Losing a friend is always hard. Losing the Colonel is affecting so many of us in so many ways. Bruce was one of the kindest, gentlest souls I’ve ever met. Nobody didn’t like the Colonel.
Having heard the folklore long before we ever crossed paths I’m not sure what I expected when I met him but I wasn’t really prepared for what an immediate connection we would have. He was someone who should have seemed intimidating but somehow never did. He was the least normal and the most normal person I’ve ever encountered. The way he carried himself made us all wonder if we were humble enough. It was like being around BB King or Willie Nelson in the way that his humility made you want to talk less and listen more.
The Colonel had an impact on young musicians who chose to open themselves to his philosophy which was multi-faceted and ever-changeable but somehow always carried the same overall message: ego doesn’t belong in music. He felt that musicians’ desires to impress people, be it listeners or other musicians, stood in their way of learning and limited their chances of becoming great: that playing with the wrong “intent” affected the music in a bad way. He had an uncanny knack for seeing potential in young musicians and, if they were willing to attend “boot-camp”, would fill their heads with insight, albeit wrapped in a fog of constant mystery as to whether or not they had veered off course. Like a lot of great mentors so much of what could be learned from the Colonel was through just being there. Casual conversations could be as important as the intended lessons.
The Colonel had a way of separating what was great from what was mediocre and always saw no reason to learn from mediocrity. In addition to the obvious “giants” he had exposed himself to an amazing amount of musicians and artists who were great in their genre, whatever that may be, but who, in many cases, were not very well known. He was a virtual encyclopedia of many aspects of music history-pop music not withstanding.
The Colonel was a common thread that ran through what they call the “Jam-band” scene today. For those fans and musicians who listened to Widespread Panic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s McGee, Medeski, Martin, & Wood, moe., and countless others, you were touched by Colonel Bruce Hampton whether you knew it or not. We all were.
The Colonel’s death is now a fitting part of folklore as well, dying at the end of an extravaganza musical celebration of his 70th birthday, joined by dozens of his favorite fellow musicians and surrounded by thousands of people who loved him that were in attendance. No one there will ever forget it. I know I won’t.
We miss you Colonel.-WH
Ashes & Dust Out Now!
Warren Haynes' new album ft. Spots Of Time, Gold Dust Woman, and more!