12) Rockin' & Rollin' Towards Tennessee / new mix (dedicated to that great State)
13) Rockin' At The Ri - alternate / '70s mix (dedicated to Texas Jamboree)
14) Cr' / new mix 15) Dont Come Knocking' / LP mix
16) Dont Let The Bad Times Get You Down
17) Recipe For Love
18) It's Bl' Your Way / (GREAT moody Hillbilly!) 19) Rockabilly Rebel / new mi
20) Don't You Blame It On Me/ new mi
21) Rockabilly Music / new mi
22) Love Me / new mi
23) Sweet Woman Blues / new mi
ELVIS IN KILLEEN
by Ray Campi
Rockabilly hero recalls his first encounter with the King of Rock 'n' Roll (-courtesy Now Dig This and Ray Campi)
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in March of 1957. "You'll never guess who I've been hanging out with", Bobby Reed bragged. We were al zipping along Highway 81 South to San Antonio; "We" being my brother, Harvey, Henry Hill, John Maddox and finger-snapping "Doc" Shryock. Bob Tanner had agreed to let us record some new songs at the TNT studio at Popular Street with the possibility of a new release on TNT Records.
"No, we'll never guess", we all chimed in, goading Bobby who was showing off in his new black 1957 Buick hard-top. Actually it wasn't his car; it was borrowed from father's Buick dealership in Lockhart, Texas. It was just one of the perks of Bobby being born in the right place at the right time, to the right father.
"The Memphis Flash! Elvis, of course ... we've become good buddies", Bobby went on. He gets me into his shows free, and I play piano in jam sessions with him." There was no doubt that Bobby Reed was the perfect piano man for me. He was a specialist in the exciting Sun sound and could imitate all of Scotty Moore's guitar solos on the piano. (He can be heard on several of my 1957 and 1958 tracks and on my live appearance on 'The Louisiana Hayride'. He is also on Guy Brown's 'Uh Huh Huh' on Roy Pooles Echo label from 1958.)
I had heard about his playing from Harvey and found out that he lived in West Austin, only a few blocks from where I lived at the time. He would drop by the house in one of several new Buicks, always dressed in the flashiest cat clothes of the day, he blond locks greased just right. He'd enter the living room, sit down at Estelle's piano and begin his shuffle, sending the whole family into a rocking frenzy. My parents loved him and eagerly anticipated his visits. He was a braggart through, and yes, we were all impressed that someone we knew and who played with with us had the inside trace on becoming a Memphis Mafia member. We recorded four songs for TNT that Sunday but Bob Tanner never had an engineer around on weekends and ran into trouble getting the Ampex to work, so little came of these below average recordings of that day, although copies still exist.
But my friendship with Bobby was cemented, and shortly afterwards he played on some of the Austin Recording Company tracks with us. We laid some screen door springs on the strings of Roy Poole's grand piano, and Bobby gave us some great harpsichord-sounding solos. We played together off and on after that for about a year.
Harvey had the good fortune to take in one of Elvis Presley's appearances at The Skyline Club on the Dallas Highway, but I had never met this Presley fellow and hoped some day I'd do so. I figured Bobby Reed was the way to get to him. I knew Elvis was stationed at Fort hood, Texas, a place I knew well for I had spent many summers there myself in training with the Texas National Guard. "Bobby, let's take a ride up to Killeen. I'd like you to introduce me to Elvis", I petitioned. "Oh yeah, we'll have to do it one of these days ... yeah, we'll have to take a ride", Bobby would always reply. And that was as far as I ever got with my piano pal. I could never pin him down; it seemed he wanted to keep Elvis from having any more new groupies. Bobby Reed - The Great Protector!
One day I heard on the radio that Elvis would be shipping out overseas to Germany and that his training in Texas would soon be over. I made one final plea to Bobby, but he backed out again. He did, however, give me the address of the rented house Elvis and his crew were occupying, so I headed out by myself on Highway 81 North, this time to Temple and Killeen. I arrived at Elvis' place about 3:00pm, knowing that Elvis would be leaving for Germany the very next day. There were no visible signs that this was the correct house or one of an up-and-coming phenomenon; it was just a pretty, new looking tract home - much like the other ones occupying the neighborhood just outside of Killeen. I thought to myself, 'Çould this be one of the same houses I helped lay floor tiles in during my construction work days in 1952?'
The place was strangely quiet. Was anyone home? Did I have the correct address? Was Bobby putting me on? Was I making a fool of myself? I took a deep breath, knocked and waited. Soon a middle-aged man opened the door who I immediately recognized as Vernon Presley, Elvis' father. I sighed and stepped back one step. I explained the reason for my visit and Presley Sr. kindly told me that his son and his entourage were on their way back from Dallas before preparing to ship out for Europe in the morning. I told Mr. Presley that I would return around 7:00pm as he suggested. He told me that Elvis always set that time aside to meet fans and to sign autographs on the front patio of the house.
"What to do, what to do? I had several hours to kill so I drove into Killeen, a real boring small town where the sale of beer was illegal. During my National Guard tours we'd all have to head to The S&S Club in Temple to get a cool beer after 14-hour days in the 110 degrees of Texas Summer. I did some window shopping and rode over to the Copras Cove. In'53 myself and a floor covering crew all slept on the floor of a little place there when we weren't sleeping behind a new school that was being built. Killeen was growing new subdivisions like Texas pecans. Our crew some days laid five houses of floor covering - just about the time I found this one room shack I realized it was well after 6:00pm; time to get on the road.
Soon I was again in front of Elvis' rented house. The Cadillac was in the driveway this time, and again I wound up at the door and knocked, this time with much more confidence. It was Gene Smith, Elvis' cousin, who answered the door and told me Elvis would be out shortly to greet people. As I waited, cars driven by beautiful mothers began to pull up in front of the house. Excitedly bursting from the cars were younger carbon copies of these admirable ladies. (Is this what show business is all about?) Within a few minutes I was surrounded by lovely Texas women, bursting with affection. Unfortunately, their attention was not directed to me and when the impressive Elvis Presley suddenly emerged from the door I learned the complete meaning of the expression "alone in a crowd". Dressed to the teeth, the handsome singer was soon immersed in full skirts and autograph books. And the cars kept pulling up.I found myself moving to the fringes on this group and it looked like I might not get to meet 'The Flash' after all. In a few minutes I struck up a conversation with a fellow Austinite who knew Bobby Reed, was staying in the house at the time and who introduced himself as Lamar Fike. We talked together for about an hour about people we knew, touring and naturally enough, Elvis. (I vividly recall Lamar telling me that the purpose of Elvis' visit to Dallas that day was to record the song 'One Night', although I recently discovered the song was actually recorded in February 1957.) Low and behold, when we booth looked around all the ladies had left, Elvis had gone back into the house and Lamar and I were the only people there! Had I missed my big chance? It looked like I had, Lamar was a bit embarrassed as he siad to me, "Don't worry, I'll go in and get Elvis to come back out". He did just that; an act of kindness I'll always remember him for.
Elvis came back and met me (we were alone at last - ha!) We talked about mutual friends and I told him I had made a record for Bob Tanner. That really got him talking as he had a great feeling for Bob as they had had some frightening moments together on the tour of West Texas that Bob had set up for him. Tanner had told me some of these stories; it was a tour full of fun, surprises and disasters. Imagine what happened when Elvis and Bob realized they were booked in tow different towns on the same night!) They tried to make both shows and towns, the first at 8:00pm and the second with Elvis getting on stage after midnight. One stage struck girl had been driving from one town to the other, missing Elvis both times. She pulled in front of Elvis' motel in the wee hours still looking. Tanner and Elvis had fun putting her on when Elvis pretended to be only a band member and sent her off to another motel across town. The band reached the second show late because the car ran out of gas and someone had to hitch-hike to another town with a gas can in his hand to get them all moving again.
I'll always appreciate Elvis' kindness to his fans and how he made a little extra effort to be nice to me. I knew he was tired after his trip to Dallas on that hot day in mid-September of 1958. Our visit ended with him telling me to give his best regards to "Mr. Tanner" and he hoped we would meet again some day - which we did.
Gene Vincent Remembered by Ray Campi
In was with great pleasure that my band and myself got a booking on a show in Austin with three of the hottest rockabilly acts in Texas. These guys had already made a name for themselves in the music world and appeared regularly on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. (I briefly appeared on this show in 1952...not a performance worth remembering. I might add).
Sonny James had already made it big with "Young Love," Bob Luman was coming up fast also. I had met Sonny in 1952 at Ressau Hall when he was touring with Slim Whitman. Bob Luman and I ran into each other a year or so earlier at Austin station KVET in Bradford's Alley. Bob was promoting his first record on Imperial, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to meet the famous Gene Vincent.
At this time my band consisted of Henry Hill, John Maddox and my brother Harvey. We were part of the "local yokels," a name I used to describe the Austin bands (without record deals) who sometimes got booked to open for the bigger, well-known acts that traveled through town while on tour. Other "locals" on this show were Joyce Webb, The Debs and The Slades, the originators of the great song "You Cheated." We were all recording for Domino Records at the time.
After we finished our bit of the show which took place on an open stage on the south side of the Colorado River (the Zachery Scott Theater stands there today) on La Blvd. Bob Luman and his band played. I believe Sonny followed with a group and both went over well with the crowd. Next, it was Gene's turn to "rock out," which he did quite effectively. His act included lots of body motions with the mike swaying from side to side, and ferocious scream being emitted from the Blue Caps at just the right places. In sure Johnny Meeks was in this group.
Years later I would meet him again when he played "Lotta Lovin'" which I recorded for Rollin' Rock for Ronny Weiser...a tribute album to Gene. I'm happy to say that this track appears in on the 1996 Skizmatic Tribute CD, (history repeats itself).
After Gene's spectacular appearance my buddies and myself went on stage to meet the man in person, and to a talk while most of the musicians were packing up. He was very friendly with us and even showed us the leather brace on his leg, the result of a motorcycle accident injury. "Sometimes it hurts when I jump around," he commented, "but I wasn't about to let them cut this thing off." From watching Gene's performance I would never guessed he was in pain.
I'm happy to have been able to meet Gene in 1958, and to perform on a show with him, as we had a lot in common. It is rewarding that Brad has included a couple of my recording on this CD. It's great to be in good company with goals in mind - to preserve the memory and music of one of the world's greatest rock 'n' rollers, Gene Vincent.
The above was written by Ray Campi for the CD, "Turning The World Blue - A Tribute to Gene Vincent," Skizmatic Records 1996.
MERLE TRAVIS by Ray Campi
"How about getting up with the band and singing 'San Antonio Rose'?" Those words said to me by the great guitarist, writer and singer Merle Travis really made me feel good on that hot summer night in August of 1952 in Buckholtz, Texas. I got up and sang that famous Bob wills classic backed by the finest nine-piece band I'd ever heard which included Joe and Rose Lee Maphis, Fiddling Kate and others from southern California. (A few years later I got to perform on stage with many of these professionals at the broadcasting of one of the 'Ton Hall Party' TV shows in California.)These were a couple of occasions I got to spend some time with merle over the years. In August of 1952, the Merle Travis band was on a tour of the southwest and came to Dessau Hall in Austin, Texas. That same day I went to the Commodore Perry Hotel in Austin to meet the great Capitol Records producer Ken Nelson at the invitation of Capitol artist Jimmie Heap (you've possibly heard his Capitol recordings on the Bear Family CD 'Release Me' - BCD 15617).
Jimmie had been a friend for several years and helped me get my demo tapes to Lew Çhudd of Imperial Records a year before. I met him at station KTAE where he had a live show with The Melody Masters and I had a live show with The Ramblers on Sundays. "Come up to the hotel and give your tape to Ken Nelson", Jimmie advised. "We are planning a new session and Ken will go with us on our gig tonight."
Ken Nelson was very friendly to me and I mentioned I was going to go to see Merle Travis and his band that evening. Ken asked that I invite Merle to return to the hotel after the show for a visit with himself and Jimmie Heap. This was great! I was going to meet Merle Travis with a personal message to him from his producer Ken Nelson. This 18 year old was 'flying high'! When I entered Dessau Hall I saw a sight I would always remember. It showed me that although I had this "superstar' image of Merle Travis - which he was to me and others - he was quite a 'regular' guy. Merle was sitting on a chair with a small screw driver repairing his guitar cord. I thought, "That's funny. Even the big stars have problems like this!" - one I had often and still have today. In fact, only last night I to use one of Ronnie Mack's cords at The Palomino Club when mine wouldn't work.
I introduced myself to Merle and give him Ken Nelson's invitation to visit after the show and then I sat down to enjoy a great country music show. The dual guitar solos of Merle Travis and Joe Maphis were very much like the ones they recorded together on the CMH albums in the late 1970's. I left Dessau Hall in the wee hours and told Merle I'd be at his next show in Buckholtz, Texas the following night. Buckholtz was a very small farming town north of Taylor, which had a large circular hall outside the town limits.
Cecil 'Butterball' Harris and his father had leased this place to put on country music shows. People would arrive from miles around and many of the 'Louisiana Hayride' acts were booked there. In the early 1950's I saw performers like Slim Whitman, Webb Pierce, Red Sovine, Goldie Hill and Faron Young at Buckholtz Hall. I even played there myself with The Ramblers. It was the Merle Travis show that I will always remember and that magic moment he said to me, "Get up and sing!".
The following Saturday of that week, Merle and the group were going to be in Dallas at The Bob Willis Ranch House. He invited me and my friend Fred Taylor to come to Dallas and be his guests at the show. This would work out well for me for I had arranged an appearance for myself on 'The Big 'D' Jamboree' in Dallas that same night. "You're not going to get into that place without paying! I don't believe anything you're saying!" "Well, Fred had to eat those words!
After the appearance on 'The Big 'D' Jamboree', we both drove to the Ranch House. To the very large man at the door I mentioned my name and that I was Merle's guest. He wrote down my name, walked away and in a couple of minutes he returned and directed Fred and myself to Merle's personal table right in front of the bandstand. Fred and I enjoyed two sets of great country music, had ample time to talk with Merle and the other musicians, and I was able to laugh at Fred's shocked expression most of the evening.
I did not see Merle Travis again until I moved to California in September of 1959. Thanks to Now Dig This
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