Jim Campilongo was born and raised in San Francisco and began playing guitar in the mid-'70s, buying his first guitar with Green Stamps. His first teacher exposed him to a wide variety of music, but it was hearing Roy Buchanan that convinced him to make a living as a guitarist. By the early '90s, Campilongo was taking guitar students, in addition to playing with a variety of groups in a variety of styles. In 1990, one of those students gave him a 1959 Telecaster in exchange for some bass lessons and it quickly became Campilongo's signature.
"Playing that '59 Tele changed everything for me. It was like it told me to get serious.” Around 1993, Campilongo formed the 10 Gallon Cats with steel guitarist Joe Goldmark. They released their debut album of Speedy West/Jimmy Bryant-inspired instrumentals in 1996 and ultimately recorded three albums as a band. Campilongo's first solo album came in 1998; the critically acclaimed Table for One. After a live recording in 2000, Campilongo left San Francisco for New York City in 2002.
There he formed his new Electric Trio as well as the Little Willies with Norah Jones. Since 2005, Campilongo's Electric Trio has had a Monday night residency at New York's Living Room, where he as been joined on-stage by the likes of Charlie Hunter, Norah Jones, Martha Wainwright, and Nels Cline. In 2010, Campilongo released Orange, his most wide-ranging effort to date.
It was produced by Anton Fier, whose resurrected Golden Palominos have also featured Campilongo.
That same year, Campilongo was honored by Fender when their custom shop began producing a Campilongo signature Telecaster. In early 2014, he released Dream Dictionary with his new trio of Chris Morrisey (bass) and Josh Dion (drums). In addition to playing, Campilongo still teaches and is also a contributing editor for Guitar Player Magazine. ~ Sean Westergaard