Doug Campbell passes

Outstanding, veteran upright and electric bass player Doug Campbell, most recently a member of Ray Edwards & Hard Rock Mountain, passed away on December 22, 2018. He was 62 years old and had been performing in bluegrass bands since he was 10 years of age.

Douglas Osborne Campbell was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on July 25, 1956, and was raised in Mocksville, North Carolina.  

On Saturday, December 22, 2018, while dining with a friend in the Pilot Mountain, NC area, Campbell accidentally choked on a piece of steak which lodged in his throat.  The Heimlich Maneuver was performed at the scene but, it failed to clear his airway. He was taken to a local hospital, where attendants tried to resuscitate him, to no avail.  

Campbell learned to play the bass at a young age after his older brother Dan Campbell (who died in 2015) left their father’s band, Larry Campbell & The Country Playboys, one of the most dynamic bluegrass bands in the Carolina’s in the 1960s and ’70s. 

Campbell progressed quickly, and as a young man, he toured with the likes of such great bands as J.D. Crowe & The New South; he was the first bass player in The Larry Stephenson Band (from its formation in February 1989); Tony King & Cherokee; Southbound (during the mid to late 1970s); Jim Buchanan & Tennessee Cutting Band; Darryl Wolfe & New Dawn (from mid-1982 until the fall of 1983); and Ray Edwards & Sugar Creek, to name a few.  

Campbell won World Champion Bass Player prize at Union Grove in 1973 and 1974. 

Ray Edwards, who has known Campbell for almost 50 years, shared these heartfelt thoughts on the loss of a big friend ……  

Doug Campbell performing with Ray Edwards

“I met Doug Campbell for the first time in 1969. Danny had been drafted into the Army and ‘little’ Doug was called up by his Dad at 13-years old to play bass for the band.  I’d only been playing banjo for a year or so and was ‘green as a gourd.’ Even though Doug was younger than I, he was a far superior musician.

Larry called me one afternoon and said that he and Doug would like to drop by our house and audition me to play banjo for The Country Playboys. I was elated! They stopped by later that night, and after we played three or four songs, Larry took his guitar off and my Mom asked him, ‘Well does my son get the job?’ As kind as Larry could respond, he said, ‘Mrs. Edwards, your son’s not ready yet.’ I was very disappointed, but knew Larry was right on point. The lesson in humility was well taken. I practiced that much harder. 

A year or so later, I was playing banjo for Roy McMillan & The High Country Boys and was winning more than my share of the blue ribbons and 1st place trophies at a lot of the fiddler’s conventions in North Carolina and Virginia. Doug and I shared a special achievement in 1974 when Doug won the World Champion Bass Player award and I won the World Champion Banjo Player award at the grand-daddy of them all, Union Grove. I think we celebrated by jamming all night, creating a bond that cemented a great relationship of respect for each other for the rest of our lives.

Doug rapidly grew into the fantastic bass player who’s playing we all loved and will always remember.

I was honored in Doug’s later years to have him in my band, Hard Rock Mountain. He never played or sang any better. He was a seasoned professional. In 2012, I released the CD, Portrait Of A Bluegrass Songwriter for Rural Rhythm Records. Doug as well as the rest of Hard Rock Mountain, Bobby Wood on mandolin and Mike Wood on rhythm guitar, played on several cuts along with some other great, guest musicians and singers. One of those songs was a song I co-wrote with Larry Joe Cox titled, My Name Is Jimmy Martin (Do You Remember Me?) which went #13 in the country.   

We were all proud of the cut and its success. Especially Doug. Doug played that ‘Jimmy Martin electric bass’ with the ‘snap’ that the song had to have.  

In the studio, Doug was so easy to work with. Whatever you wanted on the electric or upright, he was eager to please and played it just like you wanted him to.

Early this year, I signed with Pinecastle Records and I love being on the label. My current CD is entitled, A Golden Anniversary Celebration. Earlier this month, the band and I were scheduled along with Junior Sisk, (who sang lead on the new single), to travel to Easley, South Carolina, to shoot the video for Wanda Lou at Pinecastle’s video studio. I talked to Doug in November and he was thrilled to be part of the video and was so looking forward to it.

Doug battled diabetes and extremely high blood pressure for years. He fell ill the middle of November and had to be hospitalized. He was released a week or so later, and I touched base with him every few days to see how he was feeling. Getting back to his old self was going to take some time. A week or two before the video shoot we talked and I could tell he was still weak and needed more rest. I was disappointed he was going to miss this opportunity but, I promised him we would be doing a couple more videos next year and he would be in those. That was the last time I talked to him. I’m devastated by his passing. Since my Rural Rhythm Records release, I’ve worked hard in every aspect of this business for myself and Doug as well.  

Doug was a great musician that could have worked with anybody. I thought my music might take him places he’d never worked or seen. Enjoy some good times for a change and play the music we loved. 

It didn’t happen and I feel like let him down. Maybe if I had pushed Doug to do the video with us, it would have been a great pick-me-up for him and by some chance, it would have prevented his accidental death. Doug’s gone and he’ll be sorely missed.  

There will be no funeral or memorial service which makes closure to this gentle man’s life even more difficult. RIP my brother.”

Phil Leadbetter posted this on his Facebook page …

“So sorry to hear about the passing of Doug Campbell. Doug played with our band New Dawn from about mid-1982 until we disbanded in the fall of 1983. Doug was a great singer and bassist. We had a lot of fun during our short time running the roads. A great guy and musician. 

RIP my old friend!”

In another Facebook posting Tim Graves remembered some good times …. 

“He worked the entire 1982 World’s Fair with my band Cherokee he was a good guy; he called me Robert. He came to SPBGMA about three years, and me and him and Bennie Boling picked a few songs back stage before we had to do our spot.”

Campbell is survived by family members including his younger brother David Campbell. 

A private funeral is planned.

R.I.P. Doug Campbell 

Bluegrass Today is very grateful to Ray Edwards for all his help in the completion of this obituary. 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

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.