Darick Campbell, one of the trio of brothers who made up the scintillating Rochester sacred-steel band The Campbell Brothers, has died.
The band announced the news Monday morning on Facebook that Campbell had passed away in Atlanta, where he lived. No cause of death was given.
Together with his older brothers Chuck and Phillip, and his nephew Carlton, The Campbell Brothers emerged from the closeted world of their church to take their sound across the United States, Europe, Africa and even China.
Sacred-steel music and the African-American House of God church goes back to the 1930s, when the steel guitar was introduced as an alternative to the church organ. Darick played the lap steel, and even released an instructional video on playing the instrument.
With Phillip Campbell on electric guitar, Chuck Campbell on pedal steel, and Phillip’s son Carlton on drums, and usually augmented by a female vocalist, The Campbell Brothers created a room-shaking blend of gospel, country, rock, jazz and soul. When the band was inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame in 2018, it was joined onstage by the pedal-steel giant Robert Randolph.
Admirers of The Campbells included The Allman Brothers Band, who brought band members onstage with them on several occasions, and John Medeski of the jazz-jam fusion band Medeski Martin & Wood, who produced one of the band’s albums.
In 2012, Chuck and Darick Campbell signed on with the sacred-steel supergroup The Slide Brothers and played on the Experience Hendrix Tour, celebrating the music of Jimi Hendrix alongside the likes of Randolph, Buddy Guy, Keb’ Mo’, Dweezil Zappa, Taj Mahal and Bootsy Collins. The Slide Brothers also released an album and took the exuberant sound to mainstream audiences via "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Darick Campbell continued to play with Keb’ Mo’ from time to time.
The Campbell Brothers released their first album in 1997, and have released four more since then.
The Campbell Brothers grew up on Ripley Street in the shadow of their Rochester church on North Goodman Street. Their father, Bishop Charles Campbell, was pastor of the House of God, Keith Dominion branch, before moving with a portion of that congregation to found a new House of God in Rush in 1998.
The Campbell Brothers parted ways with the Nashville-based House of God Church, Keith Dominion, because the Pentecostal church wanted to keep the music within its walls. The Campbells, who were becoming increasingly in demand at music festivals, wanted to take the stunningly beautiful and emotional sound to the world, welcoming ears of all faiths to the music.
It was a difficult decision for the Campbells, who had grown up playing the music at the church in Rush. The parting was acrimonious; lawyers got involved.
“We’ve gone to church every day of our lives,” Darick Campbell said in a 2013 interview. Now his church, he joked, is “bedside Baptist.”
But he also noted then that sacred steel music from Finland and Amsterdam could now be found on YouTube. If the church wasn’t willing to spread the sacred steel word, he said, social media will do it.
“The music,” he said, “definitely has won.”
Although Darick Campbell had moved to Georgia, he was frequently in Rochester, where his brothers live. The Campbell Brothers played the Rochester International Jazz Festival several times, most recently in 2019. Darick Campbell also frequently played with many other Rochester musicians as well, at a variety of venues, including Abilene Bar & Lounge and the Fairport Music and Food Festival.
Despite the band’s split from the church that they grew up in, he was a member of the House of God Atlanta, even performing there.
Darick Campbell is survived by his wife, Pam, a daughter and a granddaughter. Funeral and memorial services have not yet been announced.
Jeff Spevak is WXXI’s Arts & Life editor and reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.