Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Roosevelt Hopkins was born in Houston's Fifth Ward on January 30, 1934.
Milton Hopkins had a famous cousin,
Sam "Lightnin" Hopkins.
Miltonís hero was Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown.
Little Richard, who formed a band with Milton and Grady Gaines called the Tempo Toppers in 1950 and later became the Upsetters. By 1953, the legendary Don Robey formed Peacock Records and Milton was recruited to do session work with some gospel groups they were recording. There he met his first "teacher", Joe Scott, who taught him to various chords. He soon went on the road with the late, great Johnny Ace and Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. The death of Johnny Ace found him back in Houston in 1954.
In 1956, Milton Hopkins was drafted into the Army. The Following year he returned to Houston and in a time he continued playing the music and had the opportunity to play with his musical hero, Gatemouth Brown. Things were on the upswing and he reunited with Grady Gaines joining The Upsetters. The Upsetters soon became one of the premier R&B/Rock & Roll bands in the country and were the band of choice for performers such as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson and the Drifters. Barry Gordy was starting Motown Records in Detroit and tried to convince Milton to join his studio band - a decision Milton regrets declining.
Milton left the Upsetters in 1963 and wound up in San Francisco. He met Lewis Madison, an original member of James Brown's band the Famous Flames. He also worked briefly with Marvin Gaye and Lou Rawls. One night he was asked to substitute for the guitarist for Sly Stone's band playing blues. He knew then that as much as he loved Jazz and Rhythm and Blues, the Blues was his true musical path.
In 1971, he ran into B.B. King who remembered him from his days with the Upsetters and asked Milton to join the band. For the next 9 years Milton Hopkins was B.B.'s rhythm guitar player and traveled around the world.
Unfortunately, Milton only had the chance to play with his famous cousin once, it was in San Francisco. He saw him again later when they shared a dressing room in London but their paths seemed to move in different directions.