Little Milton

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Little Milton
Little Milton playing in Jackson, Mississippi in 2002.
Background information
Birth nameJames Milton Campbell Jr.
BornSeptember 7, 1934
Inverness, Mississippi, U.S.
DiedAugust 4, 2005(2005-08-04) (aged 70)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Electric blues, R&B, [1] soul, funk
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals
Years active1953–2005
Website Official website

James Milton Campbell Jr. (September 7, 1934 – August 4, 2005), better known as Little Milton, was an American blues singer and guitarist, best known for his number-one R&B single "We're Gonna Make It". [1] His other hits include "Baby, I Love You", "Who's Cheating Who?", and "Grits Ain't Groceries (All Around The World)".


A native of the Mississippi Delta, Milton began his recording career in 1953 at Sun Records before relocating to St. Louis and co-founding Bobbin Records in 1958. It wasn't until Milton signed to Checker Records that he achieved success on the charts. Other labels Milton recorded for include Meteor, Stax, Glades, Golden Ear, MCA, and Malaco. Milton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1988.


Milton was born James Milton Campbell Jr. on September 7, 1934 in Inverness, Mississippi. He was raised in Greenville, Mississippi by a farmer and local blues musician. [2] By age twelve he was a street musician, chiefly influenced by T-Bone Walker and his blues and rock and roll contemporaries. [2] He joined the Rhythm Aces in the early part of the 1950s, a three piece band who played throughout the Mississippi Delta area. [3] One of the members was Eddie Cusic who taught Milton to play the guitar. [4] In 1951, Milton recorded several sides backing pianist Willie Love for Trumpet Records. [5] [6]

In 1953, while still a teenager playing in local bars, he was discovered by Ike Turner, who was a talent scout for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. [7] [8] Milton signed a contract with the label and recorded a number of singles. [9] None of them broke through onto radio or sold well at record stores, so Milton left the Sun label in 1955. [2] The next two years he released singles on Modern Records' subsidiary, Meteor Records.

In 1958, Milton moved to East St. Louis and set up the St. Louis-based Bobbin Records label, which ultimately scored a distribution deal with Leonard Chess' Chess Records. [10] [2] As a record producer, Milton helped bring artists such as Albert King and Fontella Bass to fame, while experiencing his own success for the first time. [2] After a number of small format and regional hits, his 1962 single, "So Mean to Me," broke onto the Billboard R&B chart, eventually peaking at #14. [11]

Following a short break to tour, managing other acts, and spending time recording new material, he returned to music in 1965 with a more polished sound, similar to that of B.B. King. After the ill-received "Blind Man" (R&B: #86), he released back-to-back hit singles. The first, "We're Gonna Make It," a blues-infused soul song, topped the R&B chart and broke through onto Top 40 radio, a format then dominated largely by white artists. He followed the song with #4 R&B hit "Who's Cheating Who?" All three songs were featured on his album, We're Gonna Make It, released that summer.

"Any category they want to put me in is fine with me as long as they accept what I do."

— Little Milton [12]

Milton's song "Let Me Down Easy" was recorded by the Spencer Davis Group on The Second Album (1965), but his authorship was not acknowledged on the record.[ citation needed ] He released a single of it himself in 1968 on Checker. [13] It was also chosen by Etta James as the final track in her final album The Dreamer in 2011.

Throughout the late 1960s Milton released a number of moderately successful singles, but did not issue a further album until 1969, with Grits Ain't Groceries featuring his hit of the same name, as well as "Just a Little Bit" and "Baby, I Love You". With the death of Leonard Chess the same year, Milton's distributor, Checker Records fell into disarray, and Milton joined the Stax label two years later. [2] Adding complex orchestration to his works, Milton scored hits with "That's What Love Will Make You Do" and "What It Is" from his live album, What It Is: Live at Montreux. He appeared in the documentary film, Wattstax , which was released in 1973. [14] Stax, however, had been losing money since late in the previous decade and was forced into bankruptcy in 1975. [2]

After leaving Stax, Milton struggled to maintain a career, moving first to Evidence, then the MCA imprint Mobile Fidelity Records, before finding a home at the independent record label, Malaco Records, where he received his second GRAMMY nomination for "Welcome To Little Milton" in 1999. He remained with the label for much of the remainder of his career. [2] His last hit single, "Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number," was released in 1983 from the album of the same name. [2] In 1988, Milton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and won a W.C. Handy Award. [2] His final album, Think of Me, was released in May 2005 on the Telarc imprint, and included writing and guitar on three songs by Peter Shoulder of the UK-based blues-rock trio Winterville.

Milton died at the age of 70 on August 4, 2005 from complications following a stroke. [8] [15] He was posthumously honored with a marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail in Inverness. [7]



Little Milton in France, 1982. Little Milton.jpg
Little Milton in France, 1982.
YearAlbumPeak chart positionsLabel
US Blues
1965We're Gonna Make It1013 Checker
1966Sings Big Blues
1969Grits Ain't Groceries15941
1970If Walls Could Talk19723
1973Waiting for Little Milton39 Stax
1974Blues 'n' Soul45
1976Friend of Mine50 Glades
1977Me for You, You for Me
1980I Need Your Love So BadGolden Ear
1981Walkin' the Back StreetsStax
1982The Blues Is AlrightEvidence
1983Age Ain't Nothin' But a Number53 MCA
1984Playing for Keeps55 Malaco
1985I Will Survive
1986Annie Mae's Cafe
1987Movin' to the Country
1988Back to Back73
1990Too Much Pain40
1992Strugglin' Lady63
1994 I'm a Gambler
1996Cheatin' Habit14
1997Count the Days
1998For Real13
1999Welcome to Little Milton10
2001Feel It
2002Guitar Man8
2004The Blues Is Alright: Live at Kalamazoo Varèse Sarabande
2005Think of Me14 Telarc
2006Live at the North Atlantic Blues Festival: His Last ConcertCamil
"–" denotes releases that did not chart.

Compilation albums

note: this is just a partial list

Appearances on other albums


YearSingle (A-side / B-side)Label & Cat #Peak chart positions
1953"Beggin' My Baby" / "Somebody Told Me" Sun 194
1954"If You Love Me" / "Alone and Blue"Sun 200
1955"Lookin' for My Baby" / "Homesick for My Baby"Sun 220
1956"Love at First Sight" / "Let's Boogie, Baby" Meteor 5040
1957"Let My Baby Be" / "Oh, My Little Baby"Meteor 5045
1958"That Will Never Do" / "I'm a Lonely Man" Bobbin 101
1959"Long Distance Operator" / "I Found Me a New Love"Bobbin 103
"Strange Dreams" / "I'm Tryin'"Bobbin 112
"Hold Me Tight" / "Same Old Blues"Bobbin 117
1960"Dead Love" / "My Baby Pleases Me"Bobbin 120
"Let It Be Known" / "Hey, Girl!"Bobbin 125
1961"Cross My Heart" / "I'm in Love"Bobbin 128
"Saving My Love for You" / "Lonely No More" Checker 977
"So Mean to Me" / "I Need Somebody"Checker 99414
1962"Satisfied" / "Someone to Love"Checker 1012
"I Wonder Why" / "Losing Hand"Checker 1020
1963"She Put a Spell on Me" / "Never Too Old"Checker 1048
"One of These Old Days" / "Meddlin'"Checker 1063
1964"Sacrifice" / "What Kind of Love Is This"Checker 1078
"Blind Man" / "Blues in the Night"Checker 109686
1965"We're Gonna Make It" / "Can't Hold Back the Tears"Checker 1105251
"Who's Cheating Who?" / "Ain't No Big Deal on You"Checker 1113434
"Without My Sweet Baby" / "Help Me Help You"Checker 1118
"Your People" / "My Baby's Something Else"Checker 1128
1966"We Got the Winning Hand" / "Sometimey"Checker 1132100
"When Does Heartache End" / "I'm Mighty Grateful"Checker 1139
"Man Loves Two" / "Believe in Me'Checker 114945
"Feel So Bad" / "You Colored My Blues Bright"Checker 1162917
1967"I'll Never Turn My Back on You" / "Don't Leave Her"Checker 117231
"Sweet Sixteen pt.1" / "Sweet Sixteen pt.2"Checker 1181
"More and More" / "The Cost of Living"Checker 118945
1968"I Know What I Want" / "You Mean Everything to Me"Checker 1194
1968"At the Dark End of the Street" / "I Who Have Nothing"Checker 1203
"Let Me Down Easy" / "Driftin' Drifter"Checker 120827
"Grits Ain't Groceries (All Around The World)" / "I Can't Quit You Baby"Checker 12127313
1969"Just a Little Bit" / "Spring"Checker 12179713
"Poor Man" / "So Blue (Without You)"Checker 1221
"Let's Get Together" / "I'll Always Love You"Checker 1225
"If Walls Could Talk" / "Loving You"Checker 12267110
1970"Baby, I Love You" / "Don't Talk Back"Checker 1227826
"Somebody's Changin' My Sweet Baby's Mind" / "I'm Tired"Checker 123122
"Many Rivers to Cross" / "A Mother's Love"Checker 1236
1971"I Play Dirty" / "Nothing Beats a Failure"Checker 123937
"If That Ain't a Reason (For Your Woman to Leave You)" / "Mr. Mailman (I Don't Want No Letter)" Stax 010041
"That's What Love Will Make You Do" / "I'm Living Off the Love You Give"Stax 0111599
1972"Before the Honeymoon" / "Walking the Back Streets and Crying"Stax 0124
"I'm Gonna Cry a River" / "What It Is" (B-side charted)Stax 0141
"Rainy Day" / "Lovin' Stick"Stax 0148
1973"What It Is" / "Who Can Handle Me Is You"Stax 017451
"Tin Pan Alley" / "Sweet Woman of Mine"Stax 019151
1974"Behind Closed Doors" / "Bet You I Win"Stax 021031
"Let Me Back In" / "Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson"Stax 022938
1975"If You Talk in Your Sleep" / "Sweet Woman of Mine"Stax 023834
"Packed Up and Took By Mind" / "How Could You Do It to Me"Stax 0252
"Who's Cheating Who" / "Feel So Bad"Chess Blue Chip Series 9044
1976"Many Rivers to Cross" / "More and More"Chess ACH 30002
"Friend of Mine (Vocal)" / "Friend of Mine (Instrumental)" Glades 173415
"Baby It Ain't No Way" / "Bring It on Back"Glades 173894
1977"Just One Step" / "Just One Step (Instrumental)"Glades 174159
"Loving You (Is the Best Thing to Happen to Me)" / "4:59 A.M."Glades 174347
"Me for You, You for Me" / "My Thing Is You"Glades 1747
1978"Real Love" / "Survivors of Love"Mier 2507
1980"I Need Your Love So Bad" / "I Wake Up Crying"Golden Ear 2281
"You Ought to Be Here with Me" / "Don't Leave Her"Golden Ear 2285
"Catch the Plane" / "Believe in Me"Golden Ear 2286
"I Like Your Loving" / "No Matter Where You Go"Golden Ear 2287
"The Cost of Living" / "I Need You Baby" (B-side by Jackie Ross)Golden Ear 2289
"Walking the Backstreets and Crying / "If That Ain't a Reason (For Your Woman to Leave You)"Stax 1051
"If You Talk in Your Sleep" / "Let Me Back In"Stax 1052
"Little Bluebird" / "Blue Monday"Stax 1057
1982"Feel So Bad" / "I Had a Talk with My Man" (B-side by Mitty Collier)Chess CH 129
1983"Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number" / "Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number (Instrumental)" MCA 5218489
"Living on the Dark Side of Love" / "Why Are You So Hard to Please"MCA 52254
1984"The Blues Is Alright" / "Comeback Kind of Loving" Malaco 2104
"Misty Blue" / "Catch You on Your Way Down"Malaco 2108
"Tin Pan Alley" / "Just Got to Know" (B-side by Jimmy McCracklin)Stax 1062
1985"Lonesome Christmas" / "Come to Me"Malaco 2123
1986"I Will Survive" / "4:59 AM"Malaco 2127
"A Real Good Woman" / "Annie Mae's Cafe"Malaco 2134
1987"Cheatin' Is a Risky Business" / "I'm at the End of My Rainbow"Malaco 2137
"Room 244" / "You're So Cold"Malaco 2143
1988"His Old Lady and My Old Lady" / "A Possum in My Tree"Malaco 2147
"I Don't Believe in Ghosts" / "I Was Tryin' Not to Break Down"Malaco 2151
1989"Wind Beneath My Wings" / "Too Much Heaven"Malaco 2155
"Landslide" (A-side by Tony Clarke) / "We're Gonna Make It"Ripete 45-273
1990"Bad Dream" / "The Woman I Love"Malaco 2162
"The Cradle Is Robbin' Me" / "Still in Love with You"Malaco 2165
1991"You Left a Goldmine for a Golddigger" / "I've Got to Remember"Malaco 2174
"Secretary" (A-side by Betty Wright) / "Stand by Me"Red Dog Express 45-3501
"Gonna Get Along Without You Now" (A-side by Viola Wills) / "Just One Step"Red Dog Express 45-3504
1992"Strugglin' Lady" / "She Never Gets the Blues"Malaco 2187
1993"My Dog and Me" / "Cafe Woman"Malac0 2189
1994"Casino Blues" / "That's All Right"Malaco 2198
"Like a Rooster on a Hen" / "Poke Salad Annie"Malaco 2200
1996"Kick My Cheatin' Habits" / "How Does a Cheatin' Woman Feel"Malaco 2309
1998"Big Boned Woman" / "I'd Rather Be with You"Malaco 2340
1999"Lump on Your Stump" / "Right to Sing the Blues"Malaco 2342
"–" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

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