The Campbell Brothers and Louisiana Blues Throwdown at Edison Theatre Feb. 15

Sacred Steel gospel meets New Orleans funk and soul; ovations! for young people matinee Feb. 16.

The Campbell Brothers are the grand masters of Sacred Steel, a vital yet little-known African-American gospel tradition built around the pedal steel guitar. In February the Campbell Brothers will join forces with Gulf Coast all-stars Louisiana Blues Throwdown for “Sacred Funk,” a special one-night-only concert of Sacred Steel gospel and New Orleans-style funk and soul.

Presented by the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series at Washington University, “Sacred Funk” begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15. Tickets are $30; $25 seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children.

The Campbell Brothers
The Campbell Brothers join Louisiana Blues Throwdown for “Sacred Funk” Feb. 15.

In addition, the Campbell Brothers will present an all-ages matinee as part of the ovations! for young people series at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. Tickets are $7.

Tickets for both performances are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or email

The steel guitar was developed in Hawaii around 1900 and popularized by Hawaiian groups at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Built from solid wood — a type of construction not commercially adapted to Spanish-style guitars until the 1950s — the steel guitar is designed to be played horizontally using a sliding steel bar. Variations of the instrument include the lap-steel guitar and pedal-steel guitar.

Sacred Steel music first emerged in the 1930s at the Pentecostal House of God, Keith Dominion churches, where it has been an integral part of worship for more than 60 years. Charles “Chuck” T. Campbell — whose father was a bishop in the church — began playing lap steel guitar at age 12 and at age 17 became one of the first players in the church to utilize pedal steel guitar.

Today Chuck Campbell is recognized as a great innovator and teacher in the tradition, celebrated for his picking techniques and for his use of distortion and “wah” pedaling, which enable him to uncannily emulate the human voice and evoke images of gospel moaning and field singing. In 2004 Chuck received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship — the nation’s highest honor for traditional artists.

The Campbell Brothers
The Campbell Brothers

In addition to Chuck, the Campbell Brothers feature Darick Campbell on lap steel guitar; Phil Campbell on electric guitar; and Phil’s son, Carlton, on drums. Rounding out the band, which has been playing together for nearly two decades, are bassist Malcolm Kirby and gospel vocalists Denise Brown (a cousin) and Katie Jackson.

Since the mid-1990s the Campbell Brothers — the first Sacred Steel group to tour extensively — have released a string of acclaimed studio albums, including Pass Me Not: Sacred Steel Guitars (1997), Sacred Steel On Tour! (2001), Sacred Steel for the Holidays (2001) and Can You Feel It? (2005). They’ve also released two instructional albums and are featured on the DVD Sacred Steel: The Steel Guitar Tradition of the House of God Churches.

Louisiana Blues Throwdown began as a series of “all-star” concerts produced and directed by New Orleans-based guitarist Marc Stone, a radio DJ and music journalist who began playing blues clubs at the age of 17.

The Throwdown’s traveling incarnation, launched last year, features Stone and a group of rising talents along with veterans Vasti Jackson, a Mississippi-born bluesman whose work has been featured in numerous films, including Martin Scorcese’s The Blues series; and soul powerhouse Mathilda Jones, a Louisiana native who got her start in high school backing the young Al Green.

Louisiana Blues Throwdown has appeared at clubs and festivals across the South. In 2006 Stone produced “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a benefit concert for the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic. That show featured many of the city’s finest players as well as the group’s first collaboration with the Campbell Brothers — a collaboration that directly resulted in their current “Sacred Funk” tour.


Founded in 1973, the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis.

Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors. The OVATIONS! Season is supported by The Mid-America Arts Alliance with generous underwriting by the National Endowment for the Arts and foundations, corporations and individuals throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Calendar Summary

WHO: The Campbell Brothers and Louisiana Blues Throwdown

WHAT: Concert, “Sacred Funk”

WHEN: OVATIONS!: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 ovations! for young people: 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.

WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

TICKETS: OVATIONS!: $30; $25 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students and children. ovations! for young people: $7. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets

SPONSORS: Dance St. Louis and Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series