Colonel Bruce Hampton, guitarist and respected elder statesman of the jam-band community, died Monday night after collapsing on stage during the encore of his own birthday celebration. He was 70 years old.
Hampton was close to wrapping up Hampton 70 — a birthday concert featuring members of Phish, Widespread Panic and Leftover Salmon, among others — when he collapsed on stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. Hampton's death was confirmed in a statement from his family, shared by the Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Former bandmate Jeff Mosier wrote on Facebook that he could "could have never imagined a more joyful departure."
Hampton, born Gustav Berglund III, began his music career in the late '60s with the Hampton Grease Band, which toured with The Grateful Dead. In the early '90s, while leading the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Hampton was widely credited with helping inspire and foster a new wave of improvisational "jam band" artists — including Widespread Panic, Blues Traveler, Dave Matthews and Phish.
Most recently, Hampton was leading a weekly residency at the Vista Room in Atlanta. "A Col. Bruce show brings a lot of joy and excitement," Vista Room co-owner Mike Rizzi told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "especially in the world we live in right now. You forget about things when you walk through the door."
In Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton, a 2012 documentary on Hampton, actor Billy Bob Thornton referred to Hampton as "the eighth wonder of the world."