Happy Birthday Col. Bruce Hampton: Watch Col. Bruce Perform ‘Time Is Free’ With Widespread Panic & Friends
Today marks what would have been Col. Bruce Hampton’s 74th birthday. Gustav Valentine Berglund III was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 30, 1947.
Col. Bruce Hampton, as he came to be known, first made an impact with the avant-garde group Hampton Grease Band in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. The band would open for seminal jam acts like the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band and Col. Bruce himself would go on to become a patriarchal figure in the modern jam scene, influencing jam titans like Phish and Widespread Panic. Hampton would tour with both those bands and more in the early ‘90s on the H.O.R.D.E. tour with his band Aquarium Rescue Unit, an integral group in helping to create H.O.R.D.E. along with John Popper and Blues Traveler. H.O.R.D.E. is widely pointed to as the dawn of the modern jam band era.
A number of members of the aforementioned bands were present when Col. Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage at the Hampton 70: A Celebration Of Col. Bruce Hampton, which took place one day after his 70th birthday on May 1, 2017 at the Fox Theatre in Bruce’s home of Atlanta. Hampton had suffered a heart attack and died at Crawford Long Hospital later that night. While it was a sad day, Hampton died doing what he loved surrounded by people he loved and his legendary and immeasurable influence lives on.
While Col. Bruce Hampton’s influence is far-ranging, as a longtime member of the Atlanta music scene, he was especially close to the Athens, Georgia founded Widespread Panic. He is rumored to have delivered the first pressing of WSP’s 1988 debut album, Space Wrangler, to the band. Col. Bruce would go on to collaborate with Panic a number of times over the years but an especially memorable performance came during Widespread’s Panic en la Playa destination event at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic on March 19, 2014.
The end of the second set that night saw Panic slowly bringing out a slew of special guests beginning on Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” with keyboardist John Gros and saxophonist Randall Bramblett, Col. Bruce’s fellow ARU co-founding member Jeff Sipe (formerly of Leftover Salmon) joined in on percussion for the “Drums” segment before legendary Meters bassist George Porter Jr. emerged for the subsequent jam. Col. Bruce, along with guitarist Grant Green Jr., then joined the fun for “Time Is Free.” Composed by David Earle Johnson, the song originally appeared on Johnson’s 1978 album of the same on which Col. Bruce contributed and Hampton included the tune on albums by his project Late Bronze Age as well as ARU. Hampton led the all-star ensemble through the Panic rarity, which the band debuted on October 30, 1993, as per Everday Companion, but had only played 26 times up until the 2014 DR performance.
In honor of Col. Bruce Hampton’s birthday, watch him perform ‘Time Is Free’ with Widespread Panic & Friends below via the JamBase Live Video Archive: