Electric Flag History •
"East-West" • Norman
Dayron Interview •
Michael Bloomfield An American Guitarist Mike Bloomfield
Michael Bloomfield's Homes
By Kim Rush
Though he came from a wealthy family, Mike Bloomfield lived a modest lifestyle, a fact that was reflected in his choice of homes.
The three that he lived in during his time in California were all located within a few miles of each other. They were all in the mountainous village of Mill Valley, north of San Francisco. Other than a few months spent in the nearby village of Lagunitas, probably in the latter half of 1968, and a short stay in Haight-Ashbury, possibly in the spring of 1969, Michael lived in Mill Valley from early 1967 until his death in 1981.
Wellesley Ct., 1967-1968
The Wellesley Ct. house as it looks today. The deck has been added since 1968 when Michael Bloomfield lived here. Photo by Kim Rush
MICHAEL BLOOMFIELD decided to leave the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and form his own group with San Francisco as a base in early 1967. While he was busy recruiting members for the new band in New York and Chicago, friend and singer Nick Gravenites and Michael's wife, Susan, located a suitable place on Wellesley Ct. in Mill Valley. It was a ranch-style house with a flat roof remotely situated on a small, level lot on an extremely steep and winding street. There were only a few other houses on Wellesley.
Prior to Bloomfield's rental of the Wellesley Ct. house, a neighboring house (or, as some sources say, the Wellesley Ct. residence itself) had been briefly occupied by a group of jazz musicians whom Michael knew from his Chicago days. They included Joseph Jarman, Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie, founding members of the A.A.C.M. who later became known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Interestingly enough, Michael had shared a rehearsal space with them for a while when he was still living in Chicago.
When Bloomfield and the other band members moved into Wellesley Ct., they initially occupied the house with a group of Asian musicians called the Bauls of Bengal. They were there at the behest of Michael's manager, Albert Grossman, and Bloomfield and his men found them both exotic and amusing.
Michael and Susan lived in the house (after the Bauls left and the other Flag members moved into their own places) for the 10 months that the Electric Flag was together.
In the top photo, taken in April 1967, Michael, saxophonist Peter Strazza, left, and Michael's wife, Susan, posed with two members of the Bauls, traditional Bengalese musicians who were also staying at the Wellesley Ct. house. The photo above shows approximately where the five were standing for the snapshot. Photo by Kim Rush; 1967 photo by Norman Dayron from "If You Love These Blues," Miller Freeman Books, 2000.
Carmelita Ave., 1968-1971
The Carmelita Ave house as it looks today. The fence in front has been added since Michael Bloomfield last lived here in 1971. Below, Michael on the front porch of the Carmelita Ave. house with his dogs in 1970. Photo by Kim Rush; 1970 photo by Peter Amft from "The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero," Cherry Lane Music Company, 1983
SOON AFTER LEAVING the Electric Flag, Michael moved into his second home in Mill Valley on Carmelita Ave. He may have purchased it from Flag and "Super Session" bassist Harvey Brooks, or it may have been another rental.
It was an older two-story home situated in less mountainous terrain and was near the town in a neighborhood complete with sidewalks. It was one of many homes on the street, unlike Michael's more secluded residence on Wellesley Ct.
He was living on Carmelita Ave. in 1971 when Guitar Player magazine interviewed him and took photographs for an article that was published that June.
the place in an instrumental called "Carmelita Skiffle." The tune appeared
on his "Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West" album in 1969.
Reed St., 1971-1981
A house on a high hill, Michael Bloomfield's home on Reed St. commanded a view of the valley below. This is how it appears today. Photo by Kim Rush
MICHAEL NEXT moved to a home on Reed St. It was situated on a hill at the end of a very long, steep driveway – a remote location that served to quietly separate the occupants from the town located directly below. A second house now stands about 20 feet from this contemporary-style home, built since Michael's time; there are no other homes nearby other than one on the way up the driveway.
The Reed St. house looked out over the valley below and had a large deck in the front. Its numerous floor-to-ceiling windows afforded the residents a sweeping view. It consisted of a main floor and a lower level which was exposed in the front by the site's sloping terrain. In the latter part of the 1970s, Michael reportedly set up a makeshift recording studio in the house's lower floor.
According to author Bill Keenom, Bloomfield and his friends frequently played ping pong on the back deck, often losing the balls over the railing and into the brush on the hill below. Those balls still turn up with some regularity to this day.
Dan McClosky taped his two-hour interview with Michael, Roy Ruby and Fred Glaser for broadcast on KPFA at Reed St. in May 1971.
Reed St. was also the residence where Guitar Player magazine interviewed Michael in 1979. Pictures showing him in his bedroom can be found in the subsequently published article.
Bloomfield lived on Reed St. while working in local clubs with Michael Bloomfield & Friends, recording for Columbia and Takoma and lecturing at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. Reed St. was his home for over nine years until his death in 1981.
Reed St. – the lower structure – as seen from across the valley. Photo by Mia Abel, courtesy of Abel and Peggy McVickar
Kim Rush is a blues historian and author who has written for Living Blues magazine and for the Web. In 2001 he received a grant for a series of interviews with Charles Williams, Muddy Waters' stepson. He is currently researching blues music history from Grand Rapids, MI, and has compiled a compendium of Detroit blues clubs from 1940-1980. He lives in Grandville, MI, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His biography of Carey Bell can be read at www.furious.com/PERFECT/careybell.html.
© 2008 Kim Rush
Michael Bloomfield Discography & Performance History
A selection of remembrances of Michael Bloomfield from contributors to this site
A detailed look at the studio and live versions of the Butterfield Blues Band's "East-West"
An interview with producer Norman Dayron by Ralph Heibutzki
A check list of currently available recordings by Michael Bloomfield
© 2008 David Dann
Electric Flag History •
"East-West" • Norman
Dayron Interview •