Southern Music Trailblazer Col. Bruce Hampton Dies After 70th Birthday Bash



Col. Bruce Hampton gets his zany on in Blacksburg, Va., in 2008. - PHOTO BY ROGER GUPTA
  • Photo by Roger Gupta
  • Col. Bruce Hampton gets his zany on in Blacksburg, Va., in 2008.

Any Charlotte musician who's ever flirted humorously with music at the margins of funk, free jazz and R&B — at that sweet spot where they meet up with the avant-garde, and then blast off into space — certainly owes a debt to George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. But they also owe one to Col. Bruce Hampton, whose been making southern-fried avant-garde space music in Atlanta since the early 1970s.

Hampton died Monday night after performing at his 70th birthday bash in ATL, Creative Loafing Atlanta music journalist Chad Radford reported Tuesday.

It's the end of an era for Atlanta music. Avant-garde rock and jam band icon, and former Hampton Grease Band vocalist Col. Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage at the Fox Theatre during a May 1 performance.
Hampton, a little more than a week earlier, had spoken to CL Atlanta writer Doug Deloach about the craziness of still living the traveling-musician lifestyle at 70:

“It’s not possible,” Hampton says when asked how all of this is possible. “Nobody is in a band, driving and flying around the country at 70 years old. No one is crazy enough to do that.”

Hampton may not have been all that well-known among mainstream music fans, but he was well-loved and well-respected at Option, the music magazine I edited back in the '90s. He was also well-loved among jam-band fans, although Hampton's music and musical tentacles extended far beyond the Phish/Widespread Panic world. Hampton paved the way for zany, experimental Charlotte avant-rockers ranging from Fetchin Bones in the '80s to Modern Primitives today. He was a trailblazer, as the clip below — from the documentary Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton — shows. Hampton played Charlotte often, a recent show being last year at Smokey Joe's Cafe.

There wasn't but one Bruce Hampton, and he'll be missed. #RIP

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