Michael Bloomfield Recollections
E-mail additional contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Since "MiKE 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.)
January 4, 2012
Hi, David, Happy Holidays to you and yours! I have more info for you regarding Michael Bloomfield’s trip to Colorado in 1962. One of the coffeehouses that MB played in was the Attic, in Boulder. The Attic was a tiny, 50-seat capacity establishment that was under a pharmacy. It was open from 1961 to 1963. David Crosby, John Phillips, Karen Dalton, Tim Hardin and MB were some of the artists who played there. Interestingly, the Attic was across the street from the Sink, where MB had his R’n’B band.
I found this info in a Denver Post article about tapes of a
1962 performance by Karen Dalton at the Attic that have just been released on
CD. The article mentioned the above artists as having played there. I contacted
the Denver Post reporter to see if he had any more info on MB’s
performance; he said no, however, he gave me the email address of his reference.
That person is the venerable Harry Tuft, founder of the Denver Folklore Center.
I got in touch with Mr. Tuft via email and he does remember MB “roaming” around
these parts but thinks he was primarily in Boulder. Harry mentioned that there
was a folk club at that time in Denver called the Exodus, but he does not think
that Michael played there. He said that by 1962, Judy Collins (whom Fred Glaser
said Michael sat in with while they were in Boulder) was living in New York City
and probably did not have contact with MB. The “Judy” that Harry does think MB
might have met was Judy Roderick, who did play at the Attic. Judy was a fine
blues singer who had an album on Vanguard in 1965 called “Woman Blue.” She lived in
Boulder in the ’70s; I saw her with an underrated band called 60,000,000 Buffalo
at (where else?) Tulagi. Harry also gave me the name of the guy who ran the
Attic and who made those tapes of Karen Dalton. His name is Joe Loop and he now
lives in Bloomington, IN.
I called Mr. Loop and he turns out to be a very nice man, and a lucky guy to have experienced the era that he did. Joe remembers Michael very well. Mike never officially played at the Attic, but he hung out there a lot. Joe said MB literally walked in off the street with an acoustic Martin (a D-18, he thinks) slung upside down over his back, with no case. Joe, who was not much older than Mike, said that they hit it off immediately.
Mr. Loop has a tape made in the kitchen of the Attic with four snippets of songs where Judy Roderick is singing. She was just starting out, and Mike is on the recording showing her some blues licks. The kitchen at the Attic was tiny, but somehow MB and Judy squeezed into it and turned on the tape recorder. It seems that he and Ms. Roderick spent a lot of time together that summer. Joe said that he offered MB an acoustic gig at the club, but that Mike turned him down because he was getting the electric thing together at the Sink. Joe vaguely remembers seeing Bloomfield’s band at the Sink and their stealing of the crowd from Tulagi.
(Editor: John adds that in May 2012 he talked to Joe Loop again about the tape and it is of Bloomfield alone, doing a demo of blues styles for Roderick. The four tunes Michael does are "Take This Hammer," "Bedbug Blues," "Katie Mae" and "Walkin' Blues (Thinking About a Friend)." The latter two were by Lightnin' Hopkins.)
Joe, a musician himself, said that even in 1962 it was obvious that Michael was a brilliant guitarist. He also told me a funny Bloomfield story. Leon Bibb, a black folksinger of the Harry Belafonte variety (and father of bluesman Eric Bibb), was playing in Denver at the Exodus. Someone that Judy Roderick knew, who had some sort of connection, arranged for Judy to audition for Leon in hopes of getting her name out there. That “manager” person, Joe, Judy and MB found themselves in a nicely-appointed basement rec room in Denver. Leon Bibb was sitting there, arms folded and looking bored, thinking that another Judy Collins/Joan Baez-wannabe was about to perform. Even though Judy had a big, bluesy voice, she looked like a 1962 sorority girl; MB, of course, looked like a nice Jewish boy from Chicago. But they performed “Come Back Baby” with Judy belting it out and Mike wailing on the Martin. Mr. Bibb was absolutely slack-jawed. “Where did you hear that song? Where did you learn to sing like that? And where did you learn to play like that!?” was all he could say. Joe said that the look on Leon Bibb’s face was priceless.
Joe said he actually was exposed to MB a year or two before 1962. Before starting the Attic in 1962, Joe attended Indiana University. He had a good friend at the University of Chicago and when he’d visit they would go to bars on the South Side to check out the bands. At someone’s party, a duo called Nick and Paul (as in Gravenites and Butterfield) were playing, and appearing with them was a kid named Mike Bloomfield. He remembered seeing Michael play then, though he didn’t actually meet him until 1962.
I asked Joe if he ever saw MB after the summer of 1962. He said he landed in Berkeley in 1965/66 and was playing in a band called Notes from the Underground. He got to know Country Joe McDonald and Barry Melton; they were playing as a duo at a club called the Jabberwok. He said they also had a jug band that morphed into the original Country Joe and the Fish. Joe and Barry invited Joe Loop to a jam session, and he brought a tape of the first Butterfield album that a friend from the Attic days had sent him. Neither Country Joe nor Barry had heard of the band, and they were floored by it.
Shortly thereafter, the Butter Band came to San Francisco to play at the Fillmore. Joe Loop went with Barry and Country Joe to the show, standing right down front. Of course, the PBBB tore the roof off the place. Joe Loop said that Melton and McDonald were on the cusp of going electric but weren’t quite sure about it until they saw Butterfield. The band blew their collective minds! That was the last time that Joe saw Mike, blazing away with Butterfield on the Fillmore stage.
One last story. A lady friend of Joe’s was visiting him that summer in 1962. This woman – Barbara McDaniel was her name – was studying music therapy. MB was trying to perfect playing guitar and singing at the same time, and she felt that MB rushed the vocals too fast for the music. Joe remembers Barbara and MB sitting in the Attic, working on his vocal technique. Several times during our conversation, Joe stressed what a great guy MB was, a real one-of-a-kind. That seems to be a universal opinion.
– John Ivey
December 4, 2011
I first met Mike Bloomfield when were both 14 years old, either at the end of our freshman year at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL, or at the beginning of our sophomore year. I remember I was waiting outside the school for my mother to pick me up one afternoon, and Mike approached me. He introduced himself and said something like, "Do you wanna form a group?" He'd heard that I played drums. His friend, Roy Ruby, was also in the group – he played rhythm guitar, and was just starting out. Our bass player – on upright bass – was Craig Sherman. We rehearsed at my house in Wilmette. Mike was playing an electric guitar – a Gibson archtop.
We called ourselves the Hurricanes, and after a while we got pretty good. We started playing dances, mostly at temples and churches around the North Shore. Mike's dad would drive us to gigs, and I remember him telling us, "Get paid first!" Of course, we only knew three or four numbers, but the kids didn't care. And the adults were always telling us to turn down. We had two originals that we played – our namesake, "Hurricane," and another instrumental called "Hot Rod." I can still play that one on piano. Mike and I worked them out in the music practice rooms at New Trier – he'd play on one end of the practice room piano and I'd play on the other.
I read somewhere that Mike had a band that played a Lagniappe show (the annual New Trier variety show) and that got him kicked out of school. That's not quite right. We were the band, but it wasn't a Lagniappe show. It was a talent show that took place when we were sophomores, in 1959. We were the last act and the administration told us not to play rock 'n' roll. We had to audition for the dean of students – Weingartner was his name, I think – and everything we tried he'd say, "Not that one, you can't play that." He finally agreed to let us play Chet Atkins' "Windy and Warm" – Mike knew how to play that one – but he told us, "No encores!"
So the night of the show we went on and played "Windy" and everything was OK. However, when we finished, the kids in the auditorium began screaming and stomping their feet, yelling "More, more!" Someone backstage raised the stage curtain while we were still up there, and I said, "Let's play 'Hurricane'!" So we went into it and the kids went wild! Everyone who had been in the talent show rushed onto the stage and the whole place was going nuts! Needless to say, the administration wasn't happy. We got called down to the dean's office the next day for a major reprimand. Here's a photo of the show from the school's yearbook:
playing their signature number during a talent show encore at New Trier High
School in 1959. Members of the show join the band on stage while Craig Sherman,
bass, Roy Ruby, rhythm guitar, Roy Jespersen, drums and Michael Bloomfield,
electric guitar, get themselves in hot water with the Dean of Students.
Photo courtesy of Roy Jespersen
You know, we recorded "Hurricane," backed with "Hot Rod." Mike put together a demo session, saying we needed a record that we could bring around. Our friend, Marshall Chess, a year ahead of us at New Trier and the son of Leonard Chess of Chess Records fame, arranged for us to go into a place in the Loop – I can't remember the name of the studio – and cut a disc. Mike's mom drove us down, and all the band guys put in $10 each to cover the cost of the recording. I thought the record came out really well, and we'd each take turns taking it home and listening to it.
I don't know what eventually happened to that disc … it must have been lost somewhere along the way. But, you know, New Trier used to play music during lunch period, and they played that record over and over. We got known all over school and Michael – who, as you may know, was inclined to tell stories – had everyone believing we'd signed a Mercury Records recording contract. Of course, that was complete BS.
We played together for about three years, starting in 1958. Then my family moved away in my junior year. And I think Mike went to private school after that. We would have graduated in 1961 if we had stayed at New Trier.
Here are a few other things I remember about Mike. One time I was in the car with my mom, and we saw him running down the street, being chased by a bunch of Jewish kids. My mom said we had to help him, so we pulled over and picked him up. As we were driving away, Mike said, "I don't want to be Jewish – I wanna be Baha'i!" The famous Baha'i Temple wasn't far from where we lived in Wilmette, and he was intrigued by the religion. He wanted to be anything other than what he was. He was always being picked on – he was kind of heavy then – and he invited trouble by being a smart-ass. I also remember that he and his brother, Allen, were always fighting. They'd get into it even when we were trying to rehearse. I never went with Mike to any of the clubs on the South Side, but we used to go to Maxwell Street (Chicago's open-air market where blues bands played) together a lot. The last time I saw him was in Huntington Beach, CA, in 1974.
– Roy Jespersen, email@example.com
September 18, 2011
[Editor: Graphic artist Justin Green, creator of the Binky Brown underground comic series, knew Mike Bloomfield when they were teenagers living in Glencoe, IL. In 1992, he created a page for Pulse! magazine that captured his memories of Michael from those days and later when he met him again in San Francisco. He has kindly given us permission of post his piece here. Click on the thumbnail at right to enlarge it.]
July 7, 2011
Here's an addition to your listing of Bloomfield gigs. Michael and the Electric Flag played for three nights at The Great Southeast Music Hall in Atlanta in spring 1976 – I wish I could be more precise, but it was in April or May as I recall. The band included Mark Naftalin, Nick Gravenites, "Jellyroll" Troy and probably George Rains on drums. Actually, they were billed simply as "Mike Bloomfield," and I'm not even sure whether "Friends" made it onto the news ads. But at the show, I recall Mike announcing "Killing Floor" as "for the first time ever in the Great Southeast Music Hall, the Electric Flag will play 'Killing Floor'."
I spoke to Michael after the first set and found him to be amazingly approachable and unpretentious. I had to banish images from my mind of falling at his feet, because he just seemed to be having a good time playing in that intimate hall and interacting with the fans.
Nick was nice but unhappy with the sound. Roger was not happy with my comparing him to David Clayton-Thomas, but he took it well. Don't know why I said that – Jellyroll is so much better.
Michael was not in Fillmore form, but still damn good. The 1968-70 period seems to be unsurpassable in my mind.
[Editor: Another fan reported that after a show at The Great Southeast Music Hall, Bloomfield went to a nearby restaurant called Richard's Café and played piano for several hours for the surprised patrons. Jim's conversation with Michael seems to confirm this.]
Mike did mention that he had seen some customers passed out at Richard's, but I had no idea he could have meant the night before.
Later in 1976, I visited some former construction coworkers of mine at their job site and one of them told me about seeing Bloomfield's first night show – a Monday or Tuesday, I guess. I went to the Hall on what I remember as the second and third night of the series and there were good crowds both nights. However – and this is important – a lot of those people were there to see Asleep at the Wheel (they were also appearing) and their brand of Bob Wills Texas swing. That included Mike, too, and he blessed me out for trying to talk during AATW's set while he was leaning on one of the floor seats the Hall used.
At the time I was framing a house and it was bought before it was finished by a Columbia promo guy who knew Bloomfield. We discussed the mysterious fizzling of Michael's career.
As popular as the Music Hall was and so plugged in to the recording industry, I'm amazed there is so little historical record of it. It was a cozy setting with two large columns off to the side, and no tables or chairs -- just semicircular rows of railings with pillows to lean against while sitting on the floor. I was told that artists whose labels didn't want to book a stadium tour could get into the GSMH for a week by underwriting the salary paid to the performer by the Hall, which at that time would have been around $150 a week; they probably would pad it by a few thousand plus expenses. Not sure how that worked with Mike.
Great site. Thank you so much.
– James Smith
April 11, 2011
I was about 12 when my brother brought home the first Butterfield album. I’d never heard anything like it. By reading the once mighty Hit Parader magazine we learned about the band and their influences, and especially about Mike. My brother played a Telecaster and I was just learning to play.
When I was 15, we went to see Bloomfield, Gravenites and John Kahn (don’t remember the rest of the band) at the fairgrounds in Eureka, California, and they were terrific. They did B.B. King’s “Blind Love” and Mike took many choruses on his Les Paul – and topped himself every 12 bars. This was prior to 1971 – I seem to remember it was not long after his departure from the Flag. The opening band, by the way, was Old Davis, featuring a teenaged Neal Schon on guitar.
About 10 years or so later, Mike and Mark Naftalin came to Humboldt State University in Arcata to play solo sets. [Editor: This was on November 11, 1977.] The promoter was a friend of mine and Mike had stipulated he be provided with a Twin Reverb amp, so because I had one I rented it out for $100 and two tickets in the front row. Michael was very subdued that night and seemed almost shy, but damn – he could play! He performed on his single-cutaway acoustic with a pickup in it. Naftalin’s set was a real treat and he had some very great original instrumentals. I should have asked for backstage passes for the use of my Twin!
Humboldt, especially in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, was known to Bay-area bands as a place to make quick money and break in new band members in front of an audience that was sufficiently music-starved not to care that the singer was using lyric sheets (Tower of Power with Lenny Williams) or that the band was just jamming.
– Dan Vineyard
March 10, 2011
Really nice to see your chronology of Bloomfield's performances. I was, and still am, a huge fan of his work in those few years when he was at the top of his form. I first saw him with the Butterfield Blues Band at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach after the first album but before "East West" (I think). He was playing his '54 Goldtop (I immediately went out and bought a '56 Goldtop which I rather wish I still had). That was with the rhythm section of Billy Davenport and Jerome Arnold. Great Stuff! I was also at Monterey and saw the Electric Flag there.
When I saw the Flag at Monterey, my viewing of the band was a bit intermittent as I was one of the nearly 70,000 people at the festival who didn't have passes to get into the arena. Its back end had a section of chain link fence, and lots of people were climbing up on it to get a decent view of the stage. Interestingly, though, the sound was pretty good in the surrounding fairgrounds where all the concession booths were and where most of the people were. So I actually saw only a small percentage of what was on stage, but I heard most of it quite well. I did manage to catch a glimpse of Jimi setting his guitar on fire. I recall that the schedule board outside the festival arena said something like "The Michael Bloomfield Blues Band," and everybody was buzzing about it. Then it was changed to read "The Electric Flag" and it seemed that most, myself included, had no idea who that was. At least, that is my recollection of it, and recollections can be funny things that morph over time.
In the winter of 1968, I attended a fabulous concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The Shrine was a huge theater with a couple of balconies, a massive stage and so on. The evening in question was opened by the Soft Machine, followed by the Electric Flag. The headline act was the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was absolutely great – the Flag and the Experience were both in great form (I don't remember the Soft Machine all that well).
I don't recall any jamming before, during or after the Flag's set at the Shrine. They were definitely playing well, but I also I felt that Hendrix put on a pretty incredible show. At one point a tripped-out woman jumped up on the stage and started dancing. Hendrix danced right along with her while the cops and security guards scrambled to get her down from the stage. Jimi was so fluid on stage – he was constantly in motion. I remember that he broke a string during a solo, and then swung his white Stratocaster around by the neck and let it fly. It arced high into the air and hit the back curtain just below the proscenium, which broke its fall as it slid down to the stage. A quick-witted roadie had another Strat in Jimmy's hands before the first hit the ground. It couldn't have been more perfect if it had been planned and rehearsed.
Around that time, or perhaps a bit later, the Electric Flag played two or three times at the Cheetah in Venice, and I was always there right in front of the stage. Fabulous shows, great memories. The Cheetah was really the place where I got to immerse myself in Bloomfield and the Flag.
At that time I was seeing lots of live music and playing a lot and trying to soak up what I could. There was a small club in L.A. called the Ash Grove. I don't know that Bloomfield ever played there [Editor: He did, in 1970, with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson's group]. It was a tiny place, smaller than the Golden Bear. Starting in the early '60s I went there a lot to see all sorts of "folk music." Fortunately, the owner of the place, Ed Pearl, was really hip to the good, esoteric stuff and never tried to compete with places like the Troubadour. So, at a very early age I was being exposed to all these great blues guys – Son House, Mance Lipscomb, Lightnin' Hopkins, Sleepy John Estes, John Hurt and others. Then when the electric bands started coming through, I would see guys like Johnny Shines, Muddy Waters and Freddie King. I was pretty impressed, so when I saw the early Butterfield Blues Band at the Golden Bear, I was informed enough to know that this was something exceptional.
The Flag emerged at Monterey and their shows at the Cheetah came later that year. The club was on the last remaining part of Santa Monica pier and the old Pacific Ocean Park that was open to the public. It was a big bare room with a stage and lots of dance floor space. I believe that I saw the Flag there three or four times. I would always go with my guitar-playing friend, Jeff Wilson, and we would be right on the edge of the stage all night long. Jeff nearly always wore a baseball cap, and when one night he didn't have it on, Nick Gravenites walked to the edge of the stage, shrugged and asked, "Hey, man, where's your baseball cap?" We were very impressed. It seemed to me that the Flag was just better and better each time I saw them, and the Cheetah was great for that as we were only 15 or 20 feet away from Bloomfield for the whole performance.
One thing that I learned from watching the band was just how important a bass player could and should be. I just can't say enough about Harvey Brooks – he was the center of gravity for that group.
As I recall, the band was always complete and if there were any changes in the lineup it would probably have been one of the horn players. Buddy was up and down, playing and singing incredibly well. He was a "bad boy" type, and I remember him spitting toward the audience when he was walking across the front of the stage at the beginning of the show. I believe there were a few horn solos in addition to Michael's playing. On one of the shows, Bloomfield came on a few minutes after the band started – barefoot. But he played really well.
I ALWAYS found Bloomfield to be very visually engaging when he soloed. His face was always expressive and his body language seemed to be completely plugged into what he was playing. He moved around quite a lot and seemed to be singing the notes he played with his face and body. I saw Cream a few times and Clapton, the "guitar superstar," was very sedate on stage, not animated at all.
– Michael Hubbert
November 6, 2010
(Editor: Author Tom Ellis III lives in Dallas and has written for a variety of music publications and the Dallas Morning News, as well as for Elektra and Rhino Records. A biographer of Paul Butterfield, he's been a harp player for over 40 years and is a noted expert on vintage American microphones. His encounter with Mike Bloomfield was documented in Wolkin and Keenom's "If You Love These Blues," though Tom's name and some of the details were remembered differently by Ron Butkovich in the book's interview. The relevant page from the book is included below along with Tom's side of the story, and his appreciation of Michael's – and Paul Butterfield's – artistry.)
was the summer of '67, but from my vantage point not exactly the "Summer of
Love." Living seaside in northeast Florida and working as a beach lifeguard, my
days were filled with surfing, girls and lots of parties, few of which could
compare to what we heard about from buddies who'd been to the West Coast and
indulged. In fact, if there was any similarity between our experience and those
in San Francisco, it could only be the music, the richness of the fare served up
by our local AM radio station.
Jay Thomas was the DJ, and he lived in my neighborhood, in a cave-like efficiency a block back from the Atlantic. He may have been working at a tiny 1,000-watt station, but his presence in our minds was huge – his weekday show from 3-7 p.m. and on Saturday afternoon had first captured our attention in late 1966, when he started playing album cuts from groups like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Stones and other bands who had top-40 hits. Jay was AOR before there was AOR, and he supplied a rich soundtrack to high school life that led many of us to the record store where we began to see and hear all kinds of albums by all kinds of bands, stuff we'd never heard of and gobbled up.
That summer the music scene exploded across the U.S., and even in my little beach town it was hard to escape the gusher of musical talent that we started to hear about, buy albums by and turn our friends onto. But something else happened that summer, that for me was momentous – I was introduced to Rolling Stone magazine, brought back from San Francisco by a girl I was chasing.
There it was: The voice of the Bay Area, music central, right in my hands. And as I read those pages – all those bands, the reviews, interviews, the ads for gigs – my musical jones went off the charts. I immediately subscribed.
A few issues later I found an article in which a guy named Paul Butterfield lambasted the Doors (who we were covering in a garage band I was playing with) for their insincere take on the blues. The blues? Paul Butterfield? Who was this guy?
Only one way to find out – I grabbed the keys and headed directly to the Record Bar. One hour later I was on my way home with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band LP lying beside me in the passenger seat. Little did I know how seminal that trip and discovery would be.
I had been messing around with the harmonica for a year or two, never figuring it out, frustrated that I couldn't understand how it could fit into our band's covers of the Stones and Yardbirds. I guess my ear was more attuned to guitars, and Jeff Beck, Brian Jones, George Harrison and a few other guys defined my ideal of great "soloists." Rock was all about guitars anyway, right? But Butter totally, totally turned me around.
First, there was the music. So tough. No girls or love songs. Hard emotion, adult stories. And played loud, as the album commanded, the band had a sound that grabbed me much more tightly than anything I'd ever heard before. Then there was Butter – the weary voice and that incredible harmonica sound, diving, swooping, punching, weeping, speaking directly to you, not a single note wasted, nothing overplayed.
But most of all there was Bloomfield.
Which one was he in that picture? Big hair or short hair? Who cared? I'd never heard anyone play like that, and I haven't since.
Blame some of it on my buddy Charlie. His mom had been a jazz singer in San Francisco in the early '50s, and he was a guitar player in a house filled with all kinds of cool music played all day. Getz, Miles, Coltrane, but also lots of guitar – Charlie Byrd, Wes, the nasty Howard Roberts stuff. My Dad, too – his love of Mel Torme, Sinatra, Basie, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, and other vocalists had helped refine my ears a bit beyond the great AM radio we had.
And that is what hooked me about Bloomfield. His playing was so exact, so spot-on. There was a lyricism and vocalese to it that was closer to jazz than anything I'd heard on my albums or the radio. But he could cry, too, and give up such sadness. It was so sophisticated, even inside the edgy dynamics of the Butter band. The phrasing was so unique. "Poobah" was one of the happiest, greatest guitar romps I'd heard and it was an INSTRUMENTAL! No words! None of my guitar touchstones could play like that, and maybe wouldn't dare to. They weren't even playing in the same park with Mike.
The playing on the first, then second, Butter LP just touched me, and nothing had more resonance than Bloomers. I memorized those solos and played them over and over in my head. Butter became my soundtrack. Time to kick the party into gear? Turn on Butter. Want to impress my music buddies? Drop the needle on East-West. Had a bad day? More of it. I was hopelessly, deeply hooked. Butter would turn me into a harp player, but Bloomfield fed my soul.
For a while it just kept coming. The Flag blew me out. There were guitar lines in the first "Super Session" LP that were like emotional mazes, the notes twisting and turning in your head, apparently avoiding the possibility of resolution, when, suddenly, MB would pull it all together into one tight statement. Breathtaking stuff. And that tone – no fuzz, no feedback, no attempt to be "contemporary" to Hendrix or Page or anybody else.
But access to Mike started to dwindle. Another "Super Session" LP. The solo album. His brilliant playing for Tim Davis on his first LP. But his name didn't pop up much in Rolling Stone. As the mid-'70s neared, Mike started to more a part of history than currency. What had happened to him?
By then I was living in Atlanta, writing for a music magazine there, soaking up the burgeoning music scene. I heard live music all the time. But no one like Mike. So, like any fan, I did what fans are wont to do: I sat down one night and wrote him a letter. I wanted him to know there were guys out there like me, not residents of San Francisco or California, but guys far removed who hadn't forgotten him. That solo in "Far Too Many Nights." Someone who still listened to his work. Who could cite some of his greatest solos, even hum them out loud. I told him there were lots of us out here and we missed not having him playing, right now. Stamped, sealed and addressed to Columbia Records, the message went into the mailbox the next day, probably, I thought, on it's way to a black hole. But I had gotten it off my chest.
About a month later my first wife and I were wrapping up a long night of partying, both of us dozing off after a combination of too much workday, dinner, friends and alcohol, nightcapped with a bit of the bud. It had to have been 1 a.m. or so, and I had just dozed off. The phone rang. I sat up, pre-hungover, dazed a bit, sensing the anxiety that normally comes with those late night calls (Family tragedy? Buddy in jail? Tom, get down here now – you won't believe who's sitting in with the band tonight!)
I said hello. A voice asked me to ID myself. I did. Asked again. I did. Some laughing on the other end. "Who the hell is this?" from me. "It's Mike Bloomfield, the guy you wrote the letter to," was the response.
It seemed a bit dreamy, the whole thing. The combination of drugs and alcohol didn't help, but I remember bits of what turned out to be a 30-minute conversation. Mike telling me how much he appreciated the letter. How he couldn't believe I had cited so many solos. More laughter as he and a buddy seemed to be partying a bit themselves. Crazy questions about where I lived in Atlanta, if I played music, who were my favorite guitarists. Some sideways comments about Butter, who had by then become my gold-standard when it came to harp players. That staccato conversational attack. Suddenly becoming soft-spoken explanation about why he wasn't playing outside San Francisco much. Kind of like his soloing – full of emotion, twisting and turning, succinct then rambling. And then it was over. And I was into a deep sleep.
The next morning it was like I had walked through surreal terrain. But I was STOKED. My wife couldn't figure out why a meandering half-hour conversation in the middle of the night had me so turned on. Bloomfield albums were pulled out and played. All day. All the next day.
And the next month. The next year. Next decade. Last year. Last week. Bloomfield forever, still there, sitting right beside me in the passenger seat.
Tom adds this postscript:
Cut to the mid-'90s and I'm deep into a five-part, two-year series on Butterfield, written for Blues Access magazine. Mike's been gone a while, Butter too, but I'm living vicariously, getting to talk to so many of their musical friends – John Hammond, Musselwhite, Elvin, Sam Lay, Naftalin – and friends – Peter Butterfield, Allan Bloomfield, John Court, Sally Grossman. Norman Dayron asked me to write the liner notes to "Live at the Old Waldorf." It's hard to focus just on Butter, with all of these Bloomfield memories swirling around. Someone should write a book! Someone is – Jan Wolkin! He and I hook up by phone, trade stories, contacts, etc. He and his partner, Bill Keenom, are published and he sends me a copy. I start it, ravenous for more Bloomfield. I'm reading, quickly. And then I'm there, misidentified – but it's my story, told by one of Bloomer's buddies – about the late night call to the fan. History corroborates my memory. It really happened. Yes it did. Yes it did.
July 20, 2010
(Editor: Drummer, guitarist and singer Bob Jones worked with Michael Bloomfield as a member of Bloomfield & Friends from 1969 until the guitarist's death in 1981. A true exponent of the Bloomfield blues ethos, Jones has recently produced a tribute recording to Michael called "Michael and Me." The disc includes tunes he and Michael performed together in the 1970s and features guest appearances by Nick Gravenites and Mark Naftalin. Bob's group for the recording, the Drive, is fronted by guitarist Nils Rosenblad, a virtuoso player with a deep appreciation for the artistry of Michael Bloomfield. Nils wrote a statement included with the press material for "Michael and Me;" portions of it are excerpted below. Visit Bob Jones' website – www.BobJonesAndTheDrive.com – to learn more about "Michael and Me.")
Michael Bloomfield was the first young white virtuoso blue guitarist to come on the scene in the 1960s. He started in Chicago, where he actually played with Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson (as opposed to many contemporaries who learned the idiom from recordings) before joining the Butterfield Blues Band (that included Elvin Bishop) and taking the budding San Francisco scene by storm. Along the way, he recorded with Bob Dylan and was essential to his going electric, and turned an entire generation of players on to the magic of the late-'50s Gibson Les Pauls. He virtually invented the extended guitar-solo jam ("East-West") that has since become a part of modern music. His influence on every major guitar star from that time period cannot be overstated ...
Players are rediscovering Michael's music and once again speak of his mastery in the same reverential tones that until recently were reserved for more modern players like Stevie Ray Vaughn. If ever there was a time for a great tribute album, it is now.
And so we come to "Michael and Me," the Bob Jones project. Born of a chance meeting between Bob and me at a live radio performance, this is an album that just seemed to be meant to happen. Bob played drums on what is arguably Michael's best album ("Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West") and went on to play with him for the final ten years of his career. I am a life-long Bloomfield aficionado who learned his first licks (at age 9!) from the Butterfield albums, and later wore out at least two copies of the "Fillmore West" LP refining my style.
The chemistry was instant – and it has resulted in an album that rings true to the Bloomfield spirit. The performances benefit from both the rich cache of material culled from Bob's touring years with Michael in the '70s, and from Bob's remarkable vocals. Michael himself compared Bob to Otis Redding when he first heard him ...
"Michael and Me" will remind people that the style of blues that informed their earliest experiences with the genre did not end in 1958, or '68, or even in 1987. Along the way, a host of recent converts to the blues will discover the genius that was Michael Bloomfield, which was the whole point of recording the album in the first place.
– Nils Rosenblad
July 19, 2010
The site looks great. Keep up the good work!
I noticed this recent addition to the Articles page: "Jokin' & Smokin' at the Bottom," by an "unknown author."
I'm 99 percent sure that Bruce Malamut, a Crawdaddy contributing editor, was the writer. Butterfield and Malamut were good friends and had shown up at that gig together – that much is certain, as my wife and I entered right behind them and stood next to them at the bar, there being no seats.
Of course, that show was long ago! I regret to tell you that the specifics (set, tracks, et al) have long slipped into the haze of time. But it was one of the rowdiest events of those times, with a very large insider group of New York's musicians in attendance.
On the other side of Malamut and Butterfield at the bar was Mick Jagger, leaning back and being unnoticed. He emitted a "Bruce! Hey, man, what's up?" when he saw Malamut, and they shook hands warmly. There was much talk and laughter when Malamut reintroduced Butter to Jagger. As the evening went on, those three continued rapping and I heard Malamut raise his voice and ask no one in particular, "Hey, wouldn't it be cool to hear our two greatest harp players jam with the band on-stage?!"
Jagger said something like, "Thanks, mate, but no. Paul is the master."
Butter was reluctant to playing that night – at least, so it appeared. And then the band called for him from the stage. Bruce pushed him to get him moving when he heard Paul mutter, with some modesty, "Ah, fuck!" and Butter happily made for the stage. There was some discussion when he got on stage and then without further ado – it seemed out of respect for Mick's being there - the band launched into the Stones' version of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around," with Butter taking what would normally have been Keith's lead guitar solos.
From there on, they did a smattering of Butter's own tunes, concentrating on the later Better Days stuff, and the band's own tracks, with the occasional traditional tune thrown in. Freddie King entered early in the set and strode right over to Jagger and Malamut at the bar, and the three warmly greeted each other. They then did take a table about ten feet back from the stage. Apparently this was not lost on Butter and the band, as Butter looked directly at King who shook his head gently from side to side as though declining an offer to jam, and then the band then launched into "Going Down." Great fun all around.
It was the second time we had seen Bruce hanging out with Paul, actually – the first being a Better Days headliner gig at New York's Philharmonic Hall about six years earlier. Many said that it was Paul's greatest gig ever, as he wowed the audience by opening their set with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 8 in C minor. As the lights came up, Malamut was standing on stage with his trumpet, sitting in with the band. As Ron Barron's Hammond organ swells grew bolder, Butter and Malamut traded furious horn solos, with Butter alternating between his harp and flute. Many people, myself included, certainly never knew he played classical flute quite as brilliantly as he did harp. At the end of the Symphony No. 8, Butter wheeled around to ask for a great round of applause for "our friend and a brilliant musician, Bruce Malamut." Malamut took a brief bow and smiled broadly at the band, applauding them as he walked off stage, and a more traditional sort of Butter set ensued. Butter was simply put "on fire" that evening.
It was pretty clear Malamut had suggested the Shostakovich as set opener. As the show was a Bill Graham production, I'm guessing that Malamut was acting in his former role of stage manager (along with Mike Klenfner) of Fillmore East on that evening. Just a guess.
July 5, 2010
Hi, David. John Ivey here. Hope you had a great 4th; I did, due in no small part to the fact that I found the dates for the Mike Bloomfield/Count Talent shows at Tulagi (in Boulder, CO) in 1978. The ads were in the CU student newspaper, The Colorado Daily. Mike also did an interview that was published shortly after the shows (at right). Unfortunately, the shows themselves were not reviewed. They took place on Friday and Saturday, April 7 and April 8, 1978. The first ad included Thursday, April 6; however, the following ads deleted that date so I assume it was cancelled or was a typographical error.
As for the show, it was memorable for several reasons. Mike had a big band; Mark Naftalin was on keyboards, Roger Troy on bass/vocals, a drummer (Bob Jones?), two horn players and two female backup singers. Mike was nattily attired in a white suit, playing the black Stratocaster. Initially, I was a little disappointed because he played little lead guitar. Instead he played a lot of slide and rhythm, which I had not heard before. He also played sitting down for most or all of the set. This seemed unusual because in ’72 and ’73 he played standing up and was quite animated while doing so. I was unfamiliar with the music. It was mostly good-time, old-style R&B music.
Despite my initial disappointment, I really enjoyed the show. Even though the ads listed the show as Michael Bloomfield, I think the band may have been introduced as "Count Talent and the Originals." Of course, 32 years may have dimmed my memory a bit! I also contacted Dennis Marcellino. He played tenor sax on the Count Talent record. I asked if he went on the road with Mike and he said no, he was just on the record. As a post-script, he said he played in the Electric Flag with Mike in 1968, replacing Peter Strazza, and what a great band that was.
Hope this helps flesh out a little more of Michael Bloomfield’s performance history.
– John Ivey
March 8, 2010
I was at one of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band recording dates that were eventually issued as "The Original Lost Elektra Sessions." They were held in a studio in a building on the southwest corner of 42nd and 6th in Manhattan. I remember some of what went on in that long-ago session, including a few failed attempts by producer Paul Rothchild to splice together segments from various takes, which usually never works out too well. I was surprised when the "Lost Sessions" CD came out many years later and contained some of what I'd heard in the studio, and I think that despite some problems with the sound, many of the performances are at least as good as what went into the band's first album/CD on Elektra. I remember the band playing Little Walter's "Me and Piney Brown," and they could have been trying out Nat Adderley's "Work Song." I recall Paul singing "Driftin' and Driftin'." It was Michael Bloomfield's very good friend and supporter, Norman Dayron, who invited me to the session, and Michael was part of the Butterfield Band at the time, since he played on "Lost Sessions" and was in the studio that day. The session probably took place in March or April 1965, though the exact date is hard to pin down.
As for my connections with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, it's hard to know where to begin. When I was a freshman at the University of Chicago in the fall of 1960, I became good friends with Elvin Bishop who, like me, had just started college. We hung out a lot at "The Point," playing acoustic blues and talking up our opinions of rockabilly people like Billy Riley and Sonny Burgess. Paul Butterfield and I also used to hang out a lot, and I'd jam with him in some of the UC lounges on guitar or piano, to his harp. Butterfield used to listen to jazz with me, especially the Jazz Messengers, Timmons-Shorter-Morgan vintage, whom he liked a lot – he was into hard bop in the funkish vein a la the Cannonball Adderley Sextet. At the time, Paul had a duo going with Nick "The Greek" Gravenites (later of Electric Flag fame and also a great acoustic blues guitarist with a great voice). They performed in the Sonny Terry-Brownie McGhee mode and were known as "Nick and Paul." I had met mandolin and guitar player Mike Michaels and his roomie, Jonathan Aaron, also a guitar player, and we formed a bluegrass trio called the Stony Island Boys (named after one of the main drags in Chicago), with me on banjo. We recorded at the WUCB studios, with Studs Terkel listening in. The Stony Island Boys and Nick and Paul were often on the same bill at various UC hootenannies and small concerts, and we also played the University of Michigan Folk Festival in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1960. This was also the era of the University of Chicago Folk Festival, run by the University's Folklore Society under the direction of the late Mike Fleischer, and there was a lot of jamming during the proceedings. One festival night, Bob Dylan, who was passing through going east, stopped to listen to our trio practicing for a half hour. He was just another unknown folkie at that stage.
After I transferred in the fall of 1961 to Queens College in New York City, my hometown, I gigged around in Washington Square and at coffee houses in a duo with my friend, guitarist Mark Faurer (son of New York School photographer Louis Faurer). This banjo-guitar duo was recorded in December 1963 by Norman Dayron in Forest Hills at my apartment. Norman was originally from Mount Vernon, NY, and may have been staying there at the time. This was one of Norman's first recording gigs, and it was around this time that he also recorded some tracks of Michael playing acoustic guitar; some of these tracks are on the CD that accompanies the interview-biography of Bloomfield, Michael Bloomfield: If You love These Blues (Miller Freeman Books, 2000).
It was soon after this that Norman and Michael Bloomfield stopped in at that same Forest Hills apartment. So, I first met Michael through Norman. Mike played some amazing Travis-picking stuff on my Martin 0-18, and then we went into the Village, probably to Gerde's Folk City, to hang out some. Michael was staying from time to time with Bob Dylan, who by now was making it big. Michael, Norman, Mark Faurer and I hung around the Village, and at that time Mike was more into Travis-style guitar playing, though his tastes were wide-ranging. He was, by the way, very complimentary of Faurer's guitar playing, and rightly so. Mark was an excellent finger-picking and flat-picking guitarist.
At the time I was at the studio for the recording of the "Lost Sessions," one night there was a party at Bob Gibson's place in the West Village. Gibson was also an Elektra Records folk artist. Faurer, Dayron, Bloomfield and I went to the party, and Johnny Hammond, Jr. was also there. The main feature of the party was a first-listen to Fred Neil's new Elektra recording that Gibson had on tape. I remember Hammond singing and playing acoustic blues (with his best Mississippi field-hand accent), but also Bloomfield engaging in a friendly but competitive "cutting session" with Hammond. All told, it was a fun evening – no drugs, just booze.
One memorable night, as the four of us were walking on MacDougall Street in the Village, there was a paper sign on a doorway to a brownstone pointing to a flight of stairs inside, reading "Jazz Upstairs – Cecil Taylor." The four of us went in and up, paid our two dollars and listened to Taylor, Jimmy Lyons on alto, and Sonny Murray on drums for a couple of hours. It was an amazing gig. Bloomfield questioned Lyons at length, when he sat down at our table. Without qualification, Michael really dug Taylor. The gig was something like one endless, seamless piece, with few "interruptions"; in fact, it was unclear whether or not there were separate pieces. The place was a gutted apartment on the second floor, filled with smoke, with Taylor playing a decrepit upright (that didn't matter!) and Murray elevated on some sort of platform way in the back. This was one of the best – and strangest – evenings of jazz any of us ever heard.
Music went on the back burner for me in 1965 when I entered graduate school at Harvard to pursue a doctorate in Chinese. My duo with Mark was over, superseded by mind-bending excursions into Chinese and Japanese texts. But on a few occasions, when the Butterfield band was in Boston, I hung out with them. One incredible afternoon, Elvin flagged me down from the back of the group's van while I was walking up Massachusetts Avenue! I remember them playing at the Unicorn, a club on Boylston Street. This was probably in 1965, and I remember drinking with the band in the Yard of Ale in Harvard Square. I don't believe they played "East-West" then, but I know they played "Work Song." I recall Bloomfield coming off the stand at the end of one of the sets and asking me if he had played well – referring to his performance on "Work Song." I said yes, which was the truth, but then he said, "No really, man, was it okay?" Behind this was a fact he revealed to me: Mark Dorenson, the studio engineer at WUCB who had recorded the Stony Island Boys back in 1961, wanted to learn blues guitar in those days, and I had taught him a bunch of runs and scales. Bloomfield told me that HE had learned these from Dorenson! Oh, by the way, just to back track on this issue, I think around 1963, when I first met Michael, he asked me about Danny Kalb and whether or not I thought that Kalb was better than he. I was a bit surprised that he was worried about this. I had known Kalb by reputation in his more-folkish Broonzy period, which was strictly acoustic, and seen him in Washington Square and at the UC Folk Festival in 1961. I told Michael that while Kalb was a fine guitarist, he, Michael, was far more inventive than Kalb, and this was certainly borne out when they both went electric.
Anyway, the Unicorn was jammed that night, and I hung out backstage with Mark Naftalin, Jerome Arnold and Sammy Lay, all great guys. I remember Jerome saying "Whoa!" when he learned that I was enmeshed in Chinese studies. Lay was one of the nicest and funniest guys I ever met, sometimes responding to Butterfield's requests in his best Rochester accent: "Yass, Boss, anything you say Boss!" During one unusually long pause in a set, Bloomfield got fidgety on stage while the sound was being adjusted and began playing Travis-style guitar on his Goldtop Les Paul Gibson. The audience went positively ballistic! Mike could play Travis' "Walkin' the Strings," one of the most difficult finger-picking tunes ever devised, note for note. The band was staying at a crash pad in Cambridge when I saw them at the Unicorn, and we hung out in and around Harvard Square. It was such an incredible break from Sinological drudgery that I treasured those reunions with old friends. Soon after these Boston episodes, the band went west, and the rest is history.
To cap off the discussion of this period in the 1960s, I might mention that in the spring of 1968 Norman Dayron asked me to arrange a recording session in Boston (I was still in grad school), a blues tribute to Martin Luther King that was written by Muddy Waters that was to be sung and played on piano by Otis Spann. He wanted to get the track out, but the band was on tour in the Northeast, so recording in Chicago was not possible. I found a studio on Boylston Street and the song was recorded in a couple of takes. This was a thrill for a kid from NYC who had idolized Muddy Waters from his teenage years, especially since I had the opportunity to meet the band. Muddy Waters was the most distinguished musician I've ever met, and I recall how broken up and incredulous Otis Spann was about the assassination. The record soon came out on the Cry label, still close in time to the tragic event, and Norman sent me a dozen or more copies, which I sent out to local Boston radio stations. One of these was played on WHRB, the Harvard station, and the deejay said that of all the MLK musical tributes, this was the best and most genuine. I felt that I'd done okay by Norman, Muddy, Otis and MLK, me being a novice with only his "blues ear" to guide him.
Back to Mike Bloomfield. He was one of the most unique individuals I've ever met. He was a natural intellectual, an omnivorous reader who could discuss any subject. He was also just a really great and friendly guy who lavished praise on lesser musicians like myself. I can still hear him playing "Walkin' the Strings" on my Martin in Forest Hills. He was funny and fun to be around. I don't think that I ever met anyone with his ability to absorb all sorts of musical styles, synthesize them, and produce something truly original. There was also a lot of natural humor in his playing. When I heard about his most untimely death, I was shaken by the circumstances and knowledge of the habit that consumed him. God knows, I miss him. He had a broad and encompassing soul.
– David Gedalecia
February 23, 2010
I am 61 and am obviously a long-term fan. When I was 17, a friend came home after his first semester at college and brought the first Butterfield album with him. I'd never heard anything like it. I was simply mesmerized.
I think I can accurately say that music changed my life. It was an inspiration that something really exciting existed in the world beyond. I grew up in a town of 900 in rural New Hampshire and went to a two-room school house through the sixth grade.
About a year later, in the winter of 1967, I saw the Butterfield Band play at Boston University. To say they were great – particularly Mike Bloomfield – would be an understatement. At the end of the show, Michael went to the microphone and shouted, “We'll be right back!” I don't think he was on speed – he was just that totally exuberant. The rest of the band was simply exhausted. They slumped off stage, even though they had been booked to do two sets. I remember an announcer coming out and informing the audience that their agent had set them up for two or three engagements earlier in the day and that they just didn't have enough energy left to a decent job on another set.
(Editor: This was almost certainly the day in February 1967 on which the Butterfield Band played three shows in Boston – at MIT, the Commonwealth Armory and BU – and Bloomfield, in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion, decided to quit the band.)
Later, I was stationed in California and got to see Michael several times. I was in the audience when parts of “Live at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West” were recorded. On another night, after a major peace demonstration (there was a demo in every major city in 1969), I convinced my friends to go to a small bar in San Francisco where Bloomfield and Gravenites were performing. After a couple of sets they opened it up for guests. We had never seen a jam before and were so impressed. We never figured out who the guests were, but they were great. I think the cover was just a couple of dollars, and the people were very nice even though we had short hair and were obviously in the military. Afterwards, my friends congratulated me and wondered how I had ever found such a place (I had read about it in the newspaper and had no idea what it would be like).
One night after a concert in Monterey, my friends and I went to a diner on Broadway Ave. in nearby Seaside to get a bite to eat. We sat at the counter and, to my absolute astonishment, Mike and his bass player, John Kahn, were seated in the booth behind us. I respected his privacy. However, I couldn't discipline myself not to eavesdrop. They had just performed in a defunct movie theater in town and were engaged in what I considered a technical but totally exuberant discussion about the band, the performance and music. What a treat to listen! It also confirmed my impression that Mike was a very nice person. I also saw Nick Gravenites perform at that theater on other date. Mike had been billed, but something had happened and he didn't show.
I also saw Mike play with Mike Bloomfield & Friends at the University of Texas in Austin in 1970 or ’71 – my memory is not crystal clear on the date. I think I recognized Mark Naftalin on piano, but I am not positive.
People today have no idea what it was like to come of age during that period. Drugs were everywhere, for the first time. People took chances and experimented. That was a good thing about the late 1960s. However, becoming an addict was unfortunately something that happened to many, especially if they were in the music business.
It was sad to Mike’s skills decline in the mid-1970s. Because recording technology wasn't as good back then, people listening today can only get a glimpse at how brilliant and innovative he was. I suspect arthritis had as much to do with his diminished playing as his addiction.
I also suspect Mike Bloomfield had Asperger’s Syndrome, a genetic condition that only made its way to the DSM in 1995. Those who have Asperger’s have a slight physical difference in their brains. It makes them vulnerable to being both social misfits and extraordinarily good at things like music, engineering, writing, computers, etc. It is associated with insomnia, a lack of coordination and pre-mature birth. I know Mike suffered from insomnia. Asperger’s seems to affect about 1 in 5,000 people, though no one really truly knows for certain. It is a gift if you can figure out how to work around the social-misfit part. I am fairly sure I have Asperger’s myself.
Best wishes for success on the site. Mike is an artist and a person who deserves to be remembered and preserved. I can't imagine it would ever be possible, but a digitally re-mastered collection of his best work – say from 1965 to 1975 – would be a gift to posterity.
– Frank Richards
February 8, 2010
I was a Bloomfield fan who lived in New York City. I saw him at Cafe Au Go Go in 1966 or ’67. I don't remember it being with the Butterfield Band, but I may be wrong. I was only 11 or 12 at the time but I looked older and could play my Gibson Barney Kessel guitar pretty well and was tagging along with older musicians (the guitar was a gift from a friend of the family who had represented Trini Lopez and who took the guitar back from him when Trini fired him). I also saw Bloomfield at the Filmore East with the Electric Flag. I can't remember the year – 1969 or '70? Just guessing. (Editor: As the original Flag played the Fillmore in New York City only once, this would have been in June of 1968.) But I remember it as if it were yesterday. During a long and magnificent solo, Michael roused the crowd to a screaming ovation when, after a particularly cutting riff, he paused for a moment and then declared, “I'm too much!” The crowd absolutely detonated!
I’ve been a classical guitarist for over 35 years. But I still get out my old electrics from time to time. Bloomfield is still my favorite of all of the ’60s legends. I listen to the Butterfield Band often and cruise my i-Pod for favorites with Butterfield and also for cuts like “Albert's Shuffle” and “Stop” from the “Super Session” album. I like to think that I can play along with him. But I can't.
Finding your web site was a real treat. Thank you.
– Douglas Green
January 10, 2010
are a few memories about the legendary "Fathers and Sons" sessions.
Finally somebody came up with a good idea for a Muddy Waters album project! Get together an all-star band – a mix of young and old, black and white – and re-record a dozen of Muddy's best tunes. Then put on a live show to go with it. Get Muddy together with Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield and that bass player from Booker T and groove! Why it took so long to come up with the concept we'll never know, but credit for keeping the project on track goes to behind-the-scenes guy Norman Dayron, a fellow that should be familiar to anyone who's poured over album credits.
Dayron and Bloomfield had recorded musicians on Maxwell Street during the summer of 1964 (capturing some of the last and best footage of slide-guitar genius Robert Nighthawk) and taped blues sets at Old Town clubs like the Fickle Pickle and Big John's. Just to be closer to the music, Norman worked as a maintenance man at Chess Studios. Marshall Chess, the Chess scion, had some commercial success with imaginative productions that the company released under its new "Cadet Concept" moniker, but those albums weren't BLUESY.
People still looked to Chess for good blues. Some said that the label's first star, Muddy Waters, hadn't had a good album since 1960's "Live at Newport." Chess had Muddy twisting, singing Bill Broonzy tunes, recording acoustic material ("Muddy Waters, Folksinger") and playing with brass – even waxing a Dixieland groove with wailing clarinet (1966's "Short Dress Woman")! Then there was the well-intentioned "psych-blues" experiment called "Electric Mud" (an acquired taste!).
The year was 1969 and Butterfield and Bloomfield had been jamming with Muddy for eleven years or so. Muddy was proud of his "sons," so the name "Fathers and Sons" was almost a no-brainer. Everybody liked it! Studio time at Ter-Mar on 23rd Street was booked, rehearsals were scheduled and everybody was looking for a suitable venue for the live show. The delightfully trippy name, "Cosmic Joy-Scouts Super Jam" (its original title), was given to the live event and guests started piling on.
Nick Gravenites, another contemporary of Butter and Bloomer who'd written the Butterfield Band's best-known song, "Born in Chicago," and had co-written "East-West" with Bloomfield, came to sing his new songs. Like Mike and Paul, he had split for the coast when Big John's closed. But now he was back, hanging out with some hippie chicks who were – let's be charitable – astrologers first and musicians second. Or third.
They called themselves the Ace of Cups, and by the time they were into the second of Nick's tunes during their opening set, the crowd had begun to grow irritated. Good vibes quickly turned to bad. This was not sexism, this was amateur hour! And the discerning crowd was making its opinions known vocally and by FLIPPING THE BAND OFF!
The only time I ever saw a whole crowd flip-off a band was when Slade opened for Edgar Winter. Ouch! Slade was an acquired taste. The Ace of Cups were not an easily acquired taste! I recall that their set was cut short – I think they only got four songs in before people started throwing stuff – and that Michael had to come out to get the show back on track. He delivered a cool rap and by the time a band had assembled behind him, he had launched into an intense version of "Texas." I don't think it got recorded as everyone was scrambling to fix the technical problems that often bedevil the recording of a live show.
But I gotta say, it was the first time I saw Michael GET DOWN on stage (I'd missed his time with Butter because I was too
young). He had his Les Paul Sunburst, but I couldn't see his amp as it was behind the right-hand (stage left) set of drums. It was probably a Twin. Reviewing my photos of the event, it looks like there are two amp stacks behind Buddy Miles: Mike's Fender pile (a Twin atop a Bassman cabinet?) and what looks like John Cippolina's Twin-Standell-Wurlitzer horn stack (currently on exhibit, greeting you as an example of period rock and roll overkill as you enter Cleveland's Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame). Loud and clean! Too loud and too clean!
The show was pandemonium. Everyone sang along. The sound was good. It was good to hear Butterfield get greasy on electric harp (he'd been doing the through-the-PA-Sonny Boy-style thing for a while with his band). I personally like the raw, Little Walter-style harp better. The addition of Buddy Miles as the second drummer happened near the end of the set. For the encore maybe? Did the band do "Mojo" twice? I do seem to remember that! You can get some idea about the volume of the enthusiastic crowd when you listen to the recording!
I shot this show using a 35mm back on my twin-lens Rolleiflex (2.8 Planar) using 2475 high speed "recording" film usually used by law enforcement. It has a sharp tight grain pattern. I enlarged the negatives on a long-lens Omega enlarger in the darkroom of the late Curt Cole Burkhart. He had a studio on Hubbard Street here in Chicago at that time. I was his darkroom assistant that year before going full-time next spring at Chicago Historical Society where I worked for the next 16 years.
– Paul Petraitis, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: This concert took place on April 24, 1969. It and the accompanying studio recordings are available on "Fathers and Sons" on Chess. Check the Bloomfield Recordings page for details. Mr. Petraitis, from Chicago, is a professional historian and blues/rock guitarist who has played with Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Wayne Bennett and others. He is currently working on a book entitled Closer to the Blues: The ’60s Blues Boom and the Chicago/London Connection. With it he hopes to put the achievements of Chicago blues musicians, promoters, producers and writers in a proper historical context. So much has been written about British blues artists that the important work of Chicago’s black blues masters and their white protégés has been overshadowed. To remedy that, Paul is seeking photographs and memories of Chicago blues clubs and shows. He would particularly like to hear from individuals who came to the blues before the first Butterfield or Stones albums were released. If you have memories or photos to share, please contact Paul at email@example.com.
Michael Bloomfield and Buddy Miles (bottom photo) performing with Muddy Waters
the "Fathers and Sons" concert at Chicago's Civic Auditorium in 1969. Photos courtesy of Paul Petraitis
November 15, 2009
Mike Bloomfield come on stage and play a song (or two) with Doug Sahm at the
Catalyst in Santa Cruz. It was late 1980 or early 1981. I think it was early
1981 because (tough to recall all the details from 30 years ago) I remember it
being only a short time afterwards that he died.
Editor: This was most likely Bloomfield’s appearance at the Catalyst from February 1981. The Sir Douglas Quintet was also on the bill, and Michael sat in with them on at least one occasion.
The only song I remember Sahm playing for sure that night was Dylan’s "Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues," and it would make sense that Mike played on it since he played on the album, but I really can’t remember for sure. He definitely played electric guitar. I don’t remember him taking any lead vocals. My recollection was that he only played one song, but it is possible he played two.
I was definitely not "blown away" by his playing, but I was impressed enough. There is nothing in particular I remember about his appearance, other than he was Mike Bloomfield and I thought it pretty cool at the time that I saw him, and then subsequently thought it was cool that I had been able to see him before he died.
Unfortunately, at the time I was not fully aware of his talents. I knew who he was but was not familiar with a lot of his work. I was aware enough to know that his passing was another rock "tragedy" to add the files. Mike joined Roy Buchanan, Danny Gatton and countless others who succumbed at a way-too-early age to whatever insidious force traps the gifted musician into a life they can’t escape from.
I always wondered if the Doug Sahm show was his last live performance.
Your web site corrected a misconception I had about his death, although it was no less tragic. I always thought because he died in his car that he was "homeless."
I may have been in my forties before I heard the song, "East-West," which I have likened to the Rosetta Stone for all the Grateful Dead-Allman Brothers jam/jazz/rock that would come after it. And "East-West" was recorded in 1966. That Bloomfield played with Dylan would have been enough for most guitarists, but he kept popping up in other places of significance. He should be remembered.
– Mark K.
September 20, 2009
Nice work! The site just keeps getting better!
I have a question. Does Barry Goldberg remember when he and Mike played together live on Dave Garroway's TV show in 1965? He was substituting for Steve Miller in the Goldberg/Miller Blues Band. There he was, hunched over his white Telecaster. I knew it was Mike because I'd been reading my Hit Parader magazines! The band played a tune called (I think) "Your Only Good Friend Is Your Mother.” I could be wrong about Garroway. I caught precious little live music on TV back in the ’60s here in Chicago, but there was some. Maybe Dave G. was a presenter on someone else's show?
Concerning the first James Cotton album with Luther Tucker on it (March 1967), a female friend who was going to Illinois Institute of Technology with me (think a bookish Janis Joplin!) ran into Mike rehearsing the Cotton band in Old Town, somewhere on Wells Street. Though she fluttered her eyelashes, she was only allowed to stay a little while before they kicked her out. We think that it might have been at Big John's, which had just closed and was about to be demolished for condos.
One other thing: I think McGuinn showing Mike how to bend a note outside a Josh White concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music was pivotal in Bloomfield's development. Yeah, I mean Jim/Roger McGuinn, the one-and-only. He was possibly an even-more-precocious (and slightly older) white guitar player than Bloomfield. This was in 1957. The source? McGuinn himself. A significant event to my way of thinking!
– Paul Petraitis
September 19, 2009
You missed one date in your breakdown of Bloomfield's live performances. I know because I was there. It was at the Carousel, in San Francisco. Bloomfield was jamming with Elvin Bishop. Bishop played so well that Mike threw his guitar down and walked off the stage! That's the way it looked to my 16 year old eyes. This was in 1968, and I didn't see any mention of it. Mike was red hot, but Bishop was screamingly good. Butterfield was not playing that night, so I don't believe it was a Butterfield Band gig. No, it was a jam. I would have remembered Butterfield because I'm a harp player. I remember there was a Japanese guy playing saxophone. If I'm wrong about anything, it's the location. It could have been the Fillmore OR the Carousel. Definitely nowhere else.
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.
I 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.
– Howard Bernstein
May 20, 2009
I accidentally came upon this website tonight and was shocked and happy, to say the least.
My name is Horace “Ace” Cathcart. I notice that there are few bass players in the chronology for years 1960-63. I am a bassist and I played a lot with Michael during that period. Those were in fact our most enjoyable years.
I was raised in Lake Forest, IL. I was the same age as Michael and I met him when we were around 12 or 13 years old. He introduced himself to me when I was playing at some private party on the North Shore of Chicago. I was the only bass player at the time in the area, and Michael wanted me to teach him bass. I said that I would show him what I had learned on guitar and we could play together.
We soon became friends and by our early teens were performing at a couple of folk clubs on the near North Side of Chicago. We also played at New Trier High School, and at many private parties around the North Shore. I myself went to Lake Forest High School, and my Dad – God rest his soul – drove me to gigs all over the northern suburbs until I was old enough to drive. The performance at New Trier was like a stage show with a play that featured soon-to-be-famous actress Ann-Margret. She attended New Trier for her first two years then went on to a school in Europe somewhere. [This was the infamous “Lagniappe” appearance that helped get Bloomfield expelled from New Trier. – Editor]
Mostly, though, we played folk and blues at private parties around Highland Park, Glencoe and other North Shore towns. There were four of us in the band: Michael on guitar, Paul Zupec(?) on organ, myself on bass and Danny Woods on drums. I don’t remember what we were called, but I do remember one Sweet Sixteen party that we played in Highland Park – we were 16 or 17– where we tried to see who could chug a bottle of beer the fastest. We went through over a case of beer, then drove home.
We also played at the Hideout in Highwood [north of Glencoe]. One night before we were suppose to start, Michael called me and told me not to come down because the patrons (Italians) were going to beat the crap out of me and leave on the C&W railroad tracks across the street. Being black in those days was not as easy.
I recall that from about age 13, Michael would go out and buy every one of B.B. King’s albums. He would listen and then play along with the record.
When we graduated from high school in 1961, Michael and I went our separate ways. I went to California for about a year and was with a band called The Jesters. When I came back to Chicago in the fall of 1962, I hooked back up with Michael and we started playing at the Fickle Pickle on Rush Street. This was probably in early 1963. We began at the Fickle performing by ourselves, and then later on Big Joe Williams, Sunnyland Slim and Washboard Sam would sit in. Muddy Waters also came by once. The club’s owner, Larry (?), treated us well, and we had a hell of a crowd.
Singer Dean DeWolf became our front person or featured artist at the Fickle. I remember he played with us almost every night, but I do not know for how long. Dean was under contract to Argo Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records, and Mike and I recorded several tracks for Argo with him. I never did get copies of the tunes. Leonard Chess really liked Michael, and he tried to get him to take his daughter’s hand.
We also did a couple of road trips with Washboard Sam, Big Joe and Sunnyland. One of the shows I recollect was at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, where we did two blues performances – one on a Saturday night and another on Sunday morning.
I also remember that Mike and I sat in at the “Battle of the Kings” – Albert King, Freddie King, B.B. King and Bobbie King – on Fourth of July weekend in 1963. That was a blast! It was held at the Regal Theater on the South Side of Chicago on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Actually, it started out at the Regal but because the crowd was so big it was moved to the Ashland Auditorium for Saturday and Sunday. Michael was asked to come down on Sunday night and sit in, and he asked me to go with him. All the groups got on stage together and they played solid blues for the last two hours with Michael and myself there with them. It was a hot night and I was soaked down to my waist!
In March of 1964 I received my draft notice. The last thing I remember about Michael before I went into the service was his signing with Columbia Records to do some sessions. When the company asked about me about my draft status, I told them I was 1A, and they said forget it. Three months later I was in the Marine Corps, and I spent the next three-and-a-half years in Viet Nam with the U.S. Marine Corps band, playing upright bass, keyboard, tuba and glockenspiel.
When I was discharged in 1968, I ran into Michael at a big rock concert he was doing in San Bernardino, CA. It could have been the Electric Flag he was playing with, but I was still trying to get my bearings after returning from Viet Nam. I think it was mid- to late summer. After the show, I gave him a ride to the LA airport and we made small talk on the way. He was really paranoid about all the cops outside the auditorium, so he just grabbed his guitar and we left. We tried talking but he was very distant. He then told me about his heroin addiction, and I was very shocked, to say the least. I did not understand the ramifications of heroin at the time.
That was the last time I ever saw Michael. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and he was in Mill Valley. I was not into rock music then because I did not know what it was. I left LA in 1975 and went to Portland, OR and got married. It did not work out and so I left in 1982 and went to Alaska for ten years. I met my current wife in 1990 and relocated to the Seattle area in 1992, and this is where I currently reside.
– Horace “Ace” Cathcart
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 Rains.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 permission.
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 Mike.
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
John Nuese 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
Gary Vogensen 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?"
Michael didn't 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.
– Gary Vogensen, www.garyvogensen.com, email@example.com
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 Bloomfield.
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 myself.
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 here. Many thanks to Don!
Michael 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. Photos 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 years.
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 that?
– 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 money."
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 Blues.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 time.
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 assault.
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 person.
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 Bishop.
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 partner.
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 spinet-style piano. 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 California. 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, "Kansas City."
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, © 1998
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 kind permission.
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 contact us.
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 [actually 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 recollections.
– Murray Sanders
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 for sure.
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 fervor.
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.
Thanks for everything. Love and miss you, Michael.
– Dann Glenn, guitarist/composer, www.dannglenn.com
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 Butterfield album).
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 attended.
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 rushed back.
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 to imagine.
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
On various 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 record.
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 www.myspace.com/sweetsuzi.
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 Castiglia.
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 supporting role.
– 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 saw.
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.
Mike 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 years ago).
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 called.
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 off."
This confirms that Michael Fonfara wasn’t in Electric Flag after December 19, 1967. Hope that helps.
– Nick Warburton, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.rhinoceros-group.com
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 sight!
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 swinging!
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 night.
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 sight.
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 John's.
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
Michael Bloomfield performing with John Kahn on bass and Buddy Miles in Mill Valley on March 29, 1970. Photos 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 and fun!
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 clean.
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 mid-show.
*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 made.
– Joel Harlib
Recording The 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, www.Rivercitycatz.com
Michael Bloomfield in full flight with Nick Gravenites and the Electric Flag at
the 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
Michael Bloomfield performing "John, John on the Battle Ground" with audience members including Michael Capasse, second from right, at the Bottom Line on April 7 or 8, 1980. Photo courtesy 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 email@example.com]
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 that moment.
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 music.
– 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 God!
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 hearts out!
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's band.
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 his ticket.
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 ago.
– 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. Photo 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 hear it.
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 two 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 thing …
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 tomorrow.
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.
Photo courtesy 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 organ.
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 always there.
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 on slide.
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
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