"Ramblin'" Page 2 ... Click Here
Articles: "Revival of Rockabilly Music: Rollin' Rock," "The Mystery of
Charlie's Zipper," "The Bitterest End," "My Famous Garbage Can," "A Two Dollar Bill" and
"How I Learned to Hate Monkeys"
"Ramblin'" Page 3 ... Click Here
Articles: "Red Sovine," "Isn't It Curious," "Ray's Jobs,"
"Funnies from Campi" and "FORGET THE ALAMO"
A regular feature from the pen of the legendary Ray Campi
New articles added approximately once a month.
Page updated October, 2007
WHAT A LOVELY BUNCH
"Guess what boys?" "I've gotten the band a great booking at a very famous nightclub for
For decades the Coconut Grove in the Wilshire District of Los Angeles had earned the
distinction of being one of the most prestigious and beautiful nightclubs in the world,
located in the famous Ambassador Hotel. During the 1930's it's clientele included many of
the most famous and important stars of the Hollywood film industry. The orchestras that
performed there were the best, like Paul Whiteman with singer Bing Crosby and Rudy Valle'e
and his group.
My friend Jeff Stolper had been sepnding some of his time helping me out after my
disasterous tour of Finland in 1981 by acquiring bookings and by re-issuing some of Ron
Weiser's Rollin' Rock releases like "Hollywood Cats."
He enjoyed our music and was excited about the band's prospects. At that time the
memebers included Kevin Fennell, Steve Vidro, Rip Masters, Mike Rubino, Bill Stoy and
"A promoter from New York City has contacted me and I've accepted the booking. He is
putting on a weekend rockabilly festival and we go on Sunday evening."
I had heard nothing about this weekender either through radio ads or poster distribution
around the city and although pleased to be on the bill, I had reservations.
I arrived with my bass and amp around 5:00pm on the designated Sunday just as some of my
band memebers arrived with their instruments. I commented on what I saw in the Ambassador
Hotel lobby. "Wow, this place looks desterted. Are we in the right place?" Several
vendors of 1950's style nostalgia items were lounging in their stalls, looking frustrated
as there were practically no customers for any of them.
Jeff arrived. "I hope there are more people upstairs in the Coconut Grove audience than I
see down here." "The promoter has agreed to pay us $500.00 for one set and he'd better do
it." Soon the chance for me to meet him arrived as we were getting our equipment loaded
in the elevator. He was very young, possibly in his late twenties. "I sure like
rockabilly music and am glad you guys are here," was his introduction to me.
Soon we all heard the final chord of the band that had been on stage and a handful of
people began to head for the elevator. We quickly got our gear out and entered an almost
empty room. As we pushed amplifiers across the destered dance floor I became saddened by
the famous room's state of disrepair. Having been closed as a nightclub, and rented out
only occasionally the immitation palm trees were covered with dust and tables and chairs
were pushed into corners, stacked on each other. I commented, "It's hard to believe that
this was once a showplace and Bing Crosby got his start here years ago."
Kevin commented, "Yeah Ray it's gone from Paul Whiteman and his orchestra down to Ray
Campi and his Rockabilly Rebels." We all had a laugh on ourselves but it did not turn out
to be the last one.
After a sound check with the imported P.A. man for the show we all went out to a nearby
restaurant for dinner.
"Great food. That's just what I needed," Rip Master commented as we all headed back to
the Ambassador. The hotel lobby was even emptier than it was earlier and showtime for us
was apporaching. "Jeff I'd like to have a meeting with the promoter. There was almost no
promotion for this festival. We need to talk." Jeff got the fellow quickly.
"This looks like a bust. I think it would be best if we didn't go on tonight and then you
won't have to pay us. I know you're in deep financially with this event." He assured.
"Oh no, I don't want that. I have the money right here," and he passed Jeff a check.
Jeff remined the young man, "We don't usually play for checks, we expected cash." "Don't
worry it's good, you'll see." We really had no time to argue as showtime was upon
The booker left the elevator as he had to deal with vendors who had paid a large fee for
their stalls and were ready to pack up demanding their money back. "Ray, Jeff assured,
this check is written on a Santa Monica bank close to where I live and Monday morning I'll
be at that bank at 9:00AM and I'll get it cashed before any accout can be." "OK, we can't
do anything else at this point, you're the manager."
We all got on stage, got the equipment running and for the next hour delivered to the
sparse audience a very wild rockabilly show. The few that were there were hard core music
fans and were very appreciative. One of them took photos which documented the evening.
(I was given copies at a later date.) We didn't stick around after the set to witness any
further frustration over the whole event but we all packed up, went our ways to relax for
the remainder of the evening at home. The Rockcon Festival had ended.
At 9:30 Monday morning my phone rang. It was Jeff. "How could he have done it? I don't
understand. That crook has already closed the account. He must have done it on the
Friday before the festival. Everybody including the Grove management got bad checks.
That rat!" "What a phoney!" "Okay Jeff, I'm not surprised, after Finland I'm used to it.
It's not you're fault. I'll tell the boys." I made a few calls to the band and they
weren't surprised either.
And so the saga of my one appearance at the historic Coconut Grove came to a conclusion.
In the 1970's when he was booking acts there Sammy Davis Jr. re-named the room "The Now
Grove." For me it turned out to be the last gasp of the "Has Been Grove."
Recently the Ambassador Hotel was demolised to build a new Los Angeles High School on the
The Rockabilly Rebels appearing at the Grove were:
Ray Campi - Acoustic Bass
Rip Masters - Piano
Mike Rubino - Rhythm guitar, Harmonica
Steve Vidro - Drums
Bill Stoy - Saxophone
Many thanks to Toni C. Holiday for her great photos.
POLK SALAD CHOLIE
The cows were mooing, their tails were swishing, the milking machines were humming. The Palmer dairy barn on acreage outside of Creedmore, Texas was bursting with activity as my favorite cousin Harvey Layman and his buddy Charles, the son of his employer "Old" Mr. Palmer Sr. were rushing to drain a few dozen cows of their 6AM liquid offerings.
To top off the morning feast was a dish of polk salad. "Polk Salad Cholie" was
beginning his daily morning routine on San Antonio's KMAC radio. Great hillbilly
music began screeching down from the 1930's cathedral radio perched high above the
milking activity on a shelf in the barn.
"This is Polk Salad Cholie you favorite D.J. with the best music in the world to make your mornings Hillybilly Heaven Roy Acuff will start us off with "Fireball Mail." Leon Paynes "Lost Highway" is warming up on turntable #2. Stay tuned in neighbors and grab yourself a delicious plate of polk salad."
I was an occasional overnight visitor to the farm during school vacation in the summers and often helped out with alphalpha cutting and other farmhand chores, during my mid-teenage years.
I was beginning to strum the guitar a bit and write songs. By 1951 I'd formed my high school country music band Rambiln' Ray and his Ramblers. To make records was a dream and I listened to as many music radio show as I had time for and was fascinated by any person who had "made a record."
Polk Salad was also a guitar picker, songwriter and singer and an all around friendly salesman, mostly of himself, and possessed the whitest set of teeth I'd ever seen short of Jaws Two. His friendly voice when delivering commercials could sell a raccoon coat to an armadillo.
"I've just had my first record released folks written by my friend Lew Wayne; I'm Looking For Another You'. It's on a great label neighbors, Imperial Records of Hollywood."
That was a company I knew something about because my friend Jimmy Heap with his Melody Masters band started out with them and had a good seller, "The Wild Side of Life." In the early 1950's Rudy Grayzele had a record on Imperial and Slim Whitman put the company into the million seller category in 1952 with the help of Fats Domino as well. I dreamed, "Maybe Imperial would give me a chance to record?"
Polk Salad Cholie would occasionally make a stage appearance for Warren Stark at his popular Skyline Club north of Austin, were many country music stars appeared. The place was becoming famous as Hank Williams and Hank Thomson played there as did Johnny Horton the night he was killed in 1960.
"I've got to make a tape of some of my songs with the Ramblers. Maybe Cholie could help me to get an introduction to someone at Imperial Records?" I fantasized.
Within a short time I brought my band into the University of Texas studio "Radio House" and recorded six of my original songs. Shortly after that while listening to KMAC I heard; "Neighbors I'll be up in Austin next Saturday to meet you all at the Skyline Club. I'll be singing my new record. Heck, I might even get around to doing "Tatooed Lady" for you. Come on out neighbors, Polk Salad Cholie will be looking for you."
This was my cue. I decided to tell Cholie about my tape and see if he'd help me get it to Hollywood and Lew Chudd of Imperial Records.
On Saturday I raced my '48 Buick to the club and by early evening I was the first guy in the parking lot.
As the swinging doors opened to let in the enthusiastic crowd I was in line. When Warren Stark and his wife recognized me they were kind enough to pass me in without putting two dollars into the cigar box, which was accumulating bills.
Leon Carter and the Rolling Stones (he used this name years before the British bad boys) who fronted the house band opened up and couples began spreading around the dance floor.
When set two arrived later in the evening Polk Salad Cholie stepped up to the microphone and for an hour delivered fine renditions of country favorites, adding friendly patter between tunes, white teeth flashing.
He completed the night by running his hands all over the body of "The Tatooed Lady."
As he wound down his set and left the stage I made my move amid a throng of admiring fans.
"I'm Ray Campi, Cholie. I've made a tape with my band of some of my songs and would like to know something about getting it out on record, possibly with Imperial.
"That's a growing company," Cholie advised. "Call me at home tomorrow and I'll get some information to you."
The entertainer passed me a paper on which he had which he had written his home phone number.
I was enthralled.
The following week in that year of 1952 I called the number.
"Yes this is Cholie." His friendly, familiar voice was re-assuring. Again we talked at length about my goal. Cholie made a suggestion. "I'll write you a letter of introduction to send with your tape to Lou Chudd with the company address. Mail it in and we'll see how things work out."
"Thanks Cholie. I'll be forever grateful," I replied. In a few days I received his letter and I mailed my package to the record company.
I never had a record released on Imperial but as of mid- 2006 my recorded music appears on over 55 45's, LP's and CD's.
Polk Salad Cholie didn't do too bad either. In 1956 he acquired a Columbia Records contract and soon "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down" was ascending up the Billboard Hit Parade Country Charts. More recently his decades of music recording found a new home in a Bear Family Records box set too heavy to lift.
You can also see Cholie in the film Sweet Dreams: Patsy Clines Life Story which he portrayed country singer Cowboy Copas.
By now you know I'm reminiscing about Charlie Walker who long ago had a friendly work for this star struck kid and one who has brought musical thrills to millions during his long lifetime in music.
Center photo: Charlie Walker band, late 1940s
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 1
by Ray Campi
Rockabilly was everywhere in Finland.
"Hey Ray! I've been talking to the executives at K-Tel Records, in Finland and they say the LPs we
released to them are selling well and you're real popular over there."
This was the first I heard of this good news and events that were about to change my life, drastically.
Ron Weiser had re-discovered me in the early 1970's and together we began to revive my dormant music
His Rollin' Rock magazine opened this door and his formation of the record company and
eventually a band to spread our music around the Los Angeles area, was having a positive result in
acquainting audiences with honest rockabilly music. Also, the many record releases produced by
Weiser were also doing this around the world, mostly in Europe. "The Rockabilly Music LP is a
hit over there," Ron went on. "When are you going to do a tour in Finland?" he asked.
For many years I had been a full time English teacher in Los Angeles' schools and my days were filled
and this worth while occupation that provided a few weeks of time off for holidays which I sometimes
utilized performing overseas. Twice I took a complete band with me, including guitarist Kevin Fennell,
and at other times I was backed by local groups. Rollin' Rock Records had been leased to companies
in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, besides Finland. In 1978 my band, during an English
Festival, had the chance to appear in the documentary film Blue Suede Shoes. Sometime after
this in the summer of 1980 the phone line from Finland was active again.
"Hey Ray, pick up! Some rockabilly guy from Finland wants to book you over the Christmas holidays."
I talked briefly with the man who was one of Ron's record buyers, and agreed to perform two shows in
Finland. One show would be far North in the country and another in the large city auditorium in
Helsinki. (The photo of the kids in the audience on the Hollywood Cats album and CD was taken
by me from the stage at that show).
Finally, the vacation week arrived and after a seemingly endless plane ride I arrived at Helsinki
Airport. I collected my bags after showing my passport and work permit and met two of the promoter's
staff, who immediately put me in a van and we began a long ride North. The journey acquainted me
with this beautiful country with its forests, 60,000 lakes and snow covered farms. Occasionally a
few Elk jumped from the woods into our path. The residents of this amazing world seemed to take
advantage of their Winter wonderland as I saw skaters on the frozen ponds and parents teaching the
tiniest bundles of children how to ski and control their sleds. This peaceful panorama was deceiving
I'd learn in the future but for the present I was thrilled to be in Finland.
After a few hours of riding through forests that increased in density we approached a cleared area
and I spied a large hall. Adjacent to it were a few parked cars including a very large and beautiful
Toyota van, a full-sized exceptional vehicle. I was impressed. Young workers were busy unloading,
assembling and testing sound equipment and stage lights for the approaching evening show.
"I am Johnny!" I was greeted by my employer, a large round-faced Finlander with a buzz haircut. He
spoke English well enough as did most of the young people I met and was to meet in the future. He
had a common Finnish name but prided himself by being known by an American name as it fit in with his
interest in U.S. 1950's culture and music. Besides booking, managing and recording he spent his time
collecting comic books.
"After show I take you to hotel. Tomorrow we travel to my house near Helsinki, I show you Kerava, my
town." he informed.
The performance went very well and it was a great surprise that many in the audience knew my recorded
songs, especially the Jack Waukeen Cochran composition "Rockabilly Music" which was the title of my
most popular album in Finland.
Around 2am I was dropped off at a hotel where I hit the bed and was quickly asleep. About two hours
later I woke up freezing cold. There was a little heat in the room when I arrived but sometime in
the early morning the radiator was shut off as was the custom in this hostel. Outside it was 30
degrees below zero. I was to realized that Finnish people were used to this cold and learned to make
the most of it. When Johnny arrived to pick me up around noon the following day I told him of my
near death experience. His reply was, "ha ha ... this is Finland ... get use to it!"
After a few hours of driving we reached the little town of Kerava where Johnny and his family had an
apartment. I met his pleasant wife and two small children. He seemed devoted to them and they all
appeared to be happy with each other. We had a fine dinner that night and Johnny proudly opened up a
bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey for this special occasion.
"You've got to try out our sauna, it's the custom in Finland." Surprisingly, the apartment had a
sauna and Johnny and myself spent an hour in it sweating out the ups and downs of the music business
before retiring for the night.
The following day we drove to Helsinki where the "big" show was to take place that night. The fans
were as young as I'd ever seen and they were most responsive to the music and to my visit.
In a few days I was back in Los Angeles with some extra money, I had gotten to meet my K-Tel Records
associates and thank them for their work as well as many of the record buying fans. My memories of
the country and its people were pleasant. So much for ending 1980 with a smile on my face.
"The ladies look like Marilyn.
So beautiful in Midnight Sun,
Finlandia is grandia to me."
(winsor music Publishing - BMI)
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 2
by Ray Campi
In the early spring of 1981 Ronny Weiser had some interesting news for me. "Hey Ray, that promoter
you worked for last Christmas in Finland has been on the phone with me. He wants to bring two of his
best musicians to the studio to record an album in L.A." "He wants to use you, Tony Conn, Jimmy Lee
Maslon, Jack Cochran, Mac Curtis and many of our rockabilly buddies on the record as guest singers
and players." "That's great," I answered. "Since I've worked with these guys I know they're good at
playing rockabilly and hillbilly music. They even dress like cowboys. This will be fun, I'm looking
forward to it."
Within a few weeks Ron and I were at Los Angeles Airport meeting the new arrivals from Finland and on
the trip back to Ron's house we were pointing out the interesting sights of L.A. and Hollywood.
We settled our visitors in a motel on Sepulveda Blvd. in Van Nuys not far from Ron's home studio and
the next day the group began the task of recording the basic rhythm tracks for the project, a 33 1/3
LP that would be distributed by K-Tel Records of Finland.
Some lead guitar playing was provided by Rollin' Rock artists Jimmy Lee Maslon, Jack Waukeen
Cochran, playing on their original tunes, and Kevin Fennell. I did some singing, bass and dobro
playing as well.
The Finnished product turned out to the promoters satisfaction, unfortunately my teaching job didn't
allow me to be present during most of the recording and I didn't get to spend much time with the three
visitors although I did squeeze in time for a trip to Disneyland. I realize now that I had not
really gotten to know these fellows well which would have been useful in light of the events that
would take place a few months later.
Ron: "Ray, we're going to have a meeting with Johnny and the guys tomorrow after dinner. The album
has been mixed and they want to thank you and have a relaxed visit. Johnny also has some ideas
affecting you and Jimmy Lee Maslon as well. I answered, "Sure, I'm looking forward to it."
Later, when we were all assembled for the meeting Johnny opened up the discussion: "I think we worked
well in the studio and I would like to book Ray when he is out of school in the summer. If he had
more time he could take off I'd extend touring with my boys as the backing group into the fall." Ron
queried, "Would Jimmy be able to be on the tours also?" Johnny replied that it would be possible if
the money could be secured to pay for air fares and an apartment in Finland and travel expenses on
the tours. "He said," Let me think it over."
The next evening he came back with an outline of his plan and financial details. "Here's my ideas.
During the summer months, July and August, there are camps open where the school-aged kids go. They
are on big lakes, with cabins and large halls for recreation and music and dancing. Big busses
bring these kids from the cities to these camps. All the expenses are paid for through a Finnish
government program which includes money for bands. We could probably be booked for two to three
shows a week from July through September."
"This sounds interesting" I remarked. Johnny again: "After the summer tour is over I'll book all of
us for some shows in Sweden and England. This could possibly keep us busy until the first of the
year. What do you think?" I liked the idea but told him I needed to investigate what I would have
to do to get this much time off from my job, and still be able to return to it. I remembered that I
could apply for an unpaid leave of absence for the fall semester which did have the disadvantage of
me losing my position at the school I had worked at for several years but I would do it for a chance
to continue building my popularity in Finland.
We agreed then on a very fair fee for me for each show and a payment to Jimmy Lee Maslon also.
Johnny reassured that the summer camp shows were not a financial risk, but the tour of England could
last for two weeks and there were venues in Finland, clubs, restaurants, that he would book. It
looked to me that I would have a sock full of money upon my return to California in January of 1982.
From my first visit to Finland I remembered that Johnny loved Jack Daniels whiskey, so on the
following night, they were returning to Finland the next day, I bought him what I thought was an
impressive gift. Around that time the whiskey company had put the liquor in a unique bottle that
was a detailed copy of a 1929 Model A Ford; the bottle was a glass but surrounded with the plastic car
which came apart in sections. It was a real collector's item. I prefaced handing him the gift: "I
really appreciate your interest in Ron, Jimmy Lee and myself and for giving us a way to tour Finland
completely." The big man accepted the package and slowly removed the wrappings. "What do you think
of it?" I asked. His response was completely deadpan. There was no surprise elation, no "this is
great." There was not even a "thanks." Johnny had absolutely no comment.
I've never forgotten this cold response and little did I realize that the person I'd had placed such
confidence in, and my impending future had a side to his personality that was dark, sullen and
unexplainable, unpredictable and strange. I was to experience this to its fullest in the months to
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 3
"Let me see your passport."
These were the first English words I heard on my second visit to
The customs inspector continued; "Why are you coming to Finland?"
It was the early morning of July 3, 1981 and after a 13 hour flight Jimmy Lee
Maslon and myself were not very responsive with meaningful replies to
"We are musicians from Los Angeles, CA and we've been booked to play some music
"When do you plan to leave?" he went on.
"Around the beginning of 1982."
This was the tour plan Johnny had agreed upon for the two of us. "Let me see
your work permits to be employed in Finland."
This was a frightening question as Johnny had not gotten us these necessary
documents as far as I knew. If he had some in his possession he was not at the
customs booth to show them at this critical moment. Where was he? Would Jimmy
and I be stopped at the border? How would we get past customs?
"The man booking us said he would arrange this at the proper office before we
played a show next week," I went on.
"You'll see the name of his booking company in my passport from last December
when I worked for him then."
Luckily, this satisfied the officer and after what seemed an endless delay
Jimmy and I were allowed to pass through the gates to collect our bags.
"Where was Johnny when we needed him?" Jimmy commented. "We were almost sent
back to L.A. I wonder about this guy."
"So do I, we might be in an unpredictable situation with this Johnny."
After descending a flight of stairs to the baggage area we began scouring the
carousel for our suitcases.
A few minutes passed when we heard: "Ha, ha, you made it, ha, ha. Welcome to
It was Johnny and two young men. What a strange greeting. The humorous
overtones didn't add up. Was Johnny hoping we wouldn't make it through customs?
Only time will tell.
Johnny's boys helped us load our gear into two cars; the big Toyota van I had
seen parked at the auditorium that past December was never to be seen
"I take you to your flat in Vaanta. You have a rehearsal on Saturday. We play
the big country festival on Sunday, be ready."
The drive was pleasant, as Finland is lovely in Summer as well as Winter. Ice
cream stands popped up along the route every few blocks with well-scrubbed
children and adults treating themselves to the rewards of the season.
After an enjoyable but cramped ride in the small car we arrived at a very nice
group of apartments.
"Here is your key," Johnny offered after the car was unloaded. "I pick you up
early Saturday to get with band for rehearsal ... goodbye."
Within a couple of minutes our booker and his two helpers were driving away.
Our bags were sitting on the doorstep. There was no hint of a welcoming
get-together where Jimmy and I would meet the band members, have some breakfast
and drink, or conversation to discuss our trip or plans for the upcoming shows.
No hospitality of any kind ensued.
Jimmy and I exchanged glances.
"Well, we made it to Finland ... let's go into our new home."
I unlocked the door and we entered a completely empty room. Two small
mattresses lay on the floor with no covers or blankets or beds.
"How are we going to live here for six months?" Jimmy asked. "There's not
even a pot or fork in the kitchen."
"I guess we're expected to buy what we need. For the next few nights we'll
pretend we're camping out. On Monday we'll have some money from the country
festival, we'll hit some thrift stores in town and buy what we need."
"What a deal, there goes our money. Welcome to Finland.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 4
Jimmy and I slept on the floor for the next few nights and on Saturday we met
our band and had a productive rehearsal of my songs and the tunes Jimmy would
I recalled from the visit to L.A. earlier by the two band members who recorded
at Rollin' Rock that they were fans of the records and were friendly and they
treated us with respect. The other two boys were not rude or antagonistic and
it appeared that our touring would be a pleasant experience.
Early Sunday morning we traveled by car to a festival ground in the countryside
and arrived around 11:00 a.m.
U.S. country singer Eddie Raven was on the show and a big surprise for me was to
be greeted by my friend Jim Wagnon, who at that time was living in Nashville,
Our group was the only Rockabilly band on the festival and it was our most
attended show in Finland.
Our Finnish musicians opened up the set with a few songs; I was to come on next
with Jimmy also doing a couple of songs.
As they played Jimmy remarked, "These boys don't sound like rockabilly or
hillbilly as they did on their earlier records. Where is the rockabilly look,
the cowboy shirts and boots? On one of their albums there was a picture of a
guy playing a washboard. This sounds like heavy metal to me."
It was true. During the time that passed from when I met the two band members
and worked with them in Van Nuys, CA on their Rollin' Rock produced album
several months earlier Johnny had decided to completely change the bands
He had removed the round hole acoustic rhythm guitar replacing it with a solid
body Fender. Now both guitars played lead, with no rhythm, competing with each
other on solos with the most treble sharp sounds imaginable.
Fashion-wise, the Rockabilly look was gone as the players were all dressed in
black snakeskin looking pants and shirts. Also, Johnny had unexpectedly changed
the group's name; all this was his effort to remove the band from it's former
audience of Rockabilly fans in the hope of expanding into the hard rock and
heavy metal audience; this being done at a time when the youth of Finland were
"rockabilly crazy." Was this a signal that Jimmy and I had entered "enemy
Our show that Sunday was well received and on my set the round hole guitar was
used, as I insisted, and the music had a Rockabilly sound which went over fine
with the basically country music audience. This booking was a nice experience
and a success for Jimmy and myself.
Monday arrived and Johnny was expected to come to our apartment to settle up
with some money.
Around noon I heard a knock on the door and sure enough it was our "money
As he passed me a few bills Johnny still standing at the door explained, "here
are some Finnish marks, expense money for food." He passed me around 100 U.S.
"Hey what about my complete fee for Jimmy and myself?"
"Since you two will be in Finland until January of 2002 I pay for apartment for
six months. I'll keep all the money to pay for this," he responded.
I was to learn that this "expense money" routine would become a permanent
pattern of Johnny's business dealing with us for the entire tour.
After getting a few Finnish marks in our hands Jimmy and I made a visit to some
shops and bought a few cooking utensils, some sheets and eventually we got two
small mattresses as the money trickled in from the two or three shows a week we
were doing. We even managed to pick up an old black and white television and
two wooden bed frames.
The evening news was interesting, as it had no filmed action only still photos
presented by a Captain Ahab type of old fellow with a black beard that looked
like a paintbrush. The documentary programs, all government produced, featured
interviews with dairymen, farmers with several children, horsemen, blacksmiths,
seamen, bakers, and other tradesmen. These were boring to us but later in the
evening (the network only began to broadcast on the air at 6:00 p.m.) we could
watch French and German movies with confusing sub-titles in Swedish and Finnish.
I taped a few of these newscasts on my beta video camera and they still bring
back memories of amusement and frustration.
The government network shut down at 11:00 p.m., I guess to insure adequate rest
and the nation's productivity.
As we settled into our apartment around the second week Jimmy and I made
arrangements to travel to Helsinki to visit our friends Jorma and Marita who
managed the office of K-Tel Records. We had talked to them by phone and they
hoped to meet us personally. The company was profitable in Finland due to the
creative ideas of these two executives.
They had leased Rollin' Rock recordings due to meeting Ron Weiser at a MIDEM
record convention in Paris a year and a half before our arrival. Rockabilly was
getting popular and the company released two albums Rockabilly Music and
later Rockabilly Man. I even wound up on a beautiful Coca Cola LP
picture disc and calendar in the presence of hit makers on this record like
Liquid Gold, Leo Sayer, and Telly Savalas. Some months later I met the actor in
Studio City, CA and I remarked that we were both on this release.
My Rockabilly Music LP made the Finnish charts and was sold through a book
club as well as stores. I had even appeared in a music magazine's poll ahead of
John Travolta. When we played in Lapland, after doing some shopping in a
supermarket at the checkout counter there was a box of my cassettes being sold.
Imagine, I was big in Lapland ... unbelievable!
"Welcome to K-Tel Records boys, let's go to lunch," Jorma invited, and we did,
with K-Tel paying.
"Great people," Jimmy commented as we rode the spotless train back to Vaanta.
"They've got to come to our place some night for dinner."
"You bet," I responded, and before long they both traveled to our lodging for a
"How do you guys survive in here?" Jorma queried. "You've got almost no bed,
sheets, no table, chairs; we're going to bring you some furniture."
All during the tour the K-Tel folks wondered why we were being neglected and put
to such inconveniences by our local booker, not to mention the holding back of
"You guys are popular over here. This kind of treatment is ridiculous."
Jorma and Marita visited a couple of times and they continued to bring us some
items we could use.
As the days progressed our booker Johnny refused to respond to our phone calls
and messages we left for him, usually when we were out of "expense
We were never once invited to his apartment or had any contact with him on a
social level. Most of all, we were seldom paid in full for the shows we had
"Guess what?" our friend from the record company was on the phone. "I've
learned that a popular Helsinki radio disc jockey is going to interview you all
about your touring of Finland."
"Great!" I replied. "Jimmy and I will travel with the band to the station. A
So, the day before the radio visit I called Johnny to find out when Jimmy and I
would be picked up.
"You're wrong! You and Jimmy not invited on this show ... my boys only, just my
boys! Too bad, ha!"
Imagine, a booker who had arranged many jobs with two popular American artists,
not wanting them to be heard on the radio to inform the public about upcoming
So as a result, Jimmy and I listened to our stage band promoting their upcoming
shows without mentioning our names.
I realized day by day, and incident by incident, that there was a strange aspect
of my booker's personality which could only be explained as self-destructive, as
he was systematically destroying the popularity of his own band by changing
their sound and image, and by showing a distain for Rockabilly music and for all
who appreciated it including Jimmy and myself.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 5
During the course of our first few weeks in Finland our disappointment with the
coldness of our booker and the growing hostility of two of our band members was
offset by the great admiration of our fans who attended our show. A few located
our apartment address and would shyly knock on the door requesting an autograph.
Others could come to socialize, play records and visit for awhile bringing
Jimmy and I were impressed by the good manners of these young people who were
always immaculately dressed in contrast to the fans of other music such as heavy
metal, hard rock, punk, etc. There was an absence of tattoos, which in other
parts of the world, were common with rockabilly boys and girls. Jimmy was
well-liked by all who met him and many girls, especially, would ask me if
"Yimmie" would be on the show, or could they drop by the apartment to meet
His stage act was unique and everyone liked his singing and wild guitar and
harmonica playing. He had records released in Finland and was increasing his
fan base. His songs "Please Give Me Something" and "Salacious Rockabilly Cat"
were popular. The only thorn under the saddle was our booker, Johnny, who was
beginning to resent Jimmy's popularity. As time progressed this started to be
revealed more fully.
Most of our venues were the summer camps where bus loads of young people arrived
and stayed in cabins although we did play a Finnish sea festival. All of these
jobs had guaranteed fees for the artists and booker but I never knew how much
money was given to Johnny for each appearance. My agreement with him was for
a set amount for me and Jimmy for each show we did. I really wasn't concerned
about the deals he made. My point is that the shows that we were doing produced
no financial risk for Johnny. The payments were locked in by the Finnish
government which provided these shows for youth during the summers.
Sometime in August when these bookings were winding down, Johnny had two cities
booked for the group which definitely were financial "risk" jobs, and to get a
good crowd in these halls was to his advantage, as he had rented them. When we
arrived at the first one I was shocked to see a poster only advertising Johnny's
band with no mention of myself and Jimmy. Surprised I told Johnny that it was
a huge mistake not to advertise that us two Americans were headlining the shows.
He had no logical answers. I realized for sure at that moment that he was
jealous of our popularity and was purposefully trying to minimize our
When I told our K-Tel friends of the tension that was increasing they were
upset; they also distributed some of Johnny's records on his label and they
expected a good relationship on this tour between all parties.
The two shows I described were poorly attended and Johnny was quick to point out,
"Ray Campi and Jimmy Lee Maslon not so popular in Finland as Ronny Weiser tell
me business bad, Ronny Weiser to blame!" ("Put the blame on Mame
It didn't occur to this promoter that by removing his band from their Rockabilly
clothes, and by replacing them with the snakeskin suits and with the hard rock,
heavy metal sounds the two stratocasters were producing his group had alienated
and disappointed their fans. Many of them would confide to Jimmy and myself
that this was the case. These young people did not like the band's new image
and sound and felt betrayed by a group that had been their heroes and the
rudeness conveyed to them by the band's manager only intensified their
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 6
"Jimmy, no good!" Jimmy don't sing like Eddie Cochran; guitar playing bad!
Ronnie Weiser lied to me; Jimmy fired from the rest of tour!"
Untrue as they were, these were the comments made to me in midAugust by
Johnny after we had completed all of the teen-ager camp shows in
We had been hired to work in Finland for six months and to play night clubs and
restaurants, with a short tour of Sweden and England until January of 1982. I
had taken a six month leave of teaching, without pay, to fulfill this commitment
in Finland. Jimmy had left his job also to do the tour, and the K-Tel record
people had a lot riding on us as more records were due to be released.
"That's O.K., I've had enough of that guy. I'll take a trip over to France,
I've got a friend there to visit." "But I want you on the tour of England, and
the festival in Holland in October. You're advertised and I'll pay you to do it
"Sure, I'll hang around Europe for those shows, don't worry, I've got friends in
"Remember," I added, "Ronny Weiser will be flying over to Holland for the
festival. We can't let him down."
"Jon Blair, who wrote, "You Don't Rock and Roll At All", which I recorded and
"Graphite Fever" and who used to play in my band now has his own surf music band
and will be on the bill with us in Holland."
It was agreed then; I'd be working with Jimmy in the near future.
Within a few days Jimmy left for France and I was preparing myself for the boat
trip to Sweden and Johnny had agreed to take his car as well as the small van
he'd hired for the band in Finland. Eventually, he left his car in
Another booker had arranged the Swedish gigs and he would drive Johnny and
myself and his friends to the gigs booked. It was what I'd hoped for as it
would be more comfortable in his car than the van, which I had come to
It wasn't long before I was hating the car also, yet lucky to be in it.
The ferry trip from Helsinki to Sweden was fun as I had a cabin to myself, and
enough time to enjoy the ship with all of its entertainment and
Early in the morning of the second day the ferry docked and our Swedish booker,
a fan of mine, was there to meet us. He was a positive fellow who had his own
record label and retail stall.
After driving to his apartment we picked out spots on the floor where we would
sleep that night. Later he brought us blankets and we did our best to get some
rest for the drive the next morning.
"We had better get some rest, as we've got to drive to Reftelle for tomorrow's
show," our host informed.
Reftelle was the home of a big '50's record promoter and shop. The largest
rock 'n' roll record company in Sweden at that time was Star Club Records which
"It'll be good to see the shop and do a show for them," I commented.
On the road to Reftelle our host drove while Johnny rode in the passenger's
seat. I was in the rear by the window which I would learn to love
Upon reaching the tiny town we pulled up to a very old two story house that for
decades had been a hotel.
When we entered a man in his late 70's greeted us at the check-in desk. He was
distinguished looking, dressed in a business suit, gave us keys and began to
help us move our bags as he directed us to our rooms upstairs.
I thought, "What an experience, I'm entering a part of Swedish history."
"Dinner is at seven, " Johnny informed us. "We'll meet in the dining room."
In a short while I entered a spacious old world dining room with a long table
and furniture and fixtures from another era.
I expected a waiter or waitress to serve the food but was surprised when an
elderly lady entered and place on the table a large bowl of soup which was our
starter. She was the cook and waitress, and the wife of the man who had greeted
Shortly he entered, only now he was dressed in a tuxedo, fulfilling the role of
a waiter and he politely attended to our every need during a very delicious
Swedish meal of several courses.
"You mean to say that these two old folks operate this large hotel by
themselves?" I asked. That was the case, and they had done so for many years.
This was a great way to be introduced to Sweden, where in recent years I've made
many close friends and have had CDs released and have performed there several
Around nine o'clock I was driven to the Star Club venue, which was situated in a
high school auditorium, not far from the record shop.
The parking lot was speckled with perfectly restored American 1950's cars,
Chevys, Fords and convertibles; it was a friendly sight for an American car
lover like me.
"How do they keep these beauties looking so good?" I was to learn that in the
1970s the young Swedish people began to collect early American vehicles. After
a slow process of restoration they would garage them during the severe winters
and drive and show them during the summers often at rock and roll shows and car
events like Rattvik's Big Lake Run. Today, this hobby is bigger than ever in
"Good to see you Ray," I was greeted by my friendly bookers who were expecting a
The entertainment began with Johnny's boys playing to an audience of young
rockers and rockabilly lovers. Although, they played well I think their
audience's enthusiasm, and their booker's as well, was dampened down by the
band's appearance, the metallic guitar sounds, and one of the boy's Mohawk
On my set I sang my usual songs, did some wild antics with the double bass,
joked with the audience and went over well as far as I could determine.
"Great show Ray," commented the booker later in the evening. "We had a great
crowd and were all happy to see you for the first time in Sweden."
Johnny had nothing to say about the evening; no comment from the man who had the
most to gain from this. Evidently these "great shows" were getting the best of
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 7
As the compact car careened down the Swedish motorway delivering myself and my
booker to the next town, lodging, and performance site one odd thought kept
running through my mind; "What is that smell?"
My booker was driving with Johnny riding shotgun in the front. I occupied the
left rear seat with a Swedish roadie next to me. This was to be my traveling
arrangement for the entire tour. I didn't have a ready answer for the source of
the unpleasant smell but I would have one mid-way into our travels. I just
stuck my head out of the rear window and gasped for fresh air. As the days
passed the need to do this while riding in the car increased.
The show that night produced some very strange behavior on the part of Johnny's
paid assassin, the rhythm guitar player, a necessary part of my set.
In the midst of one of my best numbers, with the rockers in the audience going
wild, I noticed the rhythm guitar playing had stopped. I glanced to the side of
the stage and saw that the musician had set his guitar down during the song and
had walked to the wings of the stage and had a girl clutched in his embrace,
which resulted in a kiss. Johnny was operating his sound system in the rear of
the hall next to the record stall.
Outraged, I immediately stopped playing, which was a complete surprise to the
audience who had no idea of the tension and trouble Johnny and his cohort had
been instigating with myself and Jimmy Lee Maslon during the past
"Johnny," I yelled over the mike. "You'd better tell your boy to get back on
stage with his guitar of this show is over right now!"
Most in the audience, including the bookers, spoke English but as was those who
didn't, all were in shock.
After a pregnant pause Johnny yelled out some words in Finnish and the musician
returned to his position on stage, picked up his guitar and I continued with my
song and the set ended peaceably, for now.
The following day, I was expecting hostile behavior from my booker but wasn't
ready for the next surprise. Around noon Johnny and myself had an appointment
to meet with an old friend from Norway, Rüne Holland. For decades he had been a
rock and roll supporter and broadcaster weekly on radio Norway. He had
regularly played my records and had interviewed me on tape when he visited Los
Angeles and planned to do so again today.
It was great to see him again until he put the microphone in front of
"Rockabilly crap!" "Rockabilly no good. My new band great. We play better
than rockabilly boys. Rockabilly, click, click on bass, stupid, ha, rockabilly
stupid, ha!" "No good!"
Rüne and myself were amazed.
Here was my promoter who was famous in Finland for popularizing rockabilly music
and for promoting a band that became a hit with the teenagers, now cutting his
own throat in front of us.
Rüne questioned Johnny: "Why are you saying this, you brought Ray all the way
from the States to play for you for several months. How have you suddenly
turned against his music and him?" There was no answer to the stupidity of
Johnny's actions and comments.
I had my turn into the tape recorder.
"Well, Johnny may think as he does, but I'm proud of the shows I'm doing, the
loyal fans, and I'm proud of the records I've made over the years, for Rollin'
Rock. Keeping rockabilly alive in the early 1970's until today."
We left the puzzled broadcaster for a while but he turned up at that night's
show in a club in downtown Stockholm; a show completed under some very strained
conditions. The audience was responsive and very pleased and only one more show
was scheduled for Sweden, in Herrlinnuugg on September 26, 1981.
The following night we reached another school auditorium in the small town and
Johnny set up his record stall and sound booth.
Within a couple of hours the local young audience arrived, filling up the
auditorium, a good crowd! Unexpectedly, I became physically ill before this
set, but dragged myself into the hall.
My performing began smoothly enough for a few songs until I noticed that the
sound of the rhythm guitar was sounding exceedingly strange. I looked over my
shoulder and saw that Johnny's hit man was laughing at me and the strings of his
guitar were flopping around, completely loosened, emitting a grumble instead of
Again, I shut down.
Yelling over the mike, "Johnny, your boy is acting up again, do we go home now,
or do we Finnish the set and get paid?"
The puzzled audience was patient.
A few minutes of silence followed before Johnny yelled out more Finnish words.
Still laughing the guitar player slowly began to re-tune the instrument. I
waited for a few minutes then asked him to strum some chords so I'd be sure it
sounded correct. When satisfied I began my next song.
Further into the set I again heard some strange noises.
Johnny in retaliation for my assertion of my musical rights had moved from his
record tables, got on his sound system mike and during my singing was shouting
noises like "whoop", "goom", "baaa", "umph" solely to cover up or interrupt my
voice. It didn't last too long but for a good part of the song I was
Wow! I'd seen everything by now and so had my Swedish booker who some time
later gave up his promotion, booking, and record company and went back to a day
job. (So did I)
The following day I resumed my car trip back to the Swedish port of entry to
board the ferry taking me back to Finland. During the drive the foul smell I'd
experienced days earlier was identified.
I realized that during the entire tour in Sweden Johnny had not showered once of
changed his filthy T shirt and jeans he'd worn the whole time, or had used a
deodorant. Also, his teeth, now brown and yellow, had never been brushed, often
filled with the remnants of the huge plates of food he would consume at the
roadside cafeterias, bloating his fat body to the limit.
So much for my first tour of Sweden in 1981.
Today, thank God, I have wonderful friends in that beautiful country and have
had several records released there by supportive, responsible people like Thomas
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 8
"I not bring my car to England for tour I am sick ... doctor say I stay in Finland
... you ride in roadie's van with my boys."
These were the words of comfort spoken to me by Johnny a few days after the
conclusion of the Swedish tour early in September of 1981.
"But you are committed to direct this tour, book the hotels, meet with the
promoter, collect the monies."
"I not go to England," Johnny insisted.
"The van," I ranted, "The van is already full with six people and you want to
squeeze myself and Jimmy in it with four band members and two roadies?" "What
happened to the big Toyota you had a year and a half ago? Eight people can
barely squeeze into that wreck you rented; we need your car also." "Too bad,
Jimmy fired from tour anyway," Johnny countered.
"Besides, " I continued "at this point you owe me more than $5000.00 for the
shows I've already done. If I don't get paid and if you won't take the
responsibility to direct this tour then cancel it right now ... forget the whole
This was my last stand against this idiot.
Canceling was something Johnny wouldn't consider as he had acquired these
bookings in the U.K. from an established promoter who he would need to work with
in the future. His band had records released and had never been seen in England
and this exposure was needed to promote them in Europe and my name was known in
England and would be a drawing card enhancing his band's credibility.
"I will talk about this some other time. I will meet with band and roadies. I
will fix deal."
Jimmy Lee Maslon had not gone to France as he had planned and when I returned
to the apartment he was apprehensive about his future.
"Well, what's up?" he questioned.
"I told Johnny to pay up or there would be no tour of England," I answered.
"But if we do go through with it I'll pay you from what I get; you'll do the
shows as arranged."
Within a day or so I got a message from Johnny to meet again.
"I talked to my boys. You will get all the money from the gigs and promoters will
pay all the fees to you. I pay for roadies and van ... my boys make nothing. You
must first pay for gas, food, hotels, from money ... what is left you keep ... ok?
You get money that is left."
It was the only choice available in order not to disappoint my U.K. rock and
roll bookers and promoters who were fans as well. It was important that Jimmy
go also as he had records released in the U.K. Ronnie Weiser had his Rollin'
Rock records leased to a new company called Rondelet and it's owner Allan
Campion was counting on me to promote my records in his country.
Finally, the day to leave arrived. Jimmy and I gave most of the apartment's
furnishing to friends, packed up our clothes and equipment, stuffed ourselves
into the rear bench seat of the ragged vehicle equipped with heavy 15 inch
speakers mounted above our heads which would evolve to be instruments of endless
torture for both of us in days to come.
Into a small trailer hitched behind the aging Mercedes we stuffed our bags and
equipment and the first few hours of travel were bearable as the Finnish
countryside is a paradise. Then the White Snake appeared.
The two roadies were also acting hostile to me and Jimmy as they were not
getting paid adequately for their work. The band had adopted a heavy metal
image and a good way to harass a rockabilly like me and Jimmy also, was to play
this drug culture crap hour after hour directly into our ears.
We were subjected to the ugly, boring fuzz guitar jabs of White Snake and
Motorhead and held hostage to the hoarse, scratchy remnants of a singing voice
of Kim Karnes with "Betty Davis' Eyes" a hit song at that time.
It was interesting to me that all of the difficulties of these weeks of touring
were not brought about by Jimmy and myself, but by Johnny. Yet, these fellows
never directed any hostility toward him, only to the two "American guys." It
was a strange situation to fully understand and to deal with.
Finally, we reached Helsinki were we boarded a ferry for overnight run across
the Baltic Sea to Germany. Luckily, Johnny had arranged this and provided some
money for food, gas, and tickets for the boat.
This ride was a pleasant and needed break from the van and Jimmy and I enjoyed
The next morning we reached Rugen, Germany and drove our vehicle to the
checkpoint where the smartly dressed border guard approached us.
"He's looking over the van," our driver/van owner informed.
After checking that the brakes, lights, and horn were in working order and after
being assured that the contents of the trailer were not illegal, the guard
directed, "Pull over to that space and park!" We did.
"You may not drive this vehicle on the motorways of Germany. You must turn back
... this truck is unsafe."
Further discussion revealed that one of the front tires of the van was worn to
an unacceptable degree. We would have to buy a new tire in order to
It was Sunday morning and in this small town there were no tire shops open. The
border guard let us proceed to see if a tire could be located and then return
for permission to travel further.
Luckily, we spotted a shop with living quarters above. The van driver banged on
the door and when a head appeared in the second story window an explanation of
our problems was delivered.
The surprised shop owner was kind enough to descend to the store area, locate
the needed tire, mount it and we were soon on our way back to customs.
Needless to say, the kindly shop owner was paid from our fund for food, gas, and
lodging, putting a huge dent in it and nerves became more frayed than
The scenery and countryside of Germany in September is delightful, and with the
unrequested encouragement of White Snake, Motorhead, and growling Kim we finally
More hours of driving delivered us all to the Dutch coast for the next sea trip
across the channel to Norwich; another adventure.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 9
The overworked Mercedes diesel engine clattered as it pulled its tired human cargo from the jogging
ferry on to the ramp leading to the customs office in Harwich, England, that first week of
Our driver was immediately asked to display the carnet of equipment on board and after a few minutes
of examination of this document the man in uniform made up his mind as to his next request.
"All of these contents will have to be unloaded. Baggage and equipment must be in order with the
It was now after 4:00 p.m. and the sunlight was dimming. The huge task began with the suitcases
being explored. Then came the musical equipment, loaded to the hilt in the small trailer being
Thanks to the emergence of the hippie drug culture which the entire music industry had embraced and
glorified during the 1960's, 70's and 80's all responsible authorities had a justified distrust of
musicians and a suspicion about the mid-lowing goodies they might be trying to sneak into the
country. The suitcases, spread out across the landing area were picked apart as well as the
guitars, amplifiers and speakers.
Slightly after 7:00 p.m., we entered the motorway to London with little skill in how to manipulate a
van and trailer through the winding streets. We had no idea whrer we would lodge that night or any
of the nights to come for the next two week; thank you Johnny for this gap in tour planning.
The mood of our Finnish counterparts was deteriorating quickly as we became lost in the maze of
pavement and cobblestones.
I've always compared the street planning of London to that of San Antonio, Texas because of its
winding, narrow downtown streets. It appears that farm animals were driven to market in the city
and wherever the beasts made a path in the dirt, at some point pavement was applied, a name and a
street sign was given to the path, with it eventually winding up on a map.
This was London to us that night.
The driver was grappling with his book of maps.
"Campi: were do we go? You've been to London before; where are the hotels?"
In tours past myself and my band had stayed in London at a very comfortable and reasonably priced
bed and breakfast hotel which even provided stoves int eh rooms for light meals. The owner had
become a friend.
"I know a place off of Bayswater Road, in Clanricarde Gardens. It's called Monseratt Court Hotel.
Let's try to find it."
After several wrong turns on to dead end streets and after having to disconnect the equipment
trailer to turn it around manually so the van could back up we made our way to Bayswater Road.
"Campi, why you tell us to go on wrong streets, you dumb, you don't help, you should tell us right
"There is a hotel around here somewhere; there are several in this area," I countered.
"I see a sign," one of the boys exclaimed, "It's a hotel!"
It was now approaching 3:00 a.m. and anything looked inviting.
We all piled out of the stuffy vehicle and dragged ourselves to the check-in desk.
Some bearded, middle - Eastern types took our money, passed out keys, and directed us to our rooms.
I knew at once that this was not Monseratt Court but at that moment a welcomed substitute.
Jimmie and I flopped down on our beds fully clothed and we were asleep in seconds.
My eyes popped open as the first rays of morning sunlight entered the room; I leaped out of bed and
was soon making my way down Bayswater Road only a few side streets from the sought after Clanricard
Finally, I located the street, ran to the hotel, entered and found my owner friend preparing for the
"Hi, its me, Ray. I've got a tour in progress and I need some rooms for the band and myself."
"Good to see you again. You're in luck as some guests are leaving this morning and I can accommodate
your boys. Give me some time to get the rooms ready."
I chose the basement room for myself and Jimmie, paid the man a down payment with all of the folding
money left in my pocket and rushed back to the other hotel to inform the group of my good luck.
I was shocked to see the entire crew waiting on the sidewalk with suitcases scattered about.
It was only a little after 8:00 a.m. Didn't this tired bunch need some rest?
The most difficult of the Finnish musicians chided me. "Why did you put us in that place? It was
terrible it had bugs in the beds. We had to get out of there."
"O.K., don't worry I've found a good place, nice rooms with cooking for the entire tour, follow me!"
We piled everything into the van an drove only a few blocks. We checked into Monserrat Hotel and
Jimmie and I dragged our belongings to the basement room which would be our home for most of the
next few weeks.
The trip across Europe used up most of my money I realized. "How much money do you have Jimmie?" I
inquired. He reached in all of his pockets and withdrew a coin, one brown pence. "This is it Ray."
I went through the same process and retrieved a twin of his coin, an exact duplicate; 2 pence, (2
Years later I framed these moments of our tour of Finland and our arrival in London; all that
remained after two months on the road.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 10
After surviving the stressful trip to London, locating ourselves into a decent hotel fairly quickly, Jimmie and I were ready for a rest, but with no money on hand even for food between us we were lucky that a show was booked that same evening which would provide payment to me, a percentage of which would go to Jimmie.
"We'll have quite a drive to get to the gig this evening; we'd better leave around 2:00PM" I reminded the group.
The roadies agreed and around tat time we were on the road again.
We completed the performance, I was paid by a very supportive teddy boy promoter and we all squeezed into the van and headed for the nearest all night Indian food take away and gorged ourselves with some of the tastiest and hottest food in England.
The band had filled the van with a few dozen bottles of beer during the day and they were ready, although tired, for an all night party when we reached the hotel in the early morning hours.
Around 8:00AM in the morning I was awakened by strong pounding on the door of my basement room.
"Ray Campi, open up, I must speak with you."
I jumped out of bed and opened the door to see my landlord friend in a completely distraught state.
"You and your band must leave the hotel at once. I cannot permit this kind of behavior from your boys."
Shocked, I ask, "Well, tell me what happened, maybe I can solve the problem."
"Early in the morning one of your boys upstairs went completely crazy. Someone started screaming, jumping on the floor all around the room and banged on the walls repeatedly waking my guests. This noise continued for a long time and many of the tenants came to my apartment to complain. I can't have this bad behavior. I can't permit it!"
I couldn't believe that after all the torture some of these band people put me through that even on the last few jobs there would be more to come.
It took a while but finally I calmed the hotel owner.
"I'll take care of this problem right now; it won't happen again!"
He trusted me enough to accept my promise to investigate, which I did.
The villain was the driver and owner of the van who much of the time was "just plain crazy." Jimmie and I had experience enough with heavy drinkers in Finland and the hostile attitude of two of our band members to expect the unexpected.
I called the man aside.
"This behavior has got to stop or we'll all be in the street for the next two weeks."
He was by now alert enough to comprehend the danger confronting us all and agreed to act more responsibly in the hotel.
The next evening we had a long drive and would be staying in an out of town hotel although nothing had been booked in advance.
The journey was stressful with White Snake and Motorhead pounding into our ears most of the way.
Finally, the driver reached the address typed on the contract for the show and stopped the van in front of a very old church. Oddly, some musicians were entering the building carrying their instruments.
"That looks like a jazz band going in there. This is a rock and roll 50's music festival," Jimmie observed.
Another unexpected event was developing. We parked the van and entered the church.
"Are you fellows part of the rock and roll festival?" I asked.
"No, we are here to rehearse; we have this place booked regularly."
"But our contract indicates we are playing here today, this afternoon for the festival."
"Sorry mate, your contract is wrong."
Here we were in an English Village we'd never seen before, with no idea of where to perform in an hour or so.
"I'll call the agent in Scotland that booked this show," I suggested.
I located a phone booth and rang his number several times only to reach an answering machine message. He would be no help. He had arranged this tour many months earlier and he wouldn't have updated information anyway.
We drove further down the main street of the small town hoping to spy a poster on a wall or in a window advertising the show, with no luck.
"Hey, there's a record shop, they might know something about it," someone shouted.
Three of us entered the shop and began asking questions of the sales clerks.
"I heard about a concert this afternoon but it was going to be at a church. Have you been there?" one boy asked.
"Yes, but it is no longer at that spot," I responded.
A girl revealed, "It's been moved but I don't know where the show will be held."
A few more workers were questioned when one chimed in, "Say, Bev isn't working today. She's a rock and roller and I think she planned to go this afternoon."
One of the girls had her home phone number and I was immediately on the line.
Bev answered; I introduced myself and told her our predicament and within a minute I had written down the address and directions to the hall in question.
"I've got it, let's go!"
We rushed back to the van and sped to the site as the time for our appearance was approaching.
As we dragged our gear into the building Sandy Ford and the Flying Saucers were finishing the final song of their set and our boys from Finland were next.
This incident was another example of the surprises and stress confronting Jimmie and myself on this extended tour beginning in Finland, July 2,1981. We would be relieved when it would all end a week or so later.
On that final day when all of the UK shows had been successfully concluded Jimmie and I had a sock full of money at last even though Johnny still owed me over $5,000.
The six Finlanders packed up their belongings and began the long trip back to their Nordic home.
The band had been through a rough time, mostly due to Johnny's ineptness as a promoter and manager, a fact they would never admit.
On this final tour they were not paid for their music and performing but were only given funds for food, gas, and lodging and by now most of it was spent. Johnny had mad this arrangement with them.
As the unpredictable driver started up his vehicle I reached into the window and put a couple of hundred English pounds into his hand.
"This will help you guys make it back. We'll see you in a couple of weeks in Holland for the festival in October; good luck!"
They drove away down Clanricarde Gardens toward Bayswater Rd. and I felt a
note of sadness for them in spite of all of the aggravation I'd been subjected t
o by two of the band members and Johnny these many weeks.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 11
The days that followed were a mixture of relaxation and frustration.
Some unexpected events were unfolding which helped to make clear the hard times musicians encounter when their optimism and love of music exceed reality.
Jimmie decided to take a trip to Paris as a friend from the US arrived in England and Jimmie needed a change of scenery. He would return in a couple of weeks for the Holland festival.
I spent my days relaxing visiting friends who would drop by the hotel including Julie and Alan Campion one of the owners of the recently formed Rondelet Records who had leased and re-issued several Rollint Rock Records in the UK including my Rockabilly Man and Ray Campits Singles Collection.
Another of the releases on this new label was by a Rollint Rock band that had made a very creative album fronted by a girl singer named Ravena, the group being "The Magnetics." It was a six piece group which included piano, and sax and the musicians had high hopes for their new release.
The guitarist Tom who was married to Ravena had gotten an idea while living in Seattle that if would be useful for the band to pool its funds and take the band to London to do shows promoting the new album.
Within weeks this idea turned into reality when all six players appeared in London at the doorstep of Rondelet Records with the expectation that the two owners of this fledging label could immediately provide them with bookings to support their food, lodging and guitar strings.
To make matters worse Johnny Legend, another Rollint Rock artist appeared on the scene seeking work which was unavailable also.
Meetings were held which I attended with the record executives and a few bookings came out of the talks but the earnings usually went to the sound crew with nothing left for the Magnetics group members to share.
At one show I attended at which the band played the best rock and roll imaginable the audience was packed with David Bowie and Prince fans who all kept waiting for each other to be the first to applaud after each song; a room full of poseurs who couldn't tell rock and roll from pervert trash.
The struggling group had made the acquaintance of a young fan who wanted to learn to play the double bass desperately. He was a janitor at a secondary school and part of his salary included a small house on the grounds as a residence.
It wasn't long before all of the Magnetics group and Johnny Legend as well were sleeping on the floor of janitor Paul Diffints house.
Paul later went on to be a superb bass player and became a member of the Sugar ray Ford band who was my British touring group in the later 1980ts and again with Pat Reyford in Big Six.
Paul now lives in San Diego, CA and often plays with Rip Masters and he has produced records with rockers like Linda Gail Lewis.
But in 1981 he was only beginning in music, hardening his fingers on the bass and his janitor job was crucial to survival.
Soon the school administrators learn that a musical army was sleeping in his house and Paults future with the school was short lived.
One incident which really personifies the problems bands often have took place one Sunday afternoon on the way to a Magneticts booking in Camden Town at the famous Dingwalls club.
They were to be paid for the opening set and they counted on this money.
We all piled into a wrecked van they had purchased a few weeks earlier and began the journey from Bayswater after picking me up.
This van was completely worn out and after a short drive down Queensway it began running hot. Water was quickly leaking from the radiator.
Tom, who was driving pulled to the side of the street and ran into a Chinese restaurant and beg fro water.
"Can you give me a bucket, anything that will hold water; can you help me out?"
In minutes he returned to the vehicle with a full bucket and after a cooling down period the radiator was full and we were all on the move once more.
Soon it was boiling again and we had only driven a few blocks. The process of running into restaurants, filling the bucket was repeated a couple of more times.
By now at least 30 minutes had been wasted and the band was going to be late for the opening set.
"I've got to call Dingwalls and tell them were on the way. We'll make it in ten minutes."
Tom raced to a phone and returned with bad news.
"I can't reach anyone. They have a stupid tape on their answering machine announcing upcoming shows."
"I know the feeling," I commented.
We finally reached the club about 20 minutes late, identified ourselves at the door and rushed in looking for the manager.
"We are the Magnetics. We had motor trouble; sorry we're late, " Tom tried to explain.
Glancing at the stage we were shocked to see that a band was just beginning its first number.
The manager explained. "We had to hire someone else. We couldn't wait for you boys."
I was to learn that this was a band from New York City and they had been recommended by some other New York musicians who were in the audience; Slim Jim Phantom, Lee Rocker and Brian Stezer, the Stray Cats.
After waiting for the Magnetics to appear the club management put this New York band on as they were in the house already.
That was the first time I met the Stray Cats who had made it big, with a hit album in Europe. They were in the audience supporting their buddies. It was early October 1981.
One positive event occurred days later when I set up a recording session using the Magnetics and Ravena on a duet. We recorded I Remember You which is yet unreleased.
These fine musicians and friends soon returned to their home state of Washington and eventually disbanded.
I was to learn that in the 1990's Ravena and Tom divorced.
She sang with other groups but passed away of a stroke a few years ago; a
fine lady and talented singer who never got a real chance to make the big-time.
FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA, Part 12
"Jimmy, great to see you. After this weekend it'll all be over. This is it!"
Jimmy Lee Maslon had returned to our new hotel in Holland after his visit to France and was to appear with me and the Finnish band on one of the most important shows we would do.
This two-day festival featured many bands including my friend Jon Blair, who years earlier recorded and performed with me on a few of his songs he had written. His Nightrider band now played surf music and he was well known for it.
"Remember Jimmy we have two shows to do. This evening there will be a dinner for our group and some invited guests of the promoters. After this we will do a set for this audience but not the public," I reminded him.
"Then tomorrow, the last day of the festival we will be in the big hall. Usually this event will draw a couple of thousand people or more."
It was a large audience for us and we both knew we had better do our best. After what we'd been through with the hostility of Finnish Johnny and his two band member cronies he had soured against us both these past months we were not confident that the shows would come off without any disruptive spots. To make matters worse Johnny had flown in from Finland to see that his boys were paid, as this was the best salary they would collect so far.
Rockin' Ronny Weiser had also arrived for this important event, not fully aware of the hostility Johnny had for him.
Our husband and wife bookers had been friends of mine for a few years and the dinner they had arranged for us and Jon Blair and his group was spectacular. There were around 35 people at the table; rock club members, record stall owners, music writers and support employees as well as the two bands. At the conclusion of this delightful gathering it was time to leave for the hall to prepare for the private performance.
It was then that the bomb was dropped. Very likely on a cue from Johnny the cantankerous rhythm guitar player for my set made his move, looking directly at me.
"I don't think I feel like playing the guitar with you tonight Ray."
Johnny began to smirk.
The people assembled were dumbfounded, silent.
I retorted with, "really, well if you feel that way I'll get Farmer to fill in with me tonight." "Farmer" was the second lead guitar player in the Finnish band but he had never played in my set although he knew my songs well.
Now it was Farmer's turn to stick the knife in, all to the amusement of his sick in the head mentor, Johnny.
"I don't like to play with you either Ray or Jimmie, Farmer tired."
The shocked promoters had no inkling of the war of nerves that had been waged these many months by these three idiots.
The silence persisted.
At that moment I didn't figure out their motives but later I deduced that possibly they were trying to water down the music in my set, making their music fuller and possibly more appealing to the audience.
I picked my response carefully in the company of a table full of shocked and dumbfounded friends who knew no one in this Finnish band nor had any real interest in them, other than their own and another set backing myself and Jimmie.
"O.K. Johnny, your two boys don't want to provide the rhythm guitar for my set tonight? That's fine with me."
I went on.
"But you signed a contract to provide a three piece backing group behind me in this festival. If you choose not to do this then I choose not to go on stage with an incomplete band. I also choose not to play."
"So we can all go back to where we came from with no pay for this gig and your boys will probably never be booked in Europe again."
The gaping mouths of our hosts at the dinner table held firm.
Finally, Johnny spouted some Finnish words to the rhythm player and then told me in English. "You will have your player, problem is solved."
We then all rose from the table and I thanked our bookers for a great dinner and we all piled in vehicles to go to the hall to prepare for the show.
We did a competent set although the last one on Saturday night was spectacular. The back-up boys played with endless energy with not a hint of dissention. The thousands of screaming fans in the audience loved every second of it.
The husband and wife bookers were very happy as was Ronnie Weiser.
The next day we collected our money and dragged ourselves to the airport for the flight back to Los Angeles.
The tour of Finland, England and the two shows in Holland delivered to myself and Jimmie Lee Maslon many moments of satisfaction mixed with frustration and humiliation at times.
Over the years, since the winding up of 1981 I've had records released in Finland on Goofin Records and I've toured there several times.
I'd like to spotlight some of my wonderful friends I've worked with during that time in Finland:
Teddy Guitar A great musician and loyal friend; always dependable, immune to adversity, an independent thinker.
Rock Ola Band leader and drummer, a fine person, fun to work with.
Hal Peters and his Trio my backup band in the 1980's and 90's, always helpful and kind.
Jussi Huhtakangas (Lester Peabody) A very talented guitarist, wonderful to tour with.
Pete Hakonen Goofin Reocrds founder and friend, supportive in every way.
END OF "FINLANDIA IS GRANDIA"
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