Born Raymond Charles Campi, 20 April 1934, Yonkers, New York
One of the first and most important of the 1950s veterans to affect the European rockabilly revival was Ray Campi, a name hitherto almost completely unknown outside of Texas and record collecting circles. Such was his fame in the 1970s that many fans called him the King of Rockabilly, and Campi presents himself as such on his Facebook page. Personally, I would reserve that title for Carl Perkins. Since the 1970s Ray Campi has continued to play, record and promote rockabilly music.
Born in New York State, Campi moved to Austin, Texas, with his family when he was ten. There he heard country music for the first time and fell in love with it. By age 12 he was playing steel guitar and soon took up acoustic guitar. Come 1948 he led his own hillbilly band, Ramblin' Ray and his Ramblers, who had an hour-long weekly show on KNOW radio. Campi made his first recordings in 1951, but it wasn't until 1956 that anything was released. His first single was "Catapillar"/"Play It Cool", recorded for the TNT label in San Antonio. The record was heard by Hal Fein, a New York publisher, who arranged a deal with Dot. This resulted in only one single, "It Ain't Me"/"Give That Love To Me", recorded at Sellers Studio in Dallas and credited to Ray Campi and the Snappers (1957). Next came releases on Domino, D, Winsor and Colpix (1958-61), all without success. During the early 1960s, Campi lived in New York and spent two and a half years as a staff writer at Aaron Schroeder's publishing firm, but was never allowed to record any of the songs he'd written. He returned to Austin in 1967 and had one release in 1968 on the Sonobeat label ("Civil Disobedience"). Fed up with the mainstream music industry, Ray settled in Los Angeles and became a junior high school teacher, a job that he would keep for more than twenty-five years.
In 1972 Campi met Italian-born Ronny Weiser, who was totally dedicated to rockabilly and had just started his own label, Rollin' Rock Records, with the aim of (re)releasing obscure and unissued recordings from the 1950s and also new rockabilly material. The first LP on Rollin' Rock (1973) consisted entirely of unissued and alternative demos that Ray had recorded in 1956-58. Prior to that, Weiser released the first of many new Ray Campi 45s, "Eager Boy"/"Dobroogie". With the help of Weiser, Campi managed to recapture the excitement and fun of 1950s rockabilly. Most of the Rollin' Rock singles were credited to "Ray Campi, the Rockabilly Rebel, Playing All Instruments". His multi-instrument talents made him the "house band" for Rollin' Rock productions, playing behind Mac Curtis, Jackie Lee Cochran and Jimmie Lee Maslon. But on stage, his instrument was the upright bass. For many years his trademark was a white double bass. Ray Campi developed a lively stage act in which he often jumped on top of the bass. Campi's career had finally taken off, thanks to the Rollin' Rock recordings and his energetic live performances. Starting in 1977, Ray began touring Great Britain and other European countries and he has regularly played festivals there ever since. He continued to record for Rollin' Rock until 1983 and had eleven albums and twelve singles released on the label. Most of these recordings were made in Ronny Weiser's living room in Van Nuys, California. Highlights from Campi's Rollin' Rock period include "Rockabilly Music", "How Low Can You Feel", "Rockabilly Rebel", "Tore Up", "Rockabilly Man" and "Hollywood Cats".
Since then Ray has produced his own albums (both studio and live), often with European bands, and produced such acts as Rosie Flores, Bobby Mizzell and Ian Whitcomb. Many of his unreleased recordings from the 1950s were issued on various compilations in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now 80 years olds, Ray continues to gig with his longtime musical pals Kevin Fennell (his guitarist since 1977), Rip Masters (piano), Pep Torres (rhythm guitar, vocals) and drummer D.J. Bonebrake.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/RayCampi1.html
Sessionography (very detailed) :
Discography : http://www.rocky-52.net/chanteursc/campi_r.htm
Recommended CD's :
Acknowledgements : Craig Morrison, Rob Finnis, Ronny Weiser.
Dik, October 2014
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