In the early years Mudmen gained fame as a hard-hitting Ontario-based Celtic Rock band, but the band formed 20 years ago by Petrolia bagpipe-playing brothers Sandy and Robby Campbell has a wider range these days.
When needed, they can take some of the edge off and play at big name country music concerts like the Havelock Jamboree.
Their unique sound will be front and centre in Tillsonburg on Friday, June 1st when the Mudmen close the first-ever Kinsmen Bandshell Bash in Memorial Park - a four-band extravaganza with openers Small Town Girls from Langton, who have a 30-minute set starting at 6 pm., with Julia Haggarty from London, and the headliner Bobby Wills from Alberta, concluding with the iconic Mudmen who end the show at 11 p.m.
"We've managed to get in on more than a few country music festivals now," said Mudmen's Sandy Campbell. "Well, you just try to be versatile. Over the years everybody wants to label and categorize your music, and we've kind of avoided that... a bit. We're pretty versatile. We've crossed over... we've played an awesome country fest four or five times out in Manitoba.
"We're certainly able to entertain if you put us on the card, and country festivals have been great. It seems like some rock groups are putting out music under the country umbrella, and a lot of these country acts, they're actually rock.
"If you put a twang in your voice, it helps," he added with a laugh. "I like 'New Country', it's more rock I'd say.
"We joke around, usually, and say 'if you give us a chance, we can entertain.' And not only that, we're the type of band that our whole career we've been right out there meeting everyone. Nobody can take us in the personality, being good to fans department."
As of May 15, tickets for the June 1st grand opening of the Kinsmen Bandshell - with live music, beer tent and food - are available online at www.ticketscene.ca/events/20823/ for $35 or in Tillsonburg at Home Hardware and Chrissy's Corner Store. Funds raised at the Bandshell Bash will benefit Lake Lisgar revitalization, and local KIN projects. VIP tickets, which include a designated seating area closer to the stage and VIP bar and washrooms, are $50.
The Kinsmen hope to see up to 1,000 people at Memorial Park for the inaugural 'Bash.'
This fall, the Mudmen will be completing their 10th album, hoping to have it ready possibly by November.
"And we're going to have a book out as well, 20 Years in the Mud, and we're going to tell our story from the very beginning. You know, two guys and a set of bagpipes and how in the hell did we do what we did?
"Not everyone likes the bagpipes," he deadpanned, "I know that's hard to believe, but..."
In their younger days they had a 'harder' sound, and it helped them reach Top 20 on the Edge Radio and launch six music videos on Much Music/MTV.
"Now we've been doing a lot more theatres, more of a family-type thing. So we can do either. If we have to do a rockin' St. Patty's Day, we can do that no problem. But we can play for kids and seniors, we're much more versatile now."
Sandy said they still have the same drive they had the first day they started 20 years ago.
"We like playing music. And we did have a point to prove," he said, recalling some unflattering reviews in the early days. "I guess you're never done proving that point, too, no matter what you've done.
"The last album we did with our lead singer (Mike Meacher) so we got some new input there," said Sandy, who wrote songs with his brother Robby and Meacher. "And the five of us, of course, all contributed. So getting different members over the years certainly changes things. Mike, our lead singer, and Dan (Westenek) have been with us about two-and-a-half years, and Jeremy (Burton), the drummer, over three years now. And part of that was working with our guitar player, Alex. So usually what happens is, somebody brings a song in. Then we polish it. Rob and I can play guitars, but not very well. So we'll come in with our lyrics and our melodies and we polish..."
"Lyrics-wise, we have lots to draw from in life experiences."
Some of those 'experiences' will come to light in their book, including a story they tell about playing a Walk of Fame that included Eugene Levy, Martin Short, William Shatner, Gordon Lightfoot, The Guess Who, Paul Schaffer - all on one night.
"We were the closing number as The Campbell Brothers. One star was disappointed because he didn't have a shower in his room. I said to my brother, 'Well, we got a shower in our room but not at home.' We lived in a factory for a year-and-a-half and showered at the gym. So when people find out the true stories of being signed to a record deal, and everybody has their little opinions and miffs, and I don't know what they dream about, but we made NOTHING for the four years we were signed to a record deal.
"We were booked by Canada's largest booking agency... we had the manager that managed I Mother Earth, and were signed to EMI Records, and yeah, we got to open for The Guess Who for 30,000 people and Finger Eleven 20,000 and we had videos on Much Music, and we were playing at places like The Royal and Norma Jean's."
Now, Mudmen are independent, self-managed, and now they are making a living. They changed venues, focusing on theatres.
"We sold out the 400-seat theatre in Owen Sound five years in a row, so you can imagine the money you can make at $30 a ticket as opposed to playing a Norma Jean's or wherever where it's a $5 cover. If you're making $600 at a place like The Royal, what are you supposed to do with a six-piece band? What's that going to do?
"For years, we just wanted it so bad that we just kept on following the same pattern that we were put on by our booking agency, management and record label. Now, in the last five or six years we really turned things around. We've kind of come full circle again.
"We had some fun - it was fun - but you know, you have fans who get paid to go to their jobs, but they think you should just do it for the 'love'... and it's like, 'well love only goes so far and then reality kicks in."
The fun included shaking hands with the Queen, great reviews from HNIC's Ron 'Mudmen, we love them' MacLean, and meeting Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers at their 1984 Stanley Cup reunion.
"He (Gretzky) gave us 45 minutes backstage, he's a great guy," said Sandy. "Sarah McLaughlin was on that card too."
MacLean will be writing the forward for their book and Don Cherry will be adding a quote or two.
"We have some good stories," said Sandy, "but obviously we have to be smart and politically correct."
Mudmen's music has been featured on Xbox and Playstation games, NBC's television show The Black Donnelly's, WWE Wrestling, Don Cherry's 9, 19, 20, 21, 24, 27 hockey DVDs, the Mackenzie Brother's TWO-FOUR special on CBC, HBO's Shameless, HNIC Coach's Corner, six music videos on Much Music/MTV, and they've reached Top 20 on the Edge Radio.
In 2008 the Campbell brothers were asked to perform on the new CBC Hockey Night in Canada theme song produced by Canadian icon Bob Rock, where Ron MacLean quoted "Mudmen, we love 'em." This led to many opportunities including a three-month tour, PBS special/DVD and a performance at the Canadian Country Music Awards with Johnny Reid.
The Mudmen have twice appeared on Parliament Hill for Canada Day where they performed and shook hands with the Queen, performed at the Edmonton Oilers home opening ceremonies on CBC, and performed at the Edmonton Oilers' 1984 Stanley Cup reunion with Sarah McLaughlin, Red Ryder, and Wayne Gretzky and the full '84 Oilers team.
Mudmen / Campbell Brothers
List of Accomplishments:
Signed with EMI Records from 2000-2004.
Reached #19 on the Edge Radio 2001.
Six music video's in medium rotation on Much Music 2000 - 2004.
A song on NBC's "Black Donnelly's" commercials around 2005.
A song in WWE Wrestling for "The Highlanders" around 2007.
Bagpipers on the new "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song in 2008 -2014 -Ron McLean quote "Mudmen we love em."
The Edmonton Oilers "Home Opener" televised 2009 - CBC interview after.
A three month tour with Johnny Reid, his PBS special and the CCMA's televised with Johnny - 2010.
Performed on Parliament Hill for Canada Day for the 2nd time and shook hands with The Queen - televised - 2010.
Opened for George Canyon at the Commonwealth Stadium for all the Gold medals in Men's and Women's hockey at the Olympics and almost all members in attendance - 2010.
Walk of Fame Ceremonies - closing act at Roy Thompson Hall with Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Paul Shaffer, the Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, William Shatner, Gordie Howe
Performed at the 83/84 Edmonton Oilers Reunion of the first Stanley Cup-televised with the whole team and Wayne Gretzky present.
Tourism Canada throughout Europe.
The lighting of the CN Tower with Colm Wilkinson (the Phantom of the Opera). Also did Roy Thompson Hall with Colm.
A Private Party for the Governor General of Canada (Michaelle Jean) as well as the CBC Governor Generals Awards in 1998 with the Rankin's, Bruce Cockburn and Royal Canadian Air Farce.
A song on Playstation games.
Opened for The Guess Who, Nazareth, Finger Eleven, Biff Naked, Econoline Crush, David Usher, etc
Don Cherry's video's 9, 19, 20, 24 as well as four "Rose Cherry" benefit evenings.
Don and Ron mentioned The Campbells/ Mudmen and played one of their songs during Coaches Corner 2012.
Performed on the ET Canada Stage for the 2012/2013 New Year's celebration in Niagara Falls.
The Mirvish Production of "Needfire" with Denny Doherty of the Momma's and Poppa's.
Four Grey Cup Parties, three Briers, the IIHF World Hockey Championships, the Memorial Cup twice, the Royal Bank Cup, Dauphins Countryfest three years in a row, Snow Jams Edge Fest, several Highland Games, etc.
And corporate events for Coca Cola three times, Walmart three times (including flying them to Arkansas to be on a card with Jewel and Brookes and Dunn), about seven Rona events, M&M Meats, the Weed Man, Sprint, Kodak, American Standard, The Easy Home Show, and the Cosa Awards.