Michael Bloomfield Recollections
E-mail additional contributions
Since "MichaEl bloomfield:
An American Guitarist" went live in the winter of 2007, many of
Michael's friends and fans have contributed their recollections, insights
and thoughts to what has happily turned into a colossal project. Most of
those additions have been incorporated into the listings, but a lot of
information that captures the spirit of Michael Bloomfield has necessarily
been omitted. After a number of requests, I've decided to post as many of
these contributions as possible to help broaden the scope of this
chronology, and will add new entries as they are received. The topics vary
from personal encounters with Michael to detailed parsings of
discographical minutia, but each helps shed a little more light on their
subject. I have done a bit of judicious editing here and there, and have
started the list off with a recollection of my own. – David Dann (Thanks
to Peggy McVickar for help with this page.)
June 14, 2009
I’ve been a
[Bloomfield] fan since the first Butterfield album was released, and
want to thank you for all the hard work you have put into this site ...
of which I have devoured every word.
have my ticket stub from the Fathers and Sons concert framed, and
displayed in my living room.
Of the opening acts at Fathers and Sons, Quicksilver was as expected.
Nothing noteworthy (by either definition).
Ace of Cups was completely out of their element, and had absolutely no
business playing on any stage, much less this one.
But Muddy’s set still ranks as the best concert I have ever been to, not
necessarily by virtue of musicianship ... but certainly by virtue of raw
power. Muddy did, at the time, very different shows for white audiences
than he did for black audiences. That night, he let a glimpse of the
true Muddy Waters show through. Butter was at the top of his game, but
still wholly deferential to Muddy. Bloomfield seemed restrained, like he
didn’t want to step on any of Muddy’s glory, and was happy just to be
there. Spann played as only Spann could, and Duck Dunn was remarkably
solid, standing there with his pipe and driving the whole band.
When Muddy brought Buddy Miles on the place went crazy. The applause at
the end of the record was but a bit of an ovation that went on for at
least 15 minutes…maybe more. I seem to remember Cotton coming on, but it
was so anti-climactic that I had totally forgotten about it until you
mentioned it, and I have no further recollection.
In a life filled with many, many memorable moments, I can honestly say
that night ranks near the top.
April 13, 2009
I had the great opportunity not only to see Mike Bloomfield and his
band, but to interview him for a local newspaper one chilly January
evening. The show itself had some minor bumps (his cord literary jumped
out of the guitar jack during "Sweet Little Angel"), but the charm and
magic of the musicianship kept us warm for nearly two hours. I remember
requesting "Another Country" during a broken-string break. Mike smiled
and said he was sorry but they weren't doing it on this tour and then
proceeded to check his tuning by running through the tune's main riff –
made my night, let me tell ya.
The show took place on Sunday, January 6, 1974. The venue was the
McPherson Playhouse here in Victoria, BC. Jim Byrnes opened – Bloomfield
thought he sounded like a young John Hammond. As I recall, the line up
that night consisted of Mike, Roger Troy, Mark Naftalin and George
After the performance, I headed backstage, introduced myself and found
out that Mike had missed his ride. So I offered to do the interview as
we walked him back to the hotel – which was a short 10-minute walk away.
We talked of many things during that much-too-brief walk: his insomnia,
the Electric Flag, the misguided shootout with Hendrix and, of course,
Super Session. I still remember Mike saying how it wasn't like he and Al
Kooper were the best of buddies, but he did mention that Kooper was an
all right cat and how much he enjoyed the organist’s playing.
When Mike talked about the Flag, he made a comment about how Buddy Miles
managed to keep the entire band in debt during the time they were
together – and it was said with a smile! And once when Mike started to
jam with Hendrix, one ego led to another and, next thing he knew, it was
a duel between the two of them. Apparently Hendrix started dropping
bombs and getting all those war noises out of his guitar. Mike stated it
was the only time he wished he was Albert King – at least, that's what I
think he said. Nevertheless, the thing that impressed me the most about Bloomfield was
watching how carefully he put on his gloves before we ventured out into
the brisk January evening.
I was only 18 when I wrote that article for a now-defunct, thrice-weekly
paper called The Victorian (they had a program to promote youth
journalism called "New Voices"). If I find a copy of it, I'd be happy to
send it along, as embarrassingly youthful as it was. I recall that Mike
and I talked about rock music and how theater fit in, specifically
whether Alice Cooper's act filled that niche. While we were discussing
the issue, it finally dawned on me that I was interviewing one of the
premiere blues musicians of all time, and I froze up and folded like a
cheap thrift store accordion! Mike sensed my "stage fright," smiled and
then soloed for awhile until I came back around. At the end of the
interview he took off his right glove, shook my hand and headed up the
steps and through the doors of the Empress Hotel!
The Victoria show was probably part of a package that would have
included a Vancouver performance the night before or after. Luckily,
during the mid- to late '70s, we got to see shows by the likes of Willie
Dixon (with Layfette Leake on piano), Paul Butterfield, Sonny Terry &
Brownie McGhee, Tim Buckley and any number of the King boys (Albert,
Freddie, B.B., etc.) among others. The MacPherson is one of those small
(700-800 seats), cozy, acoustically solid playhouses that lets you just
melt into the soundscape. The promoters would put the act on the ferry
and ship them over for a night (we're 17 miles west of Vancouver across
the Pacific pond).
I'm not a musician, but the first time I heard Mike play, my jaw
dropped, my ears grew and my brain begged for more! Thank you, Mike
Bloomfield (RIP). He always played 'em as he felt 'em, and this show was
a testament to his passion and pride!
– David Everard,
March 26, 2009
Editor: This recollection came about following a series of e-mails from
Nick Nicolaisen. They were combined to form this entry through his kind
Regarding your article about Bloomfield’s guitars, Mike did get
the Goldtop Les Paul from John Nuese in trade for the Telecaster. I know
because John wanted to use my Gibson ES 330 when he started gigging with
Jerry Corbett, and gave me the Les Paul to use while he was playing my
330. Then, he got it back from me to trade with Mike. That was okay with
me because I never really liked the Les Paul and had gotten a Tele –
mostly because I liked what Bloomfield could do with one. That was in
Boston, when Butterfield came to town, and we’d all hang out. Last I
knew, Nuese still had Bloomfield’s old Tele, although it was years ago
that I last talked with John.
I met Nuese around 1963 when he was playing flat-top and I was just
getting into guitar. John was an excellent player, especially
considering he was left-handed, and had to play upside down. Later, he
got into blues, which influenced me to go there. He introduced me to
Lonnie Mack’s playing and to Freddie King’s. While Bloomfield is widely
credited – deservedly so – for getting a lot of white people into blues
guitar, Lonnie Mack was before him and at least as good, or better, than
I think I got John into Bloomfield after hearing him playing with
Butterfield. Mike and Mark Naftalin would hang out with me and Michael
Kane (the bass player) on Kinnaird St. in Cambridge when they’d come to
town. Maybe that’s where Nuese met Mike. Kinnaird St. is also where John
and the rest of us met Gram Parsons – when Gram took a shine to Diana
Dew (fashion designer and inventor of the “electric dress”) who lived
the next floor up. John had also taken a shine to Diana. At any rate,
that’s where Gram got going. And John’s involvement with Gram was
probably the reason he swapped the Les Paul for Bloomfield’s Telecaster
– the Tele was better for C&W. A Les Paul being useless for country.
Gram was good man and we were good friends, but he was headed to country
music and I was headed to blues, so we never played together.
We did have a lot of jam sessions on Kinnaird St., and the neighbors
were always calling the cops to bitch about the volume. I vividly
remember going to the door one day when the cops came knocking and there
was Naftalin down at the end of the hallway, in view of the door,
lighting up a corn-cob pipe. I thought, oh man, we’re sunk now; but the
cops didn’t notice. Butterfield himself never jammed. He’d just hole up
in the hotel room. The rest of band was always ready to jam and have a
good time, though.
Editor: In response to a question about Mark Naftalin’s recollection
about staying in a townhouse in Cambridge where he and Michael dropped
acid and Bloomfield had the revelations about Indian music that led to
the creation of "East-West," Nick had this to say:
I don’t remember Mark and Mike ever dropping acid at our place, so I
don’t believe their experience took place there. We did a fair amount of
acid, though, and Gram was into it as well. A lot of good times. One
time, there were some chicks there that we really didn’t know, and one
of them started to lose it. Most of us were sitting around and Gram was
barefoot. So he told the chick in distress to hang on to his foot and
she’d be OK. She did, and she was OK. Gram was a peaceful dude.
I split from Cambridge in 1966 and moved to the South End in Boston,
which was a much better place to live and, by then, a lot was happening
there – especially in music. Michael Kane lived there too, when he
wasn’t in California. I remember late one night going to Cambridge to
jam with Elvin and Jerome. They were staying in a pretty big place, with
a hallway large enough that that’s where we jammed. The building could
have been described as a townhouse, so maybe that’s where Mike was
staying when he and Mark did their tripping. The jam was after a gig, so
it must have been the Butterfield band – but I don’t know if Mike was
still with them. We didn’t do much talking. Just played until around
five in the morning, as I remember. All that stuff gets fuzzy after more
than forty years ...
In early 1968, I moved to New Hampshire as the city was becoming less
tenable all the way around. Sometime after that, Barry Goldberg and Mike
were at a friend’s place in Vermont, so I went to visit. Bloomfield was
really strung out – it took him a few minutes and some prodding from
Barry to finally recognize me. Then he proudly showed me the Sunburst
Les Paul he’d recently gotten. It was beautiful, and he even had it in a
nice, hard-shell case.
Here’s one last Bloomfield story. Mike and I were riding in a cab to a
gig in Boston one night – probably to the Unicorn where he was playing
with Butterfield. We’d had a couple of pre-gig tokes before getting in
the cab and were mellowed out. During the ride, Bloomfield turned to me
and asked, “You know why I play so
Before I could say anything, he said, “So they can hear the subtleties.”
– Nick Nicolaisen
playing Michael Bloomfield's 1964 Fender Telecaster in a scene from
Roger Corman's "The Trip." Michael traded the Fender for Nuese's Les
Paul Goldtop in the winter of 1965. In the spring of 1967, John and Gram
Parsons were part of the International Submarine Band, the group that
was originally hired to perform on the film's soundtrack. They were
later replaced by Bloomfield's Electric Flag.
Still from "The Trip"
March 15, 2009
here ... I found your site through a friend. Great Job!
Michael took me under his wing in the mid-'70s and before. My first real
tour was around '72 with Barry Melton's group, Melton, Levy and the Dey
Bros. Michael produced their record, and one evening I bravely inserted
myself into an after-dinner jam at Marin Recorders, a rehearsal facility
in San Rafael, CA. Michael, Rick and Tony Dey were jamming, and I sat in
and sang a Howling Wolf tune in my lyric tenor voice, playing my
flat-black Fender Duosonic. Mike was charmed. When [Melton, Levy and the
Dey Bros.] needed a second guitar for their tour, Mike suggested me ...
"How about the kid that sat in the other night?"
recall the '72 meeting when, several years later, I reconnected with him
and became a band member for a period. I just used to go sit in with him
at the Old Waldorf when it was on Divisidero. I'd been in a band with
Bob Jones, so there was a connection there. Anyway, one night he handed
me some cash, and I figured I was in the band. Through Michael I met
Frank Zappa who came very close to hiring me (Ray White beat me out),
Maria Muldaur whom I've worked for off-and-on for 30 years, and a host
of other fascinating, confounding and immensely talented characters.
I've always felt grateful for those initial referrals so freely given by
someone I admired. Michael had an infinite capacity for curiosity,
generosity and good humor. Being in his presence was a real treat. He
clearly helped launch my career in an uncalculating manner. I was
actually playing in Elvin's band when he died, and his last years
weren't pretty by any means. I choose to recall a man who was
kindhearted, a thoroughly dedicated musicologist and an inspired and
INSPIRING musical being.
In addition to the Jemima James sessions, I participated in the Warhol
"Bad" sessions, many gigs at the Old Waldorf and River City, and in the
May 23, 1976, gig at the Troubador. That was actually a two- or
three-night engagement. While not a pivotal moment in his career, I
thought that you might be interested in details from that gig:
Michael: piano, guitar, vocals
Bob Jones: drums, vocals
Doug Kilmer: bass
Gary Vogensen; guitar, harmonica
Alan Kooper sat in on piano; Charlie Musselwhite [also on the bill] did
not play with Michael but had his own band (Tim and Carl, etc.).
Thanks again for your work.
February 16, 2009
This is a
wonderful site about Mike Bloomfield. I’ve really enjoyed the stories
and have learned so much more about his life. He was a huge influence on
my playing and I’ve been teaching and writing about him for over 35
years. I’m sending you some photos from the Fillmore [West] taken by my
good friend here in Seattle, the drummer Dave Coleman, and marked "June
1970." I found the original prints in an old box of mine and scanned
them a few months ago and posted them on the Les Paul Forum site after
reading a thread/debate about Mike’s Sunburst. In only a few weeks the
photos started showing up all over the place!
I’m a player/teacher who also writes and produces instructional guitar
videos for Warner/Alfred and Hal Leonard. I’ve been fortunate to have
had the opportunity to direct just about every one of my favorite
players and heroes ... only wish I could have done one with Mike
I did all of Robben Ford’s videos and he and I are good friends and
often talk about how much we both loved Michael. We have also talked
many times about doing a Mike Bloomfield instructional video. One idea
would be to have Robben be the host and we would try to get Santana and
Clapton and others who knew Mike to sit down with us and demonstrate
things they learned or were influenced by him. Have not got the go-ahead
at this point from Alfred or Hal Leonard but may in the future.
I also have known for some time about the Gibson Bloomfield artist Les
Paul. I’ve been spreading the word as much as possible that I thought
Mike Bloomfield was probably the most responsible guitarist on the
planet for the popularity of the 1959 Les Paul. And that he more than
deserved a model named after him. I was very happy when Gibson announced
that it would become a reality and, of course, have one on order for
I think 2009 will prove to be a year of rediscovery and renewed
popularity for Mike Bloomfield. I find myself listening to his old
recordings, talking about him with my students and have been getting my
Bloomfield chops back together and playing a bit more blues ... amazing
that after nearly 40 years I still love his playing and am still trying
to figure out how he came up with some of the great ideas he played.
– Don Mock
Editor: Don Mock has created a series of four lessons on Michael
Bloomfield's guitar technique for use on this site. Guitarists wishing
to learn about Michael's approach to playing can find them
Many thanks to Don!
Bloomfield performing in the summer of 1970 at the Fillmore West with John Kahn on bass,
Mark Naftalin on keyboards and an unknown drummer. The gig was probably
one that took place during the weekend of May 28-31. The snapshots below
capture Michael comping and soloing on his 1959 Les Paul Standard.
by Dave Coleman, courtesy of Don Mock
February 3, 2009
Hello. I just wanted to add a few Bloomfield recollections to your
listing. I am a 56-year-old drummer who still is copping licks first
learned from Buddy Miles. I saw the Electric Flag in 1968 (I think that
was the year) in New York City at a theater that had opened up near the
Fillmore East. I believe it was the Anderson Theater. It was in the East
Village, and it was a competitor to the Fillmore. The opening act was
Pearls Before Swine, the Flag was up second, and the headliner was
Country Joe and the Fish. I was 15 years old, and I went to the show
with my parents. I still remember the vibe, and, as a younger drummer,
it was the first time I saw a drummer doing two-handed cymbal crashes.
I also had a once-removed relative, David Rubinson, who had produced the
Flag's "A Long Time Comin'" album.
I later saw Bloomfield with Butterfield in a mini-reunion show in
Boston. It may have been the one at the Fenway Theater in 1971. I
remember that they started playing the music before the curtain came up
and parted, and they also may have ended the show in that fashion. I was
going to college and playing in a band at that time with a very good
guitarist from San Francisco. He was a tremendous electric blues player,
and he was quite familiar with Bloomfield. I remember thinking that
Bloomfield was missing a lot of notes. At some point in the show, I
sheepishly asked my friend if I was correct or if there was something
that I was missing. My friend kind of smiled and said that Bloomfield
often played like that. At that time (1971), I was a heavy Allman
Brothers fan, and I constantly would push this guitarist friend to
listen to Duane Allman. At one point, he told me to listen to
"East-West," commenting that Bloomfield had been playing like Duane for
I then saw Bloomfield in the summer of 1980 at the Main Point in Bryn
Mawr, outside of Philadelphia. The Main Point was a small club, but it
had many folk acts and mid-level rock bands (Springsteen did some
classic shows there before the "Born to Run" album was released). I
rushed to the show, almost getting a speeding ticket, thinking it would
be an electric set. It turned out to be the acoustic tour with the cello
player Maggie Edmundson and guitarist Woody Harris. Bloomfield played a
lot of piano and did older blues tunes. He came back to the Main Point a
few months later, but I passed on that show not realizing that the end
would be so close.
I also shared office space for 15 years with a same-age colleague who
had interviewed Bloomfield for his high school newspaper in a club in
New York City in the mid-'60s (when the Flag was at the Café Wha? or the
Bitter End, I think).
Here's one other Bloomfield-related anecdote. As mentioned, I have been
playing drums for 47 years. When I was going to college in the early
'70s outside of Boston, I heard a story/rumor that Buddy Miles had
spiked the punch with LSD at a local women's college. That kind of
turned me off to Miles for a number of years. Approximately nine or ten
years ago, I went to see Buddy play at a small blues club in the West
Village. It basically was a neighborhood bar. He sang sitting down on a
chair in front of the band. It was a great, late night. Unfortunately, I
did not have the opportunity to say hello and tell him how he had
influenced my drumming.
I continue to listen to Bloomfield on a regular basis, collecting both
the official and the eBay releases. In fact, after discovering and
exploring this Web site, I just ordered the Woody Herman album featuring
Bloomfield on a number of tracks ["Brand New," OJC]. I had been unaware
of that particular recording.
I am introducing my 10-year-old twins to Michael's music, although it is
difficult to compete with Disney and hip-hop. But, when a Bloomfield
tune was the first thing to come on the satellite radio during the
recent delivery of our new car, my then 9-year-old son looked up and
kind of smiled. It is all in the timing.
– Allan M. Tepper
January 22, 2009
This site is a
real treasure for lovers of Mike Bloomfield and of blues in general. I
would like to add a few more threads to the fabric.
As with so many, "East-West" turned my musical world upside down and my
path never has veered too far from the blues since then. I wanted to see
the Paul Butterfield Blues Band so bad that I jumped at the chance. I
did so at the old Fillmore in June 1967, but unfortunately only Elvin
Bishop remained as Mike had left and was about to debut the Electric
Flag. It was a great concert, but no Bloomfield.
My next chance was at the Winterland and I attended the December 8, 1967
show with the Byrds, the Flag and B.B. King. It was great to read other
recollections of those shows, because I have told the story so many
times to so many people and most don't get it. The Byrds definitely
opened that night and they were, in a word, lackluster. The trio was
carrying on, but they simply could not produce the magic of the prior
quintet or even the quartet. The Flag went next, and I was on the edge
of my seat.
They did not disappoint. A highlight was the number "Texas," where Buddy
sang his butt off and Mike did a solo that, to this day, was one of the
most inspired pieces of musicianship I have ever witnessed. For those
who saw him, you know how emotive Mike was, with his face contorting. At
times, he kind of looked like he was crying when he was soloing. The
audience gave him a standing ovation just for that solo. It's
interesting to note that in those days the audience usually sat through
the show. It was not until I saw Hendrix a few months later that I was
part of an audience that stood up and remained standing up for a full
set of music.
The Flag was tight, and Bloomers was outstanding. To my dismay, I never
saw him again except one other brief time (see below). But that night I
saw him introduce B.B. King to – yes – an almost all-white audience. I
definitely recall that Mike was beyond enthusiastic about bringing out
B.B. He was passionate and set the stage for what was a truly memorable
set by King. A tape of King's set reveals that he and Bloomfield were
going to jam at the end of the evening. I did not get to see that, so
either I had to go home early (I was only 16 years old at the time), or
it was the next night and I was not there.
The picture that Richard Lewis posted of the Electric Flag at the
Fillmore in August 1967 is so very precious. I love the way those dudes
were dressed! They were the opposite of rock stars. And the mod look
existed at the time (as can be seen in contemporary pictures of English
groups). The whole scene in the photo looks kind of like a high school
or college dance, with the simple stage and players dressed like it's a
rehearsal. I love it. And [Felix Cabrera's] picture of Mike barking at
the patron for yelling "Freebird" – or was it "Stairway to Heaven"? –
cracks me up. Some folks just cannot appreciate the changes an artist
goes through. And Mike was near the end of his ability to cope. What a
fabulous piece of musical history.
The photo dated April 25, 1968 [taken of the Electric Flag by Carmelo
Macias, below] intrigues me. It is captioned as being at the Fillmore.
However, I believe that the old Fillmore was closed by then and
therefore had to be at the Fillmore West, which was called the Carousel
Ballroom before Bill Graham took it over. The ceiling looks like the
Fillmore West, but my memory is understandably faded on that one (the
building at Van Ness and Market is now a Honda dealership). The last
time I was in that venue, I saw Johnny Winter, and Bloomfield came out
and performed one tune with him. I think that show was in late 1970 or
early 1971, but I cannot date it with certainty, as no poster exists.
Even the poster experts I consulted are baffled by this one. The show
was Winter (with Rick Derringer) and Lee Michaels. I think It's a
Beautiful Day opened. Maybe someone will read this remembrance and
confirm the date.
Thank you so very much for hosting this site. As I approach the age of
60, I enjoy reminiscing about this wonderful and important time in
American music history. To this day, I can recognize a Bloomfield solo
from the first two or three notes. What other guitar player is like
– Bill Allayaud, Sacramento
Editor: Bill Graham closed the Fillmore Auditorium in July 1968,
moving his operation to the Carousel Ballroom as Bill points out,
changing its name to the Fillmore West. The Flag's April 25 show,
captured in Carmelo Macias' photo, was indeed at the old Fillmore as is
confirmed by newspaper listings from the time.
December 28, 2008
Thank you so much for your work on this website and for the four-hour
radio show, which I stayed up until 4:30 this a.m. listening to. I have
fallen out of love with the music scene in recent decades for reasons
that Michael would well understand. When my young friends ask whether I
was ever interested in music, I reply, "Yeah, back before it was about
When I was young and the San Francisco scene was in full flower, music
was absolutely the single biggest passion in my life and the Butterfield
Band my absolute favorite among so many other fabulous groups. I had
come to fear that Michael and Paul had become largely forgotten and that
there was almost none of us remaining that understood just how important
they were to the development of American music as we know it today. They
certainly never got the recognition they deserved while they were alive.
I just wish that they could have taken a little better care of
themselves and stuck around a little longer.
I was in Michael's presence several times and knew at the time that he
was someone extraordinary. I remember sitting next to him at the bar in
Keystone Korner in San Francisco and he turned to me and said, "This
beer tastes just like earwax! It's an expensive imported beer, the guy
gave it to me to try, and it tastes like earwax." He never hesitated to
express an opinion, did he? I was at a loss as to how to respond. I used
to drink with Nick Gravenites in some of the North Beach bars and he was
very easy to talk to – we had a common interest in hockey – but I found
myself pretty tongue-tied with Michael. He was, of course, a
down-to-earth, regular guy, but I was always really intimidated by his
celebrity, even if he didn't intend for people to be.
I enjoyed the photos of the outdoor concert in Mill Valley [under the
October 1, 2007 entry on this page]. I'd forgotten what a great event
that was: Michael at his best, just playing music with his friends for
the sake of the music. No money, no hype, no bullshit. He really enjoyed
himself that day, as did we all.
For years now, I've been trying to remember the actual date of the
Electric Flag / B.B. King / Byrds gig, and have up till now thought that
it was in the spring of '68. That I could have forgotten that it
happened on my twentieth birthday would seem to be yet another
affirmation of the old dictum, "If you can remember the Sixties, you
obviously weren't there."
One of the site's previous contributors described Michael's impassioned
speech about B.B., and that is one of my clearest memories of the
evening as well. Most of us who haunted the Fillmore in those golden
days had a rather San Francisco-centric view of the musical universe – a
point of view that history appears to have largely vindicated – and
Michael was already considered by most of us to be hands down the best
guitarist of his generation. So he definitely got everyone's attention
when he literally stopped the show in the middle of the set to tell us
about B.B. King, whom most of us young hippies had never heard of, as
evidenced by the fact that he was third on the bill. Everyone seemed to
be struck by the intensity of Michael's admiration for this man.
Although I can't quote the rest of his words verbatim, the last thing he
said is still crystal clear after forty-one years: "You're gonna know,
man, you're just gonna know." Like most of his colleagues back then,
Michael had great respect for the sensibilities of the Fillmore audience
and had complete faith in our ability to appreciate the King of the
Of course it turned out that by the time B.B. was about thirty-two bars
into his set, we did in fact "know" that we were listening to one of the
great musicians of that or any other time. Bill Graham had done it
again. It was obvious that Michael had good reason to insist upon
putting the Flag on ahead of B.B., and not simply out of respect. No
musician in his right mind would have wanted to follow B.B. King, even
musicians as talented and professional as the Flag. The Byrds, then
minus Crosby and, as I recall, pre-Parsons, certainly had no chance and
they seemed to know it.
Sure makes me feel old to remember a time when B.B. King was still
wearing processed hair and being given third billing.
I had the very strong impression that night that this was B.B.'s very
first gig at the Fillmore, but I have increasingly come to doubt my
memory of those days in regard to objective facts such as dates and
places. The part that recalls how fabulous the music was still works,
thank God. I did recently hear B.B. reminiscing in an interview about
his first Fillmore gig and was gratified to hear that he likewise
remembers it as being so special, indeed a major career breakout, but he
didn't say anything that would definitely nail down the date.
– Jim Murphy,
Editor: B.B. King's appearance on December 7, 1967 at the Fillmore
Auditorium was probably not his first performance at that venue. It's
likely that Bill Graham had him make his debut at the fall in 1966, at
the urging of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. But the December show
where he shared the bill with the Electric Flag was novel enough that
Bloomfield felt it necessary to explain to the young white audience just
who King was.
December 17, 2008
One evening in the summer of 1961, my friend Bob Kass told me that he
and Elvin Bishop had met a really hot guitar player working in a pawn
shop on the North Side. He told me that this guitar player could
fingerpick while holding a flat pick and using it in place of his thumb
to hit the alternating bass notes, a very unusual way of playing at that
A few weeks later, on my way to for a swim in Lake Michigan, I stopped
in at the Fret Shop, a music store owned by my friend, a guitar
collector named Peter Liebenguth. The Fret Shop was located in a group
of stores with Chinese fronts that had been built during the great
Chicago Exposition of 1893 and had never been torn down.
When I walked in, I saw a guy playing some very fast guitar licks in
that same unusual style. I figured that this must be the guitar player
from the pawnshop, and I was right. It was Michael Bloomfield. I had
never seen anyone play an acoustic guitar like that in person, much less
someone just hanging out in a music store.
In some way or another, the guitar changed hands and I played my version
of Mississippi John Hurt's "Spike Driver Blues," which was considerably
simpler than anything Bloomfield was playing.
Why somebody with so much technique should have fawned over my
relatively simple picking was beyond me. Michael couldn't possibly have
been sincere – this must have been some kind of oblique putdown. But
his wound-up, motor-mouthed energy had the ring of truth, so on some
level I accepted it. He took the guitar he had been playing and we
walked out to the "Point" on Lake Michigan, which was the
University of Chicago's equivalent of the old swimming hole.
At some point in this interchange, Michael introduced himself, and then
continued his speed rap about music. When we got to Lake Michigan, he
sat down on the grass and told me about how he had learned big band
rhythm chords and rattled off a number of them in rapid succession. Then
I went for a swim, which helped cool me off after that psycho-musical
I would see Michael around at various musical events, but my next
specific memory was a conversation with the wife of my guitar teacher Frank
Hamilton. Hamilton was a well-respected folk guitarist and
teacher, something of a straight arrow and also a somewhat high-strung
Bloomfield, whose future wife, Suzy, was taking banjo lessons from
Frank, had decided that his inability to sing and play at the same time
was a liability. So Michael came to Frank, the folksinger, for lessons
to straighten out this problem.
There couldn't have been a greater clash of personalities. Frank's wife
told me that he couldn't handle Michael at all. As good as Frank was,
Michael was in a whole other technical class, and Frank couldn't help
him with this singing/playing difficulty. It was very frustrating for
both of them.
In the fall of 1961, Wednesday night twist parties started in the lounge
of what was known as the "new dorms" at the University of Chicago. At
first they were just record hops, but at some point Paul Butterfield and
Elvin Bishop began providing music and the dances got bigger and bigger. This
lounge had full glass walls on three sides, all of which had cozy little
alcoves. The forth side was enclosed and led to the cafeteria and
kitchen. One of the kitchen employees was a young black man named A. C. Mosby, a good blues harmonica player who soon teamed up with Elvin
One balmy spring night, the twist party scene at the new dorm reached
its climax because each alcove had its own band. The lounge was filled
with dancers, and the glass walls were literally pulsating with the
music. In one alcove were Paul Butterfield and Nick Gravenites. In
another alcove was Elvin Bishop with several black guys, including two
brothers who owned a shoe repair shop on 53rd Street and played R & B
and blues on the side. In the third alcove was a very manic Michael
Bloomfield, backed up by a short, curly-haired Italian-looking kid
[probably Roy Ruby]. He was playing the fastest rock 'n' roll licks I
had ever heard anywhere. This was the first time I heard Michael play
the electric guitar. While ripping off those licks, Michael shouted
equally rapid-fire instructions to his diminutive guitar playing
After that night, the university, in one of its more liberal gestures,
moved the Wednesday night twist sessions to a hall in the nearby student
activities building. The live music for these imported twist parties was
provided by Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, and a rhythm section. This
was the beginning of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Michael went to many of the University of Chicago Folk Festival
concerts, and even backed up Big Joe Williams in several, playing
upright bass. There is a very beautiful photograph taken by Ray Flerlege
at one of those concerts showing Michael leaning over from his position
at the bass and conferring with Joe, a concerned, sympathetic and
respectful expression on his face.
During my last year in Chicago, Norman Dayron recorded a series of demo
topes of my singing and guitar playing. At the same time, he was also
recording Michael, who seemed to be trying to cram the whole world of
music into every phrase, at least in the pieces that Norman played for
me. This listening to tapes went both ways. Norman told me, in a rather
bemused manner, that Michael had listened to my stuff and was quite
interested in my style.
I moved to New York in 1964 and a year later The Paul Butterfield Blues
Band, with Michael on lead guitar, exploded on the music scene. My
memory of Michael playing with the band at the Café Au Go Go was that he
would get up on the bandstand with a paperback copy of "The
Autobiography of Malcom X" stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans.
After a set of cyclonic solos, he would run backstage where he would
immerse himself in the book until the next set.
I took to hanging around backstage and one night I witnessed a very
interesting and even historical incident.
The backstage area consisted of a large cellar-like room with folding
chairs scattered around, and a small curtained-off alcove with a
Michael popped in a few minutes before the first set and, with wide-eyed excitement, said in his distinctly Chicago accent, "Hey man, I was just
recording with Dylan and played on this really neat song." He then sat
down at that piano and started playing the chord sequence C, D-minor,
E-minor, F, G7.
Within a few months, you could not turn on the radio without hearing,
"Like a Rolling Stone," with the same chord changes and the soaring lead
lines by the guitarist on the session – Michael Bloomfield.
By 1975, I was married with two kids and still living in New York City.
Atlantic Records reunited the Electric Flag for an album and they were
appearing at the Bottom Line in Greenwich Village to promote it.
They opened with the R&B-style song "Sudden Change," a vocal duet
featuring Buddy Miles and Roger Troy. The interplay of those two voices
was truly thrilling, and I realized that the voice I heard screaming was
my own. After the first set, the band was hanging out in the audience
section of the club, so it was possible to introduce my wife to Michael
without trying to get permission to go "backstage." At that point in my
life, I had completely stopped playing music.
When I introduced my wife, Steffy, to him, he took her hand and in the
nicest, most sincere manner, said how much he had listened to and
admired her husband's playing. The important thing here is the warmth
that he generated and it was that warmth that inspired me to start
playing music again. I have always felt that Michael was the person who
gave me my music back. It was his open-heartedness that enabled him to
have this effect on people. There were other gifts to follow.
Steffy had been writing songs and she asked him if he would listen to
them when she had some tapes and he said that he would be glad to.
We spent many nights and weekends at the studio where I worked creating
a demo tape of Steffy's songs, and then sent the tape to Michael in
We were back in the studio on a Sunday afternoon when I called Michael
to hear if he had listened to the tape. I can still hear his voice over
the phone saying, "I loved Steffy's songs." Then he said something else
that showed what a sympathetic individual he was. Norman Dayron, who had
recorded those folk music demos of mine, was Michael's friend and
neighbor. After listening to Steffy's songs, he got Norman to dig out
those tapes and, in an act of pure nostalgia, listened to them again. He
said (as he had before) that my voice was just like Ricky Nelson's.
Steffy and I celebrated that night by going to the movie "Monterey Pop,"
which contains an absolutely beautiful shot of Michael reacting in
wonderment to the music of Ravi Shanker. A few years later I contacted
the Leacock-Pennebacker people who created the film and got them to
print a still of that shot, which continues to be a prized possession.
Michael put Steffy in touch with his manager Albert Grossman's publisher
and a real relationship developed.
In the summer of 1975, Steffy and I went on a vacation trip to
California and when we got to the Bay area, I gave Michael a call. He
immediately invited us to dinner at his house in Mill Valley, giving us
specific directions to park our car at the bottom of the driveway. There
was a very good reason for this. When we got to the house we saw that
the driveway was so steep that it was only a few degrees shy of
perpendicular. The only thing missing was a rope tow.
At dinner, Michael talked about two sets of problems he was entangled in
at the time, and how the problems were entangled with each other.
The first problem was his failure to report several years' worth of
income to the IRS and the second was the attempt to pay these back taxes
by joining a manufactured "supergroup" called KBG, which he hated. He
told us about meeting with obnoxious record executives with large pinky
rings and recording sessions with idiotic producers who were attempting
to create a chemistry within the band that would never exist.
There was a third connection to the first two. When we first walked into
the house, Michael was rapidly restringing his acoustic guitar and by
the time we sat down, he was playing a set of flamenco type runs. When
we eventually bought the KBG album, I heard these runs in the intro to a
song he had written called "Working for the Children." I like to think
that this song was inspired by his need to earn money for his family by
making the album.
We had dinner and hung out with Michael, Suzy, and Norman Dayron until
about eleven o'clock when Michael said that his personal schedule
involved practicing blues piano until late into the night. He offered us
a ride down his driveway, and put us through the most terrifying five
seconds of our lives as he backed his car to the bottom at the speed of
a stone being dropped from that height.
My next contact with Michael came in the following spring when we sent
him another set of Steffy's songs. I had put a few harmonica solos on
the tape and when I called to see if he had gotten the tape, he invited
me to perform with him in a blues concert at Radio City Music Hall that
was part of the Newport Jazz Festival.
That was the last we heard from him, but we got tickets to the concert
and I showed up early on June 25 with my harmonicas.
Michael was the opening act (the other performers were Fats Domino,
Bobby Bland and Muddy Waters), and he was already setting up
on stage when we took out seats in the front row. When he saw me, he
called out, "Hey Mike, you got your harps?" and up I went.
Steffy had taped the set from the audience (you could do that in 1976)
and she accidentally left the tape running when we went backstage after
the set, so a conversation between the three of us was recorded. This
tape, however, was soon lost.
Michael died in 1981 and I had no memory of what songs we played or how
they sounded. About three years ago I began wondering whether that
concert had ever been recorded in a more professional manner. The
Newport Jazz Festival still existed with an office in New York. I called
and talked to someone named Bob Jones (Michael's drummer in that concert
was named Bob Jones, so it was a good start). Bob Jones told me that
because of some kind of union regulation, the Newport Jazz Festival was
not allowed to record its own concerts, but the concerts were recorded
by the Voice of America.
My next call was to the Voice of America in Washington. Someone there
told me that all of their recordings were in the Library of Congress
which of course was also in Washington. My finger was now used to
dialing area code 202, so I called the Library of Congress and within
minutes not only had they tracked down the recording, but had also found
my own name on the tape log as a sideman!
Two weeks later a DAT tape arrived in my mail box which I took to work
and popped in my tape machine.
Right after the KBG debacle, Michael had lovingly created an album for
Guitar Player magazine called "If You Love These Blues, Play Them as You
Please." It was a compendium of every imaginable blues guitar style,
from acoustic fingerpicking to the very specific electric guitar styles
of T-Bone Walker, Guitar Slim and early B.B. King. The first cut on this
album, which went out of print almost immediately while simultaneously
being nominated for a Grammy award, was the old Jim Jackson blues,
When I started my tape machine that morning,
"Kansas City Blues" was the
song I heard, performed by Michael Bloomfield and myself a year before
the Guitar Player record's release. With only two instruments and a
voice, the Voice of America's simple mic setup was perfectly adequate.
As an added treat, the emcee introduced Michael, clearly placing him at
the Newport Jazz Festival, and then Michael introduced me.
My one inning in the major leagues, a gift from beyond the grave from an
immensely talented, verbal, and soulful man who gave far more to life
and music than he had ever received.
– Mike Michaels,
Editor: Mike Michaels is a former University of Chicago student who
knew Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and many of the
other young Chicago blues players in the early '60s. He was one of the
founders of the University of Chicago Folk Festival, the country's first
concert series presenting traditional and folkloric musics, and has
worked in the music industry for four decades. He is also an
accomplished guitar and harmonica player who performs blues and jazz,
and also does shows for children. He can be reached at
email@example.com. His essay on Michael and their Newport
performance of "Kansas City Blues" are used here by his
December 10, 2008
Hello. You have a great Bloomfield website!
A quick question: I was a young fan at the Electric Flag's performance
at the Folk Music Festival, San Francisco State College, San Francisco,
CA, April 28, 1968. That was the show described by Mike Bloomfield in
your notes as one of the Flag's best live performances.
It certainly was one of the best concerts I've ever been to, and I've
wondered for many years whether there are any recordings of it. I didn't
find any listed on your site, though maybe I didn't look in the right
place. Do you know of any? I seem to remember seeing a big reel-to-reel
tape recorder at the performance that looked official.
My memories of the concert are understandably hazy after all this time,
but I remember a few things:
– On one song, Michael played several riffs, and Buddy Miles sang them
back to him.
– Herbie Rich was on organ, and Michael liked his playing on one solo so
much that he rubbed Herbie's head while the solo was still going on.
– After one of MB’s great solos – played with his tongue partially
hanging out – someone yelled out, "You're looking good!"
– I had seen Bloomfield with Butterfield at the Fillmore, at the
Electric Flag’s Monterey debut (where I sat in front of members of
Butterfield's band in the stands) and saw him once or twice in his
post-Flag days. This concert was the best I saw him play. I recall
thinking just what Michael was quoted as saying about the concert – that
it was a shame that "A Long Time Comin,’" good as parts of it were,
didn't have Bloomfield at his best.
I still have the flyer for the April 28 show, which has very basic art
work. I notice that Wolfgang's is selling these for almost $200 – Mike
probably would be surprised!
Editor's note: No recordings of the Folk Music Festival show have yet
surfaced. Anyone with any information about this seminal Flag
performance is urged
December 7, 2008
Thanks for the great website on Mike Bloomfield. I saw Mike on only one
occasion, and it was great!
I went to the Rock Pile in Toronto sometime in November or December 1968
March 14, 1969]
to see Kooper/Bloomfield, but the show was cancelled. I had moved to the
Vancouver area in 1974. As your site correctly states, the Vancouver
nightclub Mike played on November 12, 1974, was indeed The Cave. He was
to play what I recall as two nights. I was curious about audience
recording at that time. I also had my first 35mm camera in 1974. I
decided to take my camera the first night, and was going to take a mono
tape deck the second night.
Mike played with Mark Naftalin on keyboards and Roger Troy on bass. I
don't know who played drums, or if there was anyone else in the band. I
sat at a table about twenty feet in front of Mike and he played a Fender
Telecaster. It had a rosewood fretboard and the body appeared to be just
wood grain. It had a painted design on it, but I don't think it was the
"Blue Tele." I was waiting for the Les Paul Standard to come out, but I
only recall him playing the Telecaster. I have some really good photos
of the Tele. I talked to Mark Naftalin and Roger Troy during the
intermission. I was too starstruck to talk to Mike, but I wish I had.
I brought my tape recording machine the next night. I wondered what was up
when they introduced Natalie Cole and her group. I went right to the bar
and asked where Mike's band was. They told me that they had cancelled
and gone back to the States. Of course, my heart sank when I heard this.
Who knows what my audience recording would have sounded like. But I
would have had a mono recording of some kind of quality. It would have
been a great keepsake!
That first night it wasn't crowded, and I sat at the table with a few
other Bloomfield freaks. We watched and listened as Mike peeled off
those sweet blues licks and jaw-dropping runs that most guitarists only
dream of. We cheered wildly after every number they played. The CD
release, "Live At The Old Waldorf," has a song on it that was recorded
just a few nights before from the night I saw Mike. Needless to say, my
photos are treasures. I'm glad to have been an eyewitness to Mike
Bloomfield & Friends that night in the fall of 1974. Hope you enjoyed my
Editor – Murray added this later:
I can tell
you that it was in fact the Blue Telecaster at the Cave. I've seen a few
pictures of the Blue Tele on the Internet, most with just a front view.
Then I saw a photo with the bottom edge showing. I saw a zig-zag line,
and it's the same line I see in a couple of my photos. I compared the
swirls painted on the guitar's top and they are the same swirl design
that I see on the guitar Mike played at the Cave. There is no doubt
about it. I hadn't looked at the photos in years. I realized why I
hadn't remembered it having a blue tint: My photos are black and white.
December 6, 2008
My time with
Michael was short, yet very intense ... thus unforgettable. I had
recently returned from the chaos of my tour with the 101st Airborne
Division, in a place called the A Shau Valley, Vietnam.
One day, while attending UC Berkeley, and having just left my poor
philosophy classmates and professor slack-jawed at my fifteen-minute
diatribe on death, I wandered over to the performing arts pavilion to
hear none other than the amazing Chicago bluesman, Luther Tucker,
playing his heart out in front of a jam-packed, mesmerized audience. I
thought to myself that it would be about the coolest thing that could
happen were I to ever play in his band. Almost one year to the day later
... I was.
Luther was a gentle soul whose lifestyle was always shrouded in sadness,
yet he had a deep sense of pride. We rehearsed quite a bit at John
Thorpe's "Marin Recorders," and Luther always took it upon himself to
introduce me to those cats that he felt were important to the music. At
one point I moved in with the Tucker family at their sprawling upstairs
apartment in San Anselmo. It was above a live music club, near the main
intersection of Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
One day Luther came back to my room all decked out, as if he were going
somewhere important. "Get yourself together Day-yan, 'cause we're gonna
go see Michael Bloomfield," Luther drawled in his usual
slow-and-deliberate manner. I scurried around in my room, looking
frantically for things I knew not ... completely in a panic, at this
unexpected and overwhelming news.
A half-hour later a car arrived (Luther didn't drive) and we were
whisked over to Mill Valley to Michael's house on Reed Street. After a
quick back-and-forth about whether we were at the right address, we
drove down a long driveway and shuffled up to the front door. I could
hear an eerie, repetitious sound bouncing off the opposite face of the
hill emanating from the rear of the house – that turned out to be an
intense ping-pong match that was underway.
After a few moments, Michael pulled the door open and, seeing Luther,
immediately started smiling and shaking our hands. Michael treated me as
if he had known me for years, and went out of his way to make me feel
welcome. I've told Michael's brother, Allen, that I was astonished at
the massive collection Michael had of gospel albums, not to mention his
uncanny knowledge of all things gospel. This man knew his stuff, that's
After my initial meeting with Mike, Luther would occasionally ask me if
I was available to play a gig for Michael, which then was followed by
unbridled oblivion while I collected my gear and wits. I played a few
places, such as the old River City club, the Lion Share and other more
obscure dives in San Francisco (that I often did not even learn the name
of until after I'd been through the first set). Sometimes the amazing
Charlie Musselwhite was there, not to mention a host of other great
blues players who came and went with mercurial and oft-times chaotic
It was an amazing time in my young life, meeting, playing and hanging
with all of these devoted blues players. Michael would be sure to
introduce me to anyone he thought I didn't know; he was so gracious in
that way. "Dann, this is Applejack ... and he plays a mean harp," or, "I
want you to meet one of the baddest guitar players on the planet, Elvin
Bishop." There stood Elvin, hunched over a pinball machine at River
City, with his trademark straw hat and pull-top on-a-leather string
necklace. Wow. Things were getting thick. Elvin couldn't have been
kinder. A real gentleman with a great spirit.
After another year passed, I decided I needed to make consistent money,
get my reading chops together and perhaps stop living out of a paper
bag, so I joined a show band tour and left town for the next three
years. I never saw Michael again. I would occasionally hear stories of
his decline and how he was playing seated in a folding chair, barefooted
and with his back to the audience ... and on and on.
These days, sixteen solo albums later (six of which are modern
symphonies), two novels – "Almost A Proverb" (2004) and "Good Friends
Are Hard To Kill" (2009) – and three lifetimes-worth of experiences, I
keep Michael's unquestionable boyish zeal for the guitar close at hand
and deep within my heart. Michael's passion for life was brought to bear
each and every time the man picked up a guitar – and I say "a" guitar,
because in his mind all guitars were his ... and yours, too.
Regardless of this man's demons and deeply-masked inner pain – which was
slowly devouring him from the inside out – I never once heard him say a
disparaging word about anyone. And when he strapped on a guitar ...
everything else ... just disappeared.
everything. Love and miss you, Michael.
– Dann Glenn, guitarist/composer,
November 3, 2008
My family was from what we in the Bay Area call "Tam Valley." This is
the unincorporated part of Mill Valley, nestled beneath the wild side of
Mt. Tamalpais State Park. When I was around 13, a guitar player named
Mike Bloomfield moved to Mill Valley from Chicago. My brother was
already tuned in to the music world of rock and roll, and he knew who
Mike Bloomfield was.
One day, as we were driving around town with our mother, we turned onto
Carmelita Street (of "Carmelita Skiffle" fame) and, lo and behold, there
was the Bloomfield house. We convinced my mother to stop the car and let
us out. We ran up the street together and onto the porch and my brother
went right up to the door and knocked. Soon a lady appeared and she said
that Michael was away on a gig but she would let him know that we
stopped by to visit. As things turned out, this was the beginning of a
friendship between my brother and Michael that lasted for many years,
until Michael's death.
As the little brother, I was able to glean some of the warmth over time
from these two friends. Michael somehow took an interest in me in spite
of all of his fame and talent and the big world of rock that was
swirling around everybody during those times. We were 15 minutes from
downtown San Francisco and the hippies, the excitement of the music and
the reckless energy enveloped everybody's lives.
Like with so many other families, my parents divorced. Our friends from
Little League baseball became our step-brothers. After spending a few
days in jail at the age of 18, the first person I called upon my release
was Michael Bloomfield because I was trying to find my brother. Michael
said, "Relax, man. Here's the name of my lawyer. He'll make sure you get
a fair shake." His flamboyant attorney from Chicago, with a bold
handlebar mustache, took care of me like I was family because Michael
told him to.
I ended up in the Navy, launching planes from an aircraft carrier.
Later, while home on leave from the ship, I went to see Michael and he
was sitting downstairs in his home recording studio surrounded by
guitars, a disorganized drum set and an ancient upright piano. He told
me he was working on his boogie-woogie barrelhouse blues piano technique
while he casually ran up and down the keyboard, playing the blues. He
asked me about my dreams and said that when he was a youngster he too had
wanted to be a big-city police officer. Can anybody believe that?
Although I was far removed from his circle of friends and his
professional life, he always made me feel normal – that what I thought
and said was legitimate.
Another time, Michael was on stage in a small club in Cotati, sitting on
a chair during a break between sets. He was holding court from a step
above the crowd, surrounded by clamoring youths who wanted to know
things like how much he practiced every day. He saw me standing there
watching his scene, and he called to me by name and suddenly we were
talking like old friends. It was as if we were in the privacy of his own
home. He had a rare, special ability to give the most sincere, personal,
concentrated attention to a conversation, like you were the most
important person in the world for that moment regardless of the
surroundings. When the band returned to the stand, he played impeccable
soul rhythm guitar to "Tell It Like It Is" while Roger "Jelly Roll"
Troy's singing took the crowded room into ecstasy.
One day, in 1970 or ’71 when I was still in high school, I was visiting
Michael and he asked me if I wanted to borrow his guitar. I said sure –
but I don't have an amp. He said, "No problem, take this one. Now, go
home and play for a while." The next thing I knew, I was at home in my
mother's living room with Michael's Telecaster and his Twin Reverb. (I
believe this to be the same guitar that he played on the first
For two whole weeks he let me keep his instrument. For two whole weeks I
pretended I was Freddy King and Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, blasting that
thing like I was "live at the Fillmore." But most of all I listened to
"I Got A Mind To Give Up Living" many times over and over again, trying
to do everything Michael did. Looking for his sound and finding every
turn of his fingers. At the end of the tune, when Mr. Butterfield is
shouting out his pain and Michael is answering with his own agony, I
felt like it was me in that Butterfield Blues Band, drowning them both
out. Oh, what a feeling! I closed my eyes, and there I was up on the
stage at a sweaty club in the big city, commanding the audience as if
they were mine.
One day, I decided I had to let Michael know what was developing over at
my house with his guitar. I had to let him know that he had a young
talent on his hands. I called him up, and I knew that if he would just
listen, he would recognize that I could do what he could do. This was
going to be my moment! Michael came to the phone and I said, " Michael,
listen to this." I went over to the guitar and turned it up loud and did
my best imitation of "Got a Mind ..." I went back to the phone,
expecting effusive accolades, and said, "So, what'd you think of that?"
"Not too bad. Keep it up. Now, when are you going to bring my guitar
back?," Michael said.
I remember Michael for his warmth as a private person. We visited him in
the hospital once when he was supposed to be playing with Al Kooper at
Winterland. He was in his bathrobe and house slippers, and he looked so
forlorn and tired, but he was grateful that we came to see him. His
friends became our friends. Nick Gravenites and Mark Naftalin would come
in to get gas at the car wash where I worked, and they always treated me
like a member of their family. Michael and his friends even played at
our high school dances in the late '60s. This is quite remarkable when
one looks back on it. It is his love of people, his fascination with
characters and personalities that comes through in his unparalleled
guitar playing. When you listen now to him, one thing that is so salient
is the clarity of his sound.
Especially when compared to so many other "guitar slingers." No special
effects. No distortion. Just Michael being honest. Fortunately for all
of us, we still have his music. We still have the high standard that he
set for everybody else.
– Steve Byron
October 21, 2008
I lived and still live on Long Island, N.Y. My dear old grandmother
stood on line at the Asbury Park, NJ, Convention Hall to get us tickets
to see the Rolling Stones on July 2, 1966 – the early show. They were
selling "Aftermath" stuff inside. I saw my hero, Brian Jones. I was 16.
The reason I mention this is because it stokes my memory for the
Butterfield Band gig that I saw. It was the second concert I ever
I'm pretty sure the show was in the fall or early winter of 1966, before
I turned 17 in February 1967. [This PBBB performance was actually on
April 25, 1966.] College was in session, and the show was at Stony Brook
University in Stony Brook, NY, which is about 60 miles east of NYC. It
was a "state university center," which means it was big for the time.
The student body – especially its leaders – was kind of radical and had
a huge budget for concerts. I saw everybody there you can think of
during my high school years. During the summer session of '67, my buddy
and I were returning from the beach when we heard the Grateful Dead was
playing in the gym. We drove over that night and the crowd was sparse
because it was summer. You could walk right up in front of Jerry!
I don't recall if the Butterfield Band concert was in the hall where
they put on plays or in the gym. They were the opening act for Simon &
Garfunkel. If I remember correctly, this was around the time they'd
added bass and drums to "The Sounds of Silence." S&G had been touring
England, but when the tune hit the top of the charts State-side, they
A little knucklehead like me was hip to PBBB because I used to get "Hit
Parader" magazine to get the gossip on all the groups, especially the
Stones. There was a little blurb review about Butterfield's first album
in the magazine. I remember one line in it to this day – it said the
band "rocks like mad and never lets up." I rushed out and bought the
record and it my blew all our minds. It was the first time I saw "Play
this record loud" on the back of an album. A sheltered white boy like me
had never heard harmonica like that. For a few minutes, I thought it was
a trumpet! That album and the credits on the Stones' albums led us to
get on the train and go to Greenwich Village to the "House of Oldies"
and other record stores on Bleeker Street to get the "real thing" –
Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and the rest. We were blues fans for life!
The Butterfield Blues Band opened the show and I don't remember any
other groups. It was the original PBBB group, except that Sam Lay had
left and Billy Davenport was on drums. To the best of my recollection
they did most, if not all, of the tunes from their first album. I had
purchased the album before the show so I do remember for sure "Born in
Chicago," "Blues With a Feeling," "Thank You Mister Poohbah" and "Mellow
Down Easy." They were loud and they were great – everything I had hoped
for! You can play harmonica and guitar differently but not better than
they did. They let Elvin Bishop step forward under a spotlight to sing
"Never Say No" (from their second album) while he smoked a cigarette.
They did not do "East-West." Nor can I remember any other songs from the
second LP but who knows – it was a long time ago! S&G, the headliners,
were next and they played a nice acoustic set, just the two of them.
There was no jamming with the Butterfield Band.
That show ranks as one of my all-time favorites, along with Eric Clapton
and Cream in the winter or spring of 1967 at the Village Theater, before
they renamed it the Fillmore East. I was lucky to have seen the two
blues guitar gods!
My buddies and I went to see PBBB again in March 1967 at the Westbury
Music Fair in Westbury, NY, but lo-and-behold – it was the same band but
without Bloomers. They played tunes from the second album, but not
"East-West." Bishop did a nice job on "Work Song." Communication was
different then – we'd expected to see Bloomers and were so disappointed.
But then we hung out at the backstage door and Bishop let us in and we
listened to him bang the piano. We asked Butter where Mike was and he
said, "He left to join a red ant farm." Ha!
– Jim Miller III
October 8, 2008
I was a 19-year-old Newcastle University student and was a fervent
Animals fan, and playing bass in a local blues band. On the 4th of
November , I attended the Newcastle Odeon performance [that included
the Paul Butterfield Blues Band]. I had not heard of the PBBB but was
going as Eric Burden and the Animals headed the bill. I was completely
stunned by the PBBB, as the music was very aggressive and very raw, with
Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield playing at a technical level I had
not heard before.
The set was:
Born in Chicago
Blues with a Feeling
Shake Your Moneymaker
Got My Mojo Working
I was able to follow them down to London later the following week; I was
at the Marquee for their gig on the 10th. My recollections are that they
also played "East-West," and though I didn't know what I was hearing, the
force of it was stunning. I can recall walking out of the gig with my then
band mates, and we agreed that if that was the direction music was moving
in, we definitely lacked the skills to compete. It was also the first time
I was aware of how the level of competition amongst competent musicians
was so high.
I saw them twice more in the space of the next week, and each time they
played with a level of power, aggression and technique I found difficult
The first PBBB album I was able to buy was "East-West." Their first album
put down a marker for white urban blues interpreters, but "East-West" laid
markers down that I believe no one was able to follow.
I read with interest the dissection [on the site] of "East-West" from
a musician's point of view, but I feel there is another aspect which is
more important. There is an emotional intelligence at work, as well the
fact that the tune is just so of-that-moment. In particular, the expansion
of music beyond the usual borders, with the "sitary bits" that echoed
snatches heard on [the Beatles'] "Revolver" and other records and the riff
picked from "Spanish Harlem." It just gels, and now seems like an eternal
piece of music.
Bloomfield has always been, for me, the greatest exponent of the electric
guitar. He always goes to the top of any list if I'm asked to compile.
I've seen most of the top-ranked guitarists live, but to me his ability
and vision makes him the unique one. I try to collect whatever is
released, and was knocked out by the "Lost Tapes" – in particular, his
reading of "Season of the Witch."
But 42 years on, I still am very proud that I saw the PBBB live at the top
of their game. It was a life changing experience.
– David Fletcher
August 17, 2008
Thank you for your note regarding my "first concert."
Although it was at a nightclub (the Bitter End in Greenwich Village) in
1967 when I was about 11 years old, I'm pretty sure [the Electric Flag]
was the first band I ever saw. My father, who was divorced, lived in New
York City and arranged for my younger brother and me to fly in from Boston
on many weekends for whirlwind visits. Dad was a bit of a visionary and
not a "toe-the-line" kind of guy which is how a 10- and an 11-year-old
ended up at the Bitter End for the Flag's second set.
My greatest recollection of that show was the performance of their
drummer, Buddy Miles. I recall him as a dynamic man with sweat flying off
him who in my memory eclipsed the rest of the band. I wish I could say
more about Mike Bloomfield and the rest of the band. I have a vague
recollection that Buddy's super percussive solos were a counter-point to
Michael's somewhat more tender blues guitar solos, but it was so long ago
that I couldn't say for sure.
My other recollections of the Bitter End are of the great fruit drinks
they served my brother and me ... and the omnipresent woodiness of the
place (stools, narrow wood ledge for drinks, a subterranean tavern feel).
– Chris B.
August 1, 2008
bootleg recordings, Mike Bloomfield & Friends perform a song written by
Roger Troy called "Shadows Told Me All." It was one they never put out on
The song has now been recorded by Sweet Suzi & The Blues Experience and is
on their new CD called "Unbroken." Suzi is a blues version of Janis Joplin
(with, I think, a better voice). You can check her out at
The first time [I saw Michael with Butterfield] was at a club in New York
called the Cafe Au Go Go in 1965 or '66. Now, believe it or not, the Cafe
Au Go Go did not serve liquor – they served ice cream drinks. I
still have a menu from 1967.
My girl friend (later my wife) was taking piano lessons in New York from
Barry Goldberg (Mike's best friend). The time was the early '70s before
the Flag reformed.
One day she
came home and said, "Guess who was at Barry's apartment today!" It was
Mike, and he had taught her some piano licks (he also played great piano).
Sometimes I would go along for her lessons, but that week I didn't. I
was/am a huge Bloomfield fan and was bummed out for weeks after not
getting to meet him.
We are now divorced, but friends, and she plays keyboards for Albert
A couple of years ago we went to see the Chicago Blues Reunion and she got
to say hello to Barry (having not seen him for 30-plus years).
– R. Lusher
July 17, 2008
The November 11, 1973, gig at Convocation Hall, on the main campus of the
University of Toronto, was the only Bloomfield show I attended.
During the drive to Toronto, my Volkswagen Beetle broke down on the
highway with about 15 miles to go, so my friends and I left it smoking on
the side of the road and hitch-hiked the rest of the way.
Convocation Hall is a building with a circular footprint, and I remember
that fans were seated in a sort of crescent part of the way around the
bandstand, which was a low riser in the middle of the floor. Bloomfield
was wearing baggy blue jeans and a blue shirt unbuttoned at the wrists. He
assumed that characteristic Bloomfield hunch over his guitar, which he
wore high. By 1973, Jimmy Page and others had made the low-slung look
fashionable, but obviously Michael was having none of that.
He looked very casual, very old-school. But he was a restless presence
onstage. He walked around a lot. He never smiled. He had little or no
between-song chit-chat. I don't remember which songs the band played or
whether there was an encore. It was a low-key event.
I came away from the show feeling a little disappointed. I'd been looking
forward to some soulful, surging Bloomfield solos, played with that fat
but clean tone that was a hallmark of his best recordings, but he seemed
content to take his place as just another guy in the band, happy to play a
– R.K., Waterloo, Ontario
April 15, 2008
I stumbled across your amazing website while cross-referencing a bootleg
performance from late 1980 claiming to be Mike's last show. I noticed your
website lists a handful of performances from early 1981, but not the one I
I saw him at a free, solo acoustic show at the San Jose State student
union in early 1981, and was shocked to hear Mike had died less than two
weeks (probably less than one week) later. It's such a vivid memory
because I remember thinking, "Hey! I just saw that guy!" The show was
probably advertised in the SJSU newspaper, as well as BAM magazine, and
perhaps on KSJO/KOME radio stations.
definitely played acoustic guitar and there was a piano there, but I don't
remember if he played it. The student union didn't have a stage – there
was a small platform/landing area, maybe 15-feet square, with couple of
microphones, that the various performers who appeared there used. It's
hard to describe – the inner part of the student union had three or four
levels of these central areas (one of which Mike performed on) surrounded
by wide walkways (though it may not look the same now as it did nearly 30
I'm sorry but I don't
recall any specific song titles – he definitely played blues and folk
stuff. I remember he did this trick with his guitar: He would hit a note,
then slightly bend the neck/shake the body of the guitar to give it a
wah-wah/tremelo type of effect. It was an amazing performance, and yet
most of the students were just milling about, with few stopping to watch.
– Bryan Barrow
March 31, 2008
I got the [Telecaster] pictures
today. WOW! I've never seen the "Festival" film, or that picture from
Naftalin's first gig [with the Butterfield Band]. You know, it's still
hard to tell whether or not the guitar's blond or Olympic white. I do know
many of the early '60s blond-finished Telecasters had a very tight grain
and didn't show up as much as the early '50s grain, which makes it even
harder to tell them apart in a black-and-white picture. Those pictures do
confirm that he had a 1-ply pick guard. I'm going to have to find out for
sure if Fender just used the 1-ply guards in the '60s for the
blond-finished Teles. I also think that the picture with Naftalin is from
the same day the back picture for the first Butter record was taken.
By the way, my father saw the PBBB back at Big John's, as I believe it was
called in the mid-'60s. He used to tell the story that they went to see PB
because the Shadows of Knight had said that Butterfield was the real deal.
My dad had a little band in Chicago and he said they were shocked at how
Bloomfield was bending notes with his finger and getting vibrato without
any tremelo arm!
– Bill Pekara
January 6, 2008
Here's more on Michael Fonfara. I reckon he must have debuted with the
Electric Flag on November 24, 1967 at the Bitter End. I know that Fonfara
was working with David Clayton-Thomas at The Scene in Thomas's backing
group, The Phoenix, in mid-October. The Village Voice lists those dates as
October 19-22, 1967. Thomas got deported after this, but I don’t know if
Fonfara went back to Toronto or was staying in New York when Buddy Miles
He would have played the Flag's San Francisco dates in December [December
8 and 9, 1967] but was busted soon after at the Tropicana Motel in Los
Angeles and so would have been gone from the group by mid-month. Fonfara’s
former Jon and Lee & The Checkmates cohorts, Peter Hodgson and John
Finley, who auditioned for the band that became Rhinoceros on December 1
at Paul Rothchild’s house in L.A., both remember running into Mike at the
Tropicana right after he had been given elbow from Electric Flag. They
both returned to Toronto on December 19 for Christmas to get their
visas sorted. This is taken from the Rhino site:
"Fonfara had kept busy since parting company with Hodgson in New York. For
a month or so he'd recorded and toured with The Electric Flag but after
arriving in Los Angeles, he was busted for smoking dope and given the
elbow by the group's manager, Albert Grossman. As fate would have it
though, he ran into Finley and Hodgson at the Tropicana Motel (which is
where the musicians were staying during the rehearsals) and was
immediately added to the line-up.
"A few days later, some of the 'lucky few' went up into the hills outside
L.A. to drop acid – the rationale being that the experience would create a
'spiritual bond' within the band – but Magness was not impressed and quit
in disgust. As a result, Hodgson was offered the bass spot in the band -
alongside a line-up that now consisted of Finley, Fonfara, Gerber,
Hastings and Weis.
"As Christmas drew closer, Rothchild and Mohawk decided to put the project
on hold; Gerber had arranged to visit Denver for the holidays, while
Finley and Hodgson had the less appealing task of securing American work
papers. On December 19, Finley and Hodgson headed back to Toronto to
arrange their documentation while the others continued to rehearse on and
This confirms that Michael Fonfara wasn’t in Electric Flag after December
19, 1967. Hope that helps.
January 5, 2008
I saw your Mike
Bloomfield website and may be able to help. Michael Fonfara knew Buddy
Miles from when Miles played with Wilson Pickett in Canada and Fonfara was
with Jon and Lee & The Checkmates (see
www.rhinoceros-group.com for story).
Miles got him on board when Goldberg was busted in late 1967. As far as I
know, Fonfara was working in New York at the Steve Paul’s The Scene with
David Clayton-Thomas in October 1967, and after Thomas got deported back
to Toronto, Buddy got Fonfara to join the Flag. I think Mike told me that
he played the East Coast dates and then played on West Coast. Perhaps the
band's first New York show on 17 November was also his first with them? I
think he must have been gone by early January 1968 as he was in Rhinoceros
by then, and I think Elektra may have had to buy his contract from
Electric Flag. I’ll see what I can find out.
– Nick Warburton
November 27, 2007
Here's a little thing I always remembered about Mike. I walked into the
Fillmore one night and he was up on stage commanding the venue with his
presence. There he was, wearing a light blue shirt with sleeves rolled up
and a large, worn tear on the elbow which was very obvious when he would
lift up the Les Paul to his face. I had never seen anyone on stage like
that wearing clothes that looked like they were picked up at the Salvation
Army store. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. What a
He is also the first person that ever said the word "heavy" in relation to
music. We have "heavy metal" now and "heavy-this" and "heavy-that." Right
after I read his statement in some magazine, a band came out called "Iron
Butterfly." It's been "heavy metal" ever since.
The first concert I saw with the Butter band was at a Fillmore show that was
opened by Charlie Musselwhite, followed by the Steve Miller Blues Band.
Butter was headlining. I wonder if anyone has the date for that show.
I was also at the Fillmore where the Flag was headlining a show in which
Michael introduced B.B. King for the first time to a white audience. It
was an incredible evening! I could almost swear that Michael had tears in
his eyes when he introduced B.B. He was so emotional about it! B.B. came
on with his big band and then Albert King. Albert King tore it up it up
that night! We couldn't sit still with Albert playing. He had that band
Wonder if you have a date for that?
I also recall seeing Bloomers singing for the first time with the Flag. It
may have been on one of the first Flag concerts, if not the first. I
wanted to see his new band after Butter and there he was singing,
"Directly From My Heart" by Little Richard for the first song of the
I also recall going to the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach when I lived in
Long Beach, CA. I wanted to see Butter's new horn band as well. I was
really looking forward to it. You see, I was a big time Elvin Bishop fan
too. I recall being very disappointed. There he was with a new guitar
player, a very young Buzzy Feiten.
The show was not disappointing at all, however. The Band rocked! It was
another incredibly swinging rock and roll show by one of the masters. [My
brother] Carmelo and I went to the alley behind the club and visited with
Gene Dinwiddie and the rest of the band. Butter and Buzzy were nowhere in
The small place was full. They did something like a forty-five minute set and then
ran everybody out as the band prepared for a later set. I thought that was
very shitty the way they did that! We had to pay again for the later show
but we were out of money and so had to go home.
Just some tidbits.
– Frank Macias
October 24, 2007
The Group was just a
jam band – as long as we treated it that way, it worked. The only time we
ever rehearsed was for the recording session that John Hammond put
together. The session didn't go all that smoothly and afterwords Mike –
who had a pretty foul mouth at times – said that's the last time we
fucking rehearse! Not long after that session The Group sort of broke up –
really we just drifted apart because nobody actively was trying to book
the band. But we had a real report at times, we'd get to a place of pure
intuition. We were together about six months at Big John's, and a couple
at Magoo's. Elvin Bishop and Paul Butterfield often sat in with us at Big
A few years later, I was playing in Chicago with one of the early
faith-based rock bands, the Exkursions, and Wes Montgomery was
playing at a place right up the street. During a break I went to check out
Wes and who should I meet coming out of the club but Mike Bloomfield with
his entourage. He was there listening to Wes, too. I was really surprised
– I hadn't seen him since The Group broke up – and he said that he was
heading out west to put together a band with horns and asked, right out of
the blue, if I would be his bass player. I said no, I wanted to stay with
the band I had just joined and that I really was a guitar player. That
band turned out to be the Electric Flag!
– Mike Johnson
October 1, 2007
The night I saw Electric Flag was electric. I'll never forget that
night. Now that I recall, the show was at Bill Graham's Winterland
Auditorium in San Francisco, sometime in 1968 or 1969. The show opened
with B.B. King, who was making one of his first of several Bill
Graham-produced appearances after years of performing in the east
and south, his act was pure blues. He was followed by Electric Flag who
had a big horn section in addition to the great guitar of Mike Bloomfield
and others. They played their classic blues standards and interpretations
of their vinyl recordings, and then closed the set with a knock-out
version of "East-West" ... who can forget that. I also remember a sequined
flag of some sort with a spotlight on it behind Buddy Miles' drum
setup. The show closed with the Byrds who played all their hit songs, but
in my opinion it was a night for the blues. To this day I have never seen
a better blues performance.
The photo from my Flickr page [http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveglass/]of
Mike Bloomfield was from a small gathering of blues artists in a little
central park in Marin City, a former WW II ship building town on San
Francisco Bay. At the time, there was a large African American
community there of folks who were still living in the ship-building
company housing nearby. Mike Bloomfield and Friends were performing that
day, and were later joined by James Cotton playing harp ... again, pure
blues, that was summer of 1969. [This performance, however, may have
actually taken place on Easter Sunday, March 29, 1970 in neighboring Mill
Valley. That show was one of the few that had Buddy Miles performing with
Bloomfield & Friends.]
Around the mid 1990's, there was a tribute to the music of Mike Bloomfield
that I attended on Grant Street in San Francisco, maybe the Grant Green
Saloon, and many of Bloomfield's former side men were on hand to perform
and relive the great Bloomfield sound. Mark Naftalin and Nick Gravenites
were among the musicians present, and once again they closed their set
with another knock-out version of their hit "East-West," proving again
that his music lives on.
– Dave Glass
Bloomfield performing with John Kahn on bass and Buddy Miles in Mill
Valley on March 29, 1970.
by Dave Glass
October 1, 2007
MB definitely was at the Flag shows at the Fillmore East in June of
1968. I know because I was there and, not only that, but Jimi Hendrix also
sat in. I have never seen a better concert by anybody in any kind of music
as those shows.
I just saw the new John Adams opera "Doctor Atomic" at the SF opera house
and at the end of the opera most of the audience seemed to be sobbing it
was so great. Some shows are like that.
The Flag was incredible that night, incredible. I was 17 and in utter awe,
ecstatic like I’ve seldom been – almost with tears streaming down my face
I was so happy. They were perfectly on and packed with emotion. I even
remember what MB was wearing – jeans and an oxford dress shirt untucked,
including his bare feet. The Quicksilver part of the show was released on
bootleg and when they’re done they introduce the Flag on the recording.
I left the States for a few months shortly thereafter, caught Paris ’68
among other things, and returned just as the 1968 Chicago Democratic
convention was exploding, with Gravenites’ voice singing "Another Country"
in my mind’s ear. The Flag delivered a blast of knowing joy in the face of
all that was happening during that crazy and often tragic year. Just like
it said, its music really was American music. It had soul. It even had a
little country. You could hear everything in it. It captured the feeling
of the time but it also expressed a spirit going way back into the past
and pointing into a very uncertain future.
September 8, 2007
I really like Michael’s guitar playing. He really is one of the greatest,
most expressive guitarists and I enjoy your website. My all time favorite,
though, is Janis [Joplin]. I noticed the entry for December 3, 1969, and
we have discussed this on various JJ forums over the years, and well … it
isn’t Janis [singing].
I have been collecting Janis recordings for a good many years now, and I
first got this recording on a tape about 10-12 years ago labeled “'Kozmic
Blues’ outtakes and demos.” For the first few listens I thought it could
be JJ, but her speaking voice seemed a bit too high-pitched, and it
sounded like the accent was being "put on.” Janis never lost her Texas
accent, and the singing voice lacks the spontaneous, subtle things that
are just pure Janis.
This recording has been discussed for a number of years and the general
opinion is that it is a JJ tribute band, or most likely a drag artist
named Pearl Heart (real name Joey Amoroso). Both Sam Andrew and Snooky
Flowers were once members of Pearl Heart’s band. I haven’t listened to
this recording for a long time, so maybe I will tonight just out of
curiosity, but I just know it isn’t JJ!!
– Anthony "Ant" Edman
August 9, 2007
I don't have the exact dates – I think '66 or '67 – but I saw the original
band twice. The first time was at the Unicorn, a coffee house in Boston.
It was after the first album, but before “East-West.”
Being a coffee house, the audience was rather polite – except for my
friend and me (David Landau, brother of Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen's
long-time manager). We were front row center and going nuts the entire
evening. We screamed for every solo and when Bloomfield broke a string we
dove on to the stage to retrieve it. After the first set Bloomfield came
up and shook our hands. "I just want to thank you guys for being here,"
said he. Never was a sixteen-year-old happier.
The band's equipment was very funky. Bloomfield was playing through a torn
up old Fender tweed, maybe a Bassman or Deluxe. Bloomfield stood there,
shoulders hunched and just dug in every time he played. It was raw, loud
The second time was at Club 47 in Cambridge. I think it was after
“East-West” came out. The band had all new (or newer) Fender blackface
amps. Both Bloomfield and Bishop had two amps "daisy-chained" together.
I'm not sure if they were Deluxes or Vibroluxes. I remember not enjoying
the sound as much the second time. The guitars were much more shrill, too
I'm sorry I cannot recall too much more, I do remember the events
themselves very well, but that was a looong time ago!
– John Curtis
July 31, 2007
Just some more random notes as I wade through ...
I looked at an ancient computer, and the Bloomfield/Gravenites/Naftalin
date for Pauley Ballroom at UC Berkeley was October 1975.
Interesting comments about the ‘78 Greek Theater show. My impression at
the time was that Naftalin was very irritated at Bishop for dominating the
show, but perhaps his frustration was directed at Bloomfield at well. Of
course, in all my years in the Bay Area, I can’t recall Elvin and Naftalin
ever playing together without Bloomfield, even though separately either
seemed happy to jam with anyone.
Some comments on your great '66/'67 page:
Charles Perry, in his book “The Haight Ashbury,” explains that a white
policeman killed a black teenager on September 27, and the Fillmore
district was very tense. The October 1, 1966 show was moved from
Winterland to the smaller Fillmore, but still only a few hundred people
showed up. On Sunday, October 2, 1966, Muddy Waters sang “Got My Mojo
Working” with the BBB.
The Wolfgang’s Vault site has the October 7, 1966 Airplane show, and
(according to them) each band only did one set because there was a
"Butterfield-Airplane set" at evening's end. One of these nights (although
possibly it was the weekend before), old pal Steve Miller showed up and
jammed on stage, and announced he is moving to San Francisco.
As far as the notorious February 25, 1967 "three gigs in one day," the
other gig was at Commonwealth Armory with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, from
noon to 4 p.m. (MIT was early evening, and presumably Sargents Gym was
late evening). I found the third gig by reading every issue of the MIT
newspaper (its been digitized going back to the 19th century – one good
thing about an engineering school newspaper). It’s somewhere in
www.MIT.edu. For the record, there aren't other Bloomfield gigs that I
could uncover from that source. The funniest part is that every time a
show review says "the equipment broke down" (common in the '60s), eager
engineers come out of the audience to fix it up.
[The new] Electric Flag played last Saturday (at Monterey Pop 2007), by
the way... how often do I get to put that in an email? Gravenites in a
chair the whole time, but hey, he's about 70. Tower of Power horns, Barry
Goldberg, Roy Blumefeld (Blues Project) on drums, not sure about the rest
of the group. Pretty good, considering, per my eyewitness.
July 30, 2007
I have recently discovered your discography site, and its Mike Bloomfield
chronology. I have worked on a few rock and roll timelines for my own
amusement (see http://www.chickenonaunicycle.com/Barn%20Scotts%20History.htm)
and I know how difficult they can be. You have done a really exceptional
job. A few tidbits to offer you.
*April 8, 1974 Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Jesse Colin Young/Mike Bloomfield and Friends
I saw this. It was about the fourth rock concert I saw. There may have
been an early and late show (very possible) but if so they turned the
house over, so in that sense it wasn't a two-set show. Jesse Colin Young's
album “Song For Juli” was a BFD locally, so it was an abruptly popular
gig. I knew who Bloomfield was, more or less, but I had only heard “Super
Session” and maybe the first Butterfield Blues Band album (I was 15).
Bloomfield's band was indeed Mark Naftalin, Roger Troy and George Rains. I
remember a loose, sloppy performance, with Bloomfield blazing away but
somewhat unfocused music. I will never forget him taking a smoking guitar
solo during his first number and calmly tuning his guitar (using his right
hand while he bent notes with his left) at the same time.
The oddest thing was that for the last two numbers Bloomfield invited out
a young guitarist (named, I believe, Mark Silverman). Bloomfield then
switched to Hammond organ (Naftalin on piano) and as the band played a
couple of blues numbers (Troy singing, "Silverman" on lead guitar), he let
it rip on the Hammond also. About 147 concerts later, I can now appreciate
the unlikeliness of a lead guitarist switching to Hammond organ in
*Fall ‘75 or winter ‘76, Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
Mike Bloomfield, Mark Naftalin and Nick Gravenites
This was my freshman year of college. This gig was added at the last
second, and seemed to be promoted through some sort of
university-sponsored thingamabob – it was typical of Berkeley for some
enterprising student to get control of some student activity funds and put
on a concert with whatever local band he could hire.
Much to my surprise, the trio played acoustic, Gravenites did most of the
singing and they were completely unrehearsed and not really that good. In
the middle, however, Nick and Mark left, and Bloomfield did a song solo.
He did that song "Kansas City" (not the one made famous by the Beatles and
Little Richard – actually titled "Hey Hey Hey Hey"), but the blues one. I
think it turned up on an album later. Anyway, Mike sang in his
talking-blues style and picked and brought down the house.
*October 1, 1978 Greek Theater, UC Berkeley
Butterfield Blues Band Reunion "Tribal Stomp"
This was something. Messy as usual, but when they caught the groove, like
on “Shake Your Moneymaker,” I got a glimpse of how they must have rolled
over everything in their path.
Some or all of the show was reputedly broadcast on the 10-watt college
radio station (KALX-FM), possibly after the fact. Tapes of some of the
performers have leaked out, though not all of them, and the ones I have
heard are typical of the mono-bad reception-29th generation standard KALX
issue at the time. For the record, add Snooky Flowers on baritone sax on
the closing jam with Maria Muldaur.
July 27, 2007
Here's what I can tell you about Michael Bloomfield and Dean DeWolf.
The only recording that I know that Dean ever made was the Chess/Argo
record titled “Folk Swinger.” He also recorded a Christmas single, “Little
Drummer Boy,” but the album and single went nowhere.
Rex Benson, the comic and former manager of the Fickle Pickle, was a fan
of Dean’s and persuaded me to manage him. “Dean DeWolf “was a stage name,
his real name was Wolf-something, a German name. He grew up in the western
suburbs of Chicago but affected a redneck, Johnny Cash-like style. Always
wore black and was an amphetamine pill popper like Johnny. He sang at the
Fickle Pickle, traveled as a singing troubadour and, in Panama City,
Florida, did traditional folk songs which he swung by playing very
rhythmically. [He would] increase the tempo, often hitting the sound box
of his guitar to effect a drum beat. He was produced for Chess’s Argo
label by Esmond Edwards, the label’s A&R guy.
DeWolf was gone from the Fickle Pickle by the time that Mike had arrived
on the scene. I’m sure that Mike did not even know him and certainly never
played with him, and definitely never recorded at Chess with him.
Mike was never ever connected to DeWolf in anyway. Dean was an alcoholic,
and when I knew Mike, he didn’t even drink. I have read in books that Mike
was an alcoholic in Mill Valley, and if so I believe it was a cover for
his drug use – it’s more socially acceptable. I may be completely wrong,
but when I went out to bars and clubs with him to hear music, he always
drank Coca Cola and didn’t like drinking or drunks.
Sorry for my passion about this, but any mention of DeWolf on Mike’s site
is totally wrong. There were other artists that played at the Fickle
Pickle and I will be glad to tell you who they were, but Mike rarely if
ever came on the weekends to see the folk show and Mike’s blues shows were
on Monday night. He wasn’t one to hang around – he was not a hanger-on.
Although not ambitious professionally, he always did have an agenda.
I had a management contract with Mike and it was our intention that he
would be a recording artist. I had hoped that his recording success would
have led him to performing. I’ll look at the site and let you know if I
have any other suggestions. Thank you for the corrections that you have
– Joel Harlib
Group at Columbia's Studio A in Chicago on December 7, 1964 for John
Hammond: from left, Michael Bloomfield, Michael Johnson, Charlie
Musselwhite, Norm Mayell, Joel Harlib, Sid Warner, Hammond and unknown.
Photo by Mike Shea/Rene Aagaard, with thanks to Joel Harlib
July 21-28, 2007
Really enjoyed your discography of Bloomfield's shows, recordings, etc. My
brother and I were big-time Bloomfield fans and we had seen the Electric
Flag at the Fillmore quite a few times when living in the Bay Area.
In June of 1968 I was living in Long Beach, CA. When the announcement for
the Newport Pop Festival came out we immediately made plans to attend. We
were by the left-hand side of the stage where we could see the helicopters
bringing in performers. Jimi Hendrix I think was to perform, if I remember
correctly. We sat through the Chambers Brothers and other bands until the
Electric Flag came on. They had someone else playing guitar and the band
sounded just terrible. We left extremely disappointed. Bloomfield never
showed up or even played one tune. We had just seen the band a few months
prior so this may have been the first show in which he was no longer a
member. He definitely was not the guitar player that day.
[My seeing Bloomfield] "a few months prior" would have been at the
Fillmore in SF. I do not recall the date but amazingly you have the
concert on your list. I still remember one of the songs of the night. It
was Stevie Wonder's "Uptight." We walked in when the
song was playing and it was like a dam had burst open. The music was loud
but extremely "pure." No noise. Every instrument could be heard. There was
a little American flag sitting on top of the organ and blowing with a
breeze provided by, I guess, a small fan.
Michael was in his element that night. He played extremely well. His solos
were incredible. They "spirited" you away with him and right into whatever
"blues space" he was visiting at the time.
I've never heard it mentioned before but Michael would play his lead solos
with his eyes closed almost all of the time. I could never see how he
could tell where the frets were. I'm thinking it was all feel. Of course,
every once in a while he would throw in a well thought-out scale to keep
his bearings but mostly it was all bending, squeezing, shaking the vibrato
out of that string and, in between, lighting fast runs that were
incredibly well placed. My brother took a picture of him right at the
moment of a "big string bend" and we still have that picture.
– Frank Macias of the Sidewalk Shufflers Blues Band,
Bloomfield in full flight with Nick Gravenites and the Electric Flag at
Fillmore Auditorium on April 25, 1968.
Photo by Carmelo
Macias, courtesy of Frank Macias
June 20, 2007
Just looking at the site (got there via Dime torrent info http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=151332)
and spotted the following entries:
Personnel as October 20.
Manchester University, Manchester, England; November 12, 1966
Personnel as October 20.
The Jigsaw Club, London(?), England; November 12, 1966
The second performance was also in Manchester (it would have taken several
hours to get from Manchester to London!). I know for sure as I was at both
gigs – I was a student at Manchester University at the time. I seem to
recall the club being Stax rather than Jigsaw, but I'm probably wrong. It
was a long time ago, and there certainly was a Jigsaw club in Manchester
at that time. Hope this helps. [Later] I'm now pretty certain it really
was the Jigsaw after all.
June 19, 2007
My name is Michael Capasse – I see you have mentioned me in your Michael
Bloomfield Discography website. I am thrilled! Thank you so much.
I can confirm that, yes, in fact I was on stage at the Bottom Line in NYC
in 1980 with Michael – I have a picture to prove it. Have you confirmed
those venue dates? I don’t remember it being in April. I thought it was in
the fall – September perhaps. I remember Elton John had played Central
Park that September and the Grateful Dead were at Radio City in October.
I thought the Bloomfield show was between those two. I could be wrong. I'm
trying to track down my friend that took the picture and perhaps get some
more. Anyway thanks for the mention!
– Michael Capasse
performing "John, John on the Battle Ground" with audience members
Michael Capasse, second from right, at the Bottom Line on April 7 or 8,
of Michael Capasse
May 3, 2007
First, let me thank you for taking on what must have been an enormous
task. I especially loved the occasional comments after the entries. Your
site was forwarded to me by Jan Wolkin and I'm sure I'll keep referring to
it in the future.
There are just three items I'd like to bring up. You mentioned Chicago
bluesman "Chicago Slim" in concert with Bloomfield. His name was fairly
recognizable in the late '60s here. I saw him a couple of times as a kid,
once most notably at a performance at Chicago's "Electric Theatre" (later,
the Kinetic Playground) that was raided by Chicago police. Of course, I
have no idea what the official reason was, but it turned into a minor
marijuana and curfew bust. I was a high school student at the time (1967
or '68) and wrestled myself away from an officer when something else
caught his attention for a moment. Anyway, I don't know what Slim has out
there as far as recordings go, but I have one entitled "I Know You're
Smokin' Reefer Baby.” Slim is still around Chicago and while I hate to
call him an odd character, he does not like to be approached on the street
and will deny that he is Chicago Slim. He had a long-time partner,
guitarist "Bumble Bee Bob" is an artist and, at least up to a few years
ago, still performs.
I was glad to see that Bloomfield's appearance on "Speakeasy" was noted.
That show was treat for me with Michael, Al Kooper and Alvin Lee. I
couldn't remember if they had performed, you verified it. I'm wondering if
there is video of the Speakeasy series available anywhere.
Finally, and this is one that's diving me crazy, is Bloomfield appearance
along with B.B. King on a local Chicago TV program. I'd like to say that
it was in January or February of 1970. It was on CBS's Chicago affiliate
WBBM-TV. This was back in the time when most weekend daytime programming
was left up to the affiliate and resulted in mostly general public
interest or B-movie programming. This was on a Saturday morning and was a
general discussion of blues music. The one thing that has stuck with me
was King giving credit to Bloomfield and other young guitarists for
helping his career, which he's done frequently in interviews. I can't
remember if they performed at all, but I would imagine there was some
doodling (who uses a term like "doodling" anymore?) on the guitars. I had
the opportunity to speak to Alan Bloomfield last October and asked him
about it. He mistakenly thought it was the "Blues Summit,” and I didn't
want to try and correct him. After all, he called me and I wanted to keep
the conversation going. Anyway, I've yet to speak to anyone who remembers
the telecast, but it did happen. I would think partly because of King's
recent success with "The Thrill Is Gone.”
– Mitch Gawlik
[Anyone who has information about the TV broadcast with MB and B.B. King
can e-mail Mitch at
April 26-27, 2007
The November 16 and 17 dates were definitely for the 1972 show (they're on
the poster). I was a senior in high school and was thrilled to be seeing
MB for the first time. The 1973 shows, with Steve Martin opening, were in
the fall of 1973. I had just started my freshman year at CU, thus was
delighted to see that Bloomfield/Naftalin were performing a few blocks off
campus. I believe that the gigs took place in the early fall, September or
October being most likely. I'm certain that it was at least a three-night
engagement, possibly a four-nighter. I was definitely in attendance on two
of the nights and was possibly there for a third night (the memory is a
little hazy on that one). Unfortunately, I do not have a poster or
handbill to confirm the '73 shows. I would love to have more information
on these shows myself. I have heard, by word-of-mouth, that MB might have
done some solo acoustic gigs in Boulder in the late ‘70s. I heard this
long after the fact and have no way of knowing the veracity of such
claims. Apparently, Michael liked Boulder, dating back to the Sink in
1962. By the way, the Sink still exists in the same location, on the same
block as Tulagi (which has been defunct for several years).
What a great anecdote about [Michael helping out] Mitch Ryder! Mitch lived
in Denver in the '70s. He was not involved in music at the time (that I
know of) and worked in a warehouse under his real name.
That is a piece of Denver music lore that I had completely forgotten about
... Of course, Michael giving him everything in his pocket sounds just
like the princely guy that MB was. When I met Michael at the '72 gig, I
was an awestruck 17 year-old kid. I mean, this guy was rock & roll
royalty! I thought at best that he would say "Hi kid" and then be off.
Instead, he turned out to be a real nice, down-to-earth guy who was
concerned about how I was doing. I probably became a life-long MB fan at
I find it appalling that Michael does not have wider recognition for his
contributions to American music. Hopefully, with sites like yours and Jan
Wolkin's, the word will get out on what a treasure there is in Michael's
– John Ivey
April 24-25, 2007
I'm another Bloomfield fanatic who was referred to your site by Jan Wolkin.
Excellent site! I saw the Michael Bloomfield/Mark Naftalin band at
Tulagi's in Boulder once in 1972, and two or three times during the
engagement in 1973. The '73 shows were indeed opened by an unknown comic
named Steve Martin. I also saw MB at Tulagi's in '77 or '78, with a horn
band that I'm certain was the Count Talent and the Originals band.
I know the dates for the '72 show were November 16 and 17 because I have
the framed poster from that show (one of my prized possessions). The dates
for '73 were also in the fall, although I do not recall what month
(possibly September). If memory serves me right, the '73 shows took place
over a four-night run. I was definitely at two shows, possibly three.
Roger Troy was the bass player/singer on the '73 dates. Thanks to your
research, I now know that the drummer was probably Jerry Love. I do not
recall who the rhythm section was in '72 although it was a good show.
I have many great memories of all those shows, however, these are my
favorites. In '72, I had the honor of meeting Mike and being amazed at
what a nice guy he was. In '73, two memories stand out. In the first,
Mike, sitting directly behind me with a Boulder nymphet, was just roaring
with laughter during Steve Martin's set. After Martin's set, MB got up on
stage, strapped on the Les Paul, and, still chuckling, wiped the tears
from his eyes and said, "The most fun of this gig is having Steve Martin
open up for me." He then proceeded to play a killer set. Mike, being a
pretty funny guy himself, obviously appreciated Steve Martin's humor. The
other memory that stands out is Mike giving the audience a choice between
the two Electric Flag songs, "Killing Floor" and "Texas." I was in the
front row, screaming "Texas" and sure enough, that's the song he did.
Nobody could play a slow blues like Michael Bloomfield, and with Roger
Troy belting it out, well the air in Tulagi's turned blue that night. Good
I wish I could remember more of the Count Talent show from '77 or '78. The
album had not been released at the time; it came out shortly thereafter
and I remember thinking "this is the band I saw with Bloomfield!" There
were two female singers, two or three horn players, I think Naftalin was
on the keys, Roger Troy was the bassist/singer and I do not recall the
drummer's name. Michael was even wearing a white suit (like the cover).
Gone was the '59 Les Paul; in it's place was a black Stratocaster. While
it was a good show, the focus was more on the songs than Michael's guitar
playing. That's probably why I remember the earlier shows better; they
were Bloomfield and Naftalin with their funky little combo, playing their
I don't know if this information has any value to your research, however,
I thank you for letting me reminisce about one of the greatest blues
guitarists to walk the earth. Now, if only Sony/Legacy would release an MB
box set ...
– John Ivey
April 16, 2007
Don't know who the alto sax player is in photo [by Richard Lewis of the
Electric Flag at the Fillmore on August 29, 1967] .
There is an open window in Mike's performance history. After Magoo's, and
before the Butterfield Blues Band, Michael and I had a band with Charlie
Musslewhite, Brian Friedman (before he went crazy and replaced with
pianist Whitehead), drummer Bennie Ruffin, and bassist Josh? It was at
this time we were doing “It's About Time” and Michael worked out the basic
instrumental to what later became “East-West.” Michael then left to join
Butter had just signed with Albert Grossman and was set to go east to
perform and record and he needed all the help he could get for his first
foray back east. He asked Bloomers to join his group and he asked his
friends to travel east with him for support. I went, so did Norman Dayron
and Barry Goldberg, among others. Bloomers took the instrumental part of
“It's About Time” with him to Butters band, along with “Born in Chicago.”
– Nick Gravenites
April 15, 2007
Bonjour, I am from Québec and always was a good fan of Mike's guitar
playing. Ever since “Super Session.” Anyway, the gig and discography site
is superb. Learned a lot. [But] I could not find his sole gig in my
province. I never saw Mike, but my friend did and I asked him. He found
So Mr. Bloomfield played the Café Campus in Montréal, Québec on January 27
. He remembers 2 or 3 back-up musicians. Probably the 3 from your
previous and following entries. He says Mike was not up to par that night.
Insomnia, drugs, lack of drugs? Also his guitar was off-key apparently...
anyway, you have a new date. VOILÀ.
April 15-17, 2007
I feel very lucky that I got to meet and see Mike perform a few months
before his death. It was just another gig for him, but he took the time to
sit down and talk with me and was very friendly. That was in December, in
Washington, DC, the same week John Lennon was killed. And then Mike died
about 2 months later. A very sad time ... for everyone.
It was at The Childe Harold in Washington, DC. Thursday, December 11,
1980. With Woody Harris and Maggie Edmonson. Mike said it was the first
time he had ever played in DC.
The Childe Harold was a small bar/club on Dupont Circle. Mike started off
by playing a few songs on piano, solo with vocals. I think he then played
a song or two solo, on acoustic guitar, then had Woody and Maggie join him
for a song or two. Then Mike left the stage to let Woody and Maggie play a
few instrumental songs. Now, nothing against Woody and Maggie, but at that
point I remember being a little bit disappointed. I’d been waiting 15
years to see Mike, I finally got the chance, and he decides to take a
break in the middle of his set! At some point Mike came back. I remember a
woman asking him to play a Beatles song in memory of John Lennon, who had
been killed a few days earlier. Mike politely declined, saying he didn’t
really have any Beatle songs prepared, then he played a nice version of
“Amazing Grace,” dedicated to John.
Before the show, when I was talking with Mike, I had mentioned that I
really liked his version of “Kansas City” (from the “If You Love These
Blues” LP). At some point during the first set Mike played the song and
mentioned that I had requested it, so that was nice. There were supposed
to be two separate shows (separate charges for both the early and late
show), but the early show started a little later than planned, I think,
and then there were so few people waiting for the late show that they let
everyone from the early show stay without paying another cover charge.
Even with that the club was not exactly packed. Anyway, Mike played great,
as I remember it. As I look back on it, there was one comment that I found
strange, one indication of Mike’s troubles: at one point Maggie said
something in a patronizing tone about “how great Michael sounds tonight.”
Of course, at that time I was not totally aware of how unpredictable and
drama-filled Mike’s life had become.
– Jan Wolkin
April 6, 2007
One additional bit of information. After sending you the message, out of
curiosity I decided to look up the date you report for the concert
(October 5) in my "World Almanac's" perpetual calendar to see if it
corresponded to the correct day of the week for 1973. I recall very
clearly that the concert was held on a Saturday, as we were students and
able to go to Cow Palace early when it opened as we did not have classes
(we ended up in the second or third row for the show). My almanac shows
October 5 as a Friday, so the concert probably was on October 6. I used to
have a poster for the event but that, sadly, disappeared about 30 years
– Peter Castro
April 5, 2007
Thank you for the Mike Bloomfield Discography & Performance History web
site. What a great idea, and what a terrific job you've done. I was
especially pleased to see the concert listed where I first saw Bloomfield
perform, which was at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in October 1973.
I can fill in a few more details, as I recall clearly that Roger
"Jellyroll" Troy played bass and sang that night (John Kahn, who sometimes
played with Bloomfield, performed with Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders,
who were also on the bill that night), and George Rains played drums.
There was a second keyboard player, but I'm not sure who it was.
The October 1973 event was a free concert sponsored by a company called
Pacific Stereo, and besides Bloomfield & Friends and Garcia & Saunders,
other performers included Hot Tuna and Charles Lloyd, as well as several
lesser known acts. Bloomfield & Friends came on later in the show. I
recall that most sets were probably under an hour long, but Bloomfield
played longer, apparently at the request of someone in charge of the show.
Bloomfield and his players would huddle for a few seconds, and then say,
“Well, here's one more.” Finally, he announced that not only his set, but
the show was over. The audience was shocked, as at least a couple more
acts were supposed to perform (I don't recall who, as we went mainly for
Bloomfield, Garcia, and Hot Tuna). It turned out that Pacific Stereo had
distributed more tickets than the capacity of the Cow Palace, and those
who couldn't get in had rioted, overturning a police car and causing other
damage. What a crazy end to a great night of music.
We also saw Bloomfield and Friends at the Winterland in December of that
year, with the same band (Naftalin, Troy, Rains ... I don't recall if he
had a second keyboard player for it). There was a wonderful jam session
that occurred at the night we attended, with not only Bishop, Butterfield,
and Bloomfield playing together, but also Nick Gravenites performing with
them for at least a song or two (it's hard to remember precisely).
– Peter Castro
March 30, 2007
John Stokes of Freewheelin' magazine passed on your e-mail to me. Yes I
would be very happy for you to use my picture of the Electric Flag. It
was taken when I saw them at the Fillmore in San Francisco on August 29,
1967. Also on the bill was Gary Burton and Cream were headlining. I wrote
down Cream's set list but unfortunately not the Flag's!
Just the week before I had seen Cream at the Fillmore supported by the
Butterfield Blues Band with Elvin Bishop now playing lead guitar.
I saw the Butterfield Blues Band with Mike Bloomfield on their UK tour in
1966 at the Birmingham Odeon on October 21, 1966. They were on after Eyes
of Blue and before Geno Washington and his Ram Jam Band, Chris Farlowe and
the Thunderbirds, Eric Burdon and the New Animals and the Georgie Fame
Band. I was at college in Birmingham at the time and went to the Odeon in
the afternoon where I saw Elvin Bishop who was delighted that I knew who
he was but got a bit fed up that I only wanted to ask him about playing
with Bob Dylan at Newport '65!
I have a psychedelic postcard advertising the Flag's appearances at the
Fillmore on Sept 14, 15, 16, 1967. They were top of the bill supported by
Mother Earth and LDM: Spiritual Band.
As you probably realize from my article about my American trip in 1967, I
was born and raised in Muswell Hill in North London at the same time as
the Kinks were just starting (as the Ravens) and Rod Stewart was down the
road in Holloway. I grew up with several of the people who were later to
become Fairport Convention. We were all big American music fans and early
sets by Fairport included songs by Love, Jefferson Airplane, Tim Buckley,
Phil Ochs and Eric Andersen. They also included Fairport's version of
“East-West" which evolved into a 30-minute-plus workout.
I've always enjoyed Mike Bloomfield, I have the biography by Ed Ward, and
consider him one of my favourite guitar players alongside Richard
Thompson, Robbie Robertson and Amos Garrett.
– Richard Lewis
The Electric Flag onstage at the Fillmore Auditorium, August 29, 1967.
From left, Barry Goldberg (hidden), Nick Gravenites, Michael Bloomfield,
Buddy Miles (behind drums), Harvey Brooks, unknown and Peter Strazza.
courtesy of Richard Lewis
March 9, 2007
Davenport, I think, pushes Bloomfield to play at 12:22 [on "East-West"
live #3], just before he whacks the hell out of the snare. Billy was a
great drummer and I liked the second band much more than the one with Lay.
Lay is great, but Billy was a JAZZ drummer and I think that made the
Butterfield band swing so fiercely.
Luther Tucker was a B.B. King-type player just like Bloomfield. The whole
tonality of his tone on "Oh Why?" is completely different from Mike's. I
know Luther Tucker's work pretty well, especially the Verve stuff with
Cotton ... no doubt in my mind that it was Tucker.
I don’t know, man, but I don’t hear anything at all that would make one
think that Bloomfield is on guitarist on "Leopard-skin"... I just don’t
Dionne Warwick wasn't on the show I saw at Town Hall in 1966.
I don’t know why they included "Reconsider Baby" on that tape. It is
definitely not the Butter Band. By the way, that Unicorn CD – I had a tape
of it back in ‘81 after they played some cuts from it on a local college
station and I BEGGED the guy for a copy. I couldn’t believe it ... I think
that tape shows the boys at their peak.
– Felix Cabrera firstname.lastname@example.org
March 7-8, 2007
There are no horns on "Come On In." Same lineup as everything else ... the
2 guitars make it sound as though there was. I remember buying the single
from Elektra Records themselves in midtown Manhattan as it never made it
to the stores I used to buy in. $1.08 – they even charged me the tax!
That is Luther Tucker on the first Cotton record ... I saw that band at
the Electric Circus in '67 (Francis Clay on drums had replaced Sam Lay).
It’s definitely Tucker ... I remember back when the recording was released
someone wrote in to HIT PARADER magazine saying the same thing I am now –
that it was Tucker – because apparently somebody had written in the
previous issue something along the lines of Bloomfield playing on the
record. I don’t think Bloomfield would had taken the spotlight from
Tucker, who was one of the main guitar guns in Chicago at the time.
"Reconsider Baby" on one of those live recordings ... that is NOT the
Butter Band for certain. Different kind of feel altogether ... that sounds
more like Mike in ‘69 with the S.F. crowd.
"Leopard-skin Pill-box Hat" – that is the notorious J.R. Robertson on
guitar. No resemblance to Bloomfield at all. I don’t know how Columbia put
Bloomfield's name in the Dylan CD. Kooper should have edited the damn
Billy Davenport told me a couple of years before he died that the Butter
Band performed on “Stage 67” on ABC with Dionne Warwick. He couldn’t
remember the date but if that could be unearthed, as well as the “Ready,
Steady, Go” show in England, we would finally have SOME kind of footage of
the band ... but it doesn’t look like anything will come up.
One thing that I found in your site was the date when I first saw Butter –
Town Hall, NY, November 26, 1966. And then they started a week at the Café
Au Go Go on December 5, and I was there too.
And I’m going to print your “East-West” thesis ... it’s very good. There
is point on “East-West” live #3 that Bloomfield hits a note that is almost
out of this world. I’ll let you know at what point in the tune it is
I loved Mike ... I got to talk to him a couple of months before he died.
He gave me his number (!) in California after seeing him at a place in
SoHo called the Greene Street Cafe. He was playing acoustic and a fella
was saying, "Super Session! Super Session!" in between tunes. Bloomfield
got up and started screaming at the guy saying, "What the fuck is the
matter with you? Do you see any drums? Any horns? Keyboards!?” He went
crazy on the man. I got photos (see below) of him screaming and pointing
at the guy, and his face was all puffed up from heavy drinking.
Harris and Edmundson were nowhere to be seen [on that gig] while I was
there. After the outburst, my buddy and I decided to leave. Did you notice
the people sitting on the tables to his left? They weren’t even paying
attention to his harangue!
My own feeling is that he played the best with Butter. More adventurous
... even in the blues numbers. That solo on "I Got a Mind to Give Up
Living" on the Unicorn CD is INCREDIBLE. I don’t know what other word to
use. The Butter Band was a hell of a band.
– Felix Cabrera
PS: I saw Bloomfield once crossing 2nd Ave., lugging his guitar to go play
at the Anderson Theater with the Flag ... and no guitar case!
Michael Bloomfield chewing out a "Super Session" heckler at the Greene St.
Cafe, late summer 1980.
of Felix Cabrera
January 25, 2007
I read your article on the four "East-West" recordings and have been
meaning to send a note of thanks. Your feeling for the music comes through
forcefully, and many of your perceptions are very keen. The design and
photos are terrific, too. You sent me back to the recordings with renewed
interest and enriched my appreciation.
I'm one of those aging, blues-loving baby boomers you mention in your
article. Bloomfield's music has occupied a place of honour in my
collection ever since about 1967, when as a teenager I put down three and
a half dollars for a copy of the "East-West" LP. It was the best
investment I ever made. I don't know how many dozens of times I've
listened to "I've Got a Mind to Give Up Living," but Bloomfield's solo in
that song can still bring me to tears. Nowadays, when I meet people and
the subject turns to guitarists, I tell them there are two kinds of people
in the world – those who love Bloomfield's playing and those who've never
heard of him.
Unfortunately, the balance seems to be shifting in favour of those who've
never heard of him, so it's great to know there are still people like you
for whom Bloomfield's music is a rewarding area of study and a source of
great pleasure. How sad that in rankings of the great guitarists in some
of the U.S. guitar magazines, Bloomfield isn't mentioned anymore and
people like Johnny Thunders, who couldn't even tune up, are.
– R.K., Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
January 21, 2007
I don't know if you are collecting info like this but my wife and I saw
Mike in California on September 18, 1971 at Huntington Beach. I don't know
the name of the club but the gig was advertised as Mike Bloomfield and
Friends. He was great but kind of laid back without showboating and gave
everyone else lots of time. We loved the show.
By the way, are any of the films you mention such as with Woody Harris
available? Is anyone collecting these?
– H. Platt
June 3, 2006
[The April 6, 1974 show] was a gig that we traveled to Miami to do. It had
nothing to do with the Electric Flag. I think Dion was the opening act,
but I'm not 100% sure. He played solo, and did one or more songs with
us. I remember playing the harmony part to "Teenager In Love" on the
We met Eric Clapton at one of our concerts on [the October/November 1966
England] tour – I think it was at a college or university. It was on this
trip that Paul made the EP with John Mayall. Peter Green played guitar on
that. The rhythm section was Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. I sat in the
studio, with the musicians, during the recording. We met Jeff Beck at our
first gig in L.A., January 1966. This was at a place called the Trip, a
large showroom in the Playboy building on Sunset Strip. We co-billed one
week with Wilson Pickett, one week with the Byrds. As I recall,
"East-West" was always received enthusiastically.
– Mark Naftalin
February 17-19, 2006
Here's what I can tell you about the Teda Bracci and Ann-Margret dates.
My friend, Chris Darrow, who played on the Ann-Margret project has the 2"
master tapes. I recall the session as June 1971. The players were Michael
Bloomfield, who attended the same high school as Ann (New Trier) in
suburban Chicago, and he was able to chat with her about mutual friends.
Mark Naftalin on piano, John Kahn on bass, Chris on Dobro and acoustic
guitar, and Richie Hayward (?) on drums – the guy who has been in Little
Feat for a long time. The recordings were done at the Record Plant, LA. I
do not remember who was the engineer – the owner of the studio, who was
famous and died in a hot tub after doing too much "of everything" was
Teda was recorded at the Sound Factory in Hollywood. Dave Hassinger, who
owned the place was a good friend I met through Jack Nitzsche, who
arranged 8 albums for the Stones and was responsible for them to come to
America to record. I attended a few sessions for the "Aftermath" album and
became friends with Dave. Because I was recording Tedda on a low budget,
Dave showed up at the beginning, but his assistant engineer named Rick did
the heavy work. Again Michael, Mark, John Kahn, Richie and Lowell George
I had the 2" master reel of Ann-Margret for a long time, and in moving it
one day I called Chris Darrow and said "June 1971" after seeing it on the
tape box. Teda is more of a problem, as I only had a 7-1/2" tape that
could be anywhere. She was in about 5 "women-in-chains/jails, etc. movies"
and was flying home from the Philippines when the plane hit turbulence and
she had a bad head bump to the ceiling that really screwed her up. I
haven't heard anything about her since then. She is in the movie "C.C. &
Company" starring Ann-Margret and Joe Namath. I did Teda first. She had
the same management as Ann (Roger Smith, Ann's husband, and Alan Carr.) If
you can believe this, Ann heard the tape and said, "That's what I wanna be
doing. I want to sound like Tina Turner!" The rest of the story could be a
movie – a good comedy. I got Mike and everybody triple scale, so they were
happy as hell. No record companies were remotely interested (movie stars
don't sell records) ...
– Denny Bruce
January 1, 2006
I purchased Bloomfield and Kooper's "Super Session" album from the local
discount department store in the winter of 1968 because I liked the look
of its cover. After getting it home and listening for a few weeks, I began
to really like the music. There was something unusual about the guitar
playing by the guy on the first side of the album – something hard to
describe. It had an a-rhythmic, vocal-like fluidity that was unlike
anything I'd heard before (not that I'd heard much at that point). The guy
had an unlikely name for a rock star, too – Mike Bloomfield.
Later that spring I saw an ad in the Boston Globe touting an appearance by
the "Super Session" crew and I decided I would go. I had never been to a
rock concert before and had just moved with my family to the Boston area,
so I asked my mother to go with me. Mom was always a good sport and agreed
to drive me into the city on a cold Saturday, probably on March 15, 1969. The
show was at the Boston Arena, a cavernous, run-down hockey rink that had
been doing double duty as a rock venue for some years. I remember we sat
in the first tier seats to the right of the stage which was a plywood
platform 6 or 8 feet above floor level. The place wasn't full, just
comfortably crowded with kids lounging distractedly in their seats. The
air was filled with scent of patchouli oil which my mother was convinced was
the smell of marijuana.
The show was a long one with several bands scheduled to perform in
addition to Bloomfield and Kooper. I believe it opened with Hedge & Donna,
a folky/rocky duo whose songs didn't do much for me. They were followed by
a rock big band named Lighthouse. Hailing from Canada, they were a group
organized by drummer Skip Prokop and they sounded loud and muddy in the
Arena's steel-and-cement interior. Shades of things to come ...
Next came Alan and Michael. I had brought my new Norelco cassette recorder
with me and now I switched it on, holding the mic in my hand. Before they
could begin their set, though, Michael grabbed a mic and made a rambling
speech about how cab drivers were being killed in Boston and we should all
take it easy on our cab drivers. I remember thinking at the time that my
favorite guitarist was a bit odd, but everybody hooted and applauded so I
assumed that all rock stars must make such speeches before playing.
The band then launched into what I now believe must have been "Feelin'
Groovy," with Kooper's organ playing its on-the-beat intro part with the
stops wide open. Much of the evening is a blur after that except that the
sound was terrible, due largely to the dreadful acoustics of the Arena
(and the volume of the band). When Michael would solo, he would arch
backward spastically or jerk from side to side. I remember thinking at one
point that he would either pitch himself forward right off the stage or
tumble backward onto the drums. He did neither, but he was amazingly
animated. The show probably lasted the better part of an hour.
After that, Mom and I left. I don't know if there were other bands that
followed, but I had seen "Super Session" live and was a happy camper. I
hadn't known what to expect, and though the acoustics made a hash of the
sound, it was all very exciting. It turned out that I had seen what
probably was the very last of the "Super Session" gigs. Bloomfield was in
the midst of recording his disastrous "It's Not Killing Me" album and was
about to enter a particularly troubled period.
And the tape? The machine successfully recorded the whole show, but the
sound was so garbled due to the rink's boomy acoustics that I soon
recorded over it. I still have it today and now greatly regret that no
trace of the concert remains. The memory, of course, still does.
– David Dann
E-mail additional contributions
Michael Bloomfield Discography & Performance History
remembrances of Michael Bloomfield
from contributors to this site
detailed look at the studio and live
versions of the Butterfield Blues Band's "East-West"
interview with producer Norman Dayron
by Ralph Heibutzki
of currently available recordings by
© 2008 David Dann