A new biography about Col. Bruce Hampton, the late jam scene patriarch, is set to be released next month. The book, titled The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography, will arrive on April 1st via University of Georgia Press.
The “Basically True” portion of the book’s title serves as both a reference to Hampton’s work and a genuine disclaimer about the biography’s factuality—a necessary inclusion when it comes Col. Bruce and his proclivity for shenanigans of all shapes and sizes. As author Jerry Grillo noted to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Hyperbole was his second language.”
Culled from years of research and interviews with more than one hundred of Bruce’s friends, family members, and musical peers, The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton presents the story of the larger-than-life figure through the memories of the people he mystified throughout his five-decade career. It also features a foreword by Hampton’s longtime Atlanta affiliate, Chuck Leavell. As the book’s description on Amazon explains,
Col. Bruce Hampton was a charismatic musical figure who launched and continued to influence the jam band genre over his fifty-plus years performing. Part bandleader, soul singer, storyteller, conjuror, poet, preacher, comedian, philosopher, and trickster, Col. Bruce actively sought out and dealt in the weird, wild underbelly of the American South. The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton is neither a true biography in the Boswellian sense nor a work of cultural studies, although it combines elements of both. Even as biographer Jerry Grillo has investigated and pursued the facts, this life history of Col. Bruce reads like a novel―one full of amazing tales of a musical life lived on and off the road.
Grillo’s interviews with Hampton and his bandmates, family, friends, and fans paint a fascinating portrait of an artist who fostered some of the best music ever played in America. Grillo aims not so much to document and demystify the self-mythologizing performer as to explain why his fans and friends loved him so dearly.
Still, Col. Bruce’s prodigious imagination pales in comparison to the stranger-than-fiction story of his death. Grillo was in the building at the Fox Theatre on May 1st, 2017 for Hampton 70, Bruce’s star-studded 70th birthday show, which ended with the guest of honor collapsing onstage after suffering a fatal heart attack. As the biographer told AJC, “I was standing in front of the soundboard. From where I’m standing, it looks like he’s going down on his knees and paying homage. I’ve seen it a hundred times before. … At some point, you realize something’s wrong.”
As Grillo writes, it was “the most surreal moment of a surreal life … poetic and horrifying, tragic and triumphant.”
You can pre-order your copy of The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography here.