ATLANTA - Beloved guitarist and singer Bruce Hampton was known as the "Grandfather of the Jamband scene" died after collapsing Monday night during the last song of a show billed as "Hampton 70: A Celebration of Col. Bruce Hampton."
Banjo player Jeff Mosier was on stage with Hampton, one of more than 20 artists who’d gathered to honor Hampton’s 70th birthday.
“None of us ever imagined him leaving the planet at that time, so when we saw him go down while he was singing, I thought he was doing this thing where goes to honor and worship the artists who are playing,” Mosier said. “It was so loud and the fans were screaming and he was smiling and so happy before that so we just didn’t know.”
Michael Koepenick spent a decade producing “Basically Frightened, The Music Madness of Colonel Bruce Hampton.” He was back stage Monday night shooting clips of the show to share with Hampton.
“The mood was electric. He loved performing and his favorite musicians and best friends were up there,” Koepenick said. “In a way it was too fitting. If Bruce could plan the way he would exit, that would’ve been it,” he told Bruner.
Hampton first heard Elvis Presley at the Fox in 1959. He started the Hampton Grease Band, among several other bands over of the decades. He would later inspire generations of folk, rock, jazz, and blues artists.
“I was a banjo player trying to find my way. He gave you permission to be you. His big thing was intention. Why are you here? What do you want to accomplish? Losing what he represents is bigger than a musician dying,” said Mosier, who credit Hampton for starting and shaping his music career.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band, also on the lineup, posted a statement on its official Facebook page from Hampton's family saying he had died.
After Hampton collapsed, actor Billy Bob Thornton, who was on the bill with members of Widespread Panic, Phish and other musicians, took to the microphone to thank fans and said that they had to attend to something back stage.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal honored Hampton with the Governor's Award in the Arts and Humanities in 2012.
“He was about elevating music, not just playing it,” said Mosier. “Bruce believed the music should play you instead of you playing the music. That’s what we were doing last night and he left the planet while we were doing it. It was beautiful but it was also very sad.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.