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Scotland

Alex Campbell

Alex Campbell (1925 - 1987)

Biographical

Alex Campbell was the most important and influential folksinger of the folksong revival in Europe, admired, respected and loved by his fellow performers and his audiences. An outrageous, hard drinking, hard traveling, hard living man.

— Allan Taylor


image Of all of the singers represented on this site, to me, Alex Campbell is the most fascinating. According to the Guinness Book of Folk Music, he was not a technical folk singer, he sang from experience and with feeling. I don't exactly know what is meant by a "technical folk singer" — if I had my choice, Id rather be Alex.

Alex was known for his hard living and heavy drinking, which contributed to his early death in 1987. He was a true busker, learning his trade on the streets of London and Paris.

Alex sang songs of all kinds, from Woody Guthrie to Bob Dylan to Tom Paxton to Donovan; traditional Scottish ballads and his own compositions — including the classic, Been On The Road Too Long. During his career he recorded over 100 albums, many of these for ready cash, and received very little in royalties in his lifetime. It was said that no record did him justice; he had to be seen live. According to Ian McCalaman, "on a good night, Alex was impossible to follow." He could also be a bit contrary in certain situations. Ian tells of the time when the McCalmans, very early in their career, went to find Alex in Denmark, to ask him for a spot at his gig at the local folk club. After introducing themselves as fellow Scotsmen and asking Alex for a spot at his gig, Alex responded, bugger off! Ian continues, I thought to myself, I don't think I care much for him. But, he was okay later, once we'd bloody made it.

Alex had a great passion for life and lived it to the fullest. According to Ewan McVicar, He never ever walked into a room; he always made an entrance. But he could always tell a story against himself. Once he and Hamish Imlach were heading for a gig, and stopped for a drink. In the lounge bar, the barmaid said Yes, gentlemen. Alex said Gentlemen? Before you is the cream of Scottish folk music — Alex Campbell and Hamish Imlach. Well have two pints of your best and twenty Benson & Hedges. The barmaid went through to the saloon bar for the cigarettes, came back and said What was the name again? Alex said Alex Campbell. The barmaid said No, no, what cigarettes?