Col. Bruce Hampton collapses on stage; dies after 70th birthday jam

Posted at 2:52 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 15:05:36-04

ATLANTA — Death came for Bruce Hampton as he celebrated his 70th birthday doing what he did best — jamming on stage.

Hampton, known as the “granddaddy of the jam scene,” collapsed on stage while rocking out Monday night during a concert held in his honor in Atlanta.

His agent, Micah Davidson of Midwood Entertainment, confirmed to CNN that the musician died. He gave no further details.

Warren Haynes, the Allman Brothers Band guitarist who was on stage performing with Hampton, posted a statement Tuesday on his official Facebook page asking for privacy for Hampton’s loved ones.

“After collapsing on stage surrounded by his friends, family, fans and the people he loved, Col. Bruce Hampton has passed away,” the statement said. “The family is asking for respect and privacy at this difficult time.”

The all-star event, held at Atlanta’s Fox Theater, was billed as “Hampton 70: A Celebration of Col. Bruce Hampton.”

Col. Bruce Hampton performs at ‘Hampton 70: A Celebration Of Col. Bruce Hampton’ at The Fox Theatre on May 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

The stage was packed with performers — including Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, Phish drummer Jon Fishman and Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell — when the seasoned musician appeared to take a knee, then lay down as 14-year-old guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer shredded chords on one of Hampton’s favorite songs, “Turn on Your Love Light.”

Some in the audience thought Hampton’s actions were a part of the show.

Those on stage continued to perform. They included actor Billy Bob Thornton, who cast Hampton in a small role in his critically acclaimed 1996 film “Sling Blade,” Blues Traveler frontman John Popper, and Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks of the Tedeschi Trucks Band.

Then people came out from the wings and carried Hampton off stage. The song abruptly ended.

An ambulance arrived shortly thereafter and took Hampton away as dozens of fans watched quietly.

Born and raised Gustav Valentine Berglund III in New York City, Hampton was beloved in the music industry as a founding member of the rock blues quintet the Hampton Grease Band, which got its start in Atlanta.

While the band released only one album, “Music to Eat” in 1971, they developed a bit of a cult following, and Hampton went on earn a reputation as one of the best jam musicians in the industry.

He was the subject of a 2012 documentary, “Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton.”

Hampton he gave an interview in 2015 to the site Live For Live Music in preparation for his reunion tour with the Aquarium Rescue Unit.

He spoke of his extensive career, which stretched from playing in bands in the 1970s to doing voice-over work in commercials for brands such as Popeyes fried chicken and Motel 6.

“I was a lasso instructor and a lariat importer, and they were all weird, fleeting jobs,” he told the site. “I’ve been fortunate to do music all my life, and I’ve done enough acting to make it fun.”

Fans, including a few famous ones, grieved Hampton on Tuesday.

“So so sad to say goodbye to the great & wondrous Col. Bruce Hampton,” Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes and Chris Robinson Brotherhood told CNN in a statement. “The music world lost one of a kind last night, a true original, a man who heard the light! God speed Col. Bruce, we miss you.”

Vocalist and saxophonist Karl Denson called Hampton “the poet of some un-defined movement that all the artists came to for wisdom and clarity.”

“Once you connected with him, you felt inspired not to be jive, to know what was important and take chances,” Denson said in a statement. “Most of all, he made us supremely happy.”

CNN’s Jason Morris contributed to this report.