Don (Soul Train) Campbell
“Listen – Campbell Lock MP3″
Here we are at the middle of the work week, and I find myself in need of a groove.
It’s one of those mornings where I just sit here, holding my head in my hands and wondering how some people manage to continue living in the face of their own incontrovertible stupidity. I call these people hyper-resilient parasitic organisms. These are the folks that you see at every job, in every cubicle farm, who operate at a level from which mediocrity would be a huge leap upward, yet go through their day blissfully unaware of this condition. They’re like bulls that have convinced themselves (or have sadly been convinced by others) that they are supposed to be destroying everything in the china shop. Like barnacles on the hull of a rusty ship, here they shall remain until the unlikely day arrives where someone scrapes them off – forcibly.
I only tell you this to explain how badly I need a musical boost.
To remedy this situation, and in hopes that I may remedy it for others similarly afflicted, I bring you a taste of funky El Lay.
This taste arrives in the form of Don (Soul Train) Campbell’s ‘Campbell Lock’.
Now, I’ve gone on in this space before about “mystery records”, and while I may have initially approached this particular side from that angle, I have to say that although I may not have been able to get all the facts woven together into a complete picture (at least to my satisfaction), the facts themselves (as they orbit around the record) are very interesting.
Don Campbell – minus the parenthetic reference to Soul Train, more on that later – was an LA based street dancer, who in the late 60’s started to develop a style known as locking (or more accurately ‘Campbellocking’ as it was first known). The dance group he formed, along with Adolpho ‘Shabadoo’ Quinones, Fred ‘Mr Penguin’ Berry, Leo ‘Flukey Luke’ Williamson and Greg ‘Campbellock Jr.’ Pope (among other rotating members), known as ‘The Lockers’ were hugely influential, along with innovators of popping, in giving birth, directly and indirectly in the mid-70’s birth of break dancing. Along with non-founding member, choreographer Toni Basil, the Lockers went on to make a grip of TV appearances in the 70’s – including a memorable stint Saturday Night Live* – and became, if not ubiquitous, a familiar sight. One of the shows they appeared on was ‘What’s Happening’, where Fred Berry, aka Mr. Penguin had become a regular cast member.
Campbell and some of the others also did time as part of the Soul Train Dancers (Campbell was paired with choreographer Damita Jo Freeman) , where their signature moves would spread like wildfire.
Sometime after late 1971, when Soul Train relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles, Campbell went into the studio with Stanson Records and recorded the funky ode to the dance he originated you are downloading today.
Though I don’t know for sure, I suspect that Campbell’s involvement with this track extends no further than contributing the vocals.
The Stanson label was founded in Ohio in the late 50’s by singer/actor Sonny Craver. After Craver relocated to California in the 1960’s, he reactivated the label, releasing sides by himself, Apple & Three Oranges, King Solomon, and Paul Humphrey among others.
The writing of ‘Campbell Lock’ is credited to Craver, though as was the case with many, many records – then and now – whether he actually wrote it, in part or in full is open to interpretation.
One of the more interesting aspects of ‘Campbell Lock’, which is an excellent, funky record, is the fact that the guitar line is almost identical to that on ‘The Humpty Dump’ by the Vibrettes. Aside from the fact that both records were LA-area (‘Humpty Dump’ was a Johnny Otis-related production on the Lujon label, often misattributed (for some unknown reason) to the great Eddie Bo ), and are of a similar vintage, I have been unable to discover any connection between the two.
Was it the same guitarist on both records? Was it a different guitarist lifting the riff from the Vibrettes side? As in the famed case of ‘The People vs. How Many Licks Does It Take To Get To The Center of a Tootsie Pop’, the world may never know. If anyone out there knows of an actual connection between the two records, I’d love to hear it.
The Lockers went on to further fame and fortune, with Campbell touring and teaching dance to this day, Shabbadoo appearing in the ‘Breaking’ films, the late Fred Berry going on to fame as Rerun, and Toni Basil – a performer with an incredibly interesting resume as a choreographer, singer and actress – afflicting the 1980’s pop charts with the execrable ‘Mickey’.
* I remember a short film featuring the Lockers, in tandem with several ballet dancers en pointe, doing a funky take on ‘Swan Lake’