Dinner and a Concert lets Buzz Campbell be himself

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Buzz Campbell founded the band Hot Rod Lincoln in 1991. He was later with Sha Na Na and is now the guitarist for former Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker while also performing as part of the Winter Dance Party tribute to Buddy Holly.

During the summers an entity called Downtown El Cajon Business Partners has a Dinner and a Concert event each Friday, which includes a free concert on the Prescott Promenade. Campbell was billed simply as Buzz Campbell when he performed August 5.

Buzz Campbell founded the band Hot Rod Lincoln in 1991. He was later with Sha Na Na and is now the guitarist for former Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker while also performing as part of the Winter Dance Party tribute to Buddy Holly.

During the summers an entity called Downtown El Cajon Business Partners has a Dinner and a Concert event each Friday, which includes a free concert on the Prescott Promenade. Campbell was billed simply as Buzz Campbell when he performed August 5.

“It was nice to get back and play some of my own music and entertain people and be the front guy,” Campbell said.

Sometimes Campbell’s performances are under the name of Buzz Campbell and Hot Rod Lincoln. “Technically I’m the only member left. I basically put my name in front of it just because I’m the only member left,” he said.

“I merged the two for a while,” Campbell said. “I still like to use Buzz Campbell and Hot Rod Lincoln because I think San Diego still remembers Hot Rod Lincoln and identifies with it.”

Campbell moved from San Diego to Temecula in 2004. “For me it’s always fun to come back to San Diego,” he said.

The August 5 concert included 28 songs. “I didn’t even have a set list,” Campbell said.

Campbell explains that he plays what he believes that evening’s audience will enjoy. “I just look at the audience,” he said.

Other artists originally recorded most of Campbell’s songs. “I didn’t play any of my own music until a couple of guys came up and were very specific about it,” he said. “I wanted to entertain them first.”

Two of the August 5 songs were Stray Cats melodies: “Stray Cat Strut” and “Rock This Town”.

Campbell wrote the song “Crazy When She Drinks”, which originally appeared on Rocker’s 2007 album Black Cat Bone, and Campbell performed that song August 5. His other songs ranged chronologically from “Maybellene”, which was Chuck Berry’s first charts hit in 1955, to “Wicked Game”, which was recorded by Chris Isaak in 1989.

“I don’t really think of it in terms of when stuff comes out,” Campbell said. “I’m just playing all the stuff and trying to play the hits for everybody.”

Isaak’s style of music is more reminiscent of earlier genres than late 1980s music, and the same can be said about the 1990s band The Mavericks. “I’m a huge fan of Chris Isaak and I’m a huge fan of The Mavericks,” Campbell said. “It had a huge influence on me because I was so happy to hear artists that were newer that I enjoy.”

The Stray Cats are often referred to as rockabilly, although Rocker’s concerts include other early rock and roll as well as songs by the Stray Cats and other rockabilly artists. Campbell notes that he and Rocker aren’t necessarily rockabilly musicians. “We’re just a roots rock band,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s favorite band in high school was The Beatles. He also has an appreciation for Creedence Clearwater Revival. “I’m just a huge fan of all those bands at that time,” he said.

The concert included songs originally recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival and by country artist Johnny Cash, and the tunes also included instrumental surf music. Campbell noted that his desire is to play the music that influenced him. “I try to put my own stamp on it,” he said.

Joey Guevara is Campbell’s keyboardist, Jonny Bowler played the bass, and Jerry Angel was the drummer. “It’s great to have guys that are that seasoned,” Campbell said. “They’re just so good at it. Makes it so easy.”

Band members of all three Stray Cats members are represented among Campbell’s musicians; Angel has performed with Stray Cats vocalist and lead guitarist Brian Setzer and Bowler has worked with Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom.

Campbell lives in San Diego, Bowler lives in Palm Springs, and Angel lives in San Clemente. “We all more of less travel an hour to get to wherever we’re doing,” Campbell said.

His original songs, his Hot Rod Lincoln activity, his work with Rocker, and Winter Dance Party performances allow Campbell to have variety in his career. “I feel I have an excellent balance of a lot of different things,” he said. “All of those different things definitely stimulate me musically.”

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