- For the astronaut, see Michael J. Bloomfield.
Bloomfield c. 1968
|Birth name||Michael Bernard Bloomfield|
July 28, 1943|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Died||February 15, 1981
San Francisco, United States
|Genres||Blues, blues rock, Chicago blues|
|Associated acts||The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, the Electric Flag, Al Kooper, Nick Gravenites, Dr. John, John P. Hammond|
|Gibson Les Paul
Michael Bernard "Mike" Bloomfield (July 28, 1943 – February 15, 1981) was an American 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 and 1970. Respected for his guitar playing, Bloomfield knew and played with many of Chicago's blues legends before achieving his own fame and was one of the primary influences on the revival of classic Chicago blues and other styles of blues music in the mid- to late 1960s. He was ranked number 22 on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" in 2003 and number 42 by the same magazine in 2011. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012 and, as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
- 1 Early years
- 2 The Butterfield Band
- 3 The Electric Flag
- 4 Work with Al Kooper
- 5 Solo work
- 6 Death
- 7 Style
- 8 Selected discography
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
- 11 External links
Bloomfield was born into a wealthy Jewish-American family on the North Side of Chicago but preferred music to the family catering equipment business. He became a blues devotee as a teenager, spending time in Chicago's South Side blues clubs and playing guitar with some black bluesmen (Sleepy John Estes, Yank Rachell, Little Brother Montgomery). His family moved to suburban Glencoe, Illinois, where he attended New Trier High School for two years, until he was expelled. He attended Cornwall Academy in Massachusetts for one year and then returned to Chicago, where he spent his last year of education at a local YMCA school.
The young guitarist's talent "was instantly obvious to his mentors," wrote Al Kooper, Bloomfield's later collaborator and close friend, in a 2001 article. "They knew this was not just another white boy; this was someone who truly understood what the blues were all about." Among his early supporters were B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan and Buddy Guy. "Michael used to say, 'It's a natural. Black people suffer externally in this country. Jewish people suffer internally. The suffering's the mutual fulcrum for the blues.'"
The Butterfield Band
During those haunts, he met Paul Butterfield and Elvin Bishop, ran his own small blues club, the Fickle Pickle, and was discovered by legendary Columbia Records producer and talent scout John Hammond, who signed him to the label at a time when Columbia had had no recent association with blues.
Bloomfield recorded a few sessions for Columbia in 1964 (unreleased until after his death) but ended up joining the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which included Bishop and Howlin' Wolf rhythm section alumni Sam Lay and Jerome Arnold. Their exuberant, electric Chicago blues inspired a generation of white bluesmen. Bloomfield's work on the band's self-titled debut and the subsequent album, East-West, brought wide acclaim to the young guitarist. Especially popular was "East-West", the thirteen-minute title track, an instrumental combining elements of blues, jazz, psychedelic rock, and classical Indian raga. Bloomfield's innovative solos were at the forefront of the groundbreaking piece. He had been inspired to create "East-West" after an all-night LSD trip, according to one legend, but a subsequent anthology of the Butterfield band included a booklet saying Bloomfield had also been influenced by John Coltrane and other blues-friendly free-style jazz musicians, along with traditional Indian and Eastern music in creating the piece. (The original title for the piece was "The Raga".)
Bloomfield was also a session musician, gaining wide recognition for his work with Bob Dylan during his first explorations into electric music. Bloomfield's sound was a major part of Dylan's change of style, especially on Highway 61 Revisited; his guitar style melded the blues influence with rock and folk. Al Kooper has since revealed – in the booklet accompanying the posthumous Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man: Essential Blues, 1964–1969 – that Dylan had invited Bloomfield to play with him permanently but that Bloomfield rejected the invitation in order to continue playing the blues with the Butterfield band. However, Bloomfield, Arnold and Lay backed Dylan in his controversial first live electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
Rock critic Dave Marsh, in Rock and Roll Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles of All Time, claimed that Bloomfield was the lead guitarist for Mitch Ryder's hit "Devil with the Blue Dress." However, Marsh's claim is disputed by Bloomfield collaborator Barry Goldberg, who played keyboards on that track. In the online bio, "The Bloomfield Notes" (#6), Goldberg stated that Bloomfield played on the recording following "Devil" and on "Sock It to Me", another track mistakenly credited to Bloomfield.
The Electric Flag
Bloomfield tired of the Butterfield Band's rigorous touring schedule and, relocating to San Francisco, sought to create his own group. He formed the short-lived Electric Flag in 1967 with two longtime Chicago collaborators, 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. By that time, however, the band was already disintegrating; rivalries between members, shortsighted management, and heroin abuse all took their toll. Shortly after the release of that album, Bloomfield left his own band, with Gravenites, Goldberg, and bassist Harvey Brooks following.
Released in 2002, "Groovin' Is Easy", contains the following 9 songs; "Spotlight", "I Was Robbed Last Night", "I Found Out", "Never Be Lonely Again","Losing Game", "My Baby Wants to Test Me","I Should Have Left Her","You Don't Realize" and "Groovin' Is Easy".
Work with Al Kooper
Bloomfield also made an impact through his work with Al Kooper, with whom he had played, along with Stephen Stills, on the album Super Session in 1968. The direct impetus for the record, according to Kooper, was the twosome's having been part of Grape Jam, an improvisational addendum to Moby Grape's Wow earlier in the year.
"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 reined 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.
Bloomfield continued with solo, session and back-up work from 1969 to 1980, releasing his first solo album, It's Not Killing Me, in 1969. The following year he recorded an album, Try It Before You Buy It, which Columbia declined to release. Bloomfield also helped Janis Joplin assemble her Kozmic Blues Band (for the album I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama) in 1969, co-wrote "Work Me, Lord" for the album, and played the guitar solo on Joplin's blues composition "One Good Man." Columbia also released another 1969 album, a live concert jam, Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West, including former Butterfield bandmate Mark Naftalin, former Electric Flag bandmates Marcus Doubleday and Snooky Flowers, and a guest appearance by Taj Mahal. In the same year he reuniting with former bandmates Paul Butterfield and Sam Lay for the Chess Records all-star set, Fathers and Sons, featuring Muddy Waters and Otis Spann. Bloomfield also composed and recorded the soundtrack for the film Medium Cool, by his cousin, Haskell Wexler, set during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.
For a time, however, Bloomfield gave up playing because of his heroin addiction:
|“||..and I put the guitar down – didn't touch it.. Shooting junk made everything else unimportant, null and void, nolo contendre. My playing fell apart. I just didn't want to play.||”|
During the late 1970s, Bloomfield recorded for several smaller labels, including Takoma Records. Through Guitar Player magazine he also put out an instructional album, If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em as You Please, illustrating an array of blues guitar styles. He also performed with John Cale on Cale's soundtrack for the film Caged Heat in 1975.
In 1973, Bloomfield teamed with Dr. John and John Hammond, Jr. for the album Triumvirate, his final album under his Columbia contract. In 1974 he recorded an album with the group KGB, the name of which was derived from the initials of Ray Kennedy (co-writer of "Sail On, Sailor"), Barry Goldberg on keyboards and Bloomfield on guitar, with Ric Grech on bass and Carmine Appice on drums. Grech and Bloomfield immediately quit after its release, stating they never had faith in the project. The album was not well received, but it did contain the standout track "Sail On, Sailor". Its authorship was credited to "Wilson-Kennedy", and had a bluesy, darker feel, along with Ray Kennedy's original cocaine-related lyrics.
Through the 1970s, Bloomfield seemed satisfied to play in local San Francisco Bay area clubs, sitting in with other bands. In 1977, Bloomfield was selected by Andy Warhol to do the soundtrack for the pop artist’s last film, Andy Warhol's Bad (also known as BAD). An unreleased single, Andy’s Bad, was also produced for the project. During 1979–1981 he performed often with the King Perkoff Band, sometimes introducing them as "Michael Bloomfield and Friends" outfit. Bloomfield recorded "Hustlin' Queen", written by John Isabeau and Perkoff in 1979. He planned a tour in Sweden to complete an album of his favorites, including "Hustlin' Queen". Aside from a triumphant return to the stage when he sat in with Bob Dylan at the Warfield in 1980, his rock star days were behind him.
The exact events and circumstances that led to Bloomfield's death are not clear. What is known is that he was found dead of a drug overdose in his car on February 15, 1981. He was seated behind the wheel of his Mercedes, with all four doors locked. 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. Bloomfield's last album, Crusin' for a Brusin', was released the day his death was announced. Coincidentally, the cover pictured Bloomfield leaning on the hood of a car. His tombstone is in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, in Culver City, near Los Angeles.
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Bloomfield originally used a Fender Telecaster, though he had also used a Fender Duo-Sonic while recording for Columbia following his 1964 signing to the label. During his tenure with the Butterfield Blues Band he switched to a 1954 Gibson Les Paul model, which he used for some of the East-West sessions and which he was said to have found in Boston.
In due course, according to biographers Jan Mark Wolkin and Bill Keenom, Bloomfield swapped that guitar for a 1959 Les Paul Standard and $100. This was the guitar he used as a member of the Electric Flag and on the Super Session album and concerts. He later switched between the Les Paul and the Telecaster, but his use of the Les Paul—like Keith Richards's with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton's with John Mayall—influenced many others to use that model, helping prod Gibson into reintroducing the line (which it had discontinued in 1960) by mid-1968.
Bloomfield eventually lost the guitar in Canada; Wolkin and Keenom's biography revealed that a club owner kept the guitar as partial compensation after Bloomfield cut short a round of appearances. This turned out to be accurate and the gig in question was at the Cave in Vancouver, booked from Tues. Nov. 12th 1974, for five days, until Sat. the 16th. The band played the first night but the next day, MB boarded a plane and flew home to San Francisco with virtually no notice to the club, hotel, or band members, his very close friend Mark Naftalin found a little note on a torn piece of paper in the hotel room that read, "bye bye, sorry". Mike's two guitars had been left at the club so they were retained by club owner Stan Grozina, who wanted compensation for lost revenues. These two guitars were a Tele with a custom blue paint job, and a '59 Les Paul Standard sunburst. Grozina kept these in the "basement" for almost a year, but Bloomfield had not called for them, so they went on sale for $1,000 each.
In mid Oct. '75, a young guitar player from Vancouver/Toronto named Chris Okey had come off the road after six months to replace his drummer, and while backstage at the Cave, heard of two guitars with no details but returned the next day and bought the '59 burst. Just days later, Okey went back on the road but now with drummer Brian Johnstone of "Heart" fame, and a badly beat up Les Paul that was barely playable but sounded great. While that band was reforming the following year, he had the back of the neck refinished by Mike Kinal in Vancouver to make it normally playable, and it did more gigs in BC before Okey worked with it in and around Toronto in '76 and '77. It was sold with a micro-phonic bridge pickup and a growing crack in the headstock/neck in spring of '77 to a collector at the Beaches in Toronto. He had it for sale for a few years with no takers, until one day, an American collector bought three of the four 50's "bursts" that were for sale there, including the Bloomfield, which he still owns to this day.
Bloomfield's original Telecaster was featured in a series of online videos by the Stewart-MacDonald company, a guitar parts and tool merchant, in 2015 and 2016.
Unlike contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck, Bloomfield rarely experimented with feedback and distortion, preferring a loud but clean, almost chiming sound with a healthy amount of reverb. One of his amplifiers of choice was a 1965 Fender Twin Reverb. His solos, like most blues guitarists', were based primarily on the minor pentatonic scale and the blues scale. However, his liberal use of chromatic notes within the pentatonic framework and his periodic lines based on Indian and Eastern modes allowed a considerable degree of fluidity in his solos. He was also renowned for his use of vibrato.
Gibson has since released a Michael Bloomfield Les Paul—replicating his 1959 Standard—in recognition of his impact on the blues genre, his role in the revived production of the guitar, and his influence on many other guitarists. Because the actual guitar had been unaccounted for so many years, Gibson relied on hundreds of photographs provided by Bloomfield's family to reproduce the guitar. The model comes in two configurations—a clean Vintage Original Specifications (VOS) version, with only Bloomfield's mismatched volume and tone control knobs, missing toggle switch cover, and kidney-shaped tuners replacing the Gibson originals indicating its inspiration and a faithful, process-aged reproduction of the guitar as it was when Bloomfield played it last, complete with the finish smudge below the bridge and various nicks and smudges elsewhere around the body.
His influence among contemporary guitarists continues to be widely felt, primarily in the techniques of vibrato, natural sustain, and economy of notes. Guitarists such as Joe Bonamassa, Arlen Roth, Carlos Santana, Slash, Jimmy Vivino, Chuck Hammer, Eric Johnson, Elliot Easton, Robben Ford, John Scofield, Jimmy Herring, Phil Keaggy remain essentially influenced by Bloomfield's early recorded work.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
- East-West (1966)
- The Original Lost Elektra Sessions (unreleased recordings from 1964)
- East-West Live (three live versions of the track 'East-West', recorded 1966–1967)
The Electric Flag
- The Trip (1967)
- A Long Time Comin' (1968)
- The Band Kept Playing (1974)
- Groovin' Is Easy (Released 2002)
- It's Not Killing Me (1969)
- Try It Before You Buy It (1973) (unreleased until the 1980s; additional recordings from these sessions were released on "Bloomfield: A Retrospective" in 1983)
- If You Love These Blues, Play 'Em As You Please (1976; reissued on CD with the album Bloomfield-Harris)
- Andy's Bad (1977; unreleased title soundtrack to Andy Warhol's Bad)
- Analine (1977)
- Michael Bloomfield (1978)
- Count Talent and the Originals (1978)
- Between a Hard Place and the Ground (1979)
- Bloomfield-Harris (1979)
- Cruisin' for a Bruisin' (1981)
- 'Blueskvarter' (recorded 1964, released 2007), many Swedish CDs, recordings on Swedish radio. Bloomfield plays guitar with Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, Yank Rachell, Eddie Boyd and others.
- Super Session, Bloomfield, Kooper and Stills (1968). This album has since been remastered, with new editions featuring several Bloomfield performances not included on the original album, including "Blues for Nothing" and "Fat Gray Cloud."
- The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1968)
- Fillmore East: Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68 (recorded 1968, released 2003)
- Two Jews' Blues (1969), with Barry Goldberg (uncredited because of contractual constraints)
- My Labors (1969), with Nick Gravenites
- Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West (1969), with Nick Gravenites, Taj Mahal, Mark Naftalin. Some of the performances at the same concerts that yielded this album were included on My Labors. Those performances, except for "Winter Country Blues," are now part Live at Bill Graham's Fillmore West 1969, released in 2009 and credited to Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites and Friends.
- Medium Cool (1969), original film soundtrack featuring Bloomfield and others
- Steelyard Blues (1973), original film soundtrack, with Nick Gravenites and others
- Mill Valley Bunch – Casting Pearls (1973), with Bill Vitt, Nick Gravenites and others
- Triumvirate (1973), with John Hammond and Dr. John
- KGB (1976), Ray Kennedy (vocals), Barry Goldberg (keyboards), Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Ric Grech (bass), Carmine Appice (drums)
Selected session work
- Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan (1965)
- Chicago Loop (1966)
- Grape Jam – Moby Grape (1968) – Played Piano
- Living with the Animals – Mother Earth (1968); credited as "Makal Blumfeld" due to contractual constraints.
- Fathers and Sons – Muddy Waters (1969)
- I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! – Janis Joplin (1969)
- Weeds – Brewer & Shipley (1969)
- Sam Lay in Bluesland – Sam Lay (1970)
- Gandharva – Beaver & Krause (1971)
- Brand New – Woody Herman and His Orchestra (1971)
- Living in the Fast Lane (1981)
- Bloomfield: A Retrospective (1983)
- I'm With You Always (Live recordings from McCabe's Guitar Shop, Santa Monica, CA; 1977)
- Between The Hard Place and the Ground (Different to the original 70s LP – containing further selections from McCabe's Guitar Shop)
- Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man: Essential Blues, 1964–1969, an anthology that includes five songs from Bloomfield's original 1964 Columbia sessions.
- Live at the Old Waldorf (Recorded live in 1976 and 1977 by producer Norman Dayron at the Old Waldorf nightclub)
- Barry Goldberg & Friends – Live (Features Mike on guitar on most tracks)
- Michael Bloomfield, Harvey Mandel, Barry Goldberg & Friends (with Eddie Hoh on drums) – Solid Blues, ed . 1995 (St.Clair Entertainment Group Inc.)
- The Holy Kingdom: Music Of The Gospel 1998 Mike Bloomfield Performed 2 songs; "Wings Of An Angel" and "You Must Have Seen Jesus". Other Artists on the Album included The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama, The Cavaliers and The Swan Silvertones.
- If You Love These Blues by Wolkin & Keenom (Miller Freeman Books, 2000) contains a CD of 1964 recordings made by Norman Dayron
- From His Head to His Heart to His Hands: An Audio-Visual Scrapbook (2014); a Columbia Legacy career retrospective, produced by Al Kooper, including tapes from Bloomfield's original audition for John Hammond at Columbia Records in 1964, previously unissued live performances, and a DVD that includes the documentary film Sweet Blues: A Film About Mike Bloomfield," directed by Bob Sarles and produced and edited by Bob Sarles and Christina Keating. The film premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October 2013.
- "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". August 27, 2003. Archived from the original on July 1, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- "100 Greatest Guitarists: Mike Bloomfield". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 1, 2015.
- "Michael Bloomfield's Early Days, Part II". Retrieved 2014-06-03.
- "Bloomfield's Doomed Field". Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- Wolkin, Jan Mark; Keenom, Bill (2000). Michael Bloomfield: If You Love These Blues. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books. ISBN 0-87930-617-3. OCLC 237403183.
- "Andy Warhol's BAD". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
- "Unreleased title soundtrack for Andy's BAD". Retrieved 2016-04-11.
- "Michael Bloomfield Biography". Mikebloomfieldamericanmusic.com. Retrieved 2011-12-30.
- Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars: Heroin, Handguns, and Ham Sandwiches. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. pp. 149–150. ISBN 978-1-55652-754-8. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
- Wenner, Jann S. (April 6, 1968). "Archives | Mike Bloomfield Interview Part 1". Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Gibson – Gibson Guitar: Electric, Acoustic and Bass Guitars, Baldwin Pianos". www2.gibson.com. Retrieved 2009-08-23.
- "MVFF36 – Sweet Blues: A Film About Mike Bloomfield". Prod3.agileticketing.net. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- Michael Bloomfield – Me and Big Joe, Re/Search Publications, 1st edition 1980, ISBN 0-940642-00-X. Last éd. V/Search, December 1999, ISBN 1-889307-05-X EAN 978-1889307053
- Michael Bloomfield' – If You Love These Blues: An Oral History Backbeat Books, 1st edition September 2000 – ISBN 978-0-87930-617-5 (with CD of unreleased music – early recordings made by Norman Dayron )
- Ken Brooks – The Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper with Paul Butterfield and David Clayton Thomas Agenda Ltd, February 1999, ISBN 1-899882-90-1 ISBN 978-1-899882-90-8
- Al Kooper – Backstage Passes: Rock 'N' Roll Life in the Sixties – Stein & Day Pub (1st edition February 1977) ISBN 0-8128-2171-8 – ISBN 978-0-8128-2171-0
- Al Kooper – Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor Billboard Books (Updated Edition – September 1998) ISBN 0-8230-8257-1 ISBN 978-0-8230-8257-5
- Al Kooper – Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards – Hal Leonard Corporation, new edition February 2008, ISBN 0-87930-922-9 ISBN 978-0-87930-922-0
- Ed Ward – Michael Bloomfield, The rise and fall of an American guitar hero, Cherry Lane Books (1983), ISBN 0-89524-157-9 ISBN 978-0-89524-157-3
- Ed Ward – Michael Bloomfield, The rise and fall of an American guitar hero, Multiprises, LLC (updated edition - 2016), ISBN 978-1-61373-328-8 (print) ISBN 978-1-61373-329-5 (PDF edition) ISBN 978-1-61373-331-8 (epub) ISBN 978-1-61373-330-1 (Kindle)
- Official Mike Bloomfield Site
- "Michael Bloomfield". Allmusic.com (accessed September 30, 2006).
- Mike Bloomfield, An American Guitarist
- Bloomfield's Doomed Field by Al Kooper
- Michael Bloomfield Chronology & Analysis
- Mike Bloomfield at Find a Grave
- Gibson's Replica of MIke Bloomfield's 1959 Les Paul Standard Guitar