Mudmen clean up nicely after 20 years in music business

The Mudmen are, from left: Sandy Campbell, singer-guitar player Mike Meacher, drummer Jimmy Burton, Dan Westenenk on bass and Rob Campbell. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson

Robby Campbell readily admits The Mudmen have played some pretty boisterous shows.

At bars, community centres and special events around the world, their unique blend of Celtic folk and rock music has been at the centre of some wild times.

It won them a stint with a record label, appearances at numerous NHL events, two shows on Parliament Hill for Canada Day and even a meeting with the Queen.

But after two decades, the group that originated with two brothers from Alvinston on bagpipes, is mixing it up with more family-friendly shows, says Campbell.

“We’re not that punk rock band we were when we were younger,” he said.  “We’ve been winning people over with our Celtic folk rock. Even people who never liked the bagpipes before, say they like us.”

Robby, at age 45, and his brother, Sandy, 48, with their bandmates, are on their 2018 Old Plaid Shirt Tour to mark The Mudmen’s 20th year. They are also working on a book and their 10th studio recording, both due out next year.

Increasingly the tour is focused on all-ages events at theatres and auditoriums.  When The Mudmen come to Sarnia Oct. 12, they’ll play an unlicensed show at the Sarnia Library Theatre.  On Nov. 1, they play at the Kineto Theatre in Forest.

“People who are coming out to our shows like the stories and the personalities,” said Campbell.  “We’re really liking the crowds we get with an early finish. They’re there to listen to the music, not eat cheeseburgers and drink beer.”

The Campbell Brothers grew up in rural Lambton playing the bagpipes and entertaining at Legion halls.

They were members of Toronto’s 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, then formed a group called The Campbell Brothers in the early 90s.  In 1998, they signed with EMI Records and the label pushed for a new name.

“They thought Campbell Brothers was too traditional,” Robby explained. “Sandy and I were both doing the grunt work for some bricklayers at the time, so we came up with The Mudmen.”

Over the years, the Mudmen have played with music greats like The Irish Rovers and John McDermott. They’ve opened for ZZ Top and The Guess Who. Their career highlights are many but the band’s had some rough times too, Robby said.

“Our book, ‘Twenty Years in the Mud’, is going to have all the ups and downs, all the backstabbing. It’s going to explain how Sandy and I were almost thrown out of our own band.”

The CBC’s Ron MacLean is writing the book’s forward. MacLean has been a fan since The Mudmen performed on the Hockey Night in Canada theme song in 2008.

These days, the band is self-managed and doing very well, said Robby.

“Times are good.  We’re playing with a good group of guys now.

“Our friends tell us we should teach a course in how to survive this business.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT? Celtic Folk Rock with The Mudmen. All ages.

WHEN? Friday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m.

WHERE? Sarnia Library Theatre

TICKETS? $25 advance at Cheeky Monkey (519-332-0978), at ticketscene.ca or $28 at the door.