Among the last of a dying breed of Southern street musicians, bluesman Blind James Campbell and his Friendly Five were a staple of the Nashville musical landscape for decades. Campbell was born in Music City on September 17, 1906; although he played guitar from the age of 13, he did not pursue performing as a livelihood until the age of 30, when he was left permanently blind following an accident at the fertilizer plant where he worked.
He then formed a group dubbed the Nashville Washboard Band, a loose-knit aggregation which consisted of himself on vocals and guitar, mandolin, lard can (or tub bass), and a washboard; they honed their skills not only on the streets but also at area parties, typically playing to white audiences but also sitting in at black roadhouses.
Campbell followed much the same path in the years and decades which followed, later informally rechristening the band the Friendly Five; in 1962 he was discovered by Arhoolie Records chief Chris Strachwitz, who recorded him with a backing group consisting of multi-instrumentalist Beauford Clay, trumpeter George Bell, second guitarist Bell Ray and tuba player Ralph Robinson. Unhappy with the quality of the recordings, Strachwitz returned to Nashville a year later and recorded Campbell again; the best selections were then assembled for release as the LP Blind James Campbell and His Nashville Street Band.