The Latest Buzz: A Brief Introduction to Rockabilly

Hello, everyone. This is my first column for Guitar World, so I thought I’d introduce myself.

My name is Buzz Campbell. I've been playing guitar professionally for the last 20 years. Based out of San Diego, California, I started my own group in 1991 called Hot Rod Lincoln.

I also worked from 2000 to 2004 with Sha Na Na, a 1950s-style band that performed at Woodstock, in the movie Grease and on their own TV show, which aired from 1975 to 1981. I left that group to become a full-time member of the Lee Rocker Band.

Lee is the bassist for the Stray Cats, who had some giant hits in the early Eighties, such as “Stray Cat Strut,” “Rock this Town” and “Sexy and 17.” I’ve been playing lead guitar for Lee since 2004.

I still perform with the latest version of Hot Rod Lincoln, now called Buzz Campbell & Hot Rod Lincoln, and I've just released my debut CD as Buzz Campbell, a solo artist. It’s called Shivers & Shakes.

I hate to classify myself as anything, but I guess if you were to see and hear me play, you’d most likely say I'm a rockabilly-style player.

If you haven’t heard the word rockabilly before, first let me say shame on you for not knowing your music history. However, you’re in good company as radio stations don’t seem to know the genre, either.

Rockabilly started in the mid- to late Fifties, when rhythm and blues collided with country or “hillbilly” music. Hence “rock-a,” meaning rock ‘n’ roll (which in its earliest form was upbeat blues music) and “billy,” meaning country or hillbilly music. Smash it together, and you get rockabilly!

Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent and hundreds of other known and lesser-known artists invented—and for a short time—had hits in the late Fifties with this genre. In the mid-Eighties, there was a short resurgence of this style of music (Stray Cats, Pole Cats, Guana Batz, Levi Dexter & the Rockats, the Blasters, etc.).

We rockabilly guitarists are a dying breed. Although most people from age 8 to 80 usually dig our sound, we are still very much unknown. Even Sirius/XM satellite radio has blues and roots country stations, but searching the channels for rockabilly music is like trying to find a good Mexican food in the Midwest. Luckily, with Internet radio and blogs like this, we are being slightly represented.

So do yourself a favor: Take a break from Lady Gaga and check out some rockabilly. Here are some helpful places to go and get some information about it:

Check out this Rockabilly Hall of Fame link for everything rockabilly ...

... and be sure to investigate for some cool rockabilly Internet radio.

Here's Buzz Campbell & Hot Rod Lincoln in action at the Gretsch Booth at Winter NAMM 2010:

Buzz Campbell, who is based in San Diego, plays guitar in the Lee Rocker Band and in Buzz Campbell & Hot Rod Lincoln. Check out the new Buzz Campbell solo album, Shivers & Shakes.

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