The Story and Music of Little Milton


Introduction to Little Milton

Little Milton (born James Milton Campbell Jr.) was an R&B/soul/blues singer, guitarist and also a sometime record label producer.  Although not as notable as the more contemporary B.B. King or Bobby Bland (whom he was compared to), Little Milton otherwise had a prolific career.  Born in Mississippi in 1934, Campbell started playing while he was in his teens.  After a series of recording flops, he and friend DJ Bob Lyons established their own label, Bobbin.  Its first release, “I’m A Lonely Man” became a regional smash.  As a label head, Little Milton brought artists like Albert King and Fontella Bass to prominence.  Bobbin the struck a distribution deal with Chess Records.  He himself moved to Chess’ subsidiary Checker, under where he recorded “We’re Gonna Make It”.  It became a national hit in 1965.  Other R&B hits followed, like “Feel So Bad,” “Grits Ain’t Groceries,” and “If Walls Could Talk.”  After the disintegration of Chess upon Leonard Chess’ death, Little Milton moved to other labels (finally settling on Malaco Records) and steadily performed and recorded; his latter style was introduced to lush orchestration. He was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988.  Little Milton died from stroke complications in 2003.

Early years of Little Milton

American blues singer Little Milton was born James Milton Campbell on September 7, 1934 in Inverness, Mississippi. He was particularly active during the 50s to 60s music scene.

When Milton was 12, he already knew how to play the guitar and became a street musician. In his adolescence, he began performing at local night clubs where he was spotted by Sun Records’ talent scout Ike Turner in 1952. He was later signed to Sun, releasing a handful of singles, all of which went unnoticed.

Milton as a record producer and recording artist

After leaving Sun Records in 1955, Milton hopscotched from label to label but resulting without significant impression. Later, he experienced his own success when he worked as a record producer for the St. Louis -based label Bobbin Records, dealing with Chess Records for distribution. He had helped several artists to be known in the industry during that time such as Albert King and Fontella Bass.

While working as a producer, Milton also continued releasing his own singles which became hits regionally. In 1962, his single “So Mean to Me” made to s #14 on the Billboard R&B chart.

In mid-1960’s, Milton was still active in the music industry, embarking several tours, handling artist and making his own music as well. In 1965, he issued the single “Blind Man” which became a modestly-charting hit, registering on the R&B chart at #86. However, the next single “We’re Gonna Make It” became a Top 40 hit on the Hot 100 at #25, and also topped the R&B chart in 1965. “We’re Gonna Make It” was followed by another hit “Who’s Cheating Who” at #4 R&B, #43 pop. These three singles were included on his album We’re Gonna Make It.

From 1965 to late 1978, he released numerous singles from the labels Checker, Stax and Glades and MCA, three of which entered R&B’s Top Ten: “If Walls Could Talk” (#10, 1970). “Baby I Love You” (#6, 1970) and “That’s What Love Will Make” (#9, 1973). Releasing his last single in 1983 called “Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number,” and he also released an an album with the same title.

Milton became an inductee of the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988 and was also given a W.C. Handy Award.

On August 4, 2005, Milton was claimed by stroke. He was 70 years old.

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