A Quarter Century of Celtic Rock

The Mudmen with Johnny Reid

Alvinston’s Campbell Brothers mark 25 years on the road

Blake Ellis/Local Journalism Initiative

The Mudmen have had a career, which not only spans a quarter of a century, but also touch many Canadian cultural icons. Founding members Robby and Sandy Campbell hail from Alvinston where it all started.

Sandy was suppose to take violin lessons, but before he could begin, his violin instructor passed away. Instead, they then joined the Strathroy Pipe Band. They took the bagpipes and found ways to play rock music with a Celtic twist and the rest was history.

The brothers were discovered in 1993 and signed with EMI Records as The Campbell Brothers. They then formed the Mudmen in 1998 with original members, Zoy Nicoles, Lonny Knapp, Tommy Skilton, Ryan McCaffrey, with Robby and Sandy on the bagpipes. The Mudmen name came from their work as bricklayer assistants before they made music their full-time gig.

Inspired by groups such as the Irish Rovers and the hard rock group AC/DC, the band mixes its Celtic sound with rock. They even cover AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If you Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) which famously uses the bagpipes within its rock tune.

The Campbell Brothers remain apart of the band which now includes Colin Amey on lead vocals and acoustic guitar, Andy Gingerich on drums, with Alex Showdra on electric guitar and banjo and Jordon Brosseau on bass guitar.
In those early years, the record label would put us in front of crowds hoping the group would grow a following, said Robby, as he explained the record label tried to find a way to promote the group, which mixed the bagpipes with rock music. It took a while to find their niche but this year, they mark 25 years in the business.

“You don’t get into this business thinking you are going to fail,” said Robby. “Time does sneak up on you.”

The Mudmen are embarking on a 25th anniversary tour, which includes a date at the Victoria Theatre Petrolia on Feb. 25. Roddy is looking forward to the Petrolia show, as the brothers graduated from LCCVI. The band is also working on a documentary.

The group has a long resume performing over 3,000 shows and releasing 11 studio albums, the last being Farmers Tan in 2022. The highlights of their careers include playing at a Canada Day celebration on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in front of Queen Elizabeth II, and a reunion for the 1984 Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers, with Wayne Gretzky and all the team in attendance.

They have opened for The Guess Who and ZZ Top. They have performed at seven Grey Cups, three Memorial Cups, and 12 Canada’s Walk of Fame ceremonies.

Robby said growing up in Alvinston has prepared he and his brother for anything. “It keeps you grounded,” he said, noting their mom is still living on the farm near Alvinston, which gives them an excuse to make their way home.
“You can’t deny longevity. We have connected with people,” said Robby