Michael Bloomfield

Michael Bloomfield, born July 28, 1943, died February 15, 1981 in Chicago. He was an American musician and guitarist. His reputation as a popular musician and composer of the 1960s rested almost exclusively on his instrumental skills. Since he sang very little before 1969 and 1970, he seldom sang. Bloomfield is well-known for his fluid playing of the guitar. He was a close friend and collaborator with many Chicago blues legends before his fame. He was ranked 22nd on Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest guitarists of All Time” in 2003 and 42nd by the same magazine in 2011. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 2012. Bloomfield was the son of a wealthy Jewish-American family. He was raised in Chicago’s North Side. However, he preferred music to his family’s catering business. As a teenager, he spent time at Chicago’s South Side clubs playing blues with some black musicians (Sleepy John Estes and Yank Rachell) before moving to Glencoe, Illinois. Bloomfield and his family moved to Glencoe, Illinois where Bloomfield attended New Trier High School. He was expelled after two years. After one year at Cornwall Academy, Massachusetts, he returned to Chicago and spent the last year at the YMCA school. Al Kooper, Bloomfield’s close friend and collaborator, wrote in 2001 that the young guitarist’s talent was “immediately obvious to his mentors.” They knew that this was more than a white boy. This was someone who understood the true meaning of blues. B. was one of his first supporters. B. B. Michael used to say, “It’s a natural.” Black people are affected by this country’s policies. Internally, Jews suffer. The blues are made possible by the suffering of others. He met Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and ran his own blues club, The Fickle Pickle. John Hammond, legendary Columbia Records producer/scout, discovered him and signed him to the record at a time when blues was not a common theme. Bloomfield recorded sessions for Columbia in 1964, but they weren’t released until after his passing. He eventually joined the original Paul Butterfield Blues Band that included Jerome Arnold and Sam Lay, both Howlin’ Wolf rhythm section veterans and Bishop. Their electric Chicago blues inspired a new generation of bluesmen. Bloomfield’s work on the band’s debut album, East-West, garnered wide praise. The thirteen-minute “East-West” title track was a hit. It combines elements of blues and jazz with psychedelic rock and an Indian raga. The piece was a landmark because of Bloomfield’s original solos. According to one legend, he was inspired to create “East-West” by an all-night LSD trip. However, a later anthology of Butterfield’s band contained a booklet that stated that Bloomfield was also influenced by John Coltrane, blues-friendly, free-style jazz musicians, and traditional Indian and Eastern music when creating the piece. The original title of the piece was “The Raga.” Bloomfield was also a session player, and gained wide recognition for his work alongside Bob Dylan in his early explorations into electric music. Bloomfield’s sound was a key part of Dylan’s transition to electric music, particularly on Highway 61 Revisited. His guitar style combines blues influence with folk and rock. Al Kooper revealed that Dylan invited Bloomfield to perform with him on the album Don’t Say that I Ain’t Your Man, 1964-1969. However, Bloomfield declined the invitation to continue playing blues with the Butterfield group. Jerome Arnold, Sam Lay and Bloomfield were there to support Dylan’s controversial first live electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival 1965. Rock critic Dave Marsh claimed that Bloomfield was the lead guitarist of Mitch Ryder’s hit song “Devil with the Blue Dress,” which he wrote in Rock and Roll Soul. Barry Goldberg, a Bloomfield collaborator, disputes Marsh’s claim. He played keyboards on the track. Barry claims that Mike was on the recording following “Devil” and “Sock it To Me”, which is incorrectly credited as Bloomfield. Bloomfield became tired of the Butterfield Band’s strict touring schedule and moved to San Francisco to start his own band. Bloomfield, along with his long-time Chicago friends Barry Goldberg (organist) and Nick Gravenites (vocalist), left to start the electric flag in 1967. The band featured “American music”, a mix of blues, soul, rock, and folk. It also included a horn section. Bloomfield was able to explore soul and R with Buddy Miles, who he had hired from Wilson Pickett’s touring group.

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