FreeWheelin' Music Safari

Yesterday in Music – 1943 – The Birth of a Blues Guitar Great – Mike Bloomfield

Mike BloomfieldSo yesterday would have been the 70th birthday of one of my guitar heroes, the great Michael Bloomfield. From Wikipedia:

Michael Bernard “Mike” Bloomfield (July 28, 1943 – February 15, 1981) was an American musician, guitarist, and composer, born in Chicago, Illinois, who became one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s to earn his reputation almost entirely on his instrumental prowess, since he rarely sang before 1969–70. Respected for his fluid guitar playing, Bloomfield knew and played with many of Chicago’s blues legends even before he achieved his own fame, and was one of the primary influences on the mid-to-late 1960s revival of classic Chicago and other styles of blues music. In 2003 he was ranked at number 22 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. Full Biography

I was first introduced to the music of Mike through the band The Electric Flag and their début album A Long Time Coming . Bloomfield formed The Electric Flag, after he tired of the rigorous touring schedule of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He moved to San Francisco and formed The Electric Flag ….

….in 1967 with two longtime Chicago cohorts, organist Barry Goldberg and vocalist Nick Gravenites. The band was intended to feature “American music,” a hybrid of blues, soul music, country, rock, and folk, and incorporated an expanded lineup complete with a horn section. The inclusion of drummer Buddy Miles, whom he hired away from Wilson Pickett’s touring band, gave Bloomfield license to explore soul and R&B. The Electric Flag debuted at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and issued an album, A Long Time Comin’, in April 1968 on Columbia Records. Critics complimented the group’s distinctive, intriguing sound but found the record itself somewhat uneven.

Bloomfield left the band shortly after the release of their first album for a variety of reasons including his use of  heroin. Gravenites, Goldberg, and bassist Harvey Brooks soon followed him.

After the splintering of The Electric Flag, Bloomfield started working with Al Kooper. Kooper felt that Bloomfield’s guitar skills could really be showcased in a jam album and he wrote

“Why not do an entire jam album together?” Kooper remembered in 1998, writing the booklet notes for the Bloomfield anthology Don’t Say That I Ain’t Your Man: Essential Blues, 1964-1969. “At the time, most jazz albums were made using this modus operandi: pick a leader or two co-leaders, hire appropriate sidemen, pick some tunes, make some up and record an entire album on the fly in one or two days. Why not try and legitimize rock by adhering to these standards? In addition, as a fan, I was dissatisfied with Bloomfield’s recorded studio output up until then. It seemed that his studio work was inhibited and reigned in, compared to his incendiary live performances. Could I put him in a studio setting where he could feel free to just burn like he did in live performances?”

 

The result was Super Session, a jam album that spotlighted Bloomfield’s guitar skills on one side; Bloomfield’s chronic insomnia caused him to repair to his San Francisco home, prompting Kooper to invite Stephen Stills to complete the album. It received excellent reviews and became the best-selling album of Bloomfield’s career; its success led to a live sequel, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, recorded over three nights at Fillmore West in September 1968

Both of these albums have been be a part of my musical rotation over the last 40 years or so. The Bloomfield side of Super Session probably gets played more than The Live Adventures…. album but they both get played a lot…. along with some of the solo albums he put out before his, like many others, self-inflicted death of a drug overdose in 1981.

The exact events and circumstances that led to his death are not clear. What is known is that Bloomfield was found dead of a drug overdose in his car on February 15, 1981.[5] The only details (from unnamed sources) relate that Bloomfield died at a San Francisco party, and was driven to another location in the city by two men who were present at the party.

I’ve posted before a couple of the live performances of Michael, but let’s go “Into the Night” on his birthday with one of my favorite tracks from Super Session “Albert’s Shuffle”