John Hampton—a record producer, musician, mixer, and Grammy-award winning recording engineer—has died of complications from cancer. He was 61. Hampton was a longtime employee of Ardent Studios in Memphis, eventually working his way up to part owner. In his nearly 40 years in the music business, he had a hand in making records by Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Travis Tritt, Gin Blossoms, Mudhoney, Todd Snider, George Thorogood, Alex Chilton, The Replacements, and The White Stripes, among many others.
Hampton began his career working with several of Memphis’ rock and power-pop luminaries, including engineering Alex Chilton’s first post-Big Star solo album Like Flies on Sherbert. He worked on a host of classic alternative albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including The Cramps’ Psychedelic Jungle/Gravest Hits, Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper’s Root Hog Or Die, Tommy Keene’s Based On Happy Times, The Afghan Whigs’ Gentlemen, and The Replacements’ Pleased To Meet Me.
Hampton’s biggest success as a producer came from working with a then-unknown power-pop group from Arizona, the Gin Blossoms. The band had self-released the Dusted cassette in 1989 to local acclaim, but Hampton’s considerable acumen at merging their jangly pop with gritty rock helped make their major label debut, New Miserable Experience, a multi-platinum hit, spawning five singles and three Top 40 hits, beginning with “Hey Jealousy.”
Hampton also worked on the Gin Blossoms’ follow-up, 1996’s Congratulations I’m Sorry, before the band splintered. He returned to produce the band’s 2006 reunion album Major Lodge Victory and also worked on post-Gin Blossoms projects from guitarist Jesse Valenzuela and singer Robin Wilson. The Memphis Flyer recently posted this nice recollection written by Hampton about his work with the band.
More recently, he engineered three Jack White projects: The Raconteurs’ Broken Boy Soldiers, The Dead Weather’s Sea of Cowards, and The White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan, which gave Hampton his second Grammy win. (His first came for engineering Jimmie Vaughan’s Do You Get The Blues? in 2001.)