Remembering Col. Bruce Hampton

Col. Bruce Hampton, who died on stage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta last week, was a huge influence on Delta Moon, as he was for half a century on the entire Atlanta music community. Seeing the Aquarium Rescue Unit at the Little Five Points Pub was one of the main reasons Mark Johnson moved to Atlanta in the first place. He thought, “There’s something going on here.”

Franher Joseph, who played bass with the Colonel for the last year or more, talks of “Hamptonisms”, advice Hampton gave his musicians, such as, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. But take what you do very seriously.”

For Tom Gray, a fan since 1969 (Bruce could have told you the exact date and time), the biggest lesson came from a story Hampton told him about the time, as a teenager, he met Muddy Waters.

“Mr. Waters,” he said, “You’re my favorite singer.”

Muddy Waters didn’t respond.

“You’re also my favorite guitar player.”

Muddy Waters looked at him and said, “I’m not a singer. I’m not a guitar player. What I do is put the devil in the room.”

Bruce Hampton took that concept and made a life out of it.

Delta Moon on the Move

Delta Moon has been doing a lot of moving lately — ten shows in ten days in Germany, Austria and Croatia, then a day off to drive back to Germany, a bunch more dates, and another day off to drive to Italy. We play our fourth show here tonight before heading back to Germany, where we will get a night off because singing and dancing on Good Friday is against the law.

Italy has been so much fun I can’t tell you. We played two shows in Milan. Monday night the opening band — we’d met them at a festival a few years ago, including our good friends the Xeres brothers — all ended up on stage with us. The trumpet, trombone and baritone sax solos raised the pandemonium to a level that took me completely outside myself. I thought nothing could top that experience, but who could have predicted last night’s audience at the Theater Nidaba? They not only sang along with us, they started making up their own parts. By the end of the night, as we stretched out a jam on “Shake Your Hips”, we were swapping licks with a choir.

Of course, I could tell you about epic Alpine traffic jams, constant packing and lugging, and the never-ending struggle to stay one day ahead with clean clothes. In Vienna I lost my bolo tie with a glass eye set in a silver pyramid. We’ve traveled through a lot of impressive cities and beautiful countryside. But after a while it all blurs together, like an overheard conversation in a half-understood language.

What stands out in clear focus are the people — the old friends we are happy to meet again and the new ones we are making. And when you get right down to it, that’s what a musical tour is all about.

Top photo: Street art in Milan.
Bottom photo: A Croatian barbecue with our pal Tomislav Goluban. Thanks, Mario!

Greetings from Deutschland

Delta Moon has been on the road in Germany for a week now. I’m writing this in the backseat of a rented Mercedes van doing 125 kph down the autobahn. It’s a beautiful sunny day here. The trees are just starting to bud.

An old friend, Greg Baba, formerly of the Atlanta-based band King Johnson, is drumming with us on this tour, and he’s doing a fantastic job. Greg lives in Switzerland now, so he was a natural to call when Marlon Patton, who played drums on the Cabbagetown album, had other commitments during the six weeks we’re in Europe.

Most of the dates on this tour are clubs and indoor festivals, but yesterday afternoon we played a men’s prison. The guys seemed to enjoy it. After the show several came up to thank us before getting herded out. I was touched when one man shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “For a while, your music has freed my soul.”

The sound man told us that the real party is at the women’s prison in Frankfurt. He said the band plays outside, and the women all get up and dance on the grass. Over the last few years we have played several men’s prisons in Germany. The men like to clap hands and shout, but there’s never any dancing. We still have hopes for Frankfurt next year.

(Thanks to Kurt Heldmann for the photo.)


In our travels last year through Spain, Germany, Italy and eastern Europe we saw a lot of migrants tramping along the roadside, begging and busking in city streets, or camping by fences with nowhere left to go. According to the United Nations, 65 million refugees are wandering the world today, displaced by war, overpopulation and climate change. That’s a lot of people — more than the combined populations of New York and California.

All of us in Delta Moon were affected by what we saw on that trip. When we returned to America Mark wanted to write a song called “Refugee” over a guitar lick he had come up with. The band came up with a chanted chorus and three verses, each in the voice of a particular person we had seen or heard about. (“Issme” is Arabic for “my name is…”) We decided that Franher and I would each speak a verse, and then our friend Kyshona Armstrong came in to deliver the female verse. She also volunteered some harmonies and powerful wailing at the end.

This is an unusual song for Delta Moon, but it’s one we all feel strongly about. When I posted it to YouTube last night the video got its first thumbs down before the tenth view. Voting has continued at roughly four positive for every negative, with a very high ratio of reactions. Everyone seems to feel strongly about it, one way or the other.

Please let us know what you think.

Pre-order the New Album

Delta Moon’s new album, CABBAGETOWN, features the band’s signature dual slide guitar sound, but with some new sonic twists. These songs explore fresh territory, inspired by people and scenes the band has experienced at home and in their travels. Five-time Grammy winner Susan Archie is doing the artwork. International distribution is already set up. But to get this music out of the studio and into the world we need your help.

Through PledgeMusic you can pre-order CABBAGETOWN and get the inside track on exclusive information, videos and merchandise not available anywhere else.

Ten percent of any money raised beyond our goal will go to the Music Maker Relief Foundation, which was founded to preserve the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty or time.

To all our supporters, a big thank you, and please tell a friend.

The Revolving Throne

Some of you may know that Delta Moon started without a drummer, way back in the ancient times. Our first gigs were acoustic. It didn’t take us long, though, to crank up the volume. As some guys we once met in Bavaria said, after telling us they had been drinking beer since nine in the morning, “Now we have reached a good level.”

Meanwhile, Delta Moon‘s drum throne continues to spin. Vic Stafford’s broken hand has healed. But now Vic has taken a job running audio for a new TV show at Turner, which is covering his medical bills but has severely cut his ability to travel or take weeknight gigs. Vic will continue to play with the band, but so will Marlon Patton, who played on our last two albums and the recent European tour, along with a new friend, Zack Albetta, and our buddy Yonrico Scott, formerly of the Derek Trucks Band and now with the Royal Southern Brotherhood. No slouches there, any of them.

Here’s video of three songs we played with Marlon on the Closing Time radio show in Trieste, Italy.

Speaking Catalan (or At Least I Tried)

Before Delta Moon’s show in Lleida, Spain, our Spanish agent, Pepe Ferrández, handed me a cardboard box and said, “The government requires that I give this to you.”

The box was labeled with a picture of a winking face and the words un gest per la llengua, which is Catalan for “a gesture towards language”.

There are actually several languages spoken in Spain. The main ones are Spanish (Castillian), used by the government and national media and understood almost everywhere, Galician, which is sort of halfway between Spanish and Portuguese with its own unique elements, Catalan, more like halfway between Spanish and French with its own unique elements, and the Basque language, which is unlike anything else.

The cardboard box contained a kit prepared by the General Directorate for Language Policy of the Ministry of Culture “for scientists and artists who visit Catalonia.” Inside I found a booklet, a set of seven flashcards with phrases like bona nit (Catalan for “good evening”), moltes gràcies (“thank you very much”) and fins aviat (“see you soon”), and a badge with the winking face that actually contained an audio player, with a set of earbuds and a USB connection. I guess the idea was that you could practice the phrases either on your computer in a hotel room or by using the badge while walking down the street or whatever. You could also cue up a phrase, and when it came time to say, “It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you,” just fiddle with the badge and repeat whatever came to your ear.

Bona nit I already knew. I paced up and down the dressing room trying to get the other phrases to flow naturally. On stage that night I spoke half in English, trying to throw in as much Catalan as I could. After the show I asked Pepe how it sounded.

“They got bona nit and fins aviat,” he said.”I don’t think anyone understood anything else you said. But they appreciated that you were trying.”