music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret.

May 6, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

It’s nearly impossible to properly memorialize the life and music of Colonel Bruce Hampton. He was a staple in the jam music scene since the scene started in the 60’s, playing in numerous bands and throwing his love and support towards many other bands and artists. He was never one to seek mainstream success (he reportedly had the 2nd worst-selling album in the history of Columbia Records), but he always was known to put 100% of himself into his work and live performances. His presence and support gave the HORDE Tour some very old-school appeal when they launched, and his backing helped launch the careers of numerous artists.

Hampton first appeared on a pair of Frank Zappa albums, a fitting start to such an eclectic musician. He released a pair of albums in the 70’s, but spent time on the road playing with The Hampton Grease Band and building relationships with artists like The Allman Brothers and The Grateful Dead. He was as well known for his playing as he was for his on-stage craziness, always looking to get a reaction from the crowd and his band. He had a rotating cast of musicians around him for solo projects or bands such as The Late Bronze Age, The New Ice Age, and others.

In the late 80’s he formed Aquarium Rescue Unit, a band that featured and launched the careers of Jimmy Herring, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Sipe. The band sprung from a series of jam sessions that Hampton hosted. Despite being the “known” name in the band, Hampton was happy to let his bandmates stand out and grow on stage with his support. Each primary member of that band and many of the other members that moved through the band throughout the years went on to have very successful and vibrant careers in music.

Over the years, Hampton became well known for his sit-ins with various artists. He shared the stage with nearly every top jam band, from Widespread Panic and The Allman Brothers to Phish and The String Cheese Incident. He appeared at Bonnaroo, toured with various bands, released albums, and even appeared in movies.

What separated Hampton from others was his sense of humor and his big heart. He wanted to make people laugh, to have fun, and to make music with his friends. If he found a new musician that he liked, he would do everything he could to put that person out there. He would do residencies and jam nights in his hometown of Atlanta, where he was less of a celebrity and more of a local musical guru.

Because of his love of others and the love others had for him, it was no surprise that his friends and family organized a concert to celebrate his 70th birthday. The concert featured many legends getting together to celebrate, including members of Widespread Panic, Peter Buck of REM, Jon Fishman, Karl Denson, Warren Haynes, Drew Emmitt, John Popper, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, and many, many others came to the Fox Theatre to celebrate. During the encore, after throwing a solo to 13 year old guitarist Brandon Niederaur, Hampton collapsed on stage. Due to his history of on-stage anctics, including lying down during shows, it was initially thought that this was a ruse. Unfortunately it was not. Hampton received medical attention on stage and was rushed to the hospital, where he passed away.

I’ve read many stories this week from artists and from fans who have performed with, met, or just watched Col. Bruce Hampton perform. While his music will be remembered, his personality will be remembered much more. He was humble, approachable, and always looking for an opportunity to spread joy. While his passing is tragic it is also very fitting. He will long be remembered by those he touched through his music and his ability to bring out the music of others.

Summer Camp
May 25-28
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Trey Anastasio Band, Primus, Gov’t Mule, The Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Mike Gordon, EOTO, The Floozies, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams KWahtro, The Wood Brothers, The Motet, TAUK, Twiddle, The Werks

May 25-28
Cumberland, MD
The Travelin’ McCoury’s featuring Dierks Bentley, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Bela Fleck & Chris Thile, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, Jeff Austin Band

Dark Star Jubilee
May 26-28
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra (x3), Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Williams and KWhatro, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Revival Music Festival
May 26-28
Harmony Park
Geneva, MN
Galactic, Yonder Mountain String Band, Turkuaz, Antibalas, Big Something, The Hip Abduction, The Main Squeeze, Aqueous

Nelsonville Music Festival
June 1-4
Nelsonville, OH
Ween, Emmylou Harris, Rodriguez, Son Volt, Sara Watkins, Parquet Courts

Mountain Music Festival
June 1-3
Wonderland Mountain
New River Gorge, WV
Umphrey’s McGee, The Revivalists, Twiddle, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Big Something, Spiritual Rez, The Southern Belles

June 8-11
Manchester, TN
U2, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weeknd, Big Gigantic, Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, Turkuaz, Twiddle

Disc Jam
June 8-11
Stephentown, NY
Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The Motet, Manic Focus, TAUK, Electric Beethoven, Aqueous, Consider the Source

4 Peaks Music Festival
June 15-18
Bend, OR
Moe., Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Poor Man’s Whiskey, Moonalice

Mountain Jam
June 16-18
Hunter Mountain, NY
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The String Cheese Incident, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Elephant Revival, Shovels & Rope, The Revivalists, The Infamous Stringdusters

Electric Forest I
June 22-25
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, My Morning Jacket, The Revivalists, Lotus, Big Gigantic, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Lotus, Big Gigantic, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Matisyahu, The Motet

Friendly Gathering
June 29-July 1
Waitsfield, VT
Twiddle, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Turkuaz, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Moon Hooch

High Sierra
June 29-July 2
Quincy, CA
Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, Galactic, Mike Gordon, Fruition

June 30-July 2
Turin, NY
Moe., Blackberry Smoke, Fishbone, Railroad Earth, Ryan Montbleau, Twiddle, Floodwood, Kung Fu

Camp Bisco
July 13-15
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
The Disco Biscuits (6 sets), Bassnectar, GRiZ, Pretty Lights, Lotus, Twidle, Turkuaz, Electric Beethoven, Break Science, Beats Antique, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Werks

Northwest String Summit
July 13-16
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, JJ Grey & Mofro, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Turkuaz,

Levitate Music & Arts Fest
July 8-9
Marshfield, MA
Dispatch, Umphrey’s McGee, Ziggy Marley, Lake Street Drive, The Revivalists, Twiddle, JJ Grey & Mofro, Rubblebucket

Deep Roots Mountain Revival
July 20-22
Marvins Mountaintop
Masontown, WV
Brandi Carlile, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dr. Dog, The Motet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Moon Taxi, White Denim, TAUK

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival
August 11-13
Alta, WY
The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s

August 18-20
Wellston, MI
Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush Band, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, Fruition, Joshua Davis, Larry Keel Experience, Billy Strings, The Accidentals, The Crane Wives

August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Grand Point North
September 16-17
Waterfront Park
Burlington, VT
Trey Anastasio Band, Grace Potter, Dawes, Joseph, Son Little, Hurray for the Riff Raff

Hillberry Music Festival
October 12-15
Eureka Springs, AR
Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Dumpstaphunk, Dirtfoot

Strings & Sol
December 8-12
Now Sapphire
Puerto Morelos, MX
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition

Jam Cruise
January 17-22
Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Maceo Parker, Lotus, Lettuce, Gramatik, Keller Williams, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!