Photography by Gig Brown
Transcribed by R.J. Bianchino
"The music, it should be - as people describe it (those of us that write the lyrics) - about everyday life. And everyday life is lived by all ages, all creeds, and all races."
[Brian Spencer mentions that from this era he recalls Little Jimmy Dickens, to which Little Milton replies with a laugh] - "He's still around too. He's one of the few guys that they call little that really is little."
"But I use to catch that [Grand Ole Opry] on Saturday nights. And I'd be glued to the radio. Had one of those old radios with the battery. You [Blues Dr.] don't know anything about that."
"You know. Back then there was no such thing as a black musician doing strictly country and being successful. I learned to do the country and western stuff because through the week, once I got into the music thing, I could play the - we called them the white honky tonk joints... As you know it was all segregated man. You couldn't get out there and dance with anybody [laughs] on the dance floor... They treat you OK but you just couldn't mix.
We could play them through the week, and then the weekend we could play the black joints. I learned to be very versatile and learned to love it. So it stays with me even up to now.
Most times we would make more money in the tip boxes - they called it - than we were getting paid. They'd have a box of some sort nailed to the banister on the bandstand. They [the audience] would come up and request tunes and they would just put money on in there. Sometimes greenbacks, sometimes change. But at the end of the night man - back then you talk about the late forties and early fifties - you probably would make $35 for three people as pay which was pretty good then. And then you'd make about $40 in tips. You know. We were riding high. High on the hog."
Time Perspective: James Milton Campbell was born September 7, 1934
"At that particular time [late 40's/early 50's] I had my own little thing going. There were just three of us. Sometimes two. The late Joe Willie Wilkins - great blues guitarist. Was a great guitarist period. He was associated with Robert Lockwood and Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). So I was just a kid. I lies about my age and took a little soot and put it under my lip; made me a mustache. They knew I was lying. But I was always tall. I was skinny then. I was tall for my age. And I've been about six feet tall since I was about, oh I guess, 11, 12 years old.
So at that time I must have been about 14 or 15. And they gave me a job. I could sing. Couldn't play worth a damn. But I could sing. I could sing. I was very much interested in learning. And I met Joe Willie Wilkins. He introduced me to Sonny Boy 'cause he was playing with Sonny Boy - the Rice Miller Sonny Boy. And of course Willy Love and Elmore James. So I got a chance to meet a whole bunch of those old real, real rough but gentle men. They lived hard, but they lived good - in one sense, you know. But you had a lot of fun. Didn't make much money, but you had a lot of fun.
And I learned so much. I did learn that it was the greatest thing in the world to respect yourself. Respect other people. I also learned that you are not the star. The people that supported you are the stars. And I live with that today. And I tell my audience, you know, give the real stars a round of applause. Because without them I'm nobody. So I learned so much from people like that.