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Michael Bloomfield

Michael Bloomfield was one of America's first great white blues guitarists, earning his reputation on the strength of his work in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. His expressive, fluid solo lines and prodigious technique graced many other projects -- most notably Bob Dylan's earliest electric forays -- and he also pursued a solo career, with variable results. Uncomfortable with the reverential treatment afforded a guitar hero, Bloomfield tended to shy away from the spotlight after spending just a few years in it; he maintained a lower-visibility career during the '70s due to his distaste for fame and his worsening drug problems, which claimed his life in 1981.

Michael Bernard Bloomfield was born July 28, 1943, into a well-off Jewish family on Chicago's North Side. A shy, awkward loner as a child, he became interested in music through the Southern radio stations he was able to pick up at night, which gave him a regular source for rockabilly, R&B, and blues. He received his first guitar at his bar mitzvah and he and his friends began sneaking out to hear electric blues on the South Side's fertile club scene (with the help of their families' maids). The young Bloomfield sometimes jumped on-stage to jam with the musicians and the novelty of such a spectacle soon made him a prominent scenester. Dismayed with the turn his education was taking, his parents sent him to a private boarding school on the East Coast in 1958 and he eventually graduated from a Chicago school for troubled youth. By this time, he'd embraced the beatnik subculture, frequenting hangout spots near the University of Chicago. He got a job managing a folk club and frequently booked veteran acoustic bluesmen; in the meantime, he was also playing guitar as a session man and around the Chicago club scene with several different bands.

In 1964, Bloomfield was discovered through his session work by the legendary John Hammond, who signed him to CBS; however, several recordings from 1964 went unreleased as the label wasn't sure how to market a white American blues guitarist. In early 1965, Bloomfield joined several associates in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a racially integrated outfit with a storming, rock-tinged take on Chicago's urban electric blues sound. The group's self-titled debut for Elektra, released later that year, made them a sensation in the blues community and helped introduce white audiences to a less watered-down version of the blues. Individually, Bloomfield's lead guitar work was acclaimed as a perfectly logical bridge between Chicago blues and contemporary rock. Later, in 1965, Bloomfield was recruited for Bob Dylan's new electrified backing band; he was a prominent presence on the groundbreaking classic Highway 61 Revisited and he was also part of Dylan's epochal plugged-in performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. In the meantime, Bloomfield was developing an interest in Eastern music, particularly the Indian raga form, and his preoccupation exerted a major influence on the next Butterfield album, 1966's East-West. Driven by Bloomfield's jaw-dropping extended solos on his instrumental title cut, East-West merged blues, jazz, world music, and psychedelic rock in an unprecedented fashion. The Butterfield band became a favorite live act on the emerging San Francisco music scene and in 1967, Bloomfield quit the group to permanently relocate there and pursue new projects.

Bloomfield quickly formed a new band called the Electric Flag with longtime Chicago cohort Nick Gravenites on vocals. The Electric Flag was supposed to build on the innovations of East-West and accordingly featured an expanded lineup complete with a horn section, which allowed the group to add soul music to their laundry list of influences. The Electric Flag debuted at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and issued a proper debut album, A Long Time Comin', in 1968. Critics complimented the group's distinctive, intriguing sound, but found the record itself somewhat uneven. Unfortunately, the band was already disintegrating; rivalries between members and shortsighted management -- not to mention heroin abuse -- all took their toll. Bloomfield himself left the band he'd formed before their album was even released. He next hooked up with organist Al Kooper, whom he'd played with in the Dylan band, and cut Super Session, a jam-oriented record that spotlighted his own guitar skills on one half and those of Stephen Stills on the other. Issued in 1968, it received excellent reviews and moreover became the best-selling album of Bloomfield's career. Super Session's success led to a sequel, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, which was recorded over three shows at the Fillmore West in 1968 and released the following year; it featured Bloomfield's on-record singing debut.

Bloomfield, however, was wary of his commercial success and growing disenchanted with fame. He was also tired of touring and after recording the second album with Kooper, he effectively retired for a while, at least from high-profile activities. He did, however, continue to work as a session guitarist and producer, and also began writing and playing on movie soundtracks (including some pornographic films by the Mitchell Brothers). He played locally and occasionally toured with Bloomfield and Friends, which included Nick Gravenites and ex-Butterfield mate Mark Naftalin. Additionally, he returned to the studio in 1973 for a session with John Hammond and New Orleans pianist Dr. John; the result, Triumvirate, was released on Columbia, but didn't make much of a splash. Neither did Bloomfield's 1974 reunion with Electric Flag and neither did KGB, a short-lived supergroup with Barry Goldberg, Rik Grech (Traffic), and Carmine Appice that recorded for MCA in 1976. During the late '70s, Bloomfield recorded for several smaller labels (including Takoma), usually in predominantly acoustic settings; through Guitar Player magazine, he also put out an instructional album with a vast array of blues guitar styles, titled If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em as You Please.

Unfortunately, Bloomfield was also plagued by alcoholism and heroin addiction for much of the '70s, which made him an unreliable concert presence and slowly cost him some of his longtime musical associations (as well as his marriage). By 1980, he had seemingly recovered enough to tour in Europe; that November, he also appeared on-stage in San Francisco with Bob Dylan for a rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone." However, on February 15, 1981, Bloomfield was found dead in his car of a drug overdose; he was only 37. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

bevbevan
Imagine being 22 years old in 1965: your band - The Paul Butterfield Blues Band - just released its first album that is receiving zero airplay because the airwaves are filled with Beatles and Rolling Stones, and you get a call from Bob Dylan asking for you to participate in the recording of his next album. That album is the landmark Highway 61 Revisited. Suddenly, other musicians take notice of who this guitar player is on Bob Dylan's record. Then, audiophiles are buying the first PBB lp.
wow
soo cool how he does the zip with the guitar
bevbevan
Bloomfield turned Highway 61 Revisited from a great album into a real rock classic.
yow
THE REAL GUITAR HERO!!!!! :-) :'(:'(:'(:-)
May God grant him the peace he couldn't find in this life........ R I P , Brother B. :'(:-) :'(:-)
mmckenna35om s
Bloomfield biggest bang for my blues buck. CLASSIC
Thanks Pandora for the great music and thank you msly5050 for you're a person of honor for standing up for this Legendary man of talent who's not here to help himself. I love it!
cgraham798
a truly legendary bluesman taken from us too early. the man was a master of his craft and he will always be remembered. clint g
low down and dirty blues
cybermasse
His work with Al Kooper on the Fillmore albums are some of the best musicianship . Little rehearsal shows the talent the man had. Gone to soon as with many other guitar greats.
oh yeah !!!!
Gone too soon still digAlbert 's Shuffle from Super Session Shel Boston
now that's what I'n talkin' bout
msly5050
What other bluesman got his first guitar at his Bar Mitzvah! How cool is that!
st_elmo1879
More Bloomfield PLEASE!
Bloomfield left his mark on every guitar player who heard him in the mid-60's especially in the SF/Bay Area where everyone who played extended jams/solos owes him and Elvin Bishop a debt for their work on East/West both album & tune, not to mention Butterfield & Naftalin too. His props are long over-due. I saw him many times in those days the first being with the Flag. I was in total awe of him and when I listen to him, I still am.
msly5050
Now working to get Pandora to give Michael Bloomfield the credit he deserves on the album "Super Session", which currently give to Stephen Stills...hug e injustice!
msly5050
We finally got Michael Bloomfield the bio and recognition which is so long overdue....I hope Bob Dylan, Stephen Stills, and Nick Gravenites are happy for Michael as well..
msly5050
I had a conversation with Pandora onstage phone about a month ago. I informed them that I would never pay for Pandora until Bloomfield is properly recognized. They actually (in addition to the Gravenites error), bio only Stephem Stills on Super Session 1 song "Really".
Finally! The Bloomfield box-set is out! Hopefully Pandora will get it up and on here asap. Given that they can't even get his bio right though, I doubt that it will happen, not for a long, long time. I know all you Bloomer fans already have it anyway!
Bloomfield was the best...obvio u s l y a whole lot better than the site's ability to correct errors. Gravenites was obviously very important as well (I'm certainly a fan!). Maybe we should look under his name for Michael Bloomfield's bio?
I've had the legendary Super Session since it came out when I was in high school. Mike was a great guitarist.
EVERYBODY KNOCKS BLOOMIES SINGIN' BUT IT'S JUST FINE. WHAT HE LACKS IN TECHNIQUE HE MORE THAN MAKES UPFOR IN SOUL. GOD BLESS HIM!
Amen.
kvons1
We ALL got cheated out of so much great blues potential by Bloomfield's early death---same with Butterfield' s - - - - s h a m e .
How is it they do not know the difference between Gravenites and the guitarist who Dylan called the best. His melodic mind blowing runs make Bloomfield one of the greatest guitar players and is still mourned because of his early death.
It's really a shame that Pandora can't get the bio right for this man and it's criminal that no more of his work is represented here. It should be rectified.
First time looking for Bloomfields bio, hmmm, seems Pandora is asleep at the switch. cyanus left a post about the wrong bio 7 months ago. Great bluesman, how about the right bio too?
belkat
Nice bio on the wrong guy (?)
xoxoxoxoxoxo x o x o x o x o x x x x o x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x o o o o o o o o o o o o o
too bad he passed away- great blues player
Play that gee-tar, white boy!
Bloomfield ONE of a KIND! Loved him XO XO XO
Saw Mike Bloomfield in Boston, Mass 1968, with Al Kooper ans Steve Stills. the best concert ever.
Can we get his bio fixed please?
Wrong Bio......aga i n . . . . . . y o u have Gravenities instead of Bloomfeild's . . . . . . B o t h are great, but each deserve their own Bio._Thanks.
Oh great, now you have Al Kooper's bio up there instead of Mike's. Give the man some respect!
kvons1
30+ YEARS GONE AND STILL AND FOREVER A TRUE LEGEND!
Saw Bloomfield play at the Bottom Line in NYC, 1974. Sat an arms length from the stage. Great memory
Uh, Mike Bloomfield's biography above is actually about Nick Gravenites
call me nuts, i kinda dig his singing as well. he always associates with interesting cats. check out count talent. and his crusin' is a tortured masterpiece!
kvons1
Tragic and early loss of a true blues great. As far as putting Clapton to shame--I disagree. Bloomfield and Clapton are both true greats by their own rights and I could never see one as being better than the other.
@slomis2 - I concur!
Bloomfield put Clapton to sham.
donnie.hughe s j r
This is why I like Pandora the he double L with what is played on the radio. I can get more variety listening to local bands than on radio wich plays bands from supposedly nationwide!! ! ! ! How ridiculous If you have crossover artist from country and pop. I have three girls under five and there are a couple who hit that category then you hear the same 8-9 artist for months and months on the radio.
The original Butterfield Blues Band was smokin' hot. Elvin Bishop & Mike killed on those first two albums (yes - albums). They set the template for all that followed and had a profound influence on the SF bands of the mid and late 60's. All you have to do is listen to Work Song and East/West off the album East/West to hear what I'm talking about...and I know most of you have!
Mike blossomed in the rich musical enviornment of the Chicago North Shore...a suburban blues man. He had a regular gig in High Wood, yea, that's really it's name, north of Waukegan, IL, a hang out for blue color workers and military fromm nearby Great Lakes Naval Station. A world apart form the comfortable, classy suburbs of Glencoe and Winnetka, Mike tapped into the gritty emotion of the blues root of rock'n roll in 1959-1964. Listening today brings back the memory of dingy, smookey, sweaty, mu
pehr1960
no one plays blues like mike bloomfield
Not to mention his time with Butterfield. Who would's thunk it about a guy from Wilmette?
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