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Bruce Hampton: Modern Patriarch

Screenshot 2017-05-04 12.42.42

One of the most significant things he said to me was, “Jeeeeoorrrrggghhhhhhhhhhxxxxxxxeeyohhhhhhh,” which I’m still living by. Bruce was ever the mascot of music. Taking us around, ‘scussin’ it, laughin’ it. We had heard the stories before we even met him in ’89 – the band of drummers from an institution mixed with Ellington horns, the keyboard player that got tied up and hoisted and waved at – for playing from his library of licks, driving fake golfballs on the stage very slowly into Mark Ribot’s dosed forehead. Bruce and his disciples only liked musicians who told the truth. Ones who vomited. Bobby Bland. B.B. King. And not the liers, who needed one way or another to be broken. We watched some get broken in ’89. Somehow Bruce and I both thought of a mock instructional video at the same time, and it grew into a story movie – Outside Out. And it included everything – the vomit, the broken, and the jeeeeoorrrrggghhhhhhhhhhxxxxxxeeyohhhhhhh. Minus a bunch of other stuff. The remarkable thing was that he seemed not to do anything – it was said the he let it all happen around him – including gatherings and conglomeratings of the best musicians anywhere, with Bruce in the middle doing nothing except blowing real smoke rings not having smoked. Yet there was something – a huge soul that grabbed the mic and tore your ass off with raw authenticity – and then strums from the chazoid. The electric chazoid. But back to the business of kindness – taking anyone out for a tour of Atlanta – musicians and friends and friends of musicians’ friends, complete with stories about Sun Ra wearing all yellow and complaining in the car, or Q258 going to Main Street in Nashville for the gig instead of Asheville, setting up in the woman’s living room, or arriving to the gig with 72 shovels. The shovels never stopped. They continued. Somewhere in the ether you must be continuing out there. Schools knows it. But on Earth here we already really miss ya. 

-Mike Gordon