It was an all-star event, held at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, billed as “Hampton 70: A Celebration of Col. Bruce Hampton”.
The stage was packed with performers – including Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, Phish drummer John Fishman, and Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell – all to celebrate the 70th birthday of Bruce Hampton, a guitarist and singer known as “the godfather of the jam”. The seasoned musician was in his element, performing one of his favorite songs ‘Turn On Your Love Light’, when he appeared to take a knee, then lay down. Some in the audience thought it was part of the show. And those on stage continued to perform, including Blues Traveler frontman John Popper, and R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck. Then people came out of the wings and carried Hampton off stage. The song abruptly ended. An ambulance arrived shortly after and took Hampton away. He was later pronounced dead.
While not a household name, Hampton was beloved in the music industry. Born and raised Gustav Valentine Berglund III in New York City, he was a founding member of the rock blues quintet, The Hampton Grease Band. While the band only released one album, ‘Music To Eat’ in 1971, it developed a cult following, and Hampton went on to earn a reputation as one of the best jam musicians in the industry.
Now, here’s the cool part; during ‘Turn On Your Love Light’, Hampton allowed 14-year-old guitarist Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer to shred some chords. And according to Leavell, who described Hampton’s final act as “a poetic exit” being his birthday, Brandon’s performance almost echoed a passing of the torch.
For those not familiar with the late Hampton, here’s some footage of Bruce doing what he loved to do.. ~ Jason