Vivian Campbell

Vivian Campbell bigraphy, stories - Musician, songwriter

Vivian Campbell : biography

25 August 1962 –

Vivian Patrick Campbell (born 25 August 1962) is a Northern Irish rock guitarist who is a member of Def Leppard and was a member of Thin Lizzy from May 2010 to November 2011. Prior to joining Def Leppard in April 1992, he had been a member of Whitesnake, Sweet Savage, Trinity, Riverdogs, and Shadow King. He first rose to prominence in 1982 as the original guitarist of the band Dio.


At the beginning of Campbell’s career, his main instrument was a Les Paul with DiMarzio pickups. This guitar was used on Dio’s Holy Diver, as can be seen in the booklet pictures. As so-called superstrats became increasingly popular among metal guitarists in the mid-1980s, Campbell switched to a Charvel. Vivian recounts in the October 1985 issue of Guitar for the Practicing Musician that he read in a Gary Moore interview about Grover Jackson and Charvel. He subsequently contacted the company. Grover came down to a rehearsal for the first album and gave Vivian a guitar. He had it repainted with the "Holy Diver" artwork. Vivan used a combination of Duncan J.B Custom’s and Invaders for the "Last in Line" tour. For the "Sacred Heart" album he started using the Charvel pickups "which were a lot like the Duncan’s but hotter" to quote Vivian from the article. At around the same time he filmed an instructional video in which he plays a blue B.C. Rich ST, a model first produced circa 1986.

When he joined Whitesnake, Campbell acquired a pink-red-and-yellow Rand, a high-end 27-fret guitar handmade by Rand Havener, a former B.C. Rich employee. This guitar featured innovative sculpted wings, almost no neck heel due to its neck-through construction, a pointy, very droopy headstock, a pao ferro fretboard, custom inlays, a Floyd Rose bridge, and two Tom Anderson custom pickups. It can be seen in the "Still of the Night" video; another Rand was used in the video for "Is This Love."

During the same period (1987–1988), Campbell had Dallas-area luthier Buddy Blaze make him a custom guitar. This instrument, nicknamed the Shredder, had a Strat-shaped mahogany body with polka-dot graphics, a 24-fret neck with "ping-pong" inlays (going from top to bottom up to the 12th fret and vice versa up to the 24th fret) on its ebony fretboard, a pointy reverse headstock, and two Seymour Duncan humbucker pickups, a Full Shred in the bridge position and a JB in the middle position. The bridge was a Floyd Rose. A deal was then set up between Buddy Blaze and Kramer Guitars, and the Shredder went into production under the name NightSwan. Vivian signed with Kramer as an endorser, and there are a few ads showing him with this guitar. He played the original Shredder through Whitesnake’s 1987-1988 world tour.

After leaving Whitesnake, Campbell initially played a custom-made Tom Anderson Strat-style guitar in the Riverdogs and Shadow King. When he joined Def Leppard Campbell had more custom Andersons built, which he used throughout the Adrenalize tour. During the recording of Slang, Campbell switched back to Les Pauls and currently continues to play Gibson guitars.

A detailed gear diagram ‘Vivian’s 2011 Def Leppard guitar rig’ is well-documented.Cooper, Adam (24 May 2011) . GuitarGeek.Com


Youth and early career

Campbell was born in Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and attended Rathmore Grammar School. He began playing guitar at the age of 12. He has played for Sweet Savage, Dio, Trinity, Whitesnake, Riverdogs, and Shadow King. He also played on Lou Gramm’s (from Foreigner) second solo album Long Hard Look.

Sweet Savage

Sweet Savage was a NWOBHM band that Campbell joined when he was 15. The band members in Sweet Savage included Campbell on guitar, Trev Fleming on guitar, David Bates on drums and Ray Haller on bass and vocals. The band influenced Metallica, who covered the song "Killing Time" as a B-side for their "The Unforgiven" single. It was also included on Metallica’s Garage Inc. covers album. In 1981 they released an e.p. consisting of four BBC radio sessions and their first single "Take No Prisoners". "Take No Prisoners" included the song "Killing Time". Much later in the late 90s after Metallica covered "Killing Time", there was interest in Sweet Savage and they released an album without him. Campbell left Sweet Savage in early 1983 to join Dio after Jake E. Lee (the original Dio guitarist) was offered Randy Rhoads spot as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist on December 1982, when Ronnie James Dio was forming his own band. Vivian Campbell later guested on Sweet Savage’s cover of the Thin Lizzy song "Whiskey in the Jar".