Thursday, August 04, 2005

Codetalkers and the Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash in Terra Alta

From the Charleston Gazzette:

“I’ve been on the road so long that I have no idea where I’m going next,” says Colonel Bruce Hampton (right). The Codetalkers will be in Terra Alta on Saturday.

Hampton, Codetalkers to play at Garcia bash
By Bill LynchFor The Charleston Gazette

It’s just after lunch when Colonel Bruce Hampton picks up the phone. It’s something he’s been doing all day. After endless weeks on the road, Hampton is resting for a couple of days at his home in Florida. It’s just a quick breath of air before he and his band The Codetalkers head back to work.

The road ahead is just as long as the road behind them and includes an appearance Saturday at the 20th annual Jerry Garcia’s Birthday Bash at the Sunshine Daydream Music Park in Terra Alta, Preston County.
“Do we really?” he laughs, when reminded of the engagement. “I’ve been on the road so long that I have no idea where I’m going next.”

He pauses for a moment, thinks about it, then asks, “Is that the thing with Bobby?”

Bobby is Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, who headlines with his band Rat Dog at the two-day festival.
“Oh sure,” Hampton remembers. “We’ll be there.”

The Codetalkers’ appearance at the festival is in some ways a chance for old friends and acquaintances to reunite. His Hampton Grease Band opened for the original Grateful Dead in the mid-’60s and over the years he has played with Weir and the surviving members of the group.

“The funny thing is that I only met Jerry three or four times,” he says. “I’ve played with Bobby and Phil a bunch. I know Pigpen, but was just never around Jerry a lot.”

Guitarist Jimmy Herring, who played with Hampton in The Aquarium Rescue Unit and also plays guitar for the reconstituted band The Dead, has been playing with The Codetalkers over the summer.

Hampton credits Herring with giving him a deeper appreciation for Garcia’s music.

“After Jimmy joined us, he started playing me these wonderful Bach-like/Stravinsky pieces that Jerry had written,” Hampton says. “I really didn’t know the breadth of ‘The Dead.’ I was floored.

“Jerry was an incredible composer.”

About his own musical abilities and career accomplishments, Hampton is more guarded. With 40-plus years under his belt, his music shows the natural sprawl of experience. It’s an eclectic mix of blues, bluegrass, gospel, jazz and Southern rock.

He started young.

“My first instrument was an accordion,” he says. “I picked it up when I was 8 or 9 years old.
“I rebelled against it totally.”

That rebellion led to a lifelong creative pursuit, which has attracted friends and fans for generations. Over the years, Hampton has explored music, writing and taken a dramatic turn or two, most memorably as the crippled songwriter in Billy Bob Thornton’s breakout film “Slingblade.”

“Billy Bob is a genius, may I say,” Hampton gushes.
Hampton is liberal with his praise, particularly of his friends, but more reserved when it comes to his thoughts about his own music.

“As long as it comes from purity,” he says.

“As long as it has an emotional chord to it and it’s not locked in some box, we have the freedom to take chances.”
Hampton is considered by some to be the godfather of alternative Southern music, a musical enigma and a genius in his own right, but he prefers to keep himself grounded.

“I don’t even know if I play music,” he says.

If you go
The 20th annual Jerry Garcia’s Birthday Bash, featuring two nights of Rat Dog, Colonel Bruce Hampton and The Codetalkers with Jimmy Herring, Israel Vibrations and about a dozen other bands, Friday and Saturday, Sunshine Daydream, Terra Alta. Tickets, $115.00. Gates open at noon. For information, visit or call (304) 789-2292.


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