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Southbound sizzles at Saloon session

Written by Mickey Mentz

Bless these old school blues-rockers who have somehow managed to stay together for more than a decade, despite the fact that half the band is strictly supposed to wear kilts at official events.

More importantly though, bless them for being one of very few bands in South Africa – if not the world – that is capable of doing an very respectable rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Money”.

Just to master the unique timing of that song must taken at least a decade and along with some other classics from the 70s and 80s, they delivered one of the more slick performances the Karoo Saloon locals were fortunate enough to witness before the Covid curtains were drawn for a second time.

Heck, the tracks they composed themselves weren’t half bad either.

“When people say ‘oh why don’t you play something that we know’ I think you only know that because some band played that and it was an original to start with,” Southbound keyboard and vocalist Paul Campbell said.

Southbound’s John Campbell and Charl Avenant rocking out at the Karoo Saloon: Picture: Herman van Wyk

“Sure they got radio play and whatever, but if that band did not do start by playing their own songs, you would not know it.”

His brother John, the band’s bass player who occasionally contributes on lead guitar and vocals, added: “That’s the thing and it has always been like that in South Africa.

“In the UK you would never go to play in a pub to play covers because you could go and see Dire Straits or whoever if they were touring. People insisted that you played original music.”

Personal preference aside, they have been in the game long enough to know which covers work best in a biker bar like the Karoo Saloon.

Enter Mark Neville, the native drummer who rediscovered his passion for music when his family (much to their delight/detriment) surprised him with a new kit on his 40th birthday.

“They regret doing that now,” Mark quipped, while his Scottish colleagues made their final adjustments before the show.

Mark was introduced to the drums as a 12 year-old, but much like the rest of his band, he needed a wake-up call much later in life to restart that flame that had died over the years.

As fate would have it, he was introduced to lead guitarist Charl Avenant at the first Blues Summit in Cape Town and the pair later discovered the Campbell brothers (no they are by no means related to Die Campbells who play both Country and Western music) through Gumtree.

Ten years, a few shows and a self produced CD later, and it would appear that these lads have set their sights on another decade of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll – without the sex and drugs, they have wives and medical conditions these days.

This was, however, not the case back in 1982 when people were able to move around freely, liquor stores were open pretty much 24/7 and the music was made by actual musicians.

In 1982 the Campbell brothers arrived in SA as part of the Danny Fisher Road Show, and due to circumstances beyond their control, they never returned home.

Those circumstances included loud parties, beautiful women and a music circuit that still provided decent pay and top notch accommodation to touring musicians.

“We came out to play the Holiday Inn circuit and never went home,” Paul recalled.

“There was a stage when we were thrown out of the country because something was wrong with our work permits, but we soon returned,” he added.

Back then bands would play at a Holiday Inn for three months at a time (sometimes up to six months) before moving on to the next hotel.

When the work permit-related heat was on them, John used his street smarts (or as he put it ‘bullshitted my way in’) to secure a job as a production planner for Unilever while Paul stuck it out with Danny on the Wild Coast for a couple of years.

In another twist, life again took a drastic turn – this time for the better, as Paul fell in love with a lovely lady who would one day allow him to convert a room in their home into a studio.

“We got married to local lassies and had kids with them, so we had to be sensible. So we both started working for Sun International – because we played gigs with them before, they knew who we were,” John said.

“We rose to quite auspicious positions with them, Paul is the general manager of the Caledon Casino and Spa and I recently retired from the Grand West Casino.”

“It was really satisfying to write and record our own stuff,” Paul added.

“John did a lot of the writing and I did a lot of the arranging and producing for the album we released in 2018.”

John and Paul Campbell along with Charl Avenant through a window. Picture: Herman van Wyk

Southbound’s album Steamin Ahead is available on all digital platforms, but as satisfying as having a refined compilation of original tracks my be, the lads sure enjoy being out and about, performing live.

“The other day we played a bowling club in Edgemead and you think to yourself, what are these guys doing in a bowling club, but all the dudes there were about our age,” Paul sais.

“The guys were going crazy. They were up on the stage playing air guitar when we played Smoke On The Water. I was getting notes from the old ducks  – it was one of the best gigs we played.”

They noted that it was great to see that there is still was a crowd out there that liked live music, but then they also realized that their crowd is not able to stay up that late anymore.

About the author

Mickey Mentz

From my Barrydale base, my goal is to tell the stories of people and places on the picturesque R62. Ek het oor die jare 'n cappuccino verslawing ontwikkel en my hond se naam is Karoolus.

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