My Col. Bruce Hampton (Ret.) story. I had the privilege of seeing the Col. on a number of occasions, most recently on Jam Cruise and on one of the nights of his recent three-night residency at Dunedin Brewery (03/11/17, and thanks to Mike Bryant for bringing him back year after year).
I had latched onto a copy of Music to Eat by the Hampton Grease Band in 1975 and had been intrigued ever since. I would get to see Glenn Phillips with his band and Mike Holbrook play with Mike Greene. My first actual Col. sighting was a near-bust, as he opened for Widespread Panic on 09/23/97 when they opened the House of Blues in Orlando. Unfortunately, the tickets said 9 PM. As I rolled in from Tampa slightly before then, I discovered that the Col. and the Fiji Mariners were just finishing their set, catching the end of “Time is Free.” At least he came out for “Spoonful of Smokestack Lightning” with WSP (and, yes, that’s about how it went down — you could listen on PanicStream).
The most memorable evening occurred in 2010. We were in Atlanta to visit friends, and my dear friend Roy lives in Canton, out to the west of Atlanta. I saw that the Col. would be playing at Downtown Kitchen in Canton. Excitedly, I asked Roy if he knew where that was and if he wanted to go. To which Roy answered:
Oh, you mean the restaurant half a block up the street where we’ve heard the Col. before?
Smartass. Dinner was spectacular, the company scintillating, and the band soaring that night. During set break, who should come over to our table but the Col. for a lovely ten-minute conversation, while I fumbled to have him autograph Music to Eat and a booklet from the Codetalkers’ CD. He was warm, entertaining, and wonderful. Exactly the man everyone else has so perfectly described.
The other highlight of the evening: There was a young man — 15 or 16, by my guess — also playing guitar in addition to the Col. and the Quark Alliance’s other guitarist. This quiet young man was superb, incredibly jazzy, so mature in his playing. During the break (and before the Col. visited our table), I went over to introduce myself. It went approximately like this:
SH: Hi! My name is Scott. That was a great set. What is your name?
SH: Thanks, Carter! Last name?
SH: (visibly shaken) Related?
CH: He’s my dad. (That would be Jimmy Herring.)
I wish I had a clue what I mumbled after that. He is an incredible talent. I sure hope to see him again. I would put him in the new pantheon of guitar wizards including Heather Gillis, Marcus King and Ben Sparaco, and Brandon “Taz” Niederauer. Interestingly, the first two times I saw Gillis she was playing with Col. Bruce at MagnoliaFest in 2015, and Sparaco just related a story about a great sit-down breakfast with the Col.
And you know how Taz figured into the end of the birthday celebration Monday at the Fox.
SPACE IS THE PLACE.