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Clifton Lawyer, John Campbell '77, updates folk sound of the 1960s with own songs, CD

By Paul Clark -

By day he's John L. Campbell, Cincinnati attorney at law. By night, he's Ledyard Campbell, songwriter and '60s-style troubadour. But understand that the expression "by night" is purely metaphorical. Whether working with writs or riffs, Campbell is a Sunshine Superman.

"I took a year off in '73 to '74 in San Francisco," says Campbell, 63. "I sang on the streets, sometimes in clubs. I realized I didn't want to be a nightclub entertainer the rest of my life, partly because I like to get up early."

No matter. He has just released an album of original songs, "It's All in the Music" on the Echo Mountain Records label under the name Ledyard Campbell.

"Ledyard is my middle name, and I use it because it happens to be a less common name," he says. "When I Googled 'Ledyard Campbell' and didn't find it, I said, 'Yeah, that will work.' "

Campbell cut his musical teeth in the '60s while attending boarding school in Portsmouth, R.I., where he and a couple of classmates formed an act in the style of the Kingston Trio, once appearing on Ted Mack's "Original Amateur Hour" program on CBS.

Campbell describes his current sound as "not quite folk, not quite ballad," guitar accompanied by piano and violin. "It's a new sound from the '60s," he says. "New words, new music."

The album's tracks include an ode called "Angels on the River," inspired the misty Ohio River, and a protest-song spoof called "Conventional Wisdom."

I can sing a song about the right to strike or the right to pray

Tell you what I think about the right or the left in the political arena today

I could even sing a little ditty to you on the rights of the folks who are gay

But I don't see why I should go and sing some song and have you disagree with what I say

The album's producer is Campbell's son Nick, 29, a musician based in North Carolina. Also supervising is Campbell's brother-in-law Russell T. Walden, former music director for '60s singer-songwriter Judy Collins.

A married empty-nester who lives in Clifton, Campbell specializes in estate planning and probate administration as a partner with Kohnen & Patton LLP. As he explains it: "I help people give away their money."

It's a genteel practice in contrast to what he calls the "shin-kicking litigation" that might seem more suited to a former Colorado College hockey player and Marine lieutenant. The Minnesota native also worked as a newspaper reporter in Alaska before earning his law degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1977.

He resettled in Cincinnati about 20 years ago after practicing international law in New Zealand. For the past five years, he's been singing with the Calvary Episcopal Church Choir in Clifton.

"I love singing," he says. "It's a secondary focus, not a hobby."