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Music's Best Kept Secret

Oct 31, 2017 01:40PM ● By Paul Cotruvo

In the Mix with Bruce Campbell

By Paul Crotruvo

It seems that every community has a best-kept secret. In our area of the music world, there are a few best-kept secret musicians, and I am about to expose one of them. Meet Bruce Campbell. I first met Bruce years ago when he was part of a local Martinez  “Americana” group, the Hopeful Romantics. I instantly loved the band and was impressed with Bruce’s songwriting and musicianship. Not too long after, I saw Bruce in the bluegrass band Blue Moon Brothers. Then, I saw him in another bluegrass band,  Alhambra Valley Band. I figured I got to get to know this guy -- a great bass player with great vocals who shares my passion for music. Not long after I saw him in these projects, Bruce became a member of the legendary local band Garageland Rodeo, but in this band, he was ripping amazing leads and playing rock and roll. Completely blown away!  Bruce is truly a virtuoso. And, on top of all that, he’s a great human being, SF Giants fan, and into home brew. I am letting the cat out of the bag -- Bruce Campbell rocks! A few weeks ago we met in an undisclosed location, due to his attorney’s request, and he graciously gave me a little interview. Let’s meet Bruce Campbell.

PC: How old were you when you first played music, and what instrument did you learn on?

BC: I first played music in elementary school - the compulsory "flutaphone" recorder monstrosity. All I learned was I love playing in front of people.

PC: Who are some of your influences?

BC: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Deep Purple, and Rolling Stones.

PC: When did you start writing your own material and what inspires you?

BC: I wrote my first song the day I got my first guitar, when I was 10. At first, it was just a way of playing a song when I didn't know any songs.  Later, it became more a form of self-expression as song ideas popped into my head, either while awake or sometimes in a dream. I never really had a gift for playing stuff just like the originals. 

PC: What is your take on the local music scene here in Contra Costa?

BC:  My impression is it is incredibly rich in talent, but that's not based on any wide-ranging knowledge on my part. I hope other communities have a comparable depth and breadth, but I know CoCo County has a wealth of musicians at all levels, from rank beginners to earnest intermediates thru "gifted amateurs" (my spot, I think) on into true professionals. It's all around us!  We are also fortunate to have places to play and a lot of people who like to listen to local music. And that includes me. If I'm not gigging, I usually like to catch someone else playing somewhere.

PC: What have been some of your musical career highlights so far?

BC:  I had a whale of a time playing in the Alhambra Valley Band in bluegrass gigs all over the West in the early 2000s -- got my taste of being the "band from out of town" at festivals and got to measure our prowess against some of the best. Locally and lately, I have been amazingly blessed to play with or even be in a band with almost every artist I've admired. How cool is that?

PC: If you were a song, what song would you be and why?

BC:  I guess it'd be Steve Miller's "The Joker.” Oddly, I've never covered it, but it's about a character I can really relate to. It has all the qualities I aspire to.

PC: Thanks Bruce!

It’s been a hard few weeks after learning of the passing of Tom Petty, one of my rock and roll heroes, so I thought it would be appropriate to have an evening dedicated to his music. On December 1, in Pleasant Hill, there will be a night filled with his songs. “A Tribute to Tom Petty” will be held at 233 Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill and feature Tom Petty tribute bands The Big Jangle and The Refugees and some very special guests. You will not want to miss this show. Look for details soon on Pleasant Hill Rec and Park’s website,  “Oh my my, Oh hell yes!”

And last but not least, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving! As for me? Time to get out my elastic waistband pants!

Quote of the Month: It’s over before you know it, it all goes by so fast.

The bad nights take forever and the good nights don’t ever seem to last.

Tom Petty

Paul’s Picks for November:

November 4: Delta Wires, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

November 10: Cut Loose, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9pm

November 11: Garageland Rodeo, Roxx on Main, 627 Main St., Martinez, 7pm

November 22: The Big Jangle, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9pm

November 24: Dr. D, WiseGirl, 1932 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, 9pm

November 24: Cheeseballs, Dan’s Bar, 1524 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, 10pm

November 25: Mighty Mike Schermer, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm

November 26: Sunday Paper, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 4pm

November 30: Sin Silver, Rocco’s Pizzeria, 2909 Ygnacio Valley Rd., Walnut Creek, 8pm