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About Jim Campilongo
Jim Campilongo is a guitarist fluent in Western swing, country-rock, classic rock, and atmospheric jazz. Since the mid-'90s, he has co-founded the 10 Gallon Cats, the Little Willies, his Electric Trio, and the Jim Campilongo Trio, in addition to recording his own eclectic, mostly instrumental solo music. Featuring Norah Jones and Richard Julian on vocals, he made his Billboard 200 debut with Americana group the Little Willies in 2005. Transitioning from more frequent Western-styled projects to a fusion of rock and jazz, his trio has included bassist Chris Morrissey and drummer Josh Dion since the mid-2010s. A contributing editor for Guitar Player Magazine, he is known for playing a 1959 Fender Telecaster and using a hybrid picking technique.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Campilongo 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 try 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 instrument. "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, Table for One, came in 1998 and was met with critical acclaim. Two years after recording Live at the Du Nord in 2000, Campilongo left San Francisco for New York City.
In New York, he formed his Electric Trio with bassist Tim Luntzel and drummer Dan Rieser, as well as the Little Willies with Norah Jones. The latter group also included Rieser, folk singer Richard Julian, and bassist Lee Alexander. With Jones lending vocals to two tracks, the Jim Campilongo Electric Trio released American Hips in 2003. Beginning in 2005, the trio had a Monday night residency at New York's Living Room, where they were joined on-stage by the likes of Charlie Hunter, Norah Jones, Martha Wainwright, and Nels Cline. Also in 2005, the Little Willies issued their self-titled debut. It landed in the Top 50 of the Billboard 200.
The following year brought the Electric Trio's Heaven Is Creepy, and in 2008, Campilongo presented the holiday album Almost Christmas, with guests including pedal steel guitarist Bobby Black and vocalist Brandi Shearer. He followed it in 2010 with the solo album Orange, his most wide-ranging effort to that point. It was produced by Anton Fier, whose resurrected Golden Palominos had also featured Campilongo. That same year, the guitarist was honored by Fender when their custom shop began producing a Campilongo signature Telecaster.
The Little Willies put out their second album, For the Good Times, in 2012. It also reached the Top 50, peaking at number 45. In early 2014, Campilongo released Dream Dictionary with his new trio of bassist Chris Morrissey (Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, Sarah Bareilles) and drummer Josh Dion (Bill Evans, paris_monster). The same lineup returned in 2017 with the Jim Campilongo Trio's Live at Rockwood Music Hall NYC, with Nels Cline joining them on two tracks. Another signature guitar, the Hahn Campilongo Model C, debuted in 2018. ~ Marcy Donelson & Sean Westergaard
- San Francisco, CA
- Jul 8, 1958
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