Obituary: Dougie Campbell, Jazz guitarist revered by pupils and professional musicians alike
DOUGIE Campbell, a jazz guitarist, music arranger and teacher, died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 4 September following a heart attack. Dougie was born in Galatown, Fife, in 1925 and four years later the family moved to Edinburgh, where he received his education at George Heriot’s School.
Dougie Campbell, jazz guitarist. Born: 26 May, 1925, in Galatown, Fife. Died: 4 September, 2012, in Edinburgh, aged 87.
He resisted the pressure at school to play rugby or football and spent much of his spare time listening to music, with a particularly liking for jazz.
In his late teens, he acquired a guitar and taught himself to play. He then befriended drummer Ian Donaldson, who arranged for him to sit-in playing unamplified with the band in a ballroom at the bottom of Jeffrey Street. He played with this band for four years, while gaining more experience playing with small groups in the Edinburgh coffee bars.
His first amplifier was connected to a former Royal Air Force intercom microphone, which he fitted between the bridge and the base of his guitar and this served him well until he was able to afford a proper electric guitar and amplifier.
As he established himself as a reliable musician, he found regular work and was asked to deputise for the guitar player at the Palais Ballroom in Fountainbridge who was off on holiday. As soon as the bandleader heard Dougie play, he offered him the job.
After seeing the Johnny Dankworth Seven perform, Dougie developed an interest in arranging orchestral and harmony and studied with Stan Rimmer, who taught him instrumentation and orchestration. He also benefited from listening to the great British big bands of the period – Geraldo, Joe Loss, Eric Livingstone and Jack Parnell – who regularly broadcast on the radio.
Dougie became friends with the London jazz guitarist Pete Chilvers after the latter married and settled in Edinburgh. Pete had played around the London scene and knew almost every musician of note, including the gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt. Pete had a good collection of records of prominent American jazz guitarists and Dougie became fascinated with these new sounds and became greatly influenced by the recordings of Tal Farlow, Barney Kessel and Jimmy Rainey in particular.
In 1960, Dougie started teaching students in his home and at one stage his guitar teaching skills attracted more than 40 pupils a week. I was one of his pupils in the early 60s and can remember the friendly welcome before we got down to business and the hard graft of the essential scales and exercises he prescribed.
“When you hear a great musician perform,” he said, “you only experience a small fraction of their ability. “It’s like an iceberg in the water. You only see a small piece of its actual mass above the surface.”
Dougie declined offers to join professional touring bands or work on the transatlantic liners, remaining a semi-pro musician while working full-time as a senior technical officer in forensic medicine at Edinburgh University.
In 1981, I travelled to the United States on business and had the pleasure of meeting Farlow in New Jersey. Tal came to Scotland with Red Norvo the following year and played at the Queen’s Hall. I then had the even greater pleasure of introducing Dougie to Tal, his great hero.
Another musician Dougie greatly admired was the Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart, who played in Edinburgh last year. In the evening, Louis joined pianist Brian Kellock at Henderson’s in Hanover Street for an informal performance and Dougie was invited to join them with a borrowed guitar. It was a touching experience for those of us who knew how much this meant to him.
Dougie played his last gig two weeks ago. He was still teaching a few advanced students and enjoyed fairly good health until the end. He will be sadly missed around the Edinburgh jazz scene. He is survived by his wife, Lillian.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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