Mike Campbell’s Heartbreaking Dirty Knobs Set

Music is often a vehicle for healing for listeners, but how do musicians find solace through those same songs? In the instance of Mike Campbell, it looks like he is starting to find a cathartic relationship with music that he was a critical part of for over forty years through his side project, The Dirty Knobs.

Campbell was the guitar player for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Petty and Campbell grew up in Gainesville, FL and created decades of memorable music together. Since Petty’s death last October, the musicians in the Heartbreakers have scattered. Campbell has played intermittent gigs with The Dirty Knobs.

At a concert in Santa Barbara on March 31, an emotional Campbell discussed how he never played Heartbreakers songs with The Dirty Knobs before. He noted how he thought that playing Heartbreakers music would be a “good healing thing.”  Instead of playing music with Petty, he would play the music “for” him. He kicked into a heart-wrenching rendition of “Something Good Coming,” a song from 2010’s Mojo. He followed the song with staples of hundreds of Heartbreakers’ sets, “You Wreck Me” and “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” Campbell also played those three songs at a show this past January.

The scene is an incredibly powerful moment that demonstrates the bond the two musicians formed over the years. It was also intriguing to watching the guitarist work his way through the songs. The situation is especially unusual for Campbell, who seldom sang lead vocals on stage. The 1999 song “I Don’t Wanna Fight” is the only instance that I know of where he took a regular turn behind the lead mic on a tour. Without Petty, it seems as if Campbell is finding his own voice by singing the words of his friend.

It is encouraging to see at least one of the Heartbreakers return to playing the music that filled so many lives with joy. Even though I am a huge Heartbreakers fan, I have not listened to much of their music since Petty died. Watching Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs revisit those songs as a tribute was a signal to me that it is okay to enjoy the music. The “is” of the Heartbreakers that became a “was” is an now an “is” again. The music is still alive, even if the Heartbreakers are no longer together.

Mike Campbell And The Dirty Knobs

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs have been an interesting side project for Heartbreakers fans to follow in recent years. They have not released any albums, but their shows have made for quality YouTube viewing. The band tends to play smaller gigs on the West Coast. Imagine showing up to your local dive and one of the most respected guitar players in rock and roll is playing in the band-you-never-heard-of.

The members of The Dirty Knobs go by Gator, Ape, Crawdaddy, and Swampfox. In addition to Campbell, the band is actually comprised of session drummer Matt Laug (Alanis Morrisette, Slash), guitar player Jason Sinay (Neil Diamond, Jerry Lee Lewis), and bassist Lance Morrison (Don Henley).

Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs are playing The Ride Festival in Colorado and Targhee Festival in Alta, Wyoming on July 14 and July 15.

Mike Campbell And Fleetwood Mac

Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn recently joined Fleetwood Mac for their upcoming An Evening With Fleetwood Mac tour. The tour is scheduled to conclude at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on April 5, 2019.

The pair are replacing longtime Fleetwood Mac member Lindsey Buckingham, who was dismissed from the band. While that situation may be awkward for audiences, the music itself should be amazing. Unfortunately this probably taps the breaks on The Dirty Knobs becoming a full-time effort for Campbell.

Campbell and the Heartbreakers have had a long relationship with Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. In 1981 they recorded the songs “Insider” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” together.


This is the second post in a recurring series from the Flat Circle. Every Monday the Flat Circle will feature a new song, deep cut, or live track from my personal collection or travels on the Internet. Last week’s post looked at The xx deep cut “Insect.”

www.flatcircleblog.com is a Philadelphia pop-culture blog that covers television, music, podcasts, and movies. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, or subscribe by e-mail to catch all posts. 


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