Legendary BMI bluesman "Little" Milton Campbell, best known for his signature song "Hey, Hey, the Blues is Alright," died August 4 from complications from a stroke. He was 71.
Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988, the Grammy-nominated songwriter/artist was also the recipient of several W.C. Handy Blues Awards, the highest honor given to artists in the genre. He most recently earned a Handy nomination for Soul/Blues Artist of the Year at the 2005 ceremony, held in Memphis in May.
BMI's Thomas Cain, blues legend Little Milton and BMI's David Sanjek at the 2005 Handy Awards
Born to sharecropping farmers near the Mississippi Delta town of Inverness, Little Milton followed in the footsteps of his father, a local blues musician who went by the name of "Big" Milton Campbell. Little Milton picked up the guitar at age 12 and recorded his first hit for Sun Records at 18 after being discovered by talent scout Ike Turner.
Turner advised him to move to East St. Louis where he signed with Bobbin Records and recorded "I'm a Lonely Man" and "That Will Never Do." He switched to Chicago's Chess Records in 1961, where he had a string of hits including "Who's Cheating Who?," "Grits Ain't Groceries," and the #1 song "We're Gonna Make It."
In 1971, he joined Memphis-based label Stax Records where he continued to produce great blues music like "Walking The Back Streets and Cryin'," and "That's What Love Will Make You Do." His longest label association came in 1984 when he signed with Malaco Records, which released 14 of Little Milton's albums including 2001's Feel It.
An internationally-acclaimed blues legend, his career spans almost half a century and his constant touring, right up until his stroke on July 27, took him all over the world.
Little Milton Campbell is survived by his wife, Patricia, and several children.
Photo by Don Putnam