People had been telling Tim Campbell he looked and sounded like Alan Jackson for years, so he figured he might as well embrace it.
The Granite City country singer performed a tribute show at the Wildey Theatre in Edwardsville last month, packing the 325-seat house. Now he's considering a regional tour.
"I'm not trying to impersonate (Jackson)," said Tim, 54, wearing his trademark cowboy hat and boots. "I'm just showing the appreciation that I believe modern-day Nashville is not showing.
"It's all about business and record sales. They forget about what got them where they are. Alan Jackson, George Strait, Clint Black, Mark Chestnutt, Garth Brooks ... These are the artists who put country music where it is today."
"Slim Tim" covered Jackson hits ranging from "Blues Man" to "Good Time," "Don't Rock the Jukebox" to "Chattahoochee." The crowd clapped, tapped, sang and gave him a standing ovation. At one point, a couple even danced down the aisle.
Tim normally sings and plays guitar with Doc Holiday, a honky tonk band that includes his sister and brother-in-law, Hope and Ray Warren.
He also entertains at family gatherings, which are large. His evangelist father, now deceased, and his guitar-playing mother had nine children.
"(Tim) likes to tell jokes and stories on stage," said Hope, 42, of St. Louis. "When he raises his hand and says, 'True story, swear to God,' you know he's going to lie."
Tim created the seven-piece Chattahoochee Band for the Jackson tribute. He asked family friend Ethan Jones, a member of the Well Hungarians and former "American Idol" contestant, to serve as opening act.
Waiting in the green room, Ethan recalled seeing Tim perform for the first time at a Well Hungarians gig two years ago. Tim sat in on the Hank Williams Jr. song "Family Tradition" and Strait's "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Tim is left-handed but plays a right-handed guitar upside-down.
"My first impression was 'Wow,'" said Ethan, 23, of Pontoon Beach. "Just the voice that (Tim) has, and his command over the audience. He was playing with a strange band, but he pulled it off. He was just having fun."
By day, Tim works as a heating, cooling and appliance technician. He and wife Suzy Campbell have a blended family with five sons.
The Jackson tribute was Suzy's idea. She rented the Wildey, sold tickets and even applied Tim's makeup. Brother-in-law Bob Rolens produced the show.
"(Tim's) a great musician, and he's got a heart of gold," said Suzy, 50, a data-entry clerk for an asbestos litigation service. "He will do anything for anybody. He loves baseball, but his passion is music, music, music."
The enthusiasm took hold during childhood. Tim listened to Merle Haggard and George Jones on an eight-track tape player in his room.
He taught himself to play the guitar his mother, Mildred Campbell, now 82, of Granite City, used for revivals led by his father, Robert.
"Actually, growing up in the '70s, I was also a huge Harry Chapin fan," Tim said. "I still play his songs today (including 'Taxi' and 'Cat's in the Cradle')."
Tim formed the band Country Thunder in the early '80s with brothers Kenny and Larry Campbell and brother-in-law Bob Jones.
He later moved to Nashville, Tenn., and tried to make it big in country music, about the same time as Jackson, who is three months younger.
"I spent three great years performing and 'Chasin' that Neon Rainbow,'" Tim said, referring to Jackson's 1990 hit. "And then the well kinda went dry, so I came back to Illinois."
Tim saw Jackson perform live once, and that was at the Macoupin County Fair in Carlinville in the late '80s, before he became famous.
Dozens of Tim's family members and friends showed up for the Wildey tribute. Sister Leta Jones, 61, of Pontoon Beach, introduced him. Hope and another sister, Grace Roberts, 40, of Paducah, Ky., performed as part of a Western line-dancing group.
The show was a great opportunity for Mary Heimer, 72, of Wood River. She paid $5 to see Jackson at the Macoupin County Fairand $125 for a concert in Tupelo, Miss., 10 years later. "I thought (Tim's tribute) was very good," Mary said. "In fact, I was telling my friends, 'If you weren't an Alan Jackson junkie like I am, you would have thought it was the same person.'"
About Alan Jackson
Country singer-songwriter Alan Jackson was born in the small town of Newman, Ga., and many of his songs reflect images of small town life in the South. He has had 35 No. 1 country hits, has recorded 17 albums. He has performed for four presidents, at the Grand Old Opry, Carnegie Hall and internationally. His long list of music awards includes two Grammys and 17 Country Music Association Awards.