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Butterfield, Paul

blues band bishop naftalin

Butterfield, Paul, pioneering white blues revivalist and harmonica player; b. Chicago, Dec. 1942; d.>North Hollywood, Calif., May 4, 1987. Paul Butterfield grew up in Chicago and studied classical flute as a child. He later took up guitar and harmonica, mastering blues harmonica by his late teens. Meeting vocalist Nick Gravenites, the two began playing on college campuses. Butterfield subsequently met guitarist Elvin Bishop, who was attending the Univ. of 111. on a scholarship, and the two began frequenting Chicago-area black blues clubs, where they were befriended by Muddy Waters. In 1963, Butterfield, Bishop, bassist Jerome Arnold, and drummer Sam Lay began playing at Big John’s on Chicago’s North Side. Mike Bloomfield, a respected blues guitarist, joined the group in late 1964. Signed to Elektra Records in 1964, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s initial recordings were not issued until 1995.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought electric instrumentation to the Newport Folk Festival in June 1965, both on their own and backing Bob Dylan. Augmented by keyboardist Mark Naftalin (who subsequently became a permanent member), the group’s self-titled debut album featured Chicago blues fare played with rock instruments, a pioneer of the blues-rock genre. Replacing Sam Lay with jazz drummer Billy Davenport, their second album, East-West, included more blues standards and Gravenite’s “Born in Chicago” plus Mike Bloomfield’s exotic 13-minute title cut, which explored both Eastern and Western music and popularized extended guitar improvisation. In early 1967, Bloomfield departed to form The Electric Flag with Nick Gravenites and Buddy Miles. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967 and the remaining original members (Butterfield, Bishop, and Naftalin) regrouped, adding a three-piece horn section for The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw in one of the first instances of horns augmenting a rock band.

Mark Naftalin left The Paul Butterfield Blues Band after Pigboy Crabshaw and Elvin Bishop left after In My Own Dream . In 1969, Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, and Sam Lay helped record Muddy Waters’s Fathers and Sons . That August, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band performed at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. As the only original member left, Butterfield persevered with a series of guitarists, bassists, and drummers, eventually disbanding the group in the fall of 1972. He then moved to Woodstock, N.Y., and formed Paul Butterfield’s Better Days with vocalist-guitarist Geoff Muldaur and guitarist Amos Garrett, recording two albums for Bearsville Records. Better Days broke up in 1974. Butterfield appeared on The Band’s Last Waltz in 1976 and later toured with Levon Helm and The RCO All-Stars and the Danko-Butterfield Band, with The Band’s Rick Danko. Paul Butterfield died of drug-related heart failure in his apartment in North Hollywood, Calif.

Elvin Bishop and Mark Naftalin had moved to the San Francisco Bay area by 1968. Elvin Bishop recorded two albums for Bill Graham’s short-lived Fillmore label before switching to Epic in 1972 and Capricorn in 1974. His Capricorn debut, Let It Flow, featured favorites like “Stealin’ Watermelons” and the minor hit “Travelin’ Shoes.” His biggest success came in 1976 with the smash hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” sung by Mickey Thomas, who later joined The Jefferson Starship. Playing West Coast engagements during the 1980s, Bishop ultimately returned to recording in 1988 with the Chicago- based blues label Alligator Records.

Mark Naftalin pursued sessions work, recording over 100 albums with others, including John Lee Hooker, Percy Mayfield, James Cotton, and Big Joe Turner. He also put together his own Rhythm & Blues Revue and produced concerts, festivals, and radio shows. His Blues Power Hour radio show (on San Francisco’s KALW-FM since 1984) has run almost continuously since 1979. Naftalin served as associate producer of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Blues Afternoon from 1982 to 1991 and produced the Marin County Blues Festival beginning in 1981. In the 1990s, Naftalin’s Winner Records issued archival recordings of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

With The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Paul Butterfield legitimized white blues starting with their debut album, and he laid the foundation for the blues revival of the late 1960s. One of the first white bands to play the blues with rock instrumentation, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band brought much-deserved recognition to black blues performers and paved the way for blues-rock bands such as Cream and The Electric Flag. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was the first band to bring electric instrumentation to the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and Butterfield became known as one of America’s leading white blues harmonica players. The band’s East-West album was one of the first recordings to explore the fusion of Western and Eastern musical styles and to feature extended guitar improvisation. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s Pigboy Crabshaw album was one of the first to augment electric instrumentation with horns, several months before Blood, Sweat and Tears. Furthermore, members Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop, and Mark Naftalin later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where they helped establish a regional blues scene second only to that of Chicago.

Butterfield, Stewart and Fake, Caterina - Creators of Flickr, Career, Sidelights [next] [back] Butterfield, Billy (actually, Charles William)

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