Little Milton

Sunday, August 15, at Wilbert's.

Festival Express The Cedar Lee Theater
When Little Milton's 1965 single "We're Gonna Make It" hit the airwaves, people reputedly swarmed record shops asking for the new Bobby Bland tune. Which was no doubt just fine with the brain trust at Chess Records, who saw in the St. Louis-based singer-guitarist the ideal chart competition for the superstar Bland -- pipes capable of shifting gears from mellow crooner to fiery shouter as the song's needs dictated. That tune, which did well on pop charts as well as R&B lists, was one of a number of hits he had for the label, finishing with the 1969 hit "Grits Ain't Groceries." Milton (born James Milton Campbell), a W.C. Handy Award winner and an inductee of the Blues Hall of Fame, has made good use of that strong soul connection since, turning out a song mix of blues and soul aimed primarily at the traditional black blues audience.

Prior to his hitmaking years with Chess, Milton recorded for the Sun label, collaborating with the likes of Ike Turner. During the '70s, Milton and his Memphis cohorts turned out several solid albums, highlighted by such gems as "Little Bluebird," co-penned by the legendary Memphis hitmeisters Isaac Hayes and David Porter. Powerful vocalist that he is, Milton is also a skillful old-school blues guitarist, a point he stresses on his 2002 release Guitar Man.

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