Blues musician “Little” Milton Campbell, whose gritty vocals and songwriting recalls B.B. King’s rough-edged style, was in a coma after suffering a stroke, a friend said Wednesday.
The 71-year-old Grammy-nominated guitarist and singer known for writing and recording the blues anthem “The Blues Is Alright” suffered a stroke July 27 and lapsed into a coma at a Memphis, Tennessee, hospital, friend Larry Chambers said in a telephone interview.
Born to sharecropping farmers near the Mississippi Delta town of Inverness -- his father, “Big” Milton Campbell, was a local blues musician -- “Little” Milton picked up a guitar at age 12 and recorded his first hit for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records at age 18. It was the same year the Memphis studio recorded Elvis Presley for the first time.
Discovered by blues-rock pioneer Ike Turner, Campbell has gone on to score dozens of rhythm and blues hits and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988.
Though acclaimed in blues circles, Campbell has never achieved the fame of King and others in the genre. He has traveled constantly, playing mid-sized clubs and arenas.
After signing with Bobbin Records in East St. Louis, Illinois, Campbell recorded “I’m a Lonely Man” and “That Will Never Do.” A long association with Chicago’s Chess Records produced the 1965 hit “We’re Gonna Make It,” which coincided with the civil rights movement. Other hits included “Baby I Love You,” “If Walls Could Talk,” “Feel So Bad,” “Who’s Cheating Who?” and “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”
“Annie Mae’s Cafe” and “Little Bluebird” were hits he recorded with Memphis’ Stax Records, which he joined in 1971 before the label’s demise. Most recently, he has recorded for The Malaco Music Group in Jackson, Mississippi, for whom he produced albums entitled “Your Wife is Cheating on Us,” and his last, “A Nickel and a Nail.”
His wife, Patricia, was at his side, Chambers said from Memphis. They have three children.