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Little Milton

He may not be a household name, but die-hard blues fans know Little Milton as a superb all-around electric bluesman -- a soulful singer, an evocative guitarist, an accomplished songwriter, and a skillful bandleader. He's often compared to the legendary B.B. King -- as well as Bobby "Blue" Bland -- for the way his signature style combines soul, blues, and R&B, a mixture that helped make him one of the biggest-selling bluesmen of the '60s (even if he's not as well-remembered as King). As time progressed, his music grew more and more orchestrated, with strings and horns galore. He maintained a steadily active recording career all the way from his 1953 debut on Sam Phillips' legendary Sun label, with his stunning longevity including notable stints at Chess (where he found his greatest commercial success), Stax, and Malaco.

James Milton Campbell was born September 7, 1934, in the small Delta town of Inverness, MS, and grew up in Greenville. (He would later legally drop the "James" after learning of a half-brother with the same name.) His father Big Milton, a farmer, was a local blues musician, and Milton also grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio program. At age 12, he began playing the guitar and saved up money from odd jobs to buy his own instrument from a mail-order catalog. By 15, he was performing for pay in local clubs and bars, influenced chiefly by T-Bone Walker but also by proto-rock & roll jump blues shouters. He made a substantial impression on other area musicians, even getting a chance to back Sonny Boy Williamson II, and caught the attention of R&B great Ike Turner, who was doubling as a talent scout for Sam Phillips at Sun. Turner introduced the still-teenaged Little Milton to Phillips, who signed him to a contract in 1953. With Turner's band backing him, Milton's Sun sides tried a little bit of everything -- he hadn't developed a signature style as of yet, but he did have a boundless youthful energy that made these early recordings some of his most exciting and rewarding. Unfortunately, none of them were hits, and Milton's association with Sun was over by the end of 1954. He set about forming his own band, which waxed one single for the small Meteor label in 1957, before picking up and moving to St. Louis in 1958.

In St. Louis, Milton befriended DJ Bob Lyons, who helped him record a demo in a bid to land a deal on Mercury. The label passed, and the two set up their own label, christened Bobbin. Little Milton's Bobbin singles finally started to attract some more widespread attention, particularly "I'm a Lonely Man," which sold 60,000 copies despite being the very first release on a small label. As head of A&R, Milton brought artists like Albert King and Fontella Bass into the Bobbin fold, and with such a high roster caliber, the label soon struck a distribution arrangement with the legendary Chess Records. Milton himself switched over to the Chess subsidiary Checker in 1961, and it was there that he would settle on his trademark soul-inflected, B.B. King-influenced style. Initially a moderate success, Milton had his big breakthrough with 1965's "We're Gonna Make It," which hit number one on the R&B charts thanks to its resonance with the civil rights movement. "We're Gonna Make It" kicked off a successful string of R&B chart singles that occasionally reached the Top Ten, highlighted by "Who's Cheating Who?," "Grits Ain't Groceries," "If Walls Could Talk," "Baby I Love You," and "Feel So Bad," among others.

The death of Leonard Chess in 1969 threw his label into disarray, and Little Milton eventually left Checker in 1971 and signed with the Memphis-based soul label Stax (also the home of his former protégé Albert King). At Stax, Milton began expanding his studio sound, adding bigger horn and string sections and spotlighting his soulful vocals more than traditional blues. Further hits followed in songs like "Annie Mae's Cafe," "Little Bluebird," "That's What Love Will Make You Do," and "Walkin' the Back Streets and Cryin'," but generally not with the same magnitude of old. Stax went bankrupt in 1975, upon which point Little Milton moved to the TK/Glades label, which was better known for its funk and disco acts. His recordings there were full-blown crossover affairs, which made "Friend of Mine" a minor success, but that label soon went out of business as well. Milton spent some time in limbo; he recorded one album for MCA in 1983 called Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number, and the following year found a home with Malaco, which sustained the careers of quite a few old-school Southern soul and blues artists. During his tenure at Malaco, Milton debuted the song that would become his latter-day anthem, the bar band staple "The Blues Is Alright," which was also widely popular with European blues fans. Milton recorded frequently and steadily for Malaco, issuing 13 albums under their aegis by the end of the millennium. In 1988, he won the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Entertainer of the Year, and was also inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: Anthology 1953-1961

1. Somebody Told Me

2. Beggin' My Baby

3. I Love My Baby

4. Running Wild Blues

5. Oo-Wee, Wee Baby

6. If Crying Would Help Me

7. If You Love Me

8. Alone And Blue

9. Lookin' For My Baby

10. Homesick For My Baby

11. She's My Queen

12. Re-Beat

13. That Will Never Do

14. I'm A Lonely Man

15. Long Distance Operator

16. I Found Me A New Love

17. I'm Tryin'

18. Strange Dreams

19. Hold Me Tight

20. Same Old Blues

21. Dead Love

22. My Baby Pleases Me

23. Let It Be Known

24. Hey Girl!

25. Cross My Heart

26. I'm In Love

27. My Mind Is Troubled


Track List: Count The Days

1. I Will Survive

2. I'll Catch You On Your Way Down

3. 4:59 AM

4. Jealousy

5. You Just Can't Take My Blues

6. Penitentiary Blues

7. The End Of The Rainbow

8. Too Much Pain

9. Count The Days

10. Nobody's Sleeping In My Bed


Track List: Greatest Hits: The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

1. We're Gonna Make It

2. So Mean To Me

3. Blind Man

4. Who's Cheating Who?

8. More And More

9. Let Me Down Easy

10. Grits Ain't Groceries

11. Just A Little Bit

15. Baby, I Love You

16. If Walls Could Talk


Track List: I'm A Gambler

1. Casino Blues

2. I've Got The Blues

3. Poke Salad Annie

4. Like A Rooster Or A Hen

5. Pledging My Love

6. Love Is A Gamble

7. That's All Right

8. Baby Please

9. You've Been Gone Too Long

10. A Man Needs A Woman

11. That's What A Good Woman Can Do


Track List: Me For You, You For Me

1. Me For You

2. Sugar Dumpling

3. Angel Of Mercy

4. Loving You

5. Just One Step

6. My Thing Is You

7. 4:59 AM

8. Somebody Done Changed


Track List: Walkin' The Back Streets

1. Walking The Back Streets And Crying

2. Before The Honeymoon

3. Somebody's Tears

4. Blue Monday

5. Married Woman

6. Eight Men And Four Women

7. Open The Door To Your Heart

8. Letter Full Of Tears

9. Bet You I'll Win


Track List: Tin Pan Alley

1. If That Aint A Reason(For Your Mamma To Leave You)

2. Mr. Mailman(I Don't Want To No Letter)

3. I'm Living Off The Love You Give

4. That's What Love Will Make You Do

5. I'm Gonna Cry A River

6. Rainey Day

7. Lovin' Stick

8. Tin Pan Alley

9. Let Me Back In

10. Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson

11. If You Talk In Your Sleep

12. Packed Up And Took My Mind


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My COMPANION is the Blues. Thanks Dad!!!
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The Blues is My Companion is the story of my life.
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My all time best song was walking the back streets and crying

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I was 12 when my grandfather had me listening to this type of music going fishing, he always told me son this is real music ..RIP short dog
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Real Stuff
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I was 11 when I heard him. dont' tel no one what I can hear and can't But he can tell the truth. I liked I play dirty. I can't tell you no lie that was before I knew what a club was. Learnd more about Little Milton and he used to go to my Uncle house on big Eleven Lake in KCK.
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one of the best
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Great artist
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He was my husband, he just didn't know it. He could sing me to sleep LOL
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Wake up all they blues lover blues her to stay
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Forgiven... Now time to move on
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Big deal we get the win hand
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Wasnt he the young man on Cadillac Record Movie??? I loved the movie but not how he was portrayed. .in it...He is so smooth...wis h there were more dudes around like him.....
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he is good
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Little Milton sings for the soul. Greatest blues singer that ever lived. I can listen all day long and never get bored. You Betta Sang
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Classic blues
love the blues - just saw Buddy Guy
for the 7 th time
blues rule
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Knew him when James Cotton band came to our town. Long live the music of the blues as it slowly fades in history. May we always keep it. It's true American music no one can copy
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ronaldward31 0 5 1
Blues 4 da soul .
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I'am a Blues person
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I once knew a man named fish he couldn't swim what a b**ch
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I love his music keep going little Milton.
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L i. L. J. O. H. N. N. Y. R. I. P. L. I t t l e. M.i l.t o.n. C a m p.b e l l. J. R
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L. I. L. J. O. H. N. N. Y. R. I. P. B. r. O. T. H. E. R. L. I. T. T. L. E. M. I. L. T. O. N
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His music will live forever.Grea t song.
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L. I. L. J o h n n y. B l u e m a n
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blues man
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R p. L I t t l e m i l t o n f r o m l i t t l e j o h n n y
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R i p l i t t l e m i l t o n b l u e s l o v e m I s s y o u y o u r m u s i c s t i l l. L e a v n o n
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Dam only the blues can make a person Sad and glad . Living it daily . Keep on living and loving the blue.
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I need to find. What do you do when you love somebody and they don,t love you
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Little Milton was the Man. I still love his music
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I can say that I've had to walk the Backstreets and cry. RIP
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so glad some folks still keeping the blues alive luv me some Milton,B.B,J o h n n y Taylor Bobby Bland grew up with the blues in Memphis Tn. lets keep it going.
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RIH my Blues Man, Bobby Bland will be truly missed. I would try to see him very time he comet o town. I grew up on the downhome blues. He was one the greats, if not the greatest blues singers.
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R.I.P Mr. Bobby Blue BLand, u are a legend ,and also Lil Milton i remember grwoing up as a lil girl my grandmother, mama,and aunts loved them some bobby blue bland and lil milton..ther e was one song that stayed with me by milton i can't quit you baby the original version with just him... they would have a screaming fit everytime they played that song...Memor i e s ....classic /legendary ....cannot be duplicated often imitated.... but not quite.....
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Little Milton is one the the blues greats! I grew up listening to him and his music still sounds good to me.
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Love Mr.Bobby Bland
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He is with the best, B, B, Bobby Bland.
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Little Milton and Bobby Bland are my favorite blues artists. It never grows old and to reminisce about the times back when my parents played this kind of music is sweet magic.
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I love the blues ,it give me direction and also show me what my lover is up
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he would play the local clubs here in St. Louis. My fav story, my dad said one night he walked into the club in St. Louis with a date and Little Milton walked out with her. Check out a great book about pre-WWII blues in St. Louis by Kevin Belford called Devil at the Confluence about the great influence of music out of St. Louis
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He also did some fine work w/ Gov't Mule...but everybody and grandma has jammed w/ Uncle Warren...
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Oh!!!! Little Bluebird...G r e a t Song..I grew up in Greenville also..I would see him walking on Historic Nelson Street.
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Down Home Blues baby. Mr. C.
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Every so often I hear a real gem on Pandora, this is one!
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Were gonna make it , is one of my favorite song . It gets me through the tough times. Reminds me to be thankful for what I have.
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don't know of him
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