Ray Campi drew many music lovers away from the outdoor main stage at Ink-N-Iron and into the famous Queen Mary because it’s simply darn hard to pass up the chance to see a true rockabilly legend performing live at the venue called Sin Ally. Although he and his fellow band members may all be grey-haired now, this was by no means akin to any quite night of music at the senior center.
Campi sings and plays standup bass, while backed by a drummer, pianist, bassist and longtime guitarist Kevin Fennell. He kept the energy level high, and the between song information interesting. For instance, Campi spoke of how actress and sex symbol Mae West once recorded his song “Caterpillar.” Campi, who is a school teacher that once taught in Van Nuys, was friends with West along with many other musical luminaries.
Although Campi is now a member of the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame, his career didn’t really take off until the '70s, back when he was rediscovered by Rollin’ Rock Records owner, Ronnie Weiser.
Campi filled his set with many rockabilly favorites that allowed the man to sing with a quiver in his voice. His unique quiver is distinct from the way Carl Perkins or Elvis added vibrato, which he demonstrated for this fascinated audience. When he sang “Hollywood Cats,” he asked if anyone in the audience lived in Hollywood. After one man raised his hand, Campi called him out as a guy that had also claimed to be from Texas. But then again, there was a whole lot of drinking on this ship of musical-loving fools.
Something special happens whenever a rockabilly player gets his hands on a song. For instance, Campi played “How Low Can You Feel,” which is a Jimmy Skinner song, an artist better known for his bluegrass music.
Many people write music to make a buck. Others perform to meet girls. Then there are those that do it simply because they love it. Ray Campi is one man that plays rockabilly music for the love of the game. It’s simply amazing to watch a man that recently turned 80, playing and singing so well. He could teach many younger performers a thing or two about energetic music. With his set at Ink-N-Iron, Ray Campi mixed together great music with a memorable musical history lesson. Rockabilly may not be as hip and commercial as it was back when the Stray Cats were recording hits, but guys like Ray Campi are keeping its spirit alive and well.