It’s been one year since we lost Col. Bruce Hampton, the celebrated “grandaddy of the jam scene” who raised contemporary heroes like Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Oteil Burbridge, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, and many, many more as his musical children. One of Hampton’s final products, before he passed, was an independent film, Here Comes Rusty, which was filmed in Mobile, Alabama, and officially debuted at film festivals in 2016, but never actually released to the public.
Things began to fall by the wayside when producer and writer Ross Smith tragically passed away the year that Here Comes Rusty was prepared to launch. The mourning of Ross, one of two brothers that produced the film, took precedence, and the team fell short of their funds to pay for the music licensing fees and complete the final stages of the film’s release. Today, in honor of Col. Bruce Hampton’s continuous celebration of life, we are going to help bring that film to the finish line.
Ross Smith’s brother, Hughes Smith–producer of Here Comes Rusty–has started a GoFundMe with a goal of $25,000. When the goal is reached, the film will be fully expensed and ready to be shared with the public as Col. Bruce Hampton’s final film. Click this link to donate, and #DoItForBruce.
Here Comes Rusty is about a reluctant dog-track owner who makes the bet of a lifetime. With co-stars Fred Willard and Joey Lauren Adams, Col. Bruce faces a lifetime of problems, including a guitar student who becomes better than the teacher himself—played by Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, who was 12 at the time of filming. The movie also features Nikki Glaspie and George Porter Jr. as musical guests, per Hampton’s request.
To summarize the plot, writer Pierce Wortham told us in 2015:
Col. Bruce plays the lead role of Dicky St. Jon who is the proprietor of Magnolia Greyhound Park. Over the years, he has neglected the track, and it has fallen on hard times. Dicky learns he is broke, and with the bank nipping at his heels, makes the bet of a lifetime with his chief adversary and brother in law, Mak. The bet pits Magnolia Park against Mak’s Used Car Ranch, winner of the Magnolia Derby takes all.
During the early stages of development, Pierce and Ross Smith were discussing characters over dinner when Smith brought up Col. Bruce for the role of “Dicky.” They decided there was nothing to lose in calling Hampton, and, to their surprise, he was interested. (Bruce’s acting career started long before though, including his 2015 role in Run The Jewels‘ music video for “Blockbuster Night Part 1”.) In a very organic way, it wasn’t until Hampton brought up Niederauer that a role even existed for him.
“We didn’t know who Brandon [Niederauer] was or why Bruce was pitching us a kid when the story didn’t have a kid. But after watching a couple videos on YouTube, we knew we had to find a spot for him, so we changed some things around and wrote him into the story,” Wortham told Live For Live Music.
Brandon “Taz” Neiderauer met Col. Bruce Hampton on Jam Cruise 12 during Music Masters Camps At Sea and have remained friends ever since. Here Comes Rusty was Taz’s acting debut in 2015, before he would go on to perform as the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s Broadway production, School of Rock The Musical, and appear in Spike Lee‘s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It.
Then, in 2017, there was Hampton 70, the Colonel’s 70th birthday celebration and final gathering. Niederauer again shared the stage with his mentor for a life-changing and career-shaping experience. The concert was held at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, and featured Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Jon Fishman, Warren Haynes, Karl Denson, Chuck Leavell, John Popper, Susan Tedeschi, John Bell, Dave Schools, Oliver Wood, Duane Trucks, Rev. Jeff Mosier, Billy Bob Thornton, and more, making for an incredible cast of characters there to pay their respects to the man who helped shape each and every one of their careers. Many have recognized the unbelievable experience of Hampton 70 as a “passing of the torch” from Colonel Bruce Hampton to Brandon “Taz” Niederauer.
Flash forward to the encore, and then to the hospital, when Col. Bruce Hampton was pronounced dead, and Here Comes Rusty actor and friend of Bruce, Paulie Litt, arrived at an important decision: To make sure Bruce’s final film was released to the public. He immediately called Hughes Smith to let him know the mission. He explains, “I said to myself, ‘I’m doing this to honor Bruce and to get this out for him and for Ross [Hughes’ brother and Producer] because it was their dream,’ and I cannot let that go and let that be unseen. So this is my mission to come and help out as much as I can to help get this film released.”
Paulie Litt is an actor in the film that, like many who encountered Bruce, became close friends with him and traveled to Atlanta despite conflicting plans. The theme of Bruce’s loved ones gravitating to Atlanta on that special night is all too common.
And so, the film producers and cast are here to give Here Comes Rusty the completion it deserves for the family, friends, and fans of Col. Bruce Hampton in support of his final film. Click this link to donate, and #DoItForBruce.