On Monday morning, folks in Atlanta were preparing to attend a star-studded birthday concert at the Fox Theater. Today, jam bands and fans around the globe are mourning the abrupt demise of the guest of honor, “Colonel” Bruce Hampton who collapsed and died onstage during the grand finale.
Filmmaker Patrick Kennedy was in attendance at the Fox Theater and was unaware of the enormity of Hampton’s on-stage collapse. He said he, like the band and everyone else, figured Col. Bruce was just pulling one of his familiar stage antics. Kennedy’s exclusive footage of Hampton’s grand finale can be viewed on his Facebook page.
“So sad to report at an amazing show tonight in Atlanta for Colonel Bruce Hampton’s 70th birthday party. It was an incredible up to the encore, then Colonel Bruce dropped to his knees and collapsed on the floor, people thought it was just Bruce being Bruce. He was there for a few minutes before people realized it was not part of the act. Sadly it has now been Confirmed that Col. Bruce Hampton passed away. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. You can see it here in the very early seconds of the clip right in front of a young 14-year-old who is playing a blistering guitar solo. Another vivid reminder of how incredibly fragile this life of our is. Rest In Peace Col. Bruce!”
Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit cohort, Jeff Mosier, referred to his musical collaborator’s sudden on-stage death as “a joyous departure” when he revealed the news of his friend’s demise on social media in the wee hours of May 2, 2017.
“He died at Crawford Long Hospital here in Atlanta just a while ago. I feel so blessed to have been there tonight and be a part of the greatest gathering of friends and loved ones. I’ve never seen Bruce happier. I’ve never been sadder. I’ve dreaded this day for years, but could have never imagined a more joyful departure. I feel so lost.”
Musicians who assembled in Atlanta to perform at Col. Bruce’s 70th birthday bash include Phish drummer, Jon Fishman, John Popper of Blues Traveler, Peter Buck from REM, and Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon. Allman Brothers Band and Rolling Stones alumnus, Chuck Leavell, was also in attendance as were John Bell, Dave Schools, Duane Trucks of Widespread Panic, and a teenage guitar shredder from Atlanta, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. Most, if not all of the aforementioned players were participating in a lively on-stage jam with Hampton when the guest of honor collapsed during the final minutes of the concert.
Jam band fans, especially those of the Phish persuasion, may be more familiar with Col. Bruce’s name than most. Hampton’s band, Code Talkers, opened numerous Phish concerts, and a solo Hampton was also known to sit in with the band at random times, always to the delight of jam fans. Phish was not the only band influenced by the ever-eclectic Colonel. Leftover Salmon mandolin player, Drew Emmitt, described his respect for Hampton to Paste magazine.
“All of us were heavily influenced by Bruce and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. He was the best I’d heard. I wound up playing a whole tour with them, so I guess I was kind of in the band, sort of. Hanging on by the skin of my teeth.”
As for Bruce, he told Paste that his true aspiration was to be Little Richard.
“I’ve wanted to be Little Richard since I was eight-years-old, but I’ve failed miserably. At the time I thought, ‘Gawd, I can do this s**t, this is so much fun, this is easy.’ Then I spent the next 50 years trying to find the tonal center.”
Colonel Bruce Hampton passed away one day after his 70th birthday.
[Featured Image by John Davisson/Invision/AP Images]