“Rock and roll is not pretty, but somebody’s gotta do it.” – Bobby Campo.
I only met him once, but that statement has been stuck in my head for more than 30 years. Bobby Campo was then (and for most of the past four decades) percussionist, horn player and violinist for LeRoux (or Louisiana’s LeRoux to use the name they went under for their first two albums. Like most rock musicians he is a hard working guy, but you’ve probably never heard his name before. He’s not a superstar; LeRoux haven’t had a hit since I saw them last all those years ago. I suspect that they all have other jobs these days and play the nostalgia circuit occasionally. The truth is though that even with the band’s success in the early eighties, sometimes another job was necessary.
Bobby’s statement to me about the prettiness of rock and roll was made when he heard I was from Ottawa. He mentioned that he had been here and he thought it was a lovely city. I knew that Leroux had never performed here, so I asked him if it had been a vacation visit. Turns out that he had been there with another band: The Beach Boys.
Before you run through all the members of the beach Boys in your head trying to remember Bobby Campo, there is no point. I didn’t say he was a member of the Beach Boys. They did have other musicians that travelled with as backup (country singer Glen Campbell, for example, played bass for the Beach Boys for a while in the early sixties). Bobby wasn’t a backup band member though. He was the driver of the tour bus.
I was a little surprised to hear that. More than 30 years later such a story wouldn’t surprise me at all – I`ve spent a lot of time with musicians and have a better understanding of the lifestyle. Being a musician is not, for the most part, a glamourous life. There’s a lot of competition, and making a living from your music isn’t easy. It might even be more difficult now than it was back then when you needed record label support to be heard. I have heard stories of Nashville-based musicians bagging groceries at the local supermarket between tours. For a musician, driving the Beach Boys tour bus was probably more fun than that.
In the almost 40 years I have been involved in the music business in one way or another I have met a lot of musicians, from the superstars like U2 (who admittedly weren’t superstars when I first met them) to stars like Gordon Lightfoot to a whole lot of people you have never heard of. Some of them play 300 shows a year, just to try to make ends meet, just to live their dream.
So thank you to Bobby Campo and the thousands of other lesser-known musicians who show up every night to entertain, who keep the music alive. Rock and roll is not pretty, but somebody has to do it.