Tuesday of this week, December 17th was the birthday of a blues rocker and a great harmonica player Paul Butterfield. Butterfield is one of those great pioneers in rock that I never really listened to that much. By the time I really started listening to rock guitarist Mike Bloomfield had left the band to form The Electric Flag, which was an early favorite of mine, and by 1971 the band had broken up and Butterfield was touring and recording in various settings that included: Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, his mentor Muddy Waters, and members of the Band. I did go back a while ago and listen to the band’s self-titled début album and East-West and thought why did I not listen to these guys!! Some background from Wikipedia:
Paul Vaughn Butterfield (December 17, 1942 – May 4, 1987) was an American blues singer and harmonica player. After early training as a classical flautist, Butterfield developed an interest in blues harmonica. He explored the blues scene in his native Chicago, where he was able to meet Muddy Waters and other blues greats who provided encouragement and a chance to join in the jam sessions. Soon, Butterfield began performing with fellow blues enthusiasts Nick Gravenites and Elvin Bishop.
In 1963, he formed the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, who recorded several successful albums and were a popular fixture on the late-1960s concert and festival circuit, with performances at the Fillmores, Monterey Pop Festival, and Woodstock. They became known for combining electric Chicago blues with a rock urgency as well as their pioneering jazz fusion performances and recordings. After the breakup of the group in 1971, Butterfield continued to tour and record in a variety of settings, including with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, his mentor Muddy Waters, and members of the roots-rock group the Band.
While still recording and performing, but in poor health, Butterfield died in 1987 at age 44. Music critics have acknowledged his development of an original approach that places him among the best-known blues harp players. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, and again in 2013, and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, both who noted his harmonica skills as well as his contributions to bringing blues-style music to a younger and broader audience.
As I read through Butterfield’s biography I thought the following was pretty interesting particularly the jazz fusion and the impact on one of my other favorites Quicksilver Messenger Service – at least for the Happy Trails album….The band is also nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check it out here
The thirteen-minute instrumental title track “East-West” incorporates Indian raga influences and features some of the earliest jazz-fusion/blues-rock excursions, with extended solos by Butterfield and guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. It has been identified as “the first of its kind and marks the root from which the acid rock tradition emerged”. Live versions of the song could last nearly an hour and performances at the San Francisco Fillmore Auditorium “were a huge influence on the city’s jam bands”. Bishop recalled, “Quicksilver, Big Brother, and the Dead — those guys were just chopping chords. They had been folk musicians and weren’t particularly proficient playing electric guitar — [Bloomfield] could play all these scales and arpeggios and fast time-signatures … He just destroyed them”. Several live versions of “East-West” from this period were later released on East-West Live in 1996.
And now here’s East-West (listen here) no just kidding! Here’s the band performing at Monterey in 1967. At first, I thought that was Mike Bloomfield sitting in on guitar, but then I realized it was Elvin Bishop and his guitar “Big Red”!!