|Col. Bruce Hampton 2008 photo by Roger Gupta
Namesake of the Hampton Grease Band, Hampton was brought into the group by guitarists Glenn Phillips and Harold Kelling, who were looking for a frontman for what was essentially an instrumental-oriented band. The HGB gradually built up a loyal audience in the Atlanta area and beyond as they opened for bands like Spirit, the Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix, and Procol Harum, among many others.
Hampton kicked around in several bands after the early ‘70s demise of Hampton Grease Band, the most notable being the Late Bronze Age with his former HGB drummer Jerry Fields. Hampton’s next brush with fame would come with the formation of the experimental rock band Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit, which included phenomenal instrumental talents like bassist Oteil Burbridge (who would go on to the Allman Brothers and the Tedeschi Trucks Band) and guitarist Jimmy Herring (would would later join Widespread Panic).
The Aquarium Rescue Unit was formed out of a weekly jam session hosted by Hampton in Atlanta. The band’s original line-up would release two albums with Hampton for Capricorn Records: 1992’s self-titled Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit and the following year’s Mirrors of Embarrassment. Ground-breakers in the growing ‘jam band’ scene, the ARU would find kindred spirits in bands like Phish and Blues Traveler, and together they formed the annual H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) tour, where ARU’s unique blend of rock, jazz, blues, funk, and even bluegrass music would find an appreciative audience and inspire a generation of young bands who enthusiastically embraced the band’s “anything goes” musical blueprint.
|Aquarium Rescue Unit w/Col. Bruce Hampton (in sunglasses)
Hampton would be the feature of a documentary film, Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton, Ret., which debuted at the Atlanta Film Festival in the spring of 2012, and the longtime cult artist would honored with the Governor’s Award In The Arts and Humanities by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal the same year. Hampton was honored with a May 1st concert in celebration of his 70th birthday at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Friends and former bandmates like Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Warren Haynes (Allman Brothers/Gov’t Mule), John Popper (Blues Traveler), and Kevn Kinney (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’) as well as members of Widespread Panic, Phish, Leftover Salmon, among others, performed to benefit the Fox Theatre Institute. Hampton suffered a medical emergency during an encore, and would later pass away at the hospital. Hampton’s unique perspective and joy in making music will be missed...