Celebrating Little Milton's Big Musical Career

Little Milton

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Musician Isaac Hayes helps Scott Simon remember blues legend Milton Campbell, better known as Little Milton. The 70-year-old Campbell was buried this week at a funeral filled with music.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

A blues legend was laid to rest in Southaven, Mississippi, this week. Milton Campbell, better known as Little Milton, was a legend of the Delta blues, a self-taught guitarist with a voice that really made you believe what he had to say.

(Soundbite of "Grits Ain't Groceries")

Mr. MILTON CAMPBELL (Blues Artist): (Singing) If I don't love you, baby, grits ain't grocery, eggs ain't poultry and Mona Lisa was a man. Oh, yeah! Let's get into it! Listen!

SIMON: That's "Grits Ain't Groceries" from 1969. Little Milton died of a brain aneurysm at the Delta Medical Center in Memphis this week. He was 70, but still touring and recording music. His most recent album was this year's "Think of Me."

Isaac Hayes was at Little Milton's bedside and attended the funeral. He joins us from Memphis.

Mr. Hayes, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. ISAAC HAYES (Singer): How ya doin', Scooter?

SIMON: I'm fine. Thank you, sir. Just fine. What was Little Milton like? What do you remember?

Mr. HAYES: Well, you know, I remember long before I met him, I was a fan. He was around Memphis, Tennessee, when I was doing my early, early years--you know, doing the Chitlin Circuit gigs and stuff--and I heard his recordings, and every--nobody said anything negative about Milton. Milton was always a gentleman and he was--he had smarts about him. He had business sense. And, of course, his talent--you know, it goes without saying. He was a writer; he was a musician; he was a singer. He was all of that put together--what a lot of us wanted to be. And when I had the pleasure of meeting him...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HAYES: ...he was always--he was not snobbish. He was very warm, kind of quiet at times. Came out of a juke joint one time and just--Milton was standing outside like he was meditating. He just impressed me as a very serious man, but he was a lot of fun, too. When I first heard that Milton had been stricken, I went to his bedside.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HAYES: And, you know, I talked to him, you know. A lot of times that helps. And I just told him how I felt about him, and, man, you got to get him to--get him out of his bed--You know?...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HAYES: ...and things like that. And, of course, you know, God over all, he had a better--another plan. He plucked that flower.

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HAYES: But he did his tour here on Earth, and like they said at his funeral, he's up in heaven now with Albert King and those guys. You know, a brother said, `Luther's probably doing his vocalizing up there.' You know?

SIMON: Yeah. May I ask what the funeral was like this week?

Mr. HAYES: Oh, man, it was--his funeral was awesome. They had a march downtown just like--you know, like those funerals they do in New Orleans?

SIMON: Yeah, of course.

Mr. HAYES: You know, Memphis turned out. I never heard of blues played in a church before, but that's--it was a celebration, I mean, as it should be.

SIMON: What we just heard, "Grits Ain't Groceries," is there sometimes joy in the blues that...

Mr. HAYES: Oh, yeah. There's always joy in the blues because that's what--that's where the blues is all right about--you know, I used to have someone who meant the whole world to me but who left me for someone else...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. HAYES: ....but I'm left in misery. But ever since that night the blues always been a part of me. When she left me she gave me the blues--is the last thing I thought I could use. I'm so glad she left me, that she gave me the blues. If she never would have left me, I never would have found someone like you. So it's a positive came out of a negative.

SIMON: Mr. Hayes, it's just been such a pleasure to talk to you. I can't thank you enough for taking the time.

Mr. HAYES: All right, Scooter.

SIMON: Thank you. Take care. Thank you.

Mr. HAYES: All right, man. You have a wonderful day.

SIMON: And you too, sir.

Mr. HAYES: OK.

(Soundbite of "The Blues Is All Right")

Mr. CAMPBELL with Backup Singers: (Singing) I'm glad she left me. I'm glad she gave me the blues. You see, I'm grateful the blues. It was the blues that brought me to you, yeah. You see, she never given me the blues, I never would have found someone sweet like you. Let's work it, son, y'all! Hey, hey, the blues is all right. Hey, hey, the blues is all right. Oh, hey, hey, the blues is all right. Hey, hey...

SIMON: And special thanks to WPFW in Washington, DC, for their recording of "The Blues Is All Right."

(Soundbite of "The Blues Is All Right")

Mr. CAMPBELL With Backup Singers: (Singing) ...every day and night. I just got to say it again. Y'all help me. Testify! Hey, hey, the blues is all right. Shout it! Hey, hey the blues is all right. Oh! Hey, hey, the blues is all right. Hey, hey, the blues is all right. It's all right! All right! All right! All right. Every day and night. Do it again! Hey, hey, the blues is all right. You say it! Hey, hey the blues is all right. Oh! Hey, hey, the blues is all right. Hey, hey, the blues is all right.

SIMON: Good morning, America. You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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