Opinion: Col. Bruce, a showman to the very end … literally

At his 70th birthday celebration at the Fox Theatre Monday night, Col. Bruce Hampton was joined onstage by some of the top musical talent that this region has produced in the last 50 years. Chuck Leavell, Oliver Wood, Derek Trucks, John Popper, Peter Buck and Mike Mills of R.E.M., and many others wanted to make sure that they paid their respects.

And of course, as you probably know, Hampton collapsed on stage from a heart attack at the end of that concert and later died in a local hospital. The man knew how to make an exit.

I didn’t know Bruce, but we do have friends in common. They talk of his humility and kindness, his ability to play a mean third base, his weird sense of humor.  He was the epitome of a musician’s musician, well-known and highly respected within the craft even if he never became famous outside it. And he didn’t become famous because he pretty much chose not to do so, never making the compromises that would require.

(Here’s a nicely done tribute to Bruce, by Chuck Reece of the Bitter Southerner, a website you should definitely visit often. In fact, on another topic, go there immediately and read this as well. You can and should thank me later.)

About a year ago, I did get a chance to watch, up close and personal, as Bruce played an extended set at a small festival. Then too, he had drawn a wide cross-section of top local musicians who wanted the chance to join and jam with the legend. It was one of the best musical experiences that I can remember, one of those shows where you walk away just marveling that you got the chance to be there.

Here’s some vintage Bruce:

 

 

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73 comments
David Terry
David Terry

Bruce Hampton's band played for a tiny group of my friends in 1964.  A flatbed truck was used as the stage in the middle of a horse pasture.  We were newly-minted 7th grade graduates of Kathleen Mitchell Elementary School, music lovers and proud of it.

Frank Hughes had his psychedelic light show running.  The band and the light show folks were around 17 years old. They were so nice to us.  Perhaps they were a group of teenagers with evolved self esteem.  

My friend and fellow sound engineer, Steve Davis asked Bruce a few years back if he remembered that concert in the pasture.  The Colonel remembered and still had kind words about the young audience.  

I wonder what became of Fay Bynum, whose family gave use of their pasture, and Staples Hughes whose big brother Frank Hughes was our connection for Bruce Hampton's band?  Steve Davis and I kept in touch.  The next summer we saw the Beatles.  We continue to enjoy live music including our children's bands.  

NorwegianBlue
NorwegianBlue

Big fan of Col. Bruce. No fan of Bookman. FYI Jay- Conservatives are people too. Just different ideas about what's best for the country. We're all in this together. Peace, out.

skydog12
skydog12

@NorwegianBlue

Do you think Col. Bruce liked your camp?


Electing Trump was not just a different idea. No, we are not all in this together. Ya`ll own this orange pervert.

JasonLago
JasonLago

Glad to see this Bookman clown write about something other than how butt hurt he is that the great Donald a Trump is our leader and President.

honested
honested

@JasonLago 

Who is the great donald trump?

All I have seen is the childish clown with the tiny hands.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Skydog, before I get ready to go to another form of musical production today, I wanted you to know I finally found that other black, blind musician whom I had discovered in researching LeadBelly.  His name was Blind Willie Johnson and this is what I had heard last evening by him and enjoyed.  Have a wonderful day, MES.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcYKEGNQGJc

skydog12
skydog12

@MaryElizabethSings

I`ll check him out, thanks.


Years ago when I lived in Charlotte, I went to a club, Double Door Lounge, to hear a blind blues player, Sam Myers.

We got there early and my buddy went somewhere and left me in the lobby.

In comes the band and they introduce themselves. They go to set up the stage and asked me if I would stay with blind Sam. Sure I says.

Sam is a delightful fellow and we stand there talking the Blues. At a point I realize the band has left Sam facing the wall. He don`t care, he is blind.

But it bothered me. Do I tell him? I did not know what to do?

Finally I just told him. He said, "Well yeah, turn me the right way, I don`t want to look like a fool".


https://books.google.com/books?id=DOn1AqUPqZ8C&pg=PA94&lpg=PA94&dq=blind+blues+piano+player+sam&source=bl&ots=oYbfbXuyLn&sig=VsS8eRhjGsADjaxH4S0Kt21gTqA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjWn7_9_d3TAhWBOiYKHf1fD90Q6AEIaDAO#v=onepage&q=blind blues piano player sam&f=false

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@skydog12 @MaryElizabethSings


Exactly.  I was torn between laughter and compassion when I read your story, when a surprising tear came into my eye, from love for the total situation you both were in. 


A story that contains a reaffirmation that we all need one another, in so many different ways. That is the most spiritual lesson we all can learn while we inhabit this Earth, imho.


A line from the musical, "Les Miserables":  "When we love another (love in all of its variations and shades of meaning), we see the Face of God."

UncleTom
UncleTom

A wonderful article! " Music To Eat" is always the ultimate test.  If somebody knows about it, then they're OK.  I first saw the Hampton Grease Band at the old 12th Gate---a Victorian house turned into something similar to a concert venue in downtown Atlanta---in 1971.  Even then--mere months after release of "Music to Eat," the band was doing all new stuff.  The Colonel was like a shark that never stopped moving forward.

honested
honested

@UncleTom 

The "12th Gate". Now you couldn't get a permit to have that.

Of course now days, most folks don't remember who Glenn Phillips is either.

JKToole
JKToole

@UncleTom 12th Gate enjoyed a long life as a "music venue" becoming the Bistro in the late 70's.

Buffett played there too.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Jay that link was great. Ordered the book. Let me know if you wanna borrow it.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@JeffreyEav 


 I could recognize the poetic sensibilities in the author, David Joy's words, but I can only take just so much self-pity. I prefer to read of courage.


Creating the kind of world as described in my link below (a more egalitarian world) would appease much of the inner turmoil currently experienced by the people whom David Joy describes among the "trailer" class. However, it would take all of us, working together, to change this world into a more humane place, as this link points out.


https://selfnegation.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/on-the-meaning-of-self-negation/


I have done my fair share, however, of trying to change this world since I started my blog 6 years ago, with these words:


"The essential premise in finding one’s true spirit is understanding that all are equal within the spiritual universe.  We are all part of the One. We each have equal, individual spirits within the One.  


To find our true and unique spirits, we must dismantle and transcend the superficial labels human beings often identify with – and live out in their lives – to their diminishment as conscious, loving beings.


                                             Labels that separate. 



Can you feel the pulse of life running through Bob Marley’s song, “One Love”?

Listen for its consistent, pulsating beat.  It is a heart beat.

The beat of the rhythm of life.  It is organic.  It does not need labels."


(such as "trailer trash")

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@skydog12 @MaryElizabethSings @JeffreyEav


Thanks for that musical history lesson, skydog.  I have liked the song, "Midnight Special" since I was an 18 year old working summer stock in Connecticut as an actress/apprentice.


Now to listen to the LeadBelly version.  I cannot believe it - that was the same version I heard in 1961 at summer stock.  Loved it then, and love it now.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@skydog12 @MaryElizabethSings @JeffreyEav


By the way, for those who may be interested, my DNA results showed that I was 95% European (Germany, France, Irish, Scandanavia, English, Iberian Pennisula, Greek/Turkey), I was also 2% from Senegal in Africa, and 3% from Persia (Iran, Syria).  Pretty much what I felt in my bones before knowing.  Western Europe and English from my Dad's side; Irish definitely from my Mother's side.


German (Dad) - Irish (Mom) together make up 44% of my DNA makeup.


I knew I had to have some black blood, too, being from the deep South and having such affinity for black people all of my life.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

P. S. I shared these DNA results to highlight how absurd it is to label ourselves as we do because no doubt everyone in this world is a combination of so much diversity of which we are still so unaware. Perhaps genetic technology will begin to show the human race how much we share even in our DNA though in so many beautiful variations.

skydog12
skydog12

@MaryElizabethSings @skydog12 @JeffreyEav

I`m glad you did some research ME.

Music, mostly Blues, IS my religion.

Not in the sense that I worship any man or woman. 

Music allows me a link, a conduit if you will, to my God.

Some song writing, performing, and stage presence is just not of this world.


How powerful is music?

Leadbelly sung himself out of Angola prison.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@skydog12 @MaryElizabethSings @JeffreyEav


All that you have written to me makes perfect sense to me, skydog.  Thank you very much for having a real dialogue with me and sharing so much of yourself, in an intimate way - one human being to another.


I am now going to look up Robert Johnson.  He may be the same "Blind Robert Johnson" that I stumbled upon and listened to some of his music, and enjoyed much, when I was researching LeadBelly.


The mysteries in life still so much intrigue me.  When I was a young 18 year old in 1961 in Connecticut working with professional actors, directors, scenic designers, etc., we apprentices would go out to have a few beers together and some food after the productions in the evenings.  LeadBelly's song, Midnight Special, which was loved so much by a young man from Connecticut who had heavy Irish blood.  He was a fine actor but married his sweetheart from Connecticut, almost a purely Irish lass.  They moved to the East Village and were our best friends (my husband and myself) in NYC for about two years before they headed back to Connecticut when she was expecting their second (of four) children.  He loved the Midnight Special version of LeadBelly and I feel most certain that he probably knew well of LeadBelly, but being so young, we never discussed much of anything but acting, as a group of young people.  Now, 56 years later, you tell me "the rest of the story" and God allows me to see another connection with clarity before I pass on.  Thank you, skydog.  You probably had no conscious idea, either.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@skydog12 @MaryElizabethSings @JeffreyEav


It was another black, blind guitar player of about 80 years ago, and I now I can't find him again. Too bad, I will keep trying later.  In the meantime, I stumbled upon this link of black musicians singing the blues.  The first captured my attention immediately, "Precious Lord," and I could not help but wonder if my old acting buddy and my first husband's best friend as an acting apprentice, who loved LeadBelly's Midnight Special, may have recently passed on, and that is why this has come into my consciousness, thanks to you.  Charlie would have been about 75 or 76 by now.  I will try to call his wife and find out, though it has been years since I talked with her, and they divorced later, but remained friends, after about 35 years of being married.  We young people were all "family", along with another couple, a poet and dancer/actress, in the East Village of NYC in the early 1960s.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0h2AKUMmvvk

skydog12
skydog12

@JeffreyEav

About twenty years ago my 15 year old son participated in a teen blues program.

They had a guest musician, Roy Lee Johnson, come in one week.

I had never heard of Roy Lee, but he was a real nice man.

He got on stage and told the kids, "Ya`ll sound great, but always remember, song writing is where the money is at. I wrote this song in 1962, my only hit. It has kept me in Cadilics for the the past 50 years."


He wrote this song.

Note: The Beatles only covered a handful of other peoples songs.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVxkjIlqwkI

honested
honested

Peaches mentioned below how Bruce made the 'rasslin' more interesting.

Just like he could to over lunch at Ma Hull's any Sunday!

Kamchak
Kamchak

@honested 

I remember Ma Hull's. Used to go there and get good food cheap.

MikeinStoneMtn
MikeinStoneMtn

Jay - I do not like most of your politics, but that article from Bitter Southerner was enthralling. 

As you predicted, thank you.

honested
honested

@skydog12 

I wanted to start an "I'm Spartacus" line yesterday but nobody picked up.

skydog12
skydog12

@honested @skydog12

In case you havn`t noticed, except for Bruno, you ain`t exactly hanging around with Rocket Surgeons in here.

Peachs
Peachs

Went to high school with Bruce, he was a show from the day he was born.  There needs to be a movie done on him.  The script would be so easy to write, he did in real life what movies make up.


He would take a crowd of people down to the professional fake wrestling at the old Atlanta Municipal Auditorium. He would enter the ring and put on a Steve Martin type skeet before there was a Steve Martin. taunting the crowd, don't know how he arranged it, but is was historically funny, and he was just in high school. 


We would come to school the next day and talk about it all day...

Mick11
Mick11

@Peachs 

Thanks for sharing that!!  Yes, real life!!!  Sometimes the most coolest script ever lived...