Alexander C. Campbell was born in Lansing, North Carolina, on May 25, 1923. He was one of 13 children. An older sibling was Ola Wave Campbell, better known as Ola Belle Reed.
When Campbell was 10 years old his sister taught him how to play the guitar.
In 1934, the Campbell family moved from Ashe County, North Carolina, to Chester County, Pennsylvania, then to Maryland, moving north looking for work.
Alex Campbell served in the Army participating in World War II, sustaining a wound during the Normandy landing.
In the same unit was Louis Marshall ‘Grandpa’ Jones. After the German surrender the pair helped to make the period of Occupation more conducive by entertained the troops performing in the band Grandpa Jones and the Munich Mountaineers. They had a widely-heard weekly country music radio broadcast from a beer hall in Munich.
Returning home after his discharge from the service, Campbell and Ola Belle teamed up for what would be a long-running radio pairing. As the New River Boys and Girls they were a regular act on WASA in Havre De Grace, Maryland.
Later they moved to the Oxford, Pennsylvania, area and were featured on other stations, including WCOJ in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, and on WBMD Baltimore, Maryland.
They would also be heard in syndication over much of the country on a number of stations, including Wheeling, West Virginia’s WWVA.
From 1949 the New River Boys featured Deacon Brumfield (dobro), Ted Lundy (banjo), John Jackson (fiddle) and Earl Wallace (bass). They appear to have dropped the words “and Girls” from the band name about this time.
Two years later Alex Campbell and Ola Belle (now Reed following her marriage in 1949 to Bud Reed) established New River Ranch near Rising Sun, Maryland. It was one of the most active country music parks in the country and they were the first to bring big names in bluegrass and country music to that area.
In the early 1960s they moved their act a short distance up U.S. Route 1 to Sunset Park near West Grove, Pennsylvania, where they were the opening act for 26 years. The band released several recordings on the New River Records label, a single for Blue Ridge Records, an LP for Essgee, one for Cabin Creek Records and one for Ken-Del, and two LPs for Starday (on some of which Ola Belle was spelled as one word).
Campbell will be remembered as a talented artist and a tireless promoter of bluegrass music.
A Little White Church from Old Time Gospel Singing (Gusto GT7 0965-2, CD)
There will be a viewing at Foard’s Funeral Home in Rising Sun, Maryland, on Tuesday evening, October 29, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. and on Wednesday morning, October 30, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., followed by a service.
Burial with military honors will follow the service at Brookview Cemetery. The family suggests in lieu of flowers a donation to the WVUD Fire on the Mountain program, 625 Academy St., Newark, Delaware, 19716, or to the Cecil County Humane Society (c/o the funeral home), both in memory of Alex Campbell.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.
A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.
He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.
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