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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, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

lilmapau
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.....
Lollylkik
he is good
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
Classic blues
love the blues - just saw Buddy Guy
for the 7 th time
blues rule
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
ronaldward31 0 5 1
Blues 4 da soul .
I'am a Blues person
I once knew a man named fish he couldn't swim what a b**ch
I love his music keep going little Milton.
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
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
His music will live forever.Grea t song.
L. I. L. J o h n n y. B l u e m a n
blues man
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
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
Dam only the blues can make a person Sad and glad . Living it daily . Keep on living and loving the blue.
I need to find. What do you do when you love somebody and they don,t love you
d.olden
Little Milton was the Man. I still love his music
I can say that I've had to walk the Backstreets and cry. RIP
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.
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.
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 l.il 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.....
Little Milton is one the the blues greats! I grew up listening to him and his music still sounds good to me.
clairista
Love Mr.Bobby Bland
He is with the best, B, B, Bobby Bland.
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.

I love the blues ,it give me direction and also show me what my lover is up
OK-J MILTON/ST. LOUIS SOUNDS GOOD TO ME
jjlmcnamee
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
He also did some fine work w/ Gov't Mule...but everybody and grandma has jammed w/ Uncle Warren...
Oh!!!! Little Bluebird...G r e a t Song..I grew up in Greenville also..I would see him walking on Historic Nelson Street.
Down Home Blues baby. Mr. C.
uspoexp
Every so often I hear a real gem on Pandora, this is one!
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.
don't know of him
crazy about my z.z
love him yes i do
Great guy, great bluesman. He never really got his due. I was fortunate enough to meet Milton and get to konw him. Miss you man!
I love the Blue and you guy know what you are doing! Pauline anderson said keep it up,I loving it!!
I love all your music
One of the greatest blues singers, artist of all times.Mr. Taylor well recognized during the 60 and 70 and well appreciated.
This was the type of music that i grew up on. Music with a message. Feel good music
mjoliver_317
love the Blues, looking forward to BluesFest in Jax FL in February
I love that genuine, down deep!, real deep down soul!!!!!!!!
i love his music it is great.
i listen to wvon to love the blues
i used to see little milton at the hi-hat club in hattiesburgs ms.in the 60 love him
I love Little Milton.couse the wemons love Little Milton.
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