This fiddler came along on the bluegrass scene when many of the older legends were looking for fresh blood to fill out the ranks of their groups. Thus greenhorn fiddler Jimmy Campbell was able to play with Bill Monroe, considered the inventor of the genre, as well as with Jim and Jesse McReynolds and many other well-known bluegrass artists. His grandfather, an old-time fiddler from West Tennessee, was Campbell's first inspiration, but it was listening to the great bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker that really changed his life. In the first dozen years of his career, he established superb credits, including three years as one of Monroe's Bluegrass Boys as well as stints with Jim and Jesse and the Osborne Brothers. Since then, he has been heard as a member of several different groups boasting rotating memberships drawn from the ranks of country's hottest pickers. The Cumberland Highlanders carries forward the traditions of Monroe, even allowing Campbell to maintain contact with former Bluegrass Boys such as Wayne Lewis, Billy Rose, and Tater Tate, the latter a fiddler from whom Campbell picked up plenty. The Nashville-based Sidemen represent more of the urban country side, matching up Campbell against pickers such as the late Dobro master Gene Wooten. He also worked in the late '90s with the Ballistic Pinto band, which besides sounding like a country & western heavy metal band, features the twin guitar picking expertise of Bobby Keel and Kenny Daggett. Is opening up the subject of musicians named Jimmy Campbell more like a can of worms than a can of soup? This fiddler is often confused with Irish instrumental counterpart Jimmy Campbell, who plays music from his own tradition. They are not the same person. Neither fiddler is the same Jimmy Campbell who wrote "Try a Little Tenderness" and scores of other hits.
Tragically, Jimmy Campbell's career was cut short when he died of carbon monoxide poisoning on October 24, 2003. At the time of his death Campbell was working on an album with Rosey Carter, daughter of June Carter Cash, who also died with Campbell.