They’ve shaken hands with the Queen and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
But through it all, Mudmen’s Campbell brothers are still just two guys from a little town in southwestern Ontario.
Described as always entertaining and definitely unique, Mudmen are known as a blast of Celtic energy, featuring dueling bagpipes as well as fiddle, mandolin, drums and guitar.
And they’re all known to be characters both on and off stage.
Now, they’re headed to London for ShamRock Fest, March 12, at the Metroland Media Agriplex.
As always, the guys are looking forward to meeting their fans.
“A lot of bands stand up there and say they love their fans and that’s not always the case. But we’re really approachable. We’ve taken pictures, and we’ve boosted cars,” said younger brother Robby with a laugh. “We play a lot of fun music, and we have a great time. We’re all about building a legion of fans . . . they mean so much to us.”
Growing up in Alvinston, just an hour southwest of London, the pair was encouraged to get involved in music by their mother, who played piano in a little Celtic band.
According to Robby Campbell, older brother Sandy was just 13 when he first took up the bagpipes — though they hadn’t necessarily been the first choice.
“My brother was supposed to learn the fiddle . . . but the fiddle teacher died,” he explained. “But there was a guy who taught the pipes and was in the local pipe band — he was the town barber in Glencoe. He said he’d teach him, but Sandy had to join because they’re always looking for new members.”
Pretty soon that knowledge was passed from brother to brother, with no regrets. Though there may have been a little teasing from time to time.
“I loved playing the pipes growing up and we just kept advancing more and more,” said Sandy, adding unfortunately there were always one or two people who liked to make fun.
But, after reaching No. 19 on Canada’s largest rock station, not to mention releasing eight albums, these days it’s easy not to hold a grudge.
“Unfortunately the instrument gets portrayed in the worst possible light it can,” said Robby. “If there was an un-cool instrument to play, and it wasn’t the accordion or banjo, it’s the bagpipes. Hopefully we’re helping change that.”
It all started back in 1998, when the duo simply known as The Campbell Brothers, began touring with groups like The Irish Rovers and The Chieftains.
“When you play the bagpipes, you kind of have to make a home for yourself,” Robby explained. “We hoped to make a bit of a name for ourselves, then we started to reconstruct the instrument and put a band around us.”
After initially signing a record deal, thanks to their involvement in a Mirvish Production called Need Fire, the group changed its name to Mudmen in 2000 — after the brothers’ previous gig in construction, mixing mortar for bricklayers.
The rest, according to the Campbells, is history.
Looking back on their extensive resume, which has included everything from Bob Rock’s Hockey Night in Canada anthem, to theme music for the WWE tag team The Highlanders, the brothers know they’ve accomplished a lot over close to two decades.
“We’ve said we’ve been down every road in this business, but people don’t realize everything we’ve done,” said Robby. “We’ve been a part of Bob and Doug McKenzie’s Two-Four Anniversary, five Grey Cup festivals, four or five Briers. We’ve been around.”