The Original Road Dog
Red Dog Campbell’s Thirty-Three Years with The Allman Brothers Band
by Michael Buffalo Smith
He’s the most famous “roadie” on the planet, no matter how you slice the pie. Joseph “Red Dog” Campbell, the hard working, hard tripping, hard loving road crew legend has been there since the glory days of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley, and he is still there. Setting up the drums for Butch and Jaimoe and Marc’s percussion.
Red Dog has long been known for his “tales,” his road stories shared between brothers and the few select and special friends. Now, Red Dog has collected the best of those “tails” into a new book that is a must for any Allman Brothers Band fan. The Legendary Red Dog really is a legend.
Cameron Crowe, long time writer for Rolling Stone and the producer of Almost Famous, a movie that draws heavily upon the real life adventures of The Allman Brothers Band, actually wrote Red Dog into his movie by name. What a tribute to the “world’s most famous roadie.” The following is a letter Crowe sent to Red Dog. Further proof that the Dog has been a legend since time began.
“I’ll admit it right now. I am a big fan of Red Dog, and have been even before he allowed me to interview him back in 1973 for a story in Rolling Stone. Hell, he was already legendary back then. But now I just have to say that I am extremely jealous of the Great Dog, because I’ve just finished reading A Book of Tails. True rock, the kind that lasts forever, is about honesty and humor and love and chasing the elusive buzz of greatness.
Red Dog’s book captures all this and more. You can’t put this thing down, and best of all, it makes you want to listen to music. Not just the Brothers, but all music. Red Dog really caught something with his writing. This book, and a copy of “Live at Fillmore East” belong in the time capsule reading — Kick back and see what you missed. Two centuries from now I doubt anybody will have said it better. As you can tell, I’m still a fan.
Love you Dog.
Vinyl Films, Los Angeles, CA
We spoke with Red Dog via the land line from his home. He was deeply involved in rigging a ‘squirrel trap’ at the time. He had suspended a peanut from a string that hung from the branch of a tree. When the squirrel would move toward the peanut, Campbell’s German shepherd would dive for the squirrel. “Evening up the odds,” he called it. All in a day’s work for the mighty Red Dog. GRITZ was extremely grateful to be granted an interview with the Crimson one, and for his personal insight into the legendary Allman Brothers Band.
The book is really good. I had a ball reading it. What I like is that you wrote it in much the same way that you talk. It’s not over anybody’s head.
Timmy probably pulled his hair out working with me. It’s not proper English a lot of the time. But I don’t speak like that. I don’t write like that. I wanted it to be just like I was sitting there on the stage with two or three guys telling tales about things that happened ten years ago.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always wanted to. Duane probably put it in my head when he said I’d be the one to write the book if there ever was one. we were standing in the yellow house one day and Duane walked by me and said “You’ll be the one to write the book, right?” But my gosh, that was thirty years ago. I used to have a real good memory. Duane used to come over and say ‘Red Dog, can you tell me the gigs we’ve played in order?’ and I’d tell him. Finally one day he asked me and i said “No, I can’t do that no more, because there were just too many then. But I think that’s why he said I’d be the one to write the book.
Do you have one particular band member you work for, or do you just do it all?
Well, in the early days you did it all. Matter of fact, when I started, nobody actually took care of drums. In those days they didn’t really have a drum roadie- or technician- whatever they want to call ‘em these days. Everybody has got to have a title. That’s why in the book it says “roadie” by my name. I was a roadie thirty years ago and I’m a roadie today. It hasn’t changed none. In the old days, we used to have to do it all, drive and everything. I’d set up the drums, and if Kim still needed some help with the amp line, I’d just jump over and start setting up the amp line with him. Or I’d help Callahan with the P.A., you know. And vice-versa. if one of them finished before I did, they’d jump right in and help me. In those days, you didn’t have to say ‘Hey, can you help me?’ There was somebody right there. But nowadays everything is what I guess they call specialization. Everybody has there job. I just take care of the two drummers and the percussionist.
Well that’s enough.
(Laughs) well, it’s three-fourths of the truck. we only have a couple of guitar amps and three or four cabinets, and about four bass cabinets. That ain’t too much stuff. We have two guys to do all the guitars and one guy to do all the drums. But I still jump in, like if Gregg needs something, I jump in and help. But everybody does there job pretty good. It works.
When you’re not on the road, what do you do for fun?
I play golf. I used to play a lot of soft ball and baseball. I tore my knee up playing basketball about eight years ago. So soft ball and all that’s out of the picture now. I’ve had a couple of operations on that. and I have a slipped disc in my back, and I’ve had a couple of operations on that, so my activities are limited to golf now. I’m pretty athletic though. I like to play a lot of sports when I’m home. also, I’m in an organization called the I.A. It’s a stage hand union all over the country, Broadway and everything. I’ve been in that over twenty years. Before I got hurt, that’s what I’d do when i was at home- work and play ball. Now, I just play golf. Now I can’t do my union job because I’m not supposed to lift anything over twenty pounds.
After reading your book, I came to feel that in the beginning you guys in the road crew were pretty much treated as equals by the band. Y’all were like brothers. Do you feel like it’s still that way today?
Nah. No, no. It’s changed. It’s a business thing now. Like the new bands coming out today. Everything is so business oriented. In the ‘70’s you had free style music. You had great music. The visual thing was not the important thing. The important thing was the music. The hippies just stood up there and played. Nowadays everything is just so business oriented. You audition for the gig, and Disney puts out a band like In Sync or Backstreet Boys, one of them groups. You don’t have that camaraderie. Everybody is expendable these days. Let’s say the bond is there, it’s still business. In my case, with Gregg, Butch, Dickey and Jaimoe, right? There’s a bond there that has been established over 33 years. So you can’t just push that aside. But yet, it’s still business oriented. You can’t just forget it and say, “Let’s get rid of him.” Like the thing with Dickey.
I was going to ask you about that. What really happened there?
Well, I’ll put it this way, in a nut shell. It’s just 33 years of being together, right? And things going down. And finally it all just comes to the surface. You couldn’t say this happened or that happened. You know what I mean? It’s 33 years. And like back in the early ‘70’s, Gregg’s thing with Scooter wasn’t the most popular thing in the world either. It’s just a marriage, man, and somebody’s just pissed off. Go live with your mama for a while, bitch- I ain’t even talkin’ to you. In a nut shell, that’s it. I mean, a bad marriage doesn’t happen overnight. You started gettin’ up wrong six months ago.
So you are still in touch with Dickey?
Oh God yeah. I play golf with him all the time.
I am a real fan of Dickey’s. I love the guy.
Oh yeah. me too. Let me tell you, all of this shatters my heart.
What would you say is one of the most memorable shows you ever did?
Oh, man. There’s a whole bunch of gigs that was just great. Of course, the Fillmore gigs were unreal. Watkins Glenn was unreal. But the gigs in Piedmont Park that were free- any free gigs- were just a ball. I mean, anytime you set up in the park and play for nothing, that’s a gas, man. Now you have to buy $200 million worth of insurance to do that, so you’re not playing a free gig anymore.
We had some good gigs with Charlie Daniels too. I could probably write another book just on gigs alone.
I enjoyed the part of the book where you were letting fans sneak in the back door at the gigs. Do you have a real camaraderie with the fans?
Oh, I love the people. if the people don’t come, you ain’t got nothin.’ I feel like this. if I go to a baseball game, I want to get my money’s worth. I’m paying enough money for the ticket, so everything ought to be for the audience. But I also like the old days when we used to do free gigs. I used to love that. There was nothing like playing in the park. You were giving something back. it wasn’t like giving to a charity so some guy can ride around in a freaking limousine, ya know? You’re actually giving something back to the people. But those days are gone too, I’m afraid.
We all loved Duane Allman. You knew him as well as anybody. Could you give us your take on your friend Duane?
He was my hero. I mean. I would have followed Duane to the end of the earth. I was older than him, but I respected him enough and loved him enough to do it. Duane had a sixth sense- or a seventh sense, man. He just knew what to do at the right time. There’s a fork in the road, right? if you go to the left, there’s a pot of gold. If you go to the right, you’re in a pile of crap. Duane could walk right up to the fork without thinking and say ‘let’s go to the left.’ And he’d come out smelling like a rose. But he was fair. he was honest. He was up front and didn’t beat around the bush. You didn’t have to hear (drags voice) “Well, you know....I was thinkin’...It ain’t really nice for me to say it, but..” You didn’t have to hear it. He’d just say, “Red Dog, you messed up bad man. We’re gonna have to let you go.” There wouldn’t be no beatin around the bush. I try to live like that myself. I just don’t have the tactfulness or the position in life to deal the other way. So I just hit it, bam-bam-bam. (Laughs) I don’t really think you can put it into words, on Duane. He used to say, “You guys do all the work. We just come over and have fun.” That’s really what it’s all about. If these musicians say “I’m out here working my butt off, something’s wrong.” I mean, if he ain’t out there playing and having fun, something’s wrong. It’s at the stage of the game now where it’s not work. It’s “Hey, let’s enjoy ourselves and play.” The roadie’s the guy who’s doing the work to get the thing going.
Tell me a little about the Fillmore auditorium and Bill Graham.
The Fillmore East was unreal, man. Bill Graham had that thing man- it was the place to play. You’d go in there and set your stuff up on dollies. Nowadays we leave a lot of things in the case trays and all like that. But at the Fillmore they had these dollies. And after you played there one time, they knew what your gear looked like. When you’d come back, them dollies were even better, to go with your gear. They put everything on them 4-wheeled dollies, and rather than having to carry everything out onstage, they just rolled it out there. So when it came time to change the stage it was bang-bang-bang and out of there. Next band. the Fillmore just sounded good too. Look at that Fillmore East album. That’s one of the best live ones ever laid down.
It’s always been in my top two albums ever. That and Derek & The Dominos Layla record.
It’s amazing to me the Allman Brothers don’t get anymore recognition than they get. They always come up with some band who had a hit single 30 years ago. You would think that the band that had the best live album to this day would get more air play, but they just don’t for some reason. They play it a little on the classic rock stations, but you don’t ever hear ‘em on the tube unless we do something wrong.
MTV covered it when Dickey was fired.
That’s what they love, man. It just broke my heart though. Not to take anything away from Warren. Warren is good too. But I still say you could tale Gregg and Butchie, Jaimoe and Dickey and have a show. Just the four of them would give you one kick ass show. You could sit up there and trip for three or four hours. Them guys are masters.
What did you think of the band during the days of Woody and Haynes?
I liked it. I mean, the difference between Allen and O’teil, is Allen would stay in the pocket more, and his flair outs had a little more drive to ‘em. Allen was more of a driving bass player. O’teil is more of a finesse bass player, and when he comes out of the pocket sometimes he loses the feel. The tune is pumping-book, boom, book- like a train coming at you. And O’teil will come out of the pocket and play these jazz licks. You lose the pop of the thing. It changes. But he comes right back and it goes again.
Were you close to Allen Woody?
Oh yeah. You pretty much accept everyone when they come into the band. It’s a brotherhood. Unfortunately, the business thing doesn’t allow that to go to deep. But there is an acknowledgement of “hey man, we were brothers of the road for a while here.” Yeah, I respected Allen a lot. I loved him man, loved him. It broke my heart that he had to pass away.
Which brings us to Joe Dan Petty.
Oh man. That’s a tough one. Me and Joe Dan was truly the odd couple. It was like people used to say, they’re just like a married couple, leave ‘em alone. Joe Dan would want the room cold, I’d want the room hot. He’d want to watch Discovery and I’d want to watch the news. We had all of those things like that back and forth, but yet we had a big bond between us. We were room mates for 28 years so obviously we had something there. He was just a great person though. Joe Dan was a little more subdued than I am. He was a little more slower, I’m a little more hyper. We were just a great match. One kept the other in check. Probably more so Joe Dan keeping me in check. (Laughs)
It was very cool to see you portrayed by name in Cameron Crowe’s movie Almost Famous. How did you feel about that?
It felt great! Duane used to say when he’d go out onstage and hear the applause it was music to his ears. That was music to my ears. Me and Dickey kind of took Cameron under our wing back when he first came out to write about us. I can remember Cameron wanting to go over and talk to Gregg or Dickey, they’d be talking to somebody else, and he’d be wanting to interview them. I’d tell him to wait until the time was right. Then I’d say, ‘Get on over there. Go on now!’ I’d help him pick his spots where he could zip in there and get his interviews, where he’d actually get something. Instead of going over there and something else is on their mind and they just give you little nibbles. My man just paid me back. He throwed me a bone. When he called me and told me he was putting me in it, he said ‘We’re gonna get you in the rock and roll hall of fame.’ Man, he blew me away with what he said about my book. I knew I had done something when he said what he did. and I know he wouldn’t just blow smoke. I knew I had done something good.
I read in the book that you knew Janis Joplin. What was she like?
I thought that she was a sweetheart. She was like Duane. She was up front. When you talked to her, you didn’t get any bull, you got straight conversation. She was into the people. She was into doing free concerts. She was just a rowdy ol’ mama that sang the blues and loved it, and lived it.
And boy could she ever sing!
And the trouble is, she wouldn’t make it today. They have disoriented the kids, pumping all that bass and everything. And rap. They think that’s singing. That ain’t singing.
Was Duane the unspoken band leader of the Allmans?
Without a doubt he was the leader. What he said went. Everybody respected Duane. If Duane said ‘we’re leavin’ here right now,’ we were leavin.’ That’s what made the band so good was that everybody respected his opinion. But Oak was the underlying force. Berry Oakley. Oak did most of the talking. At meetings and stuff Oak did the rapping. When we’d go into a meeting, Berry would bring up the questions. Like I said in the book, one time Phil said to Duane, “Do I have to meet with the roadies?” Duane told him, “This is the band.” And in the book I was talking about the gold record deal, where Dixie said she wanted it, and Duane told her ‘You didn’t earn it.” A guys tells you something like that right in front of his old lady, that’s something. These days that doesn’t happen anymore. Sometimes you wonder if people appreciate what you do. It’s all business now. You can be replaced tomorrow. The road crew changes constantly. I’m the only original crew man left.
Back to your book for a minute. The book is as much a must for an Allman fan as the Fillmore East album, I think.
The book and the music go hand in hand. You can almost tell by the drug what the time period was. The first album was a lot of psychedelics. Second album was speed and downers. of course there was always pot involved. And the Fillmore East of course was just pure heroin. On the nod. Here the best, high energy album recorded is on heroin. That’s pretty wild. But of course, when you do heroin, you get kind of pumped up for the first couple of hours before it settles in on you. That is when you’re first starting to do it. After a few years that changes. This was during our early heroin use. We weren’t really bad junkies at that time. We were just users.
How long were you into heroin?
I gave it up about ‘73. I’m brain dead on that. Sometimes I can remember, sometimes I can’t.
When they write the definitive book of Southern rock and roll- how would you like to be remembered?
By my book. (Laughs) Duane had a saying that he he wanted to just leave a mark that he had been here. Hopefully with my book I have put a scratch on that tree of life.