Little Milton (James Milton Campbell Jr.)
Born: September 17, 1934, Inverness, Mississippi
Died: August 4, 2005
Photo credit: Bill Steber – www.steberphoto.com
Little Milton’s catchy hits, showmanship, and easy stage patter with audiences made him a big star on the Chitlin’ Circuit of roadhouses and dance halls scattered across the South. Originally influenced by B.B. King and Bobby “Blue” Bland, he developed his own distinct style of soul blues that deftly blended R&B, soul, and blues. An industrious youth, he bought his first guitar with money he earned picking cotton. Although he was of large stature, Campbell became known as “Little Milton” to set him apart from his father, a bluesman known as “Big” Milton. As a teenager, Campbell moved to Greenville, where he played with Sonny Boy Williamson and pianist Willie Love. In the early 1950s, he recorded with Love for Trumpet Records in Jackson, and Sun Records in Memphis. In the mid -1950s, Campbell moved to East St. Louis, Illinois. He recorded with, and became a talent scout and producer for Bobbin, helping to launch the careers of Fontella Bass and Albert King. In the early 1960s, Campbell moved to Chicago and recorded for the Checker Records. Released in spring 1965, the song We’re Gonna Make It reached number one on the R&B charts, establishing his career nationally. A string of hits followed including Who’s Cheating Who, Grits Ain’t Groceries, and If Walls Could Talk. In 1971, Campbell switched to the Stax record label in Memphis, where he recorded a series of lushly produced soul blues records, using strings and horns. After Stax folded in 1977, he recorded for a variety of labels before signing with Malaco Records. He recorded a dozen CDs for Malaco and remained a favorite on the concert and festival circuits.