remembering Colonel Bruce

It’s been a busy day, but I’ve had time to read a few write ups about Col. Bruce leaving us and this one from Live for Live Music has to be my favorite. After seeing the videos of last night’s encore, it truly was as if he played his own funeral; and that was probably just the way he’d have chosen things to play out if he was given a choice. If you’re not familiar with Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, be sure to check him out in the video below letting it rip on “Basically Frightened”. Keep in mind he was only about 12 at the time of this show. It may be that Bruce really did pass the torch last night.

Taz solo on Basically Frightened with Col. Bruce:

Col. Bruce and the Aquarium Rescue Unit played in Savannah many times in those days, but I first stumbled on them in 1989 at an Atlanta bar. If any of you missed the early days of the Colonel and the ARU, it was one of those rare times where you feel like you’re present for the birth of something. That classic line up was it for me, and although I definitely enjoyed shows after that with his other bands, none quite did it for me like those with ARU.

In order to get you started on your journey, here’s a clip where Jimmy Herring, Jeff Mosier, and others talk about the beginnings of the Aquarium Rescue Unit. As you’ll see in the clip, Bruce did exactly what many geniuses do. He assembled people with some talent that impressed him in one way or another, then he brought them all together, fostered them and nurtured that talent until they became something even greater. As they mentioned in the blog I linked at the beginning, he seemed to work as a master teaching his students, and we’re all better off for it. Many of his students have become masters themselves now, and I’m sure Taz is headed down that same path after just a couple of years with Bruce.

To illustrate my point above on Bruce’s influence on other musicians, here are three quotes from a few years ago.

Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) “If I never met Bruce, probably be more of an egotistical jerk and hell of a lot less musician than I am now!”

Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Brothers) “I don’t know if I would be playing professionally today if I hadn’t met him when I did.”

Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, The Dead, Jazz is Dead) “Before I met Bruce I almost gave up music.”

We always hear people make reference to going out doing what they love, but Bruce you pulled that one off and then some.

For anyone wanting to explore a bit and see what he was all about, there is a 2012 documentary called Basically Frightened: The Musical Madness of Col. Bruce Hampton that can be found on Amazon Video and other outlets.

A few photos of Col. Bruce at historic Grant’s Lounge in Macon at Bragg Jam 2014: