Bruce Hampton (born Gustav Valentine Berglund III; April 30, 1947 – May 1, 2017)[1] was an American musician. He was a key figure in the Atlanta, Georgia music scene, mentoring numerous other musicians who became national stars. His own musical style was avant-garde, combining elements of jazz, fusion, southern rock and jam band styles.

Bruce Hampton
Hampton performing in 2008
Hampton performing in 2008
Background information
Birth nameGustav Valentine Berglund III
BornApril 30, 1947
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedMay 1, 2017(2017-05-01) (aged 70)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
GenresRock, fusion
Occupation(s)Musician, actor
Years active1960–2017
LabelsBrato Ganibe, Capricorn, Columbia
Formerly ofHampton Grease Band
Late Bronze Age
New Ice Age
Aquarium Rescue Unit
The Stained Souls
The Fiji Mariners
The Quark Alliance
The Codetalkers
The Pharaoh Gummitt
The Madrid Express

He first rose to prominence as the leader of the Hampton Grease Band.[2] Adopting the moniker Colonel Hampton B. Coles, Retired or alternatively Col. Bruce Hampton Ret., and sometimes playing a sort of dwarf guitar called a "chazoid",[3][4] he later formed several other bands, some of whose names include The Late Bronze Age, The Aquarium Rescue Unit, The Fiji Mariners, The Codetalkers, The Quark Alliance, Pharaoh Gummitt, and Madrid Express.[5][6]



As a member of the Hampton Grease Band, Bruce Hampton helped record the 1971 album Music to Eat. According to legend, this was the second-worst-selling album in Columbia Records history, with the worst being a yoga record.[7][8]

Hampton's band The Late Bronze Age consisted of "Col. Hampton B. Coles, Ret." (Bruce Hampton) on vocals, slide guitar, mandolin, and chazoid; Ben "Pops" Thornton (Billy McPherson) on vocals, guitar, saxophones, and keyboards; Lincoln Metcalfe (Ricky Keller) on bass, guitar, brass, and vocals; and Bubba Phreon (Jerry Fields) on drums, percussion, trombone, and vocals. They performed several songs in the 1983 movie Getting It On.[9]

Hampton helped start the 1990s seminal H.O.R.D.E. tours.[10] The best known of his bands to play H.O.R.D.E. is the jazz-rock outfit Aquarium Rescue Unit, which featured improvisational music all-stars Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Rev. Jeff Mosier, Matt Mundy, and Jeff Sipe.[11]

In 1994, Hampton then formed the progressive rock/jazz duo Fiji Mariners and recorded two albums on Capricorn Records with Dan Matrazzo who simultaneously played keys, drums, and bass. Later, Ricky Fargo, Marcus Williams joined on drums and Joseph Patrick Moore joined on bass.

Hampton was the voice of Warren, a talking potted shrub, in a 1998 episode ("Warren") of the TV show Space Ghost Coast to Coast.[12] Hampton played Morris, the songwriting band manager, in Billy Bob Thornton's 1996 film Sling Blade. He also starred in Mike Gordon's 2001 film Outside Out as a guitar 'out'structor.[13]

Longtime friend Susan Tedeschi wrote a song about Bruce called "Hampmotized." It appears on her 2002 release Wait For Me. Hampton returned the favor with the song "Susan T".

Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret. is a documentary about Hampton. It premiered at the Atlanta Film Festival in March 2012.[14]

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal presented Hampton with the Governor's Award In The Arts and Humanities in 2012.[15]

In 2014, Hampton made a cameo in the music video for rap group Run The Jewels' single "Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1".[16]

2015 saw the production of Here Comes Rusty in which Hampton portrayed the lead character, Dicky, alongside co-stars Fred Willard, Joey Lauren Adams and Brandon Niederauer. The film debuted at the Atlanta Film Festival in 2016, but was not commercially available until 2020.

70th birthday concert and death


On May 1, 2017, Hampton was honored by his friends at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia for his 70th birthday. Dubbed Hampton 70: A Celebration of Col. Bruce Hampton, it was an all-star concert featuring Widespread Panic members John Bell, Dave Schools, Duane Trucks, and Jimmy Herring; blues guitarist Tinsley Ellis; Peter Buck of R.E.M; steel guitarist Darick Campbell; saxophone player Karl Denson; Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon; Jon Fishman of Phish; banjo player Rev. Jeff Mosier of Blueground Undergrass; guitarist Warren Haynes; Drivin N Cryin frontman Kevn Kinney; Atlanta jazz-staple Johnny Knapp; Chuck Leavell; Athens rock-troubadour T. Hardy Morris; 13-year-old guitar prodigy Brandon Niederauer; slide guitarist Derek Trucks and blues singer Susan Tedeschi of the Tedeschi Trucks Band; John Popper of Blues Traveler; funk bassist Kevin Scott; keyboardist Matt Slocum; Denny Walley of Frank Zappa fame; gypsy-metal guitarist Emil Werstler; Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers; and MLB pitcher Jake Peavy. Billy Bob Thornton was scheduled to appear but was not in attendance. [17] The event was produced by Good Times Productions with the proceeds benefiting the Fox Theatre Institute and other musician-focused charities.

During the encore performance of the show, Hampton suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed on stage.[18][19] Onlookers and his fellow musicians initially either did not notice that Hampton had collapsed, or thought it was a ruse due to his history of falling down onstage during performances and other practical jokes. As a result, Hampton lay face down at Niederauer's feet, his left arm draped over a stage monitor, as Niederauer soloed on "Turn on Your Love Light". The band played for several minutes before Hampton was taken offstage; he died shortly thereafter at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, Georgia.[18]



Main releases

Hampton at the Riverbend Festival in 2007

With various artists

  • 1994 – The Best of Mountain Stage Live, Vol. 6 (Blue Plate Music)
  • 1997 – Mucho Mojo: Best of Fat Possum (Capricorn Records)
  • 2000 – Wintertime Blues: The Benefit Concert (Evil Teen Records)
  • 2003 – Bonnaroo, Vol. 2 (Sanctuary Records)
  • 2007 – The Benefit Concert, Volume 2 (Evil Teen Records)

As a guest musician



  1. ^ Mele, Christopher; Stevens, Matt (May 2, 2017). "Bruce Hampton, 70, Jam Scene Patriarch, Dies After Collapsing on Stage". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-05-03. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  2. ^ Palmer, Robert. Recordings; Pop Eccentrics Revisited, New York Times, 21 June 1981. Retrieved on 15 March 2022.
  3. ^ Freeman, Scott. Col. Bruce to the Rescue, Creative Loafing, 31 January 2007. Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  4. ^ Paul, Alan. Col. Bruce Hampton and the ARU: An Appreciation Archived 2015-04-03 at the Wayback Machine,, 05 June 2014. Retrieved on 03 March 2015./
  5. ^ "Col. Bruce Hampton | Discography", Allmusic, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  6. ^ Marshall, Alli. Smart bets: Col. Bruce Hampton and The Madrid Express, Mountain Xpress, 13 January 2015. Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  7. ^ Unterberger, Richie. About Hampton Grease Band, MTV artists, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  8. ^ Neff, Joseph. Graded on a Curve: Hampton Grease Band, Music to Eat, The Vinyl District, 06 February 2014, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  9. ^ The Late Bronze Age - IMDb, IMDb, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  10. ^ On the Cover: H.O.R.D.E 20 Years On, Relix, 04 April 2012, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  11. ^ Paul, Alan. The Jamband Velvet Underground: Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Relix, 09 May 2014, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Space Ghost Coast to Coast" Warren (TV Episode 1998), IMDb, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  13. ^ Dansby, Andrew. Phish Members Release Outside Projects, Rolling Stone, 14 November 2000, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  14. ^ Freeman, Scott. Preview: “Basically Frightened” expertly chronicles long, strange trip of Col. Bruce Hampton Archived February 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Arts ATL, 29 March 2012, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  15. ^ Deal awards individuals for achievement in the Arts and Humanities Archived 2015-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, Office of The Governor, 16 October 2012, Retrieved on 08 March 2015.
  16. ^ Col. Bruce Hampton Chokes on Hamburger in New Run The Jewels Video,, 21 November 2014, Retrieved on 03 March 2015.
  17. ^ France, Lisa; Gallman, Stephanie (3 May 2017). "Bruce Hampton, 'granddaddy of the jam scene,' dies after gig". CNN. update. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  18. ^ a b Hillman, Matt (2 May 2017). "Col. Bruce Hampton Passes Away At His Birthday Party".
  19. ^ "Beloved musician collapses during birthday concert finale and dies". USA Today. Associated Press. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  20. ^ "Big Shanty". Retrieved February 10, 2020.