Here are some scenes or things Bruce said that were originally intended for “The Music and Mythocracy of Col. Bruce Hampton: A Basically True Biography,” but for one reason or another didn’t make the final cut:
“I’m a premature vessel to the second level of consciousness.”
“I’m like an accountant that weird shit happens to. All of my life. The more insane it is, the truer it is. There’s lots of stuff in the sky.”
“The key to life is to be childlike and not childish. If you lose that childlikedness, you’re dead. Go sell stocks.”
Bruce happened to be in the Capricorn office – the second incarnation, in Nashville – one day when a publicist from Warner Brothers (neo-Capricorn’s partner) took a phone call from a 19-year-old college journalist in North Carolina.
Capricorn had just released put out the Elmore James: King of the Slide Guitar, and the young writer was working on a story about that.
Bruce’s likeness emerged from stone at the Hemlock Festival.
“She asked if she could talk to Elmore James,” Bruce recalled through fits of breathless laughter, because the blues master had been dead almost 30 years. “I told the guy, ‘give me the phone!’ Then I spent three hours talking to that woman.”
Bruce spoke to her in a false voice, his version of Elmore James, and he told her a lot of malarkey, such as, “Me and Robert Johnson drank shoe polish straight through bread.” According to Bruce, the journalist wrote down every word.
That’s an article that I would dearly love to find.
One of the things that Bruce was basically frightened of is fame. He couldn’t commit to something as pointless as celebrity. Certainly not on a full-time basis.
“I want to jiggle the middle,” he said. “I don’t want to go too far down or too far up. I don’t want to be on the phone all day. I want to paint. I want to dribble a basketball, and be a part-timer at everything. A part-time person.”
He didn’t want to be an image, didn’t want to be a rock star, “and go out there and do the same thing every night. I mean, I want to go out there and set fires and bring sprinklers, eat benches, or something new.”
Bruce used to play the Hemlock Festival, just outside of Dahlonega, every November. And every year, my family and friends would go and dig this cool little weekend festival.
At his last Hemlock, we introduced one of my son’s friends, a young guitarist, to Bruce who told him, “listen to Django Reinhardt and you’ll never go wrong.”
One of my favorite Hemlock memories was the time my friend Patrick and I went backstage to talk with Bruce. We were just chatting when the band on stage started playing a Grateful Dead song. Patrick, a Deadhead, stopped mid-sentence as if in a trance.
His silence lasted only a second or two, but it had a solid beat before and after and he looked at Bruce and I and said, “I have to go dance now,” then sprinted out of the tent and back to the front of the stage so he could dance.
Bruce clapped his hands and said, “It’s Zambi Two!”